If you’re going through any kind of hardship, making the holidays meaningful can be a difficult task. The holidays can be tough for so many reasons. For some, it can be a reminder of loss or hard times they’ve been through. And when you’re physically not feeling well it can impact your ability to celebrate the way you may be used to.
A cancer diagnosis is more than physical.
“Studies have shown that patients whose non-medical needs are met, have better medical outcomes.”Melissa Rosen
Non-medical needs include financial, childcare, emotional support, cultural aspects, etc. And when a person no longer has to worry about meeting those needs they can free up energy for healing in other ways like emotionally and spiritually.
“It stands to reason that if the experience of cancer involves all of those things (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual), healing from that experience would incorporate all of those things as well.”Melissa Rosen
Culturally competent cancer care.
Whether it’s cancer or something else, an illness can bring out all kinds of reactions and feelings from patients and their immediate family. Some people want to tell everyone and have lots of help and attention, others don’t tell anyone and go it alone, or at the very least don’t want to be the center of attention.
Culturally competent cancer care means treating the patient with dignity and supporting them in the way that makes them feel respected an whole. Sometimes this comes naturally, sometimes it requires a bit of instruction.
When loved ones are uncomfortable they may say nothing, or the wrong thing, not out of malice, but out of uncertainty, and even love. Your loved ones want the best for you but it can be hard for them to try to guess what would be appropriate or appreciated.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as saying, I don’t know what to say, but I’m thinking of you.”Melissa Rosen
Ways to make the holidays meaningful.
One thing you can do to alleviate some anxiety about the holidays is to prepare ahead and let certain people know how you’re feeling and how they can be of help. If you don’t want extra attention, let a key person know that so they can deflect some of that attention if needed.
Prepare yourself for unsolicited advice or undue comments with strategies you can use in moments that may become uncomfortable for you.
Enlist the assistance of a “helper” – a partner, a child, or friend – who can change the subject or call you away for a moment to relieve a tension-filled situation.
Don’t feel obligated to share – anything. Share what you want, don’t share what you don’t want. It’s very much up to you what you share and with whom. It’s under your control.
“People might need extra help now and again, but mostly people want to be treated like they were. It’s a balance.”Melissa Rosen
Controling how you participate in making the holidays meaningful.
Maybe you’re the one who has always hosted the holiday celebration, but this year you’ve decided you can’t. What are some things you can do to make the holidays meaningful?
You could open your home as the place to host, but have others help you preparing your home (cleaning it before and after). If you do all the cooking, maybe this year you make it a potluck. If you normally make a variety of desserts, maybe this year you make one or two of your favorites.
Create some new traditions that you can carry forward beyond this particular holiday into the years, or other holidays, to come. Participate and make it meaningful in simplified ways. Decide what’s most important to you and do that. Remember the people you celebrate with are the main attraction, everything else is logistics.
Designate a person to be in charge of the food and to ask on behalf of you or your family for what you need, nicely. If you need gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, or food that isn’t fried, have your appointed person create a sign-up and state what you need.
Community resources can be helpful in making holidays meaningful.
Community groups and individuals – friends, others who have been through it, clergy – can be helpful to talk to when things get stressful. Organizations, like Sharsheret, can provide therapists to help you make sense of difficult emotions and help bring about healing.
The things one goes through in surviving are not the little things. They are THE things. The whole experience matters, everything you experience counts. Your experience is valid.
Find a spiritual connection, if you find meaning in it.
Spirituality is not the same thing as religion. It is about your connection to (your) soul. You can engage in religion and not feel spiritual and you can feel spiritual outside of religion. That is my belief, anyway.
It can mean seeking the blessing of a revered clergy leader or taking on a deeper level of observance. It could mean reconnecting to and learning to hear your own inner voice.
“When you’re dealing with a life-altering diagnosis, you tend to ask the bigger questions – what does this mean? what is my role in this world? what am I supposed to be doing? why did this happen to me? what am I supposed to learn from it?”Melissa Rosen
You may just find comfort in the answers. Stay in the conversation.
Here are some of my favorite moments from this episode:
- 2:06 What is Sharsheret?
- 2:50 Melissa’s role at Sharsheret.
- 5:15 Culturally competent cancer care.
- 7:16 Holidays can add stress to an already stressful situation.
- 12:52 What to do to make the holidays more meaningful.
- 19:46 To share or not to share.
- 25:55 Choosing how you participate in holidays.
- 37:54 Ask for what you need, nicely.
- 39:48 Engaging community resources.
- 45:26 Spirituality vs. Religion.
Links mentioned in this episode:
- The Gerson Therapy
- After Cancer Care
- The Whole Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors
A new episode is released every second and fourth Thursday of each month.
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Episode 15 with Rabbi Jamie was all about finding resilience through faith, episode 18 was recorded last year (in 2020) about the things I was grateful for through the pandemic, and episode 20 was about celebrating holiday traditions with Malena Perdomo.
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