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Life's changes require holiday celebration changes as well

Carol Bursack of Minding Our Elders

Dear Carol: My mother is in a nursing home following a series of strokes and, thankfully, the facility is relatively close so I can visit daily. I've decorated Mom's room for Christmas, and I bring her Christmas treats to share with others. Dad also spends time each day with Mom.

My quandary is that I have a husband and teenage children at home. Mom says she doesn't have the energy to come to our home for Christmas Day and, frankly, I don't know how we'd manage the wheelchair with all of our steps, anyway. Dad will eat with Mom, but I still feel like I'm letting my parents down by not having them join us as they have in the past. I can't think of anything that I could do differently, but I still feel guilty. How do I pull out of the funk and provide my husband and kids with a cheerful day? — GR

Dear GR: I'm so sorry about your mother's poor health and the adjustments that you've had to make as a family. I've been in a similar situation and I know how hard these adjustments are. While I can't fix your problem for you, I can offer some suggestions.

• It's easy to think everyone else is having a wonderful time. Try to avoid comparisons with past holidays or with how you think that others are celebrating. Most of that thinking is unrealistic and isn't helpful.

• You've made this holiday as special for your mom as you possibly can by decorating, bringing treats and visiting with her daily, so you've been celebrating Christmas with her for days, if not weeks. Not everything about Christmas is about the 25th, so you're doing well. Most nursing homes make a big deal of the holidays so she'll have a lot going on, anyway.

• Christmas Eve day was when I brought my kids to the nursing home to celebrate with their grandparents. You've likely planned something similar and that helps spread out the celebration so that it's less tiring for your mom.

• Your kids will be struggling with the change as well, so don't expect perfection. Maybe your dad can stop by your home sometime during the day to add some normalcy.

Losses will always be part of our lives. How we cope with those losses will determine how we live our future. Acceptance of what is happening, even when we don't like it, makes life easier to handle.

You will go on helping your parents cope with their new reality and what is to come. Give yourself credit for having done so much to help your mom enjoy the holiday. Then allow yourself to enjoy the day with your husband and children.

If it makes you feel better, surprise your mom with a quick morning or evening visit but make your husband and kids your priority for this special day. Your parents will be fine, and you will have shown your children that life goes on even with unwelcome changes.