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Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more

Written by Kelly Klund, LPN
Resource Nurse, Empira

Most of us know the story of the Grinch, a crabby green creature who has lived a lonely spiteful life. He has a deep dislike for the people who live in the town of Whoville and detests their love of Christmas. He hatches a plot to sneak into Whoville on Christmas Eve and steal the decorations, gifts and food. In the middle of his attempt to ruin Christmas he comes across Cindy Lou Who, an innocent child who has the beauty and magic of Christmas in her heart.

The Grinch continues with his plan and once he gets back to his home with all of the town’s Christmas swag he is amazed to learn that all the Whos in Whoville have not had their Christmas ruined, but instead are anchored in the value of being together and sharing Christmas love. Seeing this, the Grinch’s icy heart grows three sizes and he returns “Christmas” to Whoville and celebrates all the beauty and love with the Whos on Christmas.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

DR. SEUSS GEISEL, 1957

When we hear the story of the Grinch we often think of that little bit more as generosity, family, the gift of giving or the celebration of Christ’s birth if you are a Christian.

This year most of the ways we traditionally celebrate the Christmas holiday are likely to be turned upside down. Like at Thanksgiving, we were being asked not to gather in our large family and friend groups. The prevalence of unemployment may make gift giving a source of tension for some families. Church services are not likely to look like they have in years past. Getting together with our friends for holiday baking or cookie exchanges will have to be reinvented and gathering at the knee of Grandma or Grandpa to hear our families’ Christmas stories is a much loved tradition we will likely have to forego.

In normal times 46.9% of people report some sort of grief during the holiday season with social isolation being one of the biggest factors in that grief. In addition to holiday grief, according to the CDC, U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions in relation to COVID-19. Compound the impact that COVID-19 has had on our mental health with the holiday grief that is normal and we are ripe for a holiday season that is lacking holiday cheer.

But what if we thought about it differently?

What if this year’s little bit more was about the gift we could give to ourselves; the gift of time for self-reflection and the gift of exploring what matters most.

In Empira’s ResoLute grant we explore something we’ve titled Work of Aging. This work begins when people start to reflect on their life and confront their own mortality. Work of Aging is used to describe conversations or actions that support one in reaching wisdom recognizing what matters most in living and dying.
When we explore our Work of Aging we are looking into seven domains that can cause us despair or be a source of peace and joy in our lives:

• Life story – What role does our story play in who we are today?
• Condition – How does your health affect your quality of life
• Purpose – Why do you wake up in the morning?
• Relationships – What relationships do you want to honor or reconcile?
• Spirituality – Do you feel connected to something bigger than yourself?
• End of Life – Have you prepared for the end of your life?
• Legacy – What do you want others to think when they hear your name?

What if this year’s little bit more is about taking advantage of the time we have alone or with a smaller group of loved ones to reflect on recognizing what matters most and sharing those conversations with the people closest to us?

Was the Grinch crabby and bitter because he needed to explore his Work of Aging? Did seeing the Whos in Whoville singing on Christmas morning open his eyes to being connected to something bigger than himself? Did returning Christmas to Whoville empower him to shape his legacy?

This Christmas we will all have decisions to make about if and how we celebrate and as we are making those decisions I invite you to also explore your own Work of Aging.

For more information on a tool that guides Work of Aging conversations check out the Work of Aging Reflection Journal.

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We wish you a Merry Christmas and a much better New Year!

If you are struggling with mental health or addition and need assistance there are many resources available including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Serves Administration National Helpline 1-800 – 622-HELP (4357)

“Dr. Seuss” Geisel, T. (1957). How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Random House.

Wirz-Justice, A., Ajdacic, V., Rössler, W., Steinhausen, H., & Angst, J. (2018). Prevalence of seasonal depression in a prospective cohort study. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 269(7), 833-839. doi:10.1007/s00406-018-0921-3

Mental health, substance use, and suicidal ideation during the … (2020, August 13). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm

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