To The Spousal Caregiver This Holiday
The holidays always seem to beg of everyone a sense of joy and happiness. There are several aspects of the holidays that give off major comfort and cozy vibes, like Christmas trees, twinkle lights, hot chocolate, and warm fires. However, while most of these things seem to steal the festive emotional spotlight, there’s another aspect of the holiday that often goes unnoticed that I’d like to highlight this holiday season – the spousal caregiver.
Caregiving During The Holidays
Caregivers are often emotionally and physically bankrupt, especially during the holidays. After all, it’s not like their busy everyday life takes a back seat to accommodate additional holiday demands. I can speak from experience; life as a caregiver is stressful, challenging, and tiring… yet it does have its beautiful moments, from building new relationships to incredible rewards seen from hard work. But by the time the holidays roll around, caregivers are exhausted. And to be brutally honest, most feel like giving up under the pressure. However, many push through because of societal expectations. Gifts must be bought and wrapped; cards must be mailed; food must be cooked; cookies must be made… the list keeps building.
For the spouse of someone with aphasia, friend, I know the feelings that bubble up to the surface this time of year. There are not only those “tactical to-do lists” but also the overwhelming feelings that can trigger you. No matter what your age, you and your spouse will continue to experience a different type of holiday than anyone else who hasn’t been touched by aphasia or a traumatic event. You and your spouse have been through a lot, but feelings of grief and sadness creep into view, sometimes unexpectedly. These feelings surface when you’re around friends and family who haven’t had to go through what you’ve gone through. Their life may seem so carefree and happy in those moments, leaving you with a sense of tremendous loss and feelings of inadequacy.
I’m here to tell you, sweet friend, that you’re not inadequate, and you’re not alone in those feelings. I want to tell you that the heartache you feel is felt by many others in our aphasia community. Some of the best advice I can offer to help with these feelings is to spend time with other caregivers in your aphasia or stroke community who simply “get it.” Those who have never been through the traumatic loss you’ve experienced won’t truly understand, so seek comfort from those who know firsthand how it feels.
I participate in a monthly caregiver’s group that I find to be tremendously healing to my mental health. It’s a safe space where you can be honest about the struggles of caregiving and get support from others who are in similar situations.
Grieving the loss of the life you thought you would have is common this time of year. Dear friend, I wish I had the right words to give you unending peace and comfort. Gut-wrenching grief and the tears it yields are a powerful reminder of loss. As a caregiver myself, even years after my husband had his stroke, I still feel like I continuously go through the stages of grief. It’s the ambiguous grief that tends to be the most painful during this time of year. This, as well as the physical demands of caregiving, can leave you a weary mess. While it may seem warranted and easy to stay in that state of grief, there are ways to break out of it.
Thankfulness can be a cure for those grieving moments. Instead of focusing on what you’ve lost, focus on what you’re thankful for. Practicing thankfulness is a proven mood booster and positive practice not only during the holidays but every day. Starting your day by writing down one or several things that you’re thankful for can really set the tone for your day.
Your life and circumstances may not look like others at your age, but it’s your unique journey, and don’t think that a life impacted by aphasia can’t be filled with purpose and promise.
While every spousal caregiver’s situation is different, there is always a sense of loneliness that comes with not being able to share the holidays with your spouse in the ways you did before the event that left them with aphasia. Old memories when everything was “normal” come trickling back, seemingly at the worst times triggering loss.
Conversations are not as easy as they once were, so you may be tempted to say nothing to avoid any misunderstandings, leaving you feeling more isolated. Please know that you’re not alone. As I mentioned earlier, finding other caregivers that you can confide in is the key to battling the beast of loneliness. Surrounding yourself with people who love and support you in your lowest times of need is also critical during the holidays.
I want to reiterate a word of comfort that you’re not alone in these emotions while you navigate the long road to recovery with your spouse.
For support, questions, or if you need a friend to talk to who just “gets it,” please feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news from Aphasia Readers! If you haven’t picked up an Aphasia Readers book, order your copy HERE!