Sad Holidays

"Busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style. In the air there's a feeling of...sadness. the winter holidays can exacerbate sadness while adjusting to a new diagnosis (first cancer; recurrence; complication). In any season, the contrast between your usual life and the medical rigmarole can make life feel surreal. At the winter holidays, ubiquitous messages from store clerks and media ads imploring you to "Be happy! Be grateful!" can exaggerate that contrast.  

If diagnosed with a life-threatening illness at an annual milestone (birthday; anniversary; holiday), it's natural to worry if this year's celebration might be your last. Milestones tend to highlight the sense of time passing and life's finitude. 

What's a Healthy Survivor to do? 

  • Remind yourself it's normal to feel sad, angry, anxious and lonely after a new diagnosis, anytime
  • Acknowledge the challenge of adjusting to sad news in an atmosphere of celebration.
  • Feel whatever you feel
  • Interpret unpleasant feelings in the context of your new diagnosis--not in the context of "Happy Holidays!"

If holiday-themed activities exacerbate your sadness or anxiety, avoid them for now.

Keep in mind that holiday activities may help you build resilience through...

  • Distraction
  • The emotional lift
  • The connections to your past and loved ones
  • An empowering sense of creating happiness in a storm

Healthy Survivors ask themselves, "Right now, is celebrating making me feel better or worse?" The answer will likely vary from activity to activity, and from day to day (if not hour to hour). As a Healthy Survivor, do whatever helps. 

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