On celebrating the holidays, wishes and realities of #Caregiving

Happy family in a dream worldI’ve been thinking a lot about how this holiday season affects everyone in different ways, no matter what our faith.

For some, it is a season of generosity and giving
Enjoying the act of giving for others and accepting the warm feeling that it brings can fill a person’s heart with joy.

For some, it’s a season of receiving
How many children right now are making a holiday list of all they dream of for holiday gifts? How many will feel pangs of disappointment when they don’t get that one thing?

For others, it is a season of memories
How many of have fond memories of hanging the holiday lights, lighting the Menorah together as a family, laughing over holiday meals or after dinner games and opening presents?

And how much of that has been lost as families move apart or loved ones pass away,  become ill or aged, Alzheimer’s and Dementia may have stolen those very memories we hold so close to our hearts.

For many families, this is a difficult time of year
In my coaching practice and in writing When Life Hits the Fan I’ve spoken to a lot of people who really struggle with letting go of those memories and want to re-create them every year as longs as they can. They want to hold on to them tight, and they feel a deep sense of loss because things have changed.

Buddha’s Four Noble Truths 
I’ve spent quite a lot of time lately thinking about the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, especially the first two.
The first noble truth is that suffering, misery, and pain exist in life.
The second noble truth is that much if not all of that suffering is caused by craving and desire.

The caregiver experience
As caregivers, we crave the “good old days” when our loved one was full of joy and the holiday season was rich with events and fun. Ice skating on the pond, going to the tree lighting ceremony in the town square, caroling in the neighborhood or going to the Nutcracker with the whole family every year.

We remember when they weren’t sick. When they remembered all of the grandkid’s names when they weren’t in the hospital or a care facility away from family and friends. And it breaks our hearts that they can’t participate the way they used to. Our desire is to hold on to and recreate those memories, wishing time will roll back. But it won’t.

In our new reality, the person we love can’t be as active, can’t or doesn’t want to participate in the large gatherings. Crowds and noise may be overwhelming. They may not want to see people in their current state. Maybe it’s shame, embarrassment or they don’t remember those people and that’s upsetting.

It doesn’t matter
This desire for what used to be isn’t helping us, it’s causing us pain and perhaps those we care for too. We need to look at where we are now and find ways to work with what we have in this moment. What this person, who we so love, needs, and be where they are, whatever that means. We need to ASK what they want, and then listen carefully to the answers. Life changes, and we need to be able to deal with the reality we have right here, right now.

When we notice that we are craving the good old days, we can recognize them as what they are – precious memories. And then we can create new experiences based on our current state of being. We can be with the person we love and bring them happiness, whatever that means to them right now. We can create new rituals, new memories. Cherishing our time with them, being fully present with them, and finding joy in simply being together.

If we can work to reduce the craving, we reduce or even end the suffering. It’s as simple as that. And so we begin to see the wisdom of the last two noble truths. The end of suffering and the path to enlightenment.

My holiday wish for you:
May you be happy
May you be safe
May you be loved