Chronic illness or Christmas? Which would you prefer?
I know which one I’d choose. But too often we don’t have a choice – and this is very evident during the holiday season.
Over Christmas we often spend more time with family, and for many of us, that means spending more time with Chronic Illness.
Chronic Illness doesn’t go on holidays over Christmas…
While the shops and the media try to convince us that by November 1 we have entered into a ‘new world’ of perfectly laid tables, wrapped gifts and dizzying heights of tinsel – most of us know that’s not quite true.
Nothing’s really changed. Certainly not our loved one’s health struggles.
The rest of the country may be feeling care-free and relaxed – but often our Loved One’s have more cares than ever before.
Will they be well enough to celebrate Christmas?
How will they meet our cultures demands for all the extra activity required leading up to Christmas?
How will they meet their own expectations on the sort of holiday they’d like to enjoy?
Will their health problems disappoint or cloud their family’s enjoyment of the season?
These are huge questions. They are painful, and they don’t necessarily have ‘right’ answers. Have you ever asked them? Or have you Watched someone else ask them, and felt unable to offer an answer?
And I don’t enjoy it. Chronic illness has always clouded my experience of Christmas. For as long as I can remember I’ve spent the days leading up to the 25th praying that my mum will be well enough to enjoy it. I’ve taken time to make lists (mentally at least) of things I can do in order to try make the season’s expectations lie a little lighter on her shoulders.
Just because our culture says Christmas should be enjoyable doesn’t mean it is.
Just because the media says Christmas should be carefree doesn’t make it so.
I don’t say this to garner pity, but to remind anyone else out there that they are not alone. Nor do I share my desire to help her to make myself sound good! The truth is, I want my mum to be happy and unstressed, because then I am happy and unstressed.
Christmas is coming up, and I want to thank you for following my blog. When you sign up you’ll receive 3 downloadable and printable cards suitable for someone with a chronic illness – and anyone in need of some love!
Holidays have side-effects
We as a society paint holidays as ‘ideal’ times – and when they are not, it hurts. I think it’s important to admit this. Let’s not sweep under the carpet the reality that our loved one will still be sick over Christmas. They may also feel more sick than normal, or be more aware of it, simply because their experience of ill-health is contrasted against ‘joy’ and ‘peace’ and ‘jolly good times’.
Acknowledging this can go a long way. I don’t think it’s loving to sugar-coat or ignore their pain.
Are these holidays going to be hard for you? What do you find most difficult?
I’m so sorry you can’t come out to these activities. It must be disappointing for you.
Holidays take us away from them
I began by saying that we often have more time to spend with friends and family over the holiday season. However, frequently the opposite is true as well. Christmas is busy. There are parties to go to, people to see, reunions to attend.
We, the healthy ones, will be busy.
Our loved ones may not. They may need us more than ever.
And so how do we love them? Perhaps a few ways:
Take the time to show them more love than normal.
Whether it’s a card, a surprise bunch of flowers, a phone-call (checking beforehand if that’s appropriate) or simply making the time for a ‘proper’ 5 minute chat.
Be available in order to be flexible
When we’re running from one party to another, or one baking spree to the next, it can be hard to be available for the fifteen minutes in the day our Loved One may feel up to talking.
Their ‘well’ moments may never seem to align with our ‘free’ times – and this can be frustrating! Busyness makes it difficult to love. Sometimes, I think perhaps we need to intentionally say no to invitations, set aside time, set aside days, so we can say: I’m here when you need me. Even if that’s only for 1 hour out of 24.
Don’t get me wrong – this is a sacrifice. We are giving up 23 hours when we could be seeing friends or being ‘productive’ to stay ‘in the area’ or ‘at home’ in order to be flexible and show them love.
I believe, however, that it is a sacrifice Jesus would make.
Don’t forget the important thing
With all of this it can be easy to see holiday periods as all ‘doom and gloom’ for those with health struggles. That’s not true! Chronic illness may mean they miss out on festivities, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be happy, and it doesn’t mean they can’t love and be loved.
Let’s let go of our expectations. Holidays may not always be happy, Christmas trees and big lunches may not always be possible.
Life is not always ideal, but that doesn’t mean it’s awful!
What is your ‘ideal’ Christmas? What really matters?
Christmas is both the enemy and friend of Chronic illness
Whatever ways you and your loved one can or cannot celebrate Christmas, one thing really matters.
The reason we celebrate.
Christmas is a promise (among other things) that one day Chronic illness will be no more. And we can be thankful and grateful for that reality whether we are well enough to drink wine and set off fireworks or not.
The presence of Chronic Illness does not in any way cancel out the reality of Christmas. In fact, it emphasises it. The world is corrupt. Our hearts are corrupt. Our DNA and body cells are corrupt.
But at Christmas Christ was born, incorruptible, to reconcile us to God and God to us.
Christmas will one day destroy Chronic Illness. But in the meantime, Chronic Illness highlights (one of the) reasons we need Christmas.
// Has chronic illness affected your experience of Christmas? Why or why not? I’d love to hear from you in the comments?