Millions of Americans find holidays stressful, sad or just plain exhausting. Family members may have a moment when they see mom or dad looking frail, needing help or acting forgetful – a very upsetting moment when we realize our parents really are aging.
Others of us spend time with our loved ones, but don’t experience the joy of the holidays because of illness, dementia or disabilities.
My dear aunt Judi sent me a note this Christmas. She had just returned home from visiting her husband. He’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and has lived in a care facility for nearly two years. He no longer recognizes her or responds to her in any way. She wrote, “I used to have ‘friends’ who would come on Christmas to visit their loved ones. Today was the facility Christmas party and absolutely none of them came. I can only assume their loved ones have gone home or passed away.
“When the presents were handed out, I opened his for him (and of course, I had wrapped and brought it). He did not pay the slightest bit of attention to it. In a whole roomful of people, I have never felt so alone. I cried most of the way home.”
I know my own holiday experience had several bittersweet moments. I thought about my dad several times, missing him these last four years since his death. I held special ornaments in my hands that I had bought when my children were little, and reflected on the passage of time and the loss of tradition.
In many ways, a New Year is a great gift. We can look forward instead of back; we can feel cleansed of many of the holiday emotions and baggage.
Perhaps we can even get a few extra minutes of rest, relaxation and rejuvenation to get us through another year – with joy, peace and happiness. Happy New Year, friends.