Posted on Leave a comment

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Reflection-Journal-no-background-225x300.png

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

Posted on Leave a comment

Why I Don’t Hate COVID 19

Written By Kelly Klund, LPN
Resource Nurse, Empira

Now that I have your attention let me explain.


I do hate that people are dying. I do hate that people are sick. I do hate that people are separated from their families. I do hate that people are losing their jobs. I do hate that our economy is crashing. I do hate that we don’t have a perfect health care infrastructure. I do hate that small businesses are suffering and some may not survive, and I do hate that our children’s education has been disrupted.

Where there is tragedy there is also triumph, and somewhere on the other end of this unprecedented time we will see that there may be things that are better because of what we have been through.

I think about the poem “I miss September 12th” by Elizabeth Gray.

I miss September 12, 2001. I would never want another 9/11, but I miss the America of 9/12. Stores ran out of flags to sell because they were being flown everywhere. People were Americans before they were upper or lower class, Jewish or Christian, Republican or Democrat. We hugged people without caring if they ate at Chick-fil-A or wore Nikes. On 9/12 what mattered more was what was uniting us than what divided us.

Elizabeth S. Gray

In a study completed in 2015 Pollak and Wilson found Advance Care Planning (ACP) conversations to be uncommon. The category of frail elderly patients was identified as a population with limited or no meaningful engagement in ACP. COVID 19 is forcing all of us to have hard, but necessary conversations about our health care wishes. This is a positive that has come from COVID19.

In 2017 Walmsley and McCormack published a study that showed the difficulty that family members encounter when trying to stay engaged. We all know of someone who visits their loved one in a nursing home every Sunday because it is the right thing to do, but they often don’t know what to talk about. With the strict visitor restrictions aging services has appropriately imposed many of those families have had to embrace technology as a way to stay connected. My hope is that when this is over those families continue with their meaningful good night or good morning video chats, as opposed to their weekly obligatory visits. That would be a positive that came from COVID 19.

I have a friend who hosts daily what’s for supper video chats with her girlfriends who struggle in the kitchen. Whether eating curbside pick-up or home cooked meals, people are congregating around the dinner table. This is a positive from COVID19.

I live in a small town in Wisconsin and our main street cafe posted on their Facebook page that they have had some of their busiest days ever. People are pulling together to support local businesses differently than before. This is a positive from COVID 19.
I don’t hate that COVID 19 cancelled my large family Easter celebration. Instead of the hustle and bustle of a house full of people, my husband, college aged daughter, adult son and I had a lovely family dinner at home. The belly laughs were abundant and the memories are priceless. This is a positive from COVID 19.

In the article “Forget Happiness, find Meaning” the author, Kaufmann, says that we should focus on empathy, compassion and gratitude when faced with challenges. There is meaning in COVID 19 for all of us, the challenge is for us to embrace that meaning and grow from it.
I am finding meaning in community, family and appreciation and that is why I don’t hate COVID 19, it is about perspective. I wouldn’t want this new way of life to last forever, but I can find the gifts.

In this time when everyone’s world has been upended where can you find opportunities for empathy, compassion and gratitude? I challenge you to find the September 12th moments in your life.

Kristian Pollock, Eleanor Wilson. Care and communication between health professionals and patients affected by severe or chronic illness in community care settings: a qualitative study of care at the end of life. Health Services and Delivery Research. 2015;(31). doi:10.3310/hsdr03310.
Kaufman SB. Forget Happiness, Find Meaning. Scientific American Mind. 2019;30(6):21. https://search-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.umuc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=139129444&site=eds-live&scope=site. Accessed April 13, 2020.
Walmsley B, McCormack L. Severe dementia: relational social engagement (RSE) during family visits. Aging & Mental Health. 2017;21(12):1262-1271. doi:10.1080/13607863.2016.1220923.