Written by: Courtney Benisch | Regional Relationship Coordinator for Head for the Cure
Growing up, the holiday season was my absolute favorite time of year. I looked forward to going back to my grandparent’s farm, spending time with my family, and enduring the never-ending cycle of eating turkey. Decorating for Christmas was engrained in me early when we would decorate every square inch of the farm with handmade Christmas décor my grandpa made. We have newspaper articles to prove it! It was passed down to my mom and she took it upon herself to decorate our house every year. It quickly turned into my favorite memories with her.
When she was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma in March of 2016, we knew things were going to change that year. We knew our birthday’s, any holiday’s, and anniversaries were potentially going to be the last that we would be able to spend with my mom. It really set in around November of that year as we had to move her to a hospice facility. The tumor had grown to an unimaginable size and was across most of her brain. Unfortunately, there were no more treatment options left. So, we made the incredibly tough decision to move her to hospice right before Thanksgiving.
We made all the traditional fixings that year and had our family dinner in her hospice room. We tried to make sure she enjoyed this holiday the best she could since we weren’t sure if she would be around for Christmas. After she passed on December 10th, Christmas was a holiday we weren’t sure we wanted to celebrate. However, thanks to some incredible friends, we were able to enjoy company and the Christmas spirit that year.
Since then, the holiday season has been very bittersweet. As time goes on, my family and I have started new traditions for this time of year and have created new memories. It will never be the same without my mom, but we have bits of her throughout each holiday: her green bean casserole for Thanksgiving, most of my apartment is decorated with things she used, and we bring out her favorite wine for Christmas dinner.
The one thing we hold to each year is to celebrate her as a family as much as we can. This time of year is tough for us, but we make sure to always check up on each other throughout. The first holiday season after my mom had passed, I wanted to do everything we normally did, but I soon realized it’s okay that things were going to be different. You aren’t a bad person for wanting to keep your loved one’s memories alive, and at the same time create new memories.
As a caregiver, you give so much to your loved one when they need it most, but you often forget to take care of yourself as well. You want to make sure every moment is special for them, especially during the holidays. Reaching out for help or assistance during this season is the most important time to do it. Your family and friends are here for you and it doesn’t make you weak by reaching out.
Take the holiday season in strides, especially this year with the pandemic. Dinners and festivities don’t have to be perfect; we’re all trying to do the best we can this year. Your loved one will forever enjoy spending time with you and your family so don’t put too much pressure on yourself!