Q. Christmas is very special to me. My mother passed away on Christmas. My family is having a hard time this year as I was diagnosed in September with metastatic cancer. I really need smiles and laughter. Any suggestions?
I’d like to thank you for taking the time to write in to us and offer my condolences to all that you’re going through, both with your own cancer and your mother’s loss.
I can certainly understand the conflict of emotions present in your family this holiday season: wanting to experience joy along with everyone else when dealing with something like cancer and like grief. You shared that your family is having a hard time coping, but how about you? Since you’re the person being directly affected by this, I hope you’re making time for your own coping as well.
To address more of what it sounds like you’re inquiring about, how to help lift the spirits of your family, I have a couple of ideas I usually recommend to clients in similar situations:
- Starting new family traditions. I’m sure there are some your family already have that are the source of warm, happy memories for you. Starting a new one can help your family connect in the form that is now (without your mom, but potentially new in-laws or children) and can help your family have happy memories with/of you despite you going through cancer treatment right now.
- Celebrations of life are also very helpful in coping with grief specifically. Rather than eulogizing your mother’s death, reflecting on the moments of joy during her life and the happiness she brought each of you can help make Christmas a more positive experience for you all.
I also recommend checking out some of our resources through our website about cancer and the holidays.
- We offer a fact sheet Coping With Cancer During the Holidays
- We also have a booklet specific for the caregiver experience during the holidays. This may be helpful for your family members, if you’re interested.
- We have a Connect Education Workshop episode from a few years ago about coping with cancer for the holidays. You can listen to it on our website, though you can also find our workshop on whichever podcast app you use. (I should note that even though this was part of a series about renal cell cancer, a lot of the points about coping and emotional support can apply to your situation as well).
You can also speak to one of our oncology social workers by phone, Monday through Friday, on our HOPELINE, 800-813-4673.