Hanukkah lightsHolidays can be a challenge. There may be pressure to recreate a ‘Norman Rockwellesque’ experience with the perfect turkey and many happy, family photos in holiday-themed pajamas. Or celebrating Hannukah with latkes made just like your grandmothers, or buying the perfect gifts for everyone. Even if you don’t celebrate a seasonal holiday, this time of year may trigger feelings of sadness as daylight is shortened and the seasons change. It is a time when it is especially difficult for those who have experienced losses – of a loved one or a loss over the way things used to be ‘pre’ – pre-pandemic or pre-cancer diagnosis, etc.

There is no magic pill to make the holidays and this season picture-perfect, but here are a few tips that can help navigate the season.

1. Determine what will be your most difficult challenges. Make a list and check it twice. Consciously decide to avoid the difficult or develop a strategy to help you through, like attending a social occasion, but only staying for a brief period. Set boundaries that are right for you.

2. Change traditions that trigger memories and feelings of sadness. Participate in things that will bring you joy. Don’t be afraid to have some fun. It is both okay to honor old traditions and to make new ones. Making new memories does not erase old ones.

3. Talk about your feelings with a trusted friend. You may experience survivor guilt if your loved one or a fellow GISTer has passed away. You may hesitate to celebrate the holidays. Don’t bury your feelings. Plan to include an activity that honors your loved one’s memory.

4. Give yourself permission to grieve. You may feel pressured to join holiday activities when all you honestly want to do is have a good cry. Give yourself permission to cut back on the number of events this season. It is important to feel those feelings when you’. Releasing your grief helps you to not stay stuck in it.

5. Create your own list of coping strategies. Make a list of what helps you when you are feeling sad or anxious. Call a friend, take a walk, practice yoga or meditation. Whatever works for you, carve out time to use these tools.

6. Reach out for help. There is no shame in asking for help. If you feel overwhelmed with negative feelings, there are resources available. Having a trusted friend to speak with is a great first step, but professional help is only a call away.

fairy lights holiday photoAnd remember that you are never alone! Our GIST community provides many opportunities for you to share your thoughts and feelings, and to reach out to others. Our email community GIST Chat, our GIST Mentor program, and our virtual support groups are there for you during the holidays and all year long.

If you are an LRG member and aren’t on GIST Chat, you can email liferaft@liferaftgroup.org for access. If you aren’t an LRG member and wish to join, please fill out our membership application at your convenience.

Here are more great posts to help you through the holidays:

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For many, the holidays are challenging normally and for cancer patients, the expectations of a consistently happy mood may be unrealistic. If you are newly diagnosed, the realization of what treatment means is probably not yet fully absorbed.

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Making the Most of the Holiday Season

The holiday season is quickly approaching and the stress of the holidays can bring up mixed feelings for many people. When you are struggling with a cancer diagnosis such as GIST, the holidays can be an extra-challenging time of year.