In the danger zone - reflecting on what used to be.

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Reflecting back on what used to be is difficult because it brings too much sadness, but I'm finding it a hard habit to break especially with the holidays. This is the first year that my mom with ALZ and I have not gone holiday shopping, the first year we will not be at mom & dad's house to celebrate and the first year without a gift exchange. Even though mom is still here, these traditions are gone. She doesn't show signs of knowing any difference, but it is breaking my heart. Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier if she were gone. Mourning the loss of so much while the person is physically still present is a struggle. I walk around the mall and all I see are mothers & daughters together while I am alone. I miss her voice, I miss the look of love in her eyes, and I miss the emotional connection.
Instead, what is offered is a meal at 5:30 on Christmas day at my sister's house. I can barely tolerate her and only put up with her to keep peace in the family. She has been married to a verbally and emotionally abusive man for 25 years. She has adult children who rarely look up from their cell phones, and never take any effort to help with setting the table or cleaning dishes.
My mom's best friend died 3 months ago and she was like an Aunt to me. The warmth of family members I had as a kid is mostly gone. To move from that to having to spend time with relatives who are argumentative and distant makes me nauseus. I guess I should be happy for what I did have for so many years and focus on making new routines or volunteering. Any comments on someone going through similar? Suggestions? Thanks for reading and bless you during this holiday season.


I too have been reflecting on what used to be, the family times we had together, the closeness, bonding, reliance on people who were always there for each other.

I honestly am not sure how not to reminisce, especially at this time of the year. I'm trying to remember the good times, even though they're probably gone forever in terms of family continuity as there are only a few of us left.

I wish I had some answers for you, but I'm still searching for them myself. Know though that you're not alone.
And, BTW, for a moment I had a glimpse of Tom Cruise and a sleek Tomcat as "Danger Zone" always reminds me of one of my favorite movies.
Ginger, you got me with mother’s and daughters out shopping. It stings everytime I’m out and see it. I wonder when it won’t anymore? I guess holiday time just makes the reminiscing come on strong. I know there are family events and traditions I had that are lost now that I’ll always feel sad about. It’s hard to try and replace the much loved memories with new things, but try I must.
My mom lost every ability with a massive stroke, then lived four years able to do nothing including talk or sit though her mind was intact. So I fully get what you’re saying about loss. I lost my mom twice, and it was awful twice. She loved Christmas and picking out just the right gift for everyone. Okay, now I’m meandering....just know someone else gets what you’re saying and wishes you find peace and new joys in the season

I am going through something similar on this holiday season. Both of my parents moved to memory care this summer. My Dad hasn't really been my dad for at least 5 years (because of dementia), my mom got a dementia diagnosis about 2 years ago... I have been caring for them both for about five years.

The last 5 years or so it has been just me and them (while the other siblings have backed away from me and them). Its a sad situation but we have had a couple of nice Christmases together (just me,mom and dad). This year is different.. I don't think I will be taking them out of memory care because I don't think I can handle my Dad and am not sure If my Mom will go back if I brought her back to my house.

This year, I will go to the memory care.. at least for a visit.. but it will not be the same. I sometimes get nostalgic just like you and remember when I had my Mom and Dad.. like they used to be. I remember when my siblings included us as family (as well as Mom's siblings). I miss those times so much.

I am dealing with so many thoughts of how things were and what will never happen again.. you are right it is a danger zone.. but .. yea.. I go there periodically. I also see others with their healthy parents and am envious and just wish I could have those times back.

I feel for you.. its so hard. The bar is set so high at Christmas to be so happy.. I hate that you have to go to a celebration where you don't feel warmth and love. Maybe you can leave early and have a little celebration on your own? Light some candles, listen to some beautiful christmas music, pour a glass of champagne... or whatever you have to do to pamper yourself.


For those at loose ends with an elder in a facility, call or email the activities director. They will have things planned for residents and can really use extra hands to help out.

Even if your not artsy crafty, stuff like...
- handling the warm damp washcloths to take the Elmers glue off residents hands as they’ve made glitzy door wreaths
- helping them put together Snowman mini centerpieces
- cutting ribbons and running bells through for Holiday necklaces
- being an extra voice in sing-a-longs
- help serve holiday meals or do holiday treat delivery to residents rooms.
If your artsy, even better. Really the activities gal could use your help. Plus you can wear your 3D sequined reindeer headband!!
Unfortunately I guess time has kind of numbed me. I hope you have real good friends, pets, hobbies, and interests that you can turn to. I just want my mom to be comfortable and if her time to go is soon, it would be a blessing for her to be with all her friends and family that she misses. Time for a glass of wine and a good cry and look to Spring for flowers and birds.
Well, that's the thing, isn't it.

It's "what you've never had you don't miss," versus "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

I don't know how one person can really know which is preferable. And anyway, it's not like we get any real choice in the matter.

Of many sad moments, the one when my mother said, looking round at our card-writing efforts, "Christmas isn't fun any more" was among the sharpest. She'd always made such a production of it - and now that she isn't here at all, of course I wish I'd been more appreciative at the time.

Okay. Now that I have made myself thoroughly miserable and tearful again...

What about setting the unsatisfactory younger generation a good example of cheerfulness, helpfulness, gratitude and affection? They may take your cue and delight you. Or they may not notice; but even then you're no worse off; and at least you've done something to distract yourself from the rubs and bumps of the day; and I think you might be pleasantly surprised.
The 1st year is hardest, for sure. Even after 22 years, I still tear up when I see a big peppermint stick in a store, because I always got Daddy one for Christmas. But, you can't let every single thing effect you like that. I think if I would buy one each year and give it to someone else, it might re-establish those happy feelings associated with that peppermint stick. I'm going to try that this year!

Can you find a grand-daughter or friend to go enjoy shopping with? Not to replace your mom, but to establish a new memory about shopping that will be uplifting instead of painful.

Maybe establishing that new connection will help us be less sad about our loss. It wouldn't so much diminish the memories of the good times as it would reinforce the good things about our blessings that we have learned through our lives.

Thank you for asking your question. It helped me to analyze and understand some things about myself.

Have a blessed Christmas!
We have to become flexible as we get older and things change. Holiday celebrations can be the worse, especially seeing others happy. For years as my husband and I struggled with fertility issues I could not be in the stores around the holidays seeing families and seeing kids excited to see Santa. My shopping was traditionally complete before Thanksgiving, still true for the most part today as our son has now turned 25. My parents are both gone so gone is the Sunday afternoon spent with Dad shopping for Mom and taking a weekday off to shop with Mom. The 1st year is always the hardest. As each of these transitions happened in our family we changed where we celebrated or who we were with.
Do what you feel you are up to, but please keep busy. Volunteer to serve Holiday meals, visit family that cannot get out, if you are so inclined attend church services, go away on vacation.
Please keep in mind these things:

1) Be thankful you had some good years. Some of us never had a "close" or any form of relationshsip with our folks, ever. I sometimes think I was raised by wolves! But your story seems to make me think It must have been nice! 

2). Skip the 5:30 obligatory dinner with a miserable lot! Why go to a sister's house that makes you ill? Attend something with your Mom, such as dinner at a restaurant. You will be happier, and make new memories. It may mean you must enforce some new boundaries with your sister.  So be it.  It's called tough love, because sometimes you must be firm and direct in what you do! 

If your Mom is too ill to leave the Assisted living place, call ahead, and get a schedule of their activities. Go to the Assisted Living facility, and make a memory, even if it's by yourself, about yourself! 

3) Attend an orchestra or ballet, such as the Nutcracker, which is always a holiday star! 

4). Promise me you won't make this Christmas about the "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda" of your life. This year starts a new chapter in your life.  Ultimately,  It's up to you, how it turns out! 

5) Buy yourself something outrageous, and have it gift wrapped. You will cherish it forever. 

6) Write yourself a letter detailing how you feel, and then mail it to yourself. You need to acknowledge your feelings. Once it arrives and you've read it, burn it in the fireplace, read a book, and drink the hot chocolate! You've earned it, by being a good child, sibling, and adult.

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