What a mix of emotions come with Christmas. Being surrounded by images of happy families makes it all the more poignant when Christmas isn’t going to be quite how we would like it to be. The carers I have worked with over the years have often spoken about a new set of challenges which come with Christmas – how they would love to have again the kind of Christmas they used to have; how they feel stress as a result of trying to meet everyone’s expectations; how they feel unable to express what they would really like for fear of disappointing others; how to manage their anxiety about how the person they care for will cope with the activity and energy that they might experience; even resentment at how things are for them and many more!
Someone they love may be absent either because of dementia or because they are in a facility being cared for or simply because they are no longer here. At Christmas, I find myself longing for my mum to be here again so that I can do all the things I used to do to make her Christmas good and I find myself wishing that I had done things differently when she was here. These feelings of wanting things to be different than they are, can eat us up and distract us from enjoying what we do have.
One of the carers I worked with a while ago, a very wise lady who cared for her husband, said to me that she had learned to accept the changes, alter her expectations and plans and achieve the best she can. It had not been easy for her but it gave her some level of peace and escape from all the emotions of resentment and anger and frustration at things not being how she wanted them to be.
Another lady I worked with longed for her children to have the kind of Christmases with their grandma, her mother, that she used to have. Sadly, these were no longer possible because of her mother’s dementia. Her sense of longing almost resulted in her missing out on the fact that the children had a wonderful time with their grandma – it was just different.
Being clear about what is realistic can protect us from the longing for something that is no longer possible. We might then be able to gain some clarity on what we would really like this Christmas. What we would really like may not be what the media promotes. It may not be what our families or friends suggest. But it may be what we know we can cope with and what will enable us to enjoy what we have. Once we have that clarity about what we really want, it is easier to find the confidence to express it and make it happen.
So, I wish you peace at Christmas and in the year ahead, through the ability to accept how things are and freedom from longing for what is not possible. I hope you can then experience some joy from what might seem like small and insignificant situations.