SUBSCRIBE NOW Get a year of news PLUS a gift box!

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Imperfect Christmas is perfect considering the circumstances

"Minding Our Elders" columnist Carol Bradley Bursack says traditions might change after losing loved ones, but joy and good memories are still possible during the holidays.

Carol Bradley Bursack updated column sig for online 10-21-19.jpg
Carold Bradley Bursack, "Minding Our Elders" columnist.
The Forum
We are part of The Trust Project.

Dear Carol: My parents were wonderful grandparents, and their presence was a big part of our holiday fun with the kids. Sadly, last year my dad had a heart attack on Dec. 4 and died shortly after. Losing him pushed my mom from mild memory problems into dementia so she’s since moved to assisted living.

Together, those events understandably made last Christmas sad, but this year doesn’t seem much better. We’ll bring Mom here for our meal though she can’t participate very much, so in a way we’ve lost them both. This has all been difficult for everyone, especially the kids. I’ve tried hard to make this Christmas special for them, but I don’t feel that I’ve done enough to offset the loss of the grandparents’ participation. Will next year be better? — RT.

Dear RT: I’m sorry about your family losing your dad and then seeing your mom’s cognition decline. This has been a seriously hard time for your family.

First, let me assure you that you’ve done enough. This Christmas will be different than those from before your dad passed on and likely it will be different than those in your future. Realistically, though, no two holiday seasons are identical and that’s probably a good thing. Life is never static which is why as much as traditions are cherished during the holidays they also evolve.

In my situation, two holiday seasons in a row started off with family deaths. The next year, my youngest son said to me, “I hope we don’t have a funeral this Christmas.” I told him that I hoped so, too. It turned out that we didn’t have any funerals that season but the next year my dad died Dec. 2, so once again we mourned as we celebrated.

ADVERTISEMENT

Realistically, our traditions had been evolving for years, first as the various grandparents aged and then as deaths occurred. Through my years of elder care, I pared down the baking and adjusted cooking times. When the grandparents couldn’t come to dinner at our house, my sister and I took shifts so we could spend time with them in their facility home. In between our shifts, we enjoyed a family dinner and gift opening focusing on our kids. This may have been an imperfect choice, but the best our situation would allow.

By the time our elders had all passed, our kids' needs had changed as well. We had and still have our traditions, but they remain fluid.

My family story reflects what is happening in your life, RT. Yes, your traditions are changing and the holidays will never again be like when your dad was there or when your mom could fully participate. Yet they can evolve in a way that’s still satisfying.

Christmas will come as it always does, and your kids will enjoy it if in a slightly different manner. Try to allow yourself some joy as well. You did everything right for your current circumstances. I’m sending you an extra caregiver hug for the holidays.

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.

Related Topics: WELLNESSFAMILYCHRISTMAS
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.
What to read next
It is unclear how much demand is there for the third dose in the 5-11 age group. Just 28.8% of children aged 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated, according to the latest CDC data.
A KHN review of about a dozen state and county agencies’ grants shows that while some have allocated large portions of the CDC money for projects, they still have spent only a small proportion. Mounting unspent COVID relief dollars is one of the key reasons Republicans in Congress oppose Democrats’ efforts to appropriate billions more federal dollars for managing the pandemic.
Changes in sex hormones during menopause are directly related to a decline in heart health. You can't stop menopause, but you can take some control by eating right and moving more. Viv Williams has details of a new study in this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion."
The shortage has provided even more strain on those people and infants in need.