Happy December Further Shore friends!
Where in the world did November go? December is the time to say Happy Hanukkah, Happy Festivus, Merry Christmas, Happy Boxing Day, and joyful New Year’s Eve wishes before we jump into a new calendar year. On a personal note, our little family is preparing for winter here in Flagstaff. Olivia and Teddy are eagerly awaiting the fluffy white stuff that makes for good outdoor playtime. Robert is busy at work and writing fiction that continues to surprise and delight me and his fans. As is tradition, I’m heading into my annual winter retreat. I’m lucky to have been born on January 8th (Elvis’s birthday too). So, the holidays of Christmas, New Years, and my birthday are always a trifecta of joyful “me time.” This year, I’m redoing my home office to streamline it for virtual work and writing. I’m wishing everyone here beauty, peace, joy, and good health during this holiday season. ❤ Now for the News:
- On the Blog: Check out letters A-R in the A.B.C.’s of Living Well. “S” is for Support will be ready for you in the New Year. You can view past newsletters here or sign up to receive News Briefs via email by contacting us at (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- This Month’s Special Day: Wednesday, December 21 at 4:48 p.m. (EST) is Winter Solstice! It is the shortest day and longest night of the year and marks the official start of winter in the northern hemisphere. Winter solstice was celebrated by ancient cultures as a time for the sun to be reborn. In Druidic traditions, the Winter Solstice is thought of as a time of death and rebirth when Nature’s powers and our own souls are renewed. The Ancient Roman Saturnalia Feast took place on December 17th and lasted for 7 days. It was a time of forgiveness, celebration, and freedom for those in servitude. These ancient rituals paved the way for many of our modern Christmas holiday activities. Celebrating solstice is a long-cherished practice for me. Some ways you can celebrate the solstice include journaling about what is concluding and what lies ahead; engaging in a renewal meditation; lighting a candle in gratitude or forgiveness; creating and enjoying a special meal; reading inspirational material or listening to uplifting music. May your solstice be peaceful and renewing!
- Meeting Holiday Grief Whether grief is anticipatory (as when a loved one is in decline) or occurs after a recent or long-past loss, the holidays can be a struggle. Gathering for celebrations can be complicated given that expressions of grief are very personal and not everyone experiences grief and loss in the same ways. Here are some tips to help you cope:
- Plan. Think about current personal energy and ability (mental, physical, emotional, spiritual) before committing to holiday events or activities that may trigger grief. Be realistic about what activities feel safe and doable. Discuss your plans with others involved. You may be relieved to know that others are having similar needs and feelings. Try to be flexible if the plans of others do not match with your own. Go for supportive understanding!
- Feel. There are so many feelings associated with the grieving process. Sadness or sorrow, anger, fear, loneliness, frustration, relief, or joy are all valid expressions of grief. Those who are caregiving for loved ones with life-limiting illness are likely experiencing anticipatory grief. It may be hard to imagine arranging a holiday party at a time when sadness is the prevalent feeling. Consideration about how to safely include a declining loved one in festivities can lead to feelings of confusion, worry, or concern. Give yourself and others around you permission to feel all the feelings.
- Create. Sometimes traditions without our loved one present can be too painful to imagine or bear. Creating a new tradition or amending one may help to ease the pain. Think about their favorite things and be creative in your plans with color, food, music, poetry, decorations, or ritual. It may be that this year, things will be different at holiday time. The era’s end of certain traditions doesn’t have to mean the end of loving relationships.
- Be Inclusive. Vulnerable or declining loved ones can be included in your holiday plans. If they are in hospice care, or cannot travel safely, bring a bit of the holiday to them. Be mindful and respectful about their wishes and plan the visit accordingly. Ask questions about how much activity and for what amount of time they’re comfortable with. Sometimes less is more! Go for quality instead of quantity.
- Add decorations to the room.
- Bring freshness and cheer with an aromatherapy room diffuser using essential oils of frankincense, peppermint, orange, ginger, or cinnamon.
- Arrange for children to sing your loved ones’ favorite holiday songs or present a short poem or play for them.
- Be willing to reminisce or share memories with your loved one.
- Hospice patients may enjoy holiday cookies or hot cocoa; sometimes it’s just a nibble or a sip. Decreased intake of nutrition is a natural biological process at the end of life. Encouragement to eat or drink can induce suffering, so opt for LOVE instead of CHICKEN SOUP.
- Pandemic tidbit: ‘Tis the season for sharing the love (and also germs). The U.S. is facing a surge of hospitalizations due to respiratory viruses, mainly driven by COVID-19, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. The three viruses present with similar symptoms and testing is the only way to know for sure which one has come calling. Knowing the diagnosis can help patients to receive the best treatment and to know whether isolation is needed to protect others. This article presents a simple chart describing which symptoms are rare, sometimes present, or common. Be safe and protect the medically vulnerable during this holiday season.
- Movies that Move Us: This is just one of my personal holiday favorites. Why? Maybe it’s nostalgia, or the laughter, or the DANCE! I love this movie because it has a light-hearted spirit that celebrates winter with heart and good humor. It has outstanding music and dance numbers performed by some of the greatest actors of the era. Mostly I love it because there’s a special moment toward the end of the story showing respect and honor for a beloved post-war general (brings a tear every time)! Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen star in the sweet and sentimental White Christmas (1954, directed by Michael Curtiz). Pour yourself a mug of hot cocoa, pop the corn and prepare to be entertained by a great holiday classic.
- Quote of the Month: “In every winter’s heart there is a quivering spring, and behind the veil of each night there is a shining dawn. “ ~ Khalil Gibran
May all beings be safe, well, happy, and content.