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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.

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Same here Cwillie.. I will be alone at Christmas this year. I also get lots of "are you ready for Christmas?".. I just answer yes.. which is true.. lol. That way I avoid the pity look. ;)

Enjoy your day though.. try to do something that you enjoy and pamper yourself a bit.

((hugs))
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I've been dreading christmas this year, but as the day gets closer I'm feeling less stressed about it. I think a lot of it is the worry about not meeting people's expectations...it seems as though every random stranger asks about your plans and if you are "ready", replying that i have no plans and will be alone through the holiday causes pitying looks and makes me want to hide!
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Stop celebrating any Holidays years ago, and don't really miss any of them. They really are just another day on the calendar. It feels good to not watch holiday specials, and chuckle, a little, when the local news stations try to outdo each other for feel good holiday stories

As for shopping, Lol, sit back and watch all those that feel the need to have the latest, toy, tv, etc, only to repeat when the holiday rolls around again.

The best time for the holidays, is when they are over.
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Journaling is literally saving my life. I know how you feel although my situation is different from yours. I think every Christmas I miss my grandparents and the way my parents used to be.
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One consistency of life is change, which is not always easy, but it is inevitable.
I was thankful for the end of school performances in the winter when my kids got older, I was thankful when they and my grands started preferring money to wrapped gifts. It is so much easier. I do not have the kind of mother I wanted to shop with. As the kids grew up and started their own families they developed their own ways. I am perfectly happy on my own at Christmas, with a fire in the fireplace, a few lights and candles on and a special coffee and chocolate treat and music. My dd often invites me to join them and that is fun for a few hours. One son lives too far away and the other one and his wife are very tied up with her parents. So be it. Sig other has been visiting his kids and grands as they used to have a marathon get together,- but that is kind of falling apart too as each family develops their own ways. We have made New Year's our time. Not sure how this year will pan out. I will go with the flow.
Good luck to all of you who are experiencing losses and changes. Make some thing new that is good for you.
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This is the first Christmas without my father. I miss him terribly. Mom seems uninterested in Christmas, and surprised by the presence of the tree every time she sees it. Mom still has some moments when she is conversational and can recall a few things, but her doctor found 25 spots in her lungs and doesn't recommend further testing because it would be so invasive. I feel the clock ticking. I plan to do all the things that mean tradition this year. Bake her cookies, use the china, be extravagant gift givers, sing the carols... the works. And, I am scared I will be crushed if it is meaningless to her. I am trying to set my expectations low, and focus on it being for my own kids, but my heart wants it so much to be a meaningful connection to my mom. Thank you for the post and each who shared their heart here.
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MaryLou: Big SHOUT OUTS to your mother!! She was a saint of a woman! Wow!!!
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My AMAZING mom had 8 children, 16 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild. She was a Wonderful cook and baker! As kids, she was the mom everyone looked forward to for Christmas cookies and cakes. And yes she was That Fruitcake Lady! She may forget who is who (way too many to remember, plus majority are no shows in her life) but she remembers and misses what she used to make. She'll tell me that she fell asleep counting the things she used to make...menudo, tamales, cookies, cakes, pinto beans, roasted turkey, ham, fruit salad and the this is longer. With just mom, dad and me I try but I don't do the ethnic dishes Mom's recipes are gone, because they were by memory!
So now we do what we can, and hope that SOMEONE will show up. Just a few decorations and telling mom, why I'm not putting up more. But holidays are really just another day. Mom will be asking why her regular shows aren't on TV. ;)
Some great suggestions here, by others! No need to have a holiday meal with rude relatives (my nieces would be on their cells texting each other and they were across the room from each other!) Savor the time and memories you have left with your mom and hubby! Happy Holidays!
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GingerMay: You're welcome.
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I just wanted to say "thanks" to those who read this and replied. Your advice and wisdom help more than I can say. My friends just cannot understand. I am married to my darling husband of 20 years who is fighting cancer. Double whammy for me. Sending blessings to you dear friends on this forum.
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I really get what you said Ginger. I see Mothers and daughters out together and I almost resent them stupid as that may sound. People used to see my Mom and I out together and say we were like two peas in a pod.

This will be my third Christmas without Mom. Our family is slowly drifting apart as I kind of predicted we would, sad to say. To be perfectly honest, I don't think we really even like each other anymore. I will probably skip Christmas at my sister's this year. My Hubs doesn't enjoy his family's company either so who knows? Maybe, we'll lay in bed all day together and order in this year.

But, know that there are so many who relate to what you have said and feel exactly what you are feeling. I wish I could offer some sage advice and tell you that it gets better. For some I'm sure it just gets different.........you just get used to that hole in your heart. But, be especially kind to yourself. There is nothing wrong with that.
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My mother is coming home next week from rehab. I think she might be coming home with hospice. Their suppose to call me about it. She is not eating, sleeping a lot and not talking much. I will put up the tree and make a nice meal. This most likely will be her last christmas. I miss my mother the way she used to be. I feel sad and depressed. I don't want to let her go.
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You didn't say whether or not you're married. If you are, then I would say (excuse my French) screw you to the sister, brother-in-law and those ill behaved nieces/nephews.

There really isn't any reason that you can't have YOUR holiday with your parents. It is heart breaking to see your Mother slowly pass before your eyes. This apparently doesn't affect your sister for whatever reason(s).

What about neighbors who are still around and know your parents? Why not ask if one of them would like to tag along with you to shop for Christmas and have lunch to talk about how things were?

You don't need to go all out like the past (I have the same issues about family holidays that are no longer). Make the Christmas dinner at your parent's home, Mom won't know the difference. I'm sure that your Father would like to have you there and give just that little bit of holiday for the both of them.

Gift exchange? What better gift can you exchange with anyone than to give your parent's the gift of love that you have for them? YOU are the caring family member. YOU are the one that always held the family traditions in your heart.

Your Mom does know you in her mind, she just can't express it. If there are too many people around her, it's only going to cause her more stress and make her mind more mixed up. If it's just the 3 of you, it may be exactly what will help your Mom to recognize more than you think.

Make the best of the situation by being there for both of them. You will not regret having done everything possible up to the end. What will your sister feel or have? That's where the regret will be, not you but your sister.

Enjoy the good days with your Mother even if it is only for a few minutes...just like in the movie The Notebook.

You will have done everything you could possibly do and nothing to regret.

Oh, if you are married, you still have family; they're called in-laws.
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GingerMay: Reading into your title "Danger Zone," amend that to be "Changed Zone." Adopt new holiday patterns, e.g. reciting poetry, reciting bible scripture, doing puzzles--remember, it doesn't have to be big or elaborate. It's okay to reflect a little, but when it becomes a 24/7 habit you may want to seek out a psychiatrist so that you can get a lowest dose possible of anti-anxiety med. But please don't take that the wrong way. I'm not implying that you need it. It's just a simple suggestion.
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My mother passed in 2004, Jan 1, 2004 to be exact.

The first year assisting my dad was rough - but he lived 7.5 years after Mom passed. For his sake, and for my sisters, we gathered at holidays.

With Pop's passing 6 years ago, we stopped getting together. Did we stop loving each other? No. We just no longer felt the need to try to get together to eat. We can do that during the year.

My sisters each have children and it is more important that they start new trends with their children. I lived alone for 10 years before meeting my DH and to me, holidays are just another day. I can love my sisters 365 days of the year without having a special holiday.

Maybe you need to consider - if you don't want to go sit and eat with your sister, be true to yourself and don't go. If she loves you, she will understand.
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This is such a poignant post, and the pain so many people feel this time of the year really comes through. Its "The most wonderful time of the year", except for a lot people its the most difficult and painful time of the year.

I'm one of the people who had a terrible childhood with no parents and no good memories to speak of. I can remember being a small child and wistfully watching so many other people doing things which I imagined were so much fun. I became determined to have my own family when I grew up so that I would never have to be an outsider again. When my kids were young we had many wonderful Christmases together. They rarely included my mother.

I think the pain lies in living in the past. The past is history and we have to do all we can to stay in the present. I've been able to make a good deal of progress on this during this year by meditating. There is a website called Calm.com which has daily meditations whichever really helped me a lot. The key is to staying in the present moment, that's all we have.

So I would say do as others have suggested, do things for yourself and your mother as appropriate, try meditation and perhaps yoga, seek fellowship at your place of worship if that is appropriate, and try to stay in the present. Plan a day that will work for you and don't worry about attending events with people that you really don't like. Do what you can do and what works, this is the new reality.

Many blessings to you, I know it is so difficult.
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"Mourning the loss of so much while the person is physically still present is a struggle." No truer words have ever been spoken. And not well-understood by friends and family who have never experienced this. That could leave a person feeling lonely and depressed.

I am having a hard time figuring out what to get Dad for the holiday. He can't do word searches anymore, can't draw anymore, can't handle a Walkman (or something more modern), and his bed cushion is ruined (and I'm having a hard time finding a waterproof one). Everything is different now.

And we have a family holiday party to attend on the one-year anniversary of his hemmorhagic stroke, which led into his post-stroke dementia. Granted, Mom and I suspected he might have dementia before this, but the stroke was catastrophic to him physically and cognitively, and to them financially. And when it comes to sh*!@y family members, well...you're not alone. I had an aunt yell at me and a sibling tell me to F-off while my dad was lying in the hospital bed, while I was five months pregnant at the time, because I didn't know to put my aunt "on the list" to be able to speak to the hospital staff, and my sister blamed me for making her feel guilty for not helping. I remember sitting in the hospital cafeteria while "I'll Be Home for Christmas" played overhead, knowing my dad would never return home. Yeah, holidays are a blast. So I'm a bit pissed off that the party was scheduled on this of all days, by of course, well-intentioned people who have no idea in the least what it's like.

I like the advice others gave you to do something nice for yourself, and that you could either attend or not attend the party. One idea I have is to harness the youngsters' tech-savviness and have them create a Power-Point or SlideShow of family photos. It could give everyone a chance to reminisce about happier memories, and you might be surprised what your mom remembers. If you don't feel like shopping in the stores, Amazon and other stores, such as Joann's, can ship picture frames, which you can use to decorate your mom's room, or scrapbooks.

I have a baby and this is her first holiday season, so it sort of forces me to create new traditions for our little family. I give myself time each day to FEEL IT, and then I start doing something productive. I need to be present for my baby, and you need to be present for yourself.

Now my paranoid, protective side speaks: I will say that if your siblings backed off, but suddenly are interested in having your mom over, it might be a good idea for you to be there. Are they the type of people to take advantage, by say, having your mom write a check to them or sign a legal document? Things like this happen.

There's no wrong answer here. You do what feels right for you. And if I've somehow confused what you've written with what someone else wrote in their reply, I offer my deepest apologies, because I am going on very little sleep these days.
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I think a big challenge for me is that I am getting older and what was will never be again. My joys now are in little blessings. Once my LO is in Care in Jan. I am going to start a fellowship group for others who are alone so we can go to plays, movies, and by next year, Christmas events together. Once my husband has passed I will move to an independent living apt. and make a new life there. I had a wonderful life and am glad I did but I cannot continue to live that life......sadly, it is over...so on to a different one!
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This is my first holiday with no family. 

I was the caregiver for my Dad, and he passed earlier this year. My Grandmother also passed this year. And my Dad’s best friend. And my Dad’s dog from lymphoma.  And my dog, who was like my child.  I am numb. 

And with their passing, I seem to be reliving the loss of my beloved Mom and my other grandparents years ago. I miss...well, everyone. 

GingerMay, you are not alone. I recognize your feelings as similar to my last Christmas. Mourning the changes in your loved one, and things in life which will never be the same again. I learned it was a type of anticipatory grief, and it can be very hard. 

You are on the right track by trying to focus on new traditions, volunteering. But there will always be things that trigger your emotions like mothers/daughters shopping—that one always gets me too.

Perhaps don't let your whole holiday hinge on a Christmas dinner which sounds like it may be challenging. Extend the holiday with your Mom by doing something else with her too. Maybe thats the two of you having a special food/treat on Christmas Eve, or sitting together to watch a holiday movie. Although all memory patients are different, many can feel joy during an activity, even if they forget it 10 minutes later. 
Try to help your Mom feel the holiday season, and you might discover you feel a bit of it too.
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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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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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!!
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Ginger,

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.

((hugs))
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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
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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.
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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.
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