Q. As caregiver for my husband, I have no interest in the holidays. I know this is a disappointment to our adult children and our young grandchildren don't understand why I just don't care about shopping, etc. What can I say to them to tell them I love them but I am just so sad, other than just that?


I don’t know how things stand right now with your husband’s treatment and the extent of your caretaking duties, but it may be that you’re feeling “burnt out.” Even though it’s the holiday season, it’s hard to feel like you can take “time off” from cancer. I wonder if your lack of interest in shopping and the trappings of Christmas is a signal that you need to replenish yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. My suggestions for you are not so different from the ones I gave previously to patients coping with the holidays: Keep expectations realistic; Let others help, even if you’re still the principal organizer of holiday activities; Set priorities and pace yourself; and Share your feelings with others.

Try not to dwell only on the cancer: remember that the meaning of the holidays is in certain ways already expressed through the care you are giving. And although you’re struggling with feelings of sadness and loss, you are still permitted to enjoy the gifts of the present: to celebrate not only a grand religious tradition, but also the moments of joy and gratitude for being with the people you love.

For more general tips on how to support yourself as a caregiver, see the previous feature on caregiving in the Ask CancerCare archive, with links to other resources and publications, or our Fact Sheet, “Caring Advice for Caregivers: How Can You Help Yourself?”