With the holiday season upon us many people look forward to this being a time of joyous celebration, family gatherings, spiritual reflection, and an opportunity to appreciate the gift of life. But for many it is also a time of sadness with the loss of loved ones and changes which occur as a result of changes in health, a relocation of self or family, and introspection of life’s journey.
Below are a few thoughts from Blakeford’s Chaplain, John Routzahn, with regards to the holidays and how to face the holidays with hope!
As we have entered into the holiday season, I think a very important question each of us should take the time to reflect upon and attempt to answer the question “What makes the holidays so special?” Like many occasions or events in life we can forget or lose focus of why we do what we do. Instead of defaulting to a rote repetition of the holidays, maybe this holiday season a change is needed or at least considered. If we each had our own individual time machine we could perhaps enter it and travel back to relive these special days; I know I would! But we don’t have time machines so perhaps a reflective meditation will have to do. Therefore, take a moment right where you are and close your eyes and think about that question as you walk down memory lane, what makes it so special? And who makes it so special?
Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., states in his book entitled, Healing Your Holiday Grief:
“Holidays have such rich associations for us because we created them as a way to honor and celebrate that which is truly important. Do we not in a very real way step out of the hustle and bustle of our daily routine and into a world that transcends this world and takes us to another? A place where our spiritual beliefs, values, and connection to others matter above all else. We pause to give thanks, and share of ourselves with loved ones and even strangers in ways we don’t the rest of the year.”
I can’t agree more with Dr. Wolfelt because to me the grief we feel in the holiday season is a distillation of grief that we always carry around with us into a more concentrated form come December. In the past old theories of the grief cycle used a linear model to explain what happens when a person experiences grief. However, a more accurate way to picture the grief we deal with is in a spiral form. A spiral form that captures the aspects of denial, bartering, depression, and acceptance, and hope. What I like about this spiral model is that it reminds me that all grief has a repetitive nature, but we chose to spiral downward or upward. It’s important to remember that time doesn’t heal all things, but time does give us the opportunity to “learn new things” and be able to reflect and interpret the events and particularly events which bring about a loss in our lives.
Practically speaking allow me to share a few things that I believe will be helpful to our residents and their loved ones too.
- Simply ask your family members how they would like for you to help or relate to them over the holidays. The more specific a person is the more helpful it will be in planning the holiday schedule.
- Listen with your heart, perhaps with the heart of a young child…a young you! Be realistic but also push the envelope in helping your love one to recapture the joy of the holidays. Sure it may take extra effort and time to attend a worship service, a concert or show, or even load up the car and drive around to see the holiday lights. But these are only a few of the great ways in which a family may connect or reconnect across two, three or perhaps even four generations.
- Hold on and honor some traditions, let some go, but also consider adapting old traditions and starting new ways to celebrate and honor the holidays.
- Finally, connect by sharing both quantity and quality time together. The residents at Blakeford love being here, but I know that they love to visit family at their homes too. Of course this can be done at any time of the year, but the holidays are a wonderful time to keep a good thing going or “begin anew.”
As we face the holidays with hope, we should always remember that we don’t have to face them alone. There are numerous resources such as Grief Net and Abbey Press publisher of The Care Notes that we can avail ourselves to. But the most important resources are family, friends, and God. You don’t have to make this journey alone, so why would you?
May the balm of God’s love fill you this holiday season.
Chaplain John Routzahn, M.Div.
If you have questions for Chaplain Routzahn, you may contact him at john.routzahn@Blakeford.com or 615-665-9505.