When my marriage ended in 1985 I could never find the joy in the month of December. My family was no longer together to celebrate this time of the year. On top of that my children alternated between me and their father for the holidays. Not a happy time and very lonely to say the least.
I thought nothing could be worse than not having my kids with me at Christmas. Waking up to silence instead of excitement and sheer delight was more than depressing. I didn’t think I could get through anymore holidays if they were all going to be like this.
Fortunately, I had my parents to turn to. I usually spent the night with them on Christmas Eve. It was their support and love that helped see me through a difficult time in my life.
As my children got older I became more accustomed to them being away during the holidays. I still didn’t like it, I just had to accept it for what it was. After all, their dad needed to be with them as much as I did.
I learned to find the joy just by giving them a call on Christmas morning and hearing the excitment in their voices about what Santa brought them or how they were going to spend their day with the dad.
Over time I adjusted to what became the “new normal” in our family. Was it easy? Not in the least. In order to survive I had to decide what was more important, being depressed and self-absorbed or learning how to cope and make the most of my beautiful family. Eventually I was having joy filled moments back in my life.
As a caregiver I felt much of the same way as I had after divorce; sad, lonely, lost, somewhat depressed and not knowing what to expect next or who to even turn to.
Just as my parents were my support system during those tough times I found support through other caregivers experiencing the same thing I was experiencing. We all had a common thread: mother’s living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. None of us knew for sure whether we were doing the right things for our mothers. After we formed our group we shared our research and information we had discovered. We put ourselves aside for one another lifting each other up.
Putting yourself last, as a caregiver, for another caregiver might sound crazy because you’re already putting yourself last by caring for your loved one. Honestly, it was kind of a relief. I know that must sound nuts, but if you take the focus off of yourself for just a little while and turn it to help someone else in the same situation it becomes joy filled. It did for me and I honestly believe it did for the other ladies in our group too.
This is not to say that we were like the “seven lords a leaping” with joy, but it did give us a sense of joy filled with love.
December 2011 was my last joy filled time with my mother. She passed away on Christmas Eve. As much as that might sound depressing and sad it was just the opposite.
I was given the gift of being with her all the way to her final breath. The love and joy I felt at that moment seemed to erase all the stressful times I encountered over the past nineteen years of caring for her.
Knowing my mother was entering her heavenly realm with no more suffering brought me the ultimate joy filled Christmas Eve.
My prayer for all Caregivers is for you to find that joy filled moment during this most precious time of the year.
God Bless you all!