Honoring Loved Ones with Mesothelioma During the Holidays
- Cancer & Caregiving
- Dec. 19, 2017
The holidays mark a magical time of year that allows us to share our joy with friends and family.
It is a time of cheerful reflection on the blissful memories of the year gone by, filled with jingle bells and silent nights.
Perhaps it is the silent nights that produce such struggle and strife for families facing illness and loss.
For families dealing with mesothelioma or enduring a bereavement, the holidays may usher in a season of sadness and grief. They may face tough times ahead and holiday celebrations seem to further complicate things.
Gift-giving may add additional burden to already strained finances. Some may find difficulty in welcoming guests, wrapping presents and sharing in the holiday spirit.
Sometimes the reality of winter holidays sharply contrasts the images of holiday bliss with which the media bombards us. The season can be extremely difficult for families who have worries.
It might be unimaginable to deal with a seasonal celebration for someone who doesn’t feel like getting out of bed.
Finding Meaning in the Season
When grief and pain overshadow the happiness of the season, it might be helpful to find ways to draw meaning from the holiday.
Families can view special occasions as opportunities to honor their heroic loved ones battling cancer and memorialize those no longer living.
They also may find it refreshing to abandon the commercialization and the hustle and bustle of a traditional holiday celebration. When families face the crisis of dealing with cancer or loss, holiday traditions may become painful reminders of the way things used to be.
Incorporating a few changes can make a holiday a bit more endurable for struggling families.
Honoring Those Battling Illness
Cancer patients are among the most courageous and tenacious people one might ever encounter. They have the ability to stare down adversity while maintaining their commitments to their families.
There are times when they lay aside their personal worries and fears to support their loved ones.
Holiday celebrations offer a perfect opportunity to express love and gratitude for loved ones fighting an illness.
Unique hand-crafted keepsakes, kind words and thoughtful cards or letters might be ways to tell your loved one how you feel.
Some notions of love and admiration might include:
- Storytelling: A family gathering is a great time to tell the story of your loved one, from your personal, thoughtful perspective. Narrate the tale of how your loved one has given you hope, shown you kindness and impacted your life. Add cherished family photos and music to complete the thoughtful tribute.
- Propose a Toast: Whether you’re sharing hot chocolate, warm apple cider or a glass of wine, composing a toast is a thoughtful way to honor your loved one. Just as family members might toast a newlywed couple, each person might say a few meaningful words to express their love and devotion for the loved one battling an illness.
- Share a Sincere Conversation: Holidays usually draw loved ones together in the same location. Use the opportunity of togetherness to express how you really feel. Sit together and give your loved one your undivided attention. There is no substitute for looking into the eyes of a loved one and sharing your heart.
Memorializing a Loved One
The holiday season can be a painful reminder that someone you love is gone.
Feeling sadness is a normal part of bereavement and might be even more pronounced during the holiday season. Most families celebrate the holidays together, so when the season rolls around again, it can be helpful to find ways to memorialize lost loved ones.
Incorporating thoughtful memorials into holiday celebrations allow family members to move on by carrying the memory of a lost loved along with them.
There are plenty of creative ways to celebrate a loved one during the holidays, including memorial candles and holiday ornaments. Families can create keepsakes to symbolize loving memories within their seasonal decorations.
Making crafts with loved ones is a healing way to spend time together during the holiday season, as well.
Some thoughtful ideas include:
- Memory Candles: Crafting candles is an easy-to-make keepsake that symbolizes the family’s love and remembrance. Using coffee beans, potpourri or essential oils might help capture a fond aromatic memory of your loved one. Lighting the candle during a holiday symbolizes a family’s eternal love for one another.
- Keepsake Ornaments: Placing a personalized ornament on the Christmas tree is a way to incorporate loving memories into a holiday celebration. Family members can create ornaments using photographs, handwritten notes or spiritual quotes. Making them together allows people to share funny or touching stories about their loved one.
- Hand-Sewn Memories: Families can repurpose a loved one’s old or tattered clothes into meaningful holiday decorations. Family members can use the fabric from an old shirt to craft heart-shaped ornaments for the tree or string them together to make a decorative garland.
Dealing with the holiday season is taxing for families who already have more worries than they can handle. After learning of a cancer diagnosis — or losing a loved one — most people don’t feel up to celebrating the season in the same ways they once did.
Starting new traditions is a way to cherish old memories and create new ones.
Holidays aren’t just about giving gifts and pretty decorations. They are also about families sharing their love in tough times.
Melanie is currently pursuing a Master's degree at the University of the Cumberlands. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from the University of Phoenix. Her father was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 1992. She is dedicated to writing about her unique experience with the rare disease.
- Pinterest. (n.d.). Best 25+ Memorial Ornaments. Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/explore/memorial-ornaments/
- Urns Online. (2017). 6 Lovely DIY Memorial Candle Projects. Retrieved from http://www.usurnsonline.com/creative-ideas/6-lovely-diy-memorial-candle-projects/