The Last Holidays

Awwwwwww…… the Holidays are upon us. What do the Holidays mean to you? What is your first thought when you flip that calendar page and November stares you in the face?

My mind turns to the dreadful rush of shopping, food preparation and the gatherings of family and friends. Then it pleasantly goes back to a simpler time. Memories of our big Thanksgiving dinners at my childhood home pop into my mind. Suddenly it is flooded with the memories of my Last Thanksgiving spent with loved ones who are no longer physically on this earth. There my mind stays savoring the nostalgia and then the sadness washes over me. Of course, there are many Thanksgiving memories in between now and then. Those are not forgotten, just overshadowed by the absence of those precious family members.

After Thanksgiving, we quickly move to the Christmas festivities. For me Christmas has not been the same since my little children became young adults. The magical moments of children’s excitement are long gone. Santa. reindeer, decorating the tree and opening presents, all lose their magic. I try to concentrate on planning gatherings with family and friends. Then, of course, my mind wonders once again to the Last Christmas memories of those special loved ones who are no longer able to celebrate with us.

Those of you who have Loved Ones Living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia may also struggle with the wonderful memories of past Holiday celebrations. Then, possibly your mind wanders to, “This may be my last holiday them”. The Alzheimer’s or Dementia continues to progress and other illnesses can set in at any time. You say to yourself, “How can we make great holiday memories with the daily challenges we face?” Here are some ideas to help you and your loved ones plan a celebration to remember.

Keys to Having a Happy Holiday

  1. Change your expectations.
  2. Build on past traditions that were most meaningful to Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s or Dementia
  3. Involve your loved one as their abilities allow
  4. Prepare your friends and family of the changes the two of you are going through
  5. Decrease the size of the gathering. Encourage them to visit at different times or even different days for short periods of time.
  6. Have visitors wear name tags (this may help, depending on the stage of Alzheimer’s)
  7. If people ask about gift giving. Suggest useful gifts like favorite foods, comfortable clothing or soft cuddly items ( stuffed animals or small blankets). Don’t forget yourself. If asked, suggest gift certificates for self-care or help with household responsibilities.
  8. If you receive invites  and your loved one is not able to attend, ask a friend or family member to sit with your loved one and go by yourself
  9. Stick to your loved ones routine as much as possible. 
  10. Follow your instincts. No one knows your loved one like you do.  

Hopefully, these few tips will help you and your loved ones celebrate the best possible Holidays this season. Making memories to share for years to come. Remember, you are not alone….. You can do this. 

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A Difficult Time

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Loss and Grief

The middle of July through the end of the year is a difficult time for my family and me. We are reminded that the world continues to spin and time keeps moving forward even after a great loss. Although this difficult time does not directly pertain to Alzheimer’s and Dementia it may hit home with some of you. My thoughts are unorganized and the words don’t flow smoothly together. My lack of focus can leave my mind foggy and my body exhausted. I guess grief can do that to you.

Experts say there are seven stages of grief. I’ve found that these stages do not go in any particular order and are often repeated. These stages are Shock and Disbelief, Denial, Pain, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance/Hope. There are also different types of losses that we grieve. Of course, the loss of a Loved One to death’s door is the one most people associate with grief. Some other losses we mourn are Loss of Relationships, Employment, and Health.

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Grief is exhausting and can become very overwhelming. I’ve learned that you need to feel your feelings and talk about them. As painful as that may sound, and it is painful, you have to give space to them. If not, that emotion will begin to fester and intensify until the blister finally pops. Leaving an uncontrollable ooze of negativity that can push you into a very dark place.

In that first year of my journey with grief, I stuffed my many painful emotions into a “closet”. Struggling every day to keep those “monsters” hidden behind that bulging “closet door”. I was so very afraid to confront those monstrosities of soul-shattering pain. I was using all my strength and every ounce of energy to forcefully keep that “door” shut. I found myself in a very dark place. I was very fortunate to find a safe place to allow those “monsters” out of the “closet” and talk about my shattered heart, lost hope and disappearing dreams.

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Don’t Let Grief Guide Your Path

The old adage “Time heals all wounds”, is not completely true for me. Time does not heal all wounds. Even when the wounds appear to heal, there are scars left behind. These scars are a reminder of our brokenness and the strength it took to gather those pieces and put ourselves back together. Time does not heal, but using that time to learn to feel our feelings does somewhat in time ease the pain just a little. This allows us to cope with these scars without allowing them to define who we are.

Grief is difficult. Give yourself permission to talk about it. Talking about it takes away its power to consume you. Don’t let grief guide your path. Find a comfortable balance that allows grief to walk with you through this thing we call life.

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Must See Movie About Feeling Your Feelings