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Bursack: Thanksgiving gratitude is still possible during COVID

In today's "Minding Our Elders" column, Carol says it helps to remember the other side of your reality during this stressful time.

Carol Bradley Bursack updated column sig for online 10-21-19.jpg
Carold Bradley Bursack, "Minding Our Elders" columnist.
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Dear Carol: My husband of 30 years has been in a nearby care facility for the last nine months due to a disabling stroke. Visiting has been seriously curtailed, of course, so that’s been extra hard on both of us. It’s better now that I can see him if I’m properly isolated at all other times, tested before going in and wear the required clothing covers, but I’m looking at the holidays with despair.

My husband has always adored having the whole family here for holiday meals. This year, because of his stroke we couldn’t have done that, but now with COVID, even our kids and extended families feel that they could infect me if we get together. They are probably right, but I feel so alone. We’ve always stressed Thanksgiving as a time of gratitude, but I’m struggling to find anything to be grateful for this year. I suppose I’m just unloading on you because I need to vent, but if you can help with any suggestions, I’m listening. — OC.

Dear OC: I’m sorry about your husband’s stroke. This was a life-altering event for your whole family which would have been a hard adjustment during normal times. With the necessary changes that COVID-19 has placed on interacting with others, but particularly older and other vulnerable people, your life has changed even more dramatically.

I urge you to let go of guilty feelings about lapses in gratitude. You are human and you’re going to have resentments, self-pity and other hard feelings. Accept those feelings as normal because you have the right to grieve this sad change in your lives.

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You are smart, though, to try to move through your negative feelings enough to remember the other side of your reality, which is that there are still things to be grateful for because even thinking of a few positive things will likely help you stay more balanced.
Here’s a start:

  • Your husband lived through the critical part of the stroke.
  • So far, at least, your family is free of COVID-19.
  • Your husband is getting care near enough to your home that you can travel without enormous hardship in order to be with him when allowed.
  • Your children love you and are supportive. They and other family members are available to support you by phone and video.
  • You have a warm place to live, food, water, electricity and technical assets like a computer to keep you connected.

Most likely, there are other things unique to you to be grateful for once you start thinking of your day-to-day life.
I’d encourage you to join an online support group because being reminded that you aren’t alone with these heartbreaking challenges can boost your morale. They can also provide you with tips on getting by.

There are many available, but three that come to mind are the one on AARP’s website , the Caregivers Action Network’s forum at www.caregiveraction.org and agingcare.com .

This is a tough holiday season for you, I know. My heart is with you.

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran caregiver and an established columnist. She is also a blogger, and the author of “Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.” Bradley Bursack hosts a website supporting caregivers and elders at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached through the contact form on her website.

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