It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so they say. But for many, it can be the most grueling season of all. The holidays can trigger debilitating mental anguish and traumatic emotions in some people for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s the stress of family gatherings, the flooding grief of loved ones lost, or even the overwhelm of the season’s hype of good cheer and the ongoing madness that ensues- many people feel vulnerable this time of year. Although the weeks leading up to the New Year can be fun and festive for the masses, there are people in your life who are secretly suffering with despair and angst.
Do you know someone who struggles emotionally with the holidays?
I’m guessing you do.
There are also many people who have scheduled surgeries and medical procedures for the month of December. It’s the busiest time of the year for surgeons, because insurance deductibles have often been met and vacation/sick days have been building to allow time off from work to recover. Parents often use this time to plan surgeries when their kids are off of school, making things a little less complicated in managing the needs of rides, homework, and extra activities while they recover. Family members may use the extra time off during the holidays to assist with responsibilities making this season ideal for tending to the medical needs of their loved one having the surgery.
Do you know someone who has recently had surgery or is planning to have one soon?
Perhaps you do.
Then there are the precious people who suffer all year round with chronic illness, and this season can be most challenging for them because they cannot participate in much of the holiday festivities due to their limitations and pain. As other people in their life attend fun parties and dinner gatherings, go on shopping excursions and family outings, they are stuck home tending to their illness. This season is a painful reminder of all they cannot do, and they may feel isolated and forgotten. Their illness limits their ability to engage in many celebrations and they secretly suffer as the world around them continues its flurry of activity without their presence. This time of year can be a lonely existence for those who are chronically ill, more so than usual because of all the opportunities they miss to do fun things and be around people they love.
Do you know someone in your life who is chronically ill?
I’m betting you do.
Oh there are many who are suffering, trying to make it through this time. These beloved people are in all of our lives. If you can’t identify anyone in your life who is suffering for these reasons, then perhaps you know of an elderly or disabled person who is restricted and perhaps in pain? Maybe someone you know has suddenly fallen ill?
All of these people need you.
In the hustle and bustle of the Holidays, it’s so easy to forget about them. We may be distracted with our own to do lists, or what’s going on in our own hectic lives to really stop and think about people we know who are in this place. It happens. Life is crazy and then in the midst of our usual busy lives, the holidays come and ramp up the speed and strain of it all even more.
This is why I am writing this particular post, because I think we all need an important reminder to think of these people in our lives and take the time and the effort to serve them.
But how, you ask?
With a little bit of consideration and sacrifice, you can make a difference.
Here are five steps you can take, to care for the suffering this season:
1. Identify who in your life may need your attention
Take the time to think through all the people in your life. Make a mental list of your friends, your family, your coworkers, your neighbors, your social circles, and anyone else in your life who might be hurting and need your help and attention.
2. Reach out to them
Call them, write to them, email them, text them, stop by their home, visit their hospital bed- get a hold of them any way you can. This connection means more to them than you will ever know.
3. Ask them how they are doing and what you can do for them
If they claim they are fine, and don’t need anything from you- encourage them to continue the conversation. Inquire some more about how they are feeling, what they have been up to lately, and ask about their holiday plans. As the conversation naturally progresses, you are bound to notice a need if you listen carefully.
They may not feel comfortable asking for anything, so it may take thoughtful intention on your part to identify something that you can do to make a difference in their life. There are countless ways to help people. You may sense they are alone and isolating because of their depression. Perhaps they complain that their kids are antsy to get out of the house while they are recovering from surgery. They might talk about their need to shop for gifts but haven’t felt well enough to leave the house. Maybe they are frustrated with the progress of their healing and sound discouraged and defeated. The conversation will open up a wealth of opportunity for you to offer them assistance in their lives. Promise.
4. Follow through
Seriously. Do it. Did you offer to take the kids out to see the lights over the break? Did you say you were going to spend time with that person? Did you offer to bring a meal, grocery shop, get them out of the house and go somewhere? Maybe you secretly planned to surprise them with cleaning their house, or thought it would be wonderful to write them an encouraging card. It seems ridiculous to think anyone wouldn’t follow through, but this season’s hurried and frantic pace allows room for mishaps and memory loss. It’s both human and common to forget important things despite our best intentions. Make this a priority. Schedule it, write it down, rearrange your calendar and make sure you are prepared. This might be the greatest gift you will give this year.
5. Check in again
So you feel really good about taking the time out of your busy schedule to serve this precious person in your life and you can now cross that off your list! I’m sorry to say, you cannot. Your love and support and thoughtful intention of serving this person is beautiful, but it must continue. You see, they are probably still hurting, still healing, still needing someone to notice, to show up, to care. Write a note to yourself to check in with that person. Schedule a time to give them another call. Make room in your calendar to visit again. Buy enough groceries to make an extra meal. Purchase a stack of cards to send regularly.
These people need you.
And although we all lead busy active lives, full of a variety of needs bombarding us every day, let’s not forget those who are hidden from our view.
This post originally appeared on The Mom Cafe. It has been reprinted with permission.
Christine Carter is a SAHM of two pretty amazing kids. She has been writing at TheMomCafe.com for six years, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration and faith. You can also find her work on For Every Mom, Blunt Moms, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Mamapedia, Her View From Home, Huffington Post, MomBabble, and Scary Mommy. She is the author of Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.