As we approach the holidays for many people who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or their family members, it is difficult if not impossible to “be of good cheer.” The constant reminders of past happy holiday seasons and the uncertainty of how future holiday seasons will be affected weighs heavy on the patient and the family.
A few weeks ago, a mesothelioma patient who had been diagnosed two years ago died suddenly after contracting what was thought to be pneumonia. The timing of his death surprised his family as they had been used to him living fully with mesothelioma for the past two years. His death the week before Thanksgiving left a void that could not be filled and having the holidays approaching has left the family reeling. Dealing with the grief accompanying their loss and at the same time, the time set aside for reflecting and giving thanks, seemed overwhelming when we texted back and forth.
There is no wrong or right way to grieve. The first holiday season after a loss is going to be difficult, prepare yourself for that reality. One of the most important things to remember, as much as you might want to “cancel the holiday,” isolating yourself does not allow you the opportunity of creating a new tradition with others. Creating a new tradition might be the last thing on your mind and you might not feel that it is appropriate, but some people find comfort in changing traditions. Allowing yourself time to grieve during this time of year, to feel joy, anger, overwhelming sadness, while surrounding yourself with people that love and support you can be helpful. Taking care of yourself, exercising, and not drinking too much is also recommended.
Our patient’s family successfully made it through Thanksgiving. Acknowledging that this experience was different and difficult they also found strength in the support they found with each other. They are now planning how they will chart the upcoming Christmas Holiday season.
Two books that deal with this topic are: James Miller: How Will I Get Through The Holidays? Twelve Ideas for Those Whose Loved One Has Died.
Drs. Clarence Tucker and Cliff Davis: Holiday Blues- A Self Help Manual on Grief Through The Holidays
For family and friends trying to support someone during this difficult time, often acknowledging that it is a difficult time and reaching out and listening, is better than any gift you might buy. Our patient’s wife communicates best through texting; ask what way your family and friend are most comfortable communicating with and reach out.