Some of us look forward to the holidays as a time to connect with family and friends, to light candles and give gifts. We’re expected to do our part for the economy by shopping ‘til we drop; to have parties with smiling, happy people; and to enjoy warm, cozy gatherings with our families. Then there’s the obligatory celebration of New Year’s with resolutions for the year ahead.
However, some seniors and others actually dread the anticipated materialism, stress, fatigue and false cheer or the sadness and loneliness which they associate with the season. Why do some older and younger adults harbor resentment toward the holidays?
Some feel overwhelmed by the barrage of holiday hype to buy presents and host or attend more gatherings than usual. Images of turkeys and hams; decorations and carols everywhere; and crowds of people rushing around make it harder than usual to connect with themselves and with special people in their lives. They resist excesses that are hard to avoid.
Others who are not Christian feel crowded out by images, sounds and activities associated with the birth of Christ. People of other faiths or no religious faith feel offended and hurt by what seems like mass insensitivity and exclusion.
At a time when everyone is supposedly cheerful and celebrating, seniors and others may be suffering from feelings of sadness, loss or exclusion. They may wonder what’s wrong with them because they can’t revel in this season like other people. The ever-present images of happy people may make the pain of loss or exclusion even sharper. The holiday season dredges up memories of beloved people and times that are past, so that being with people is difficult.
How can we make this holiday season what we need it to be, and how can we support those whose hurting may intensify at this time? We can tune into our own needs and the needs of others. Then we can make and carry out targeted holiday resolutions. Here are a few examples:
If you want to reduce shopping, take that saved time and volunteer it for people who will be short on gifts and family. To reduce stimulation and stress, plan a getaway – a personal retreat or a vacation in a quiet, uncrowded place with a loved one or your family. Spend some daily reflective time with a book or music. Arrange some special time with a senior who may be grieving a loss. Let them know it’s okay to share with you how they’re feeling. Decide together how you would like to spend some special time.
If you are hurting, go easy on yourself and reach out to someone who cares about you, or who will care if you give him or her a chance; or connect with a senior center or a church or temple community. This is not a time to tough it out alone, but to support each other in the true spirit of the season.
Sandy Cohen and Roger Cormier (email: [email protected]; free blog: starguide4growingolder.wordpress.com)