Holiday Grief and Seniors

by | Dec 31, 2019 | Grief


For most of us, the holidays are a time for joyous gatherings with the family. But holiday grief is real. Furthermore, seniors often experience it. And many of the elderly suffer from melancholy over the holidays yearning to be with their families. Here, we will take a look at what causes their melancholy and how they can manage it better.

There’s No Place Like Home Sweet Home

Holiday Grief and Seniors

Dorothy was right when she said there’s no place like home, especially once it’s too late to go back. It is sometimes hard for younger people to understand exactly how traumatic it is to move when you are older.

You may have lived in your own homes for many decades. Leaving behind so many memories and comfort. Many seniors have experienced a lot of loss in their lives. Now moving may feel like another loss.

Is Staying Home The Best Option?

But staying in your own home when you do not have a support system is equally difficult. The husband or wife who has lost their spouse suffers grief like no other. That loss of touch and human connection can be especially hard over the holiday season.

Holiday Grief and Thoughts of Isolation

One of the biggest factors in holiday depression among seniors is the sense of isolation that they feel. Living in their own home may be what they say they want. But is it really? When there is no longer anyone living with you to share your daily life with it can become lonely. And a spouse who is grieving the loss of their partner will feel this pain even more if left alone.

Although some facilities encourage and actively culture a sort of community among the residents they may not feel as natural or fulfilling as being with one’s own family.  

This is especially true in larger facilities. There are often so many people coming and going. But rarely do the people working in these places have the time to spend just visiting and getting to know the seniors they serve.

Appropriate Placement

Feelings of isolation are especially prevalent among seniors who have retained more function and wit than their fellows in the facility. For those who are still with it, being surrounded by folks who cannot carry on a conversation, or keep repeating the same conversations, the holidays are much less stimulating. It’s like being stuck watching a show in which nothing happens, and it’s not Seinfeld, or in one that repeats itself over and over.  

At Sycamore Creek Ranch Memory Care we believe in appropriate placement. This is why our 16 residents are all people with some type of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. When the right people are placed together a sense of community is present. Furthermore, with fewer residents per care staff, we are able to help someone who is grieving.

Smaller Communities  Can Create a Sense of Family

Holiday Grief Disappears when seniors connect
Group of pensioners eating lunch together at the rest home

Places like Sycamore Creek Ranch Memory Care have the ability to connect on a deeper level with their residents. And, with only 16 residents there are always enough caregivers and staff members. It becomes like a second family.

Drowning in Memories

Let’s face it, when you’re sitting in a large facility for the elderly, there’s not much to look forward to. Most seniors end up looking back instead and find refuge in the sweet holiday memories of the past. Thinking of one’s first few Christmases as a kid brings a sense of warmth that is hard to find anywhere around a large assisted living facility.

Remembering Christmas and Thanksgiving when you were first building your family also brings an addicting rush of nostalgia. Think of the first time you dined with your partner’s parents on Thanksgiving and how they became like your own family (or not) over the years.

Keep in mind, however, that the same memories that are typically charged with joy can easily cause pain when realizing that it’s all over.  The grief of what you have lost can be more painful during the holidays.

Coping with Grief As a Senior During the Holidays

Managing grief over the holidays as a senior can be extremely challenging. Commonly recommended remedies involve bombarding seniors with therapy and anti-depressants. While the pills may treat the symptoms, they will never fully cure the root cause of their suffering.

The Need To Connect

One of the most effective ways to genuinely improve the mood of a depressed senior over the holidays or otherwise is to introduce positive human interaction.

The more time they spend around others who can keep them engaged through activity and conversation, the better they feel. These improvements are deeper and more sustainable than the manufactured happiness offered by pills.

Although the community of fellow residents isn’t going to be able to fully take the place of your family, you should still make an effort to interact with them.

Conversely, hanging around a bunch of people as old and ailing as yourself may not be the best option for you. Sometimes it takes interacting with others from outside the familiar confines environment to stimulate them. Find a place to volunteer. Get involved in your community.

Create New Traditions

It may be hard to leave some of the old traditions behind. But if your husband is no longer here to hang the Christmas lights you may be forced to let go of that tradition. Get together with your family or friends to see what new traditions you can create.

Go Easy On Yourself

You do not have to act a certain way no matter what anyone tells you. Everyone grieves differently.  Being a part of a Grief Support Group is helpful especially during the holiday.

Pamper yourself. And though it is important to be around others and be active it is also equally important to have quiet time for yourself.

Read a book, get a massage or just take a walk in nature. You may also try journaling or writing your story. It doesn’t have to be for others to read unless you want that.

Consider bringing a family member for a tour of Sycamore Creek Ranch while they are visiting. Your sibling who lives far away may want to look at what options are available as mom needs more care. Call us today (832) 791-1577

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