Coping with the Holidays

By Mary Hesdorffer, Nurse Practitioner
Executive Director, Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

pumpkinThe approaching holiday season can add to the stress experienced by those affected by mesothelioma.  Following a mesothelioma diagnosis in the family, the holiday today will usually not be the same as it was in years past. Acknowledging that, making adjustments, and being flexible to accommodate the new needs of your family can help ease some of the stress.

The first thing I would suggest is that you spend some time thinking about what a particular holiday means to you. Let’s start with Thanksgiving.  We often put more weight on what we place on the table and how large the event is rather than focusing on the reason for the celebration – in this case, giving thanks for what we have. So, for example, this might be the year when you choose to not participate in a large gathering but a quiet and intimate dinner where you spend the time in reflection on what you do have in your life to be grateful for. The patients often tell me they are grateful for their caregivers, the caregivers are grateful that their loved one is with them on this holiday, and those of you who have lost a loved one are grateful for the sweet times they had in the past and for the family and friends who have supported them during this difficult time.

This holiday season you get to set the tone and do what works for you! If you find it difficult to participate in your traditional celebration, perhaps you may need to carve out quiet time during which you can regroup. Or perhaps join your friends and family for a portion of the holiday – visit them for an appetizer and drinks or swing by for dessert. If you plan on being home and find yourself pressed for time or too distracted to cook – order in. No one is going to judge you for being kind to yourself. Rest and pace yourself. The burden of stress is heavier and the coping more difficult when you’re tired.

And don’t forget to take the time now to discuss with family members what their expectations for the holiday are. If you opt for a traditional celebration of the holiday and your loved ones offer to help, do take them up on their offer. Or if you choose to skip this year’s family traditions but don’t want to give up the holiday entirely, volunteering at a community event will allow you to be festive while not having to maintain a steady focus on yourself.

Finally, if you are having difficulty coping you may wish to join us for one of our support calls or participate in one of our online groups. Sometimes it helps to talk to others going through similar experiences as you. If you’re interested, but aren’t currently signed up for these groups, please call me (703.879.3820) or email me at right away. Signing up doesn’t mean you have to participate. It simply means that you will start receiving reminders and call-in information, and you can then choose, on your own time, if you are ready/willing to join the call.

And if for you the worst is over, and you’d like to now pay it forward, let me know if you would like to volunteer to be our “on-call” community support for the holidays.  Peer to peer support and effective strategies that you have discovered during your journey can be invaluable to other members of the meso community.

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