Learn some practical ideas for self-care and creative ways to find meaning in the holidays during this stressful time of COVID-19.
In this solo episode I share some thoughts about we need to care for ourselves to prevent burnout during this holiday season and some ideas for reimagining our celebrations as we cope with COVID-19. Find some inspiration for your holidays and tips for staying energized and positive during the coming months. Get the handout mentioned in the podcast at the link below:
Check out the Series I’ve recorded in the past here
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Get some great last-minute ideas for non-material gifts that don’t break your budget or end up in the landfill!
In this episode I’ll talk about why it’s great to give gifts for the holidays. And I’ll share some ideas from own “holiday gift bag” for meaningful gifts that are fun and creative and don’t add to the usual shopping and financial stress of the season.
This series was kicked off with Podcast #118: “How Travel Helped My Grief.” I’ll be sharing lots of tips for places to visit, planning a grief travel experience, and creating rituals to help you process your grief.
This podcast is supported through generous donations at Patreon.com/eolu. Thank you so much to my latest donors: Louise Kelly, Libby Gallaher, and Shannon Calvert. Your generosity means everything to me! All patrons receive the monthly Q&A Recording (Hospice Happy Hour) and will have unlimited access to the replays from this year’s Death Expo! Become a patron for as little as $1 per month and join the fun! Patreon.com/eolu
Holiday gift-giving is traditional for Christmas, Hanukkah and even Kwanzaa. Since all three of these holidays occur near the winter solstice, when daylight hours are the shortest of the entire year, their celebrations also include light as a key component, in the form of candles, Yule fires, or strings of lights used for decoration. We bring in light to counteract the darkness and we offer gifts to one another to show our love and regard.
While this gift-giving is a beautiful tradition, there is no doubt that it has become over-commercialized for those who celebrate Christmas. So much emphasis has been placed on gifts that the actual meaning of the holiday seems nearly lost in the race to buy the best presents. Sadly we live in a society where most people actually have far more “stuff” than they need or could ever use, which makes the gift-glut even worse for the environment, our pocketbooks, and our souls. It’s time to rescue the holiday from the overconsumption of material goods by changing the way we give to one another.
My family has adopted a tradition of giving one another “experiences” rather than objects. We surprise each other with creative ideas for ways to spend special time together that take place later in the year, so the Christmas spirit lasts far longer than just one day. As an example our experiences last Christmas included a wine-tasting trip, a Beatles tribute concert, a sunset picnic in San Diego, and a camping trip to Joshua Tree National Park. None of these experiences cost much money and they were all easy to plan and schedule. AND they each created special memories that will last far longer than any material possession would last.
The original Christmas gifts, from the Three Wise Men according to legend, included gold to honor royalty, frankincense to create a sacred space, and myrrh (an herb used for embalming) to remind us of our mortality. With this guide in mind we can plan our own “wise gifts” for the holidays.
In my mind, gold is represented by the giving of your time; in our lives, time is precious and when you choose to give your time to another you honor their royalty. Frankincense is replaced by the giving of your wisdom and talents--a gift of your soul–to bless your loved one. The function of myrrh is accomplished by talking about the preciousness of life and the fleeting nature of the special times we have to celebrate with one another because we are mortal.
Taking your time and talents and your impermanence into consideration, here are some ideas for experiences you might give to your loved ones this holiday season:
concert or show tickets (to see together)
art 101 tour (if you are an art lover)
introduction to opera or symphony
craft class – like knitting, crocheting, etc. Whatever you know well enough to teach
private yoga lesson or meditation class (to take together)
cooking lesson (and share the meal after)
The basic idea is that you offer to teach what you know to your loved ones or to share an experience that’s new to both of you that you can learn from together. Some of these ideas are pricier than others (especially show tickets) but if your funds are tight you can plan a hike or a special picnic quite inexpensively.
Finally don’t forget to talk with your loved ones about the fleeting nature of life and why we must all cherish our opportunities to share these experiences together.
It’s important to get everyone to buy in to this idea before the holiday celebrations start and it may not work well for children who still expect a visit from Santa. But the gift of an experience could end up changing your holiday and your relationships for the better. I hope you’ll give it a try!
Tune in each Monday for a new episode and leave a review on iTunes if you enjoy this content! Until next week remember …
This week Dr. Wyatt shares ideas for holiday gifts that are appropriate for caregivers, patients, and the bereaved. Those of us who work with dying patients and bereaved families believe it is important to deal with death openly and frankly, rather than trying to hide or deny the reality that we are all going to die some day. By choosing a gift that acknowledges death you can help foster a healthier approach to the end-of-life in our society and provide an opening for your friend to seek you out for support and conversation.
Here are some “death-aware” gifts that you might consider for various individuals grappling with death and loss this holiday season:
Books: As a reader, books are always one of my favorite gifts to give and receive and there are many that can fit the criteria of “death-aware”. Here are just a few of those books:
The Legacy Letters by Carew Papritz consists of a series of letters from a dying father to his unborn children. This small book is profound and impactful but not too confronting about death and dying. Since it has a masculine perspective on life and death this would be a great gift for a man who may not resonate with some of the other books listed here.
Graceful Passagesby Gary Malkin is a combination CD and Gift book with music and the spoken word for anyone exploring the issues of life and death.
Hello Game(formerly called “My Gift of Grace”)This game is a fun and inspirational tool for creating conversations about death and dying. It would be a great gift for a family facing future loss (which actually describes all of our families) who need some help talking about the end-of-life. The questions contained in the game provide a gentle introduction to a difficult subject.
Memory Quilt or Pillow Favorite clothing items like T-shirts, ties, skirts or dresses can be used to make beautiful memorial quilts or pillows. This might be a thoughtful gift for someone close to you who is grieving a loved one if you have access to those clothing items.
Ceremonial Supplies You might package together one of the suggested books or CD’s along with some of these supplies to help families create rituals for the dying process and for grief:
Gifts for Caregivers If you know someone caring for a loved one during this holiday season be sure to offer a little extra TLC or support. Stress levels can increase greatly for caregivers at this time of year with an influx of visitors and extra tasks to perform. Here are some thoughtful ideas:
Gift certificate for a massage or “spa day”
Homemade “coupon” book with redeemable certificates for help with errands, housecleaning, laundry, cooking, or respite care
Gift cards for local restaurants that provide home delivery
Punch card for a local yoga studio or gym along with offers of respite care so the caregiver can get away at least once a week
Provide an outing for the patient including transportation and companionship to give the caregiver a break
DVD for the patient of a favorite movie or sporting event (especially old musicals, comedies and TV shows from the 1960’s)
CD for the patient of music from the 1940’s and 50’s
Invitation for a “lunch date” for the caregiver along with respite care for the patient
Create a “Memory Book” for the patient of old photos, newspaper clippings and special documents from the past.
These suggestions are just a beginning to help you start thinking creatively about how to give a meaningful and fitting gift to a loved one facing death, dying or grief this holiday season. Spend some time searching for the perfect present that honors death and supports the one experiencing this difficult path.
But remember, there is no substitute for your presence, which is far more important than any other gift you can give. Be willing to spend time with your friend or loved one, even when you don’t know what to say and can do nothing more than sit in silence. Offering your calm and loving attention in the midst of a busy holiday season can be a gift for you, as well.
Wishing you many blessings this holiday season! Go to Patreon.com/eolu if you’d like to support this podcast and End-of-Life University. Tune in each Monday for a new episode and remember: