The holidays bring up a myriad of feelings, especially when they involve caring for a frail loved one.

There are many logistical and emotional challenges involved in putting together family holiday gatherings, and this year brings up even more challenges and stresses. There are issues that occur for millions of families every time there’s a holiday. The collective amount of guilt, frustration, stress and tension that holidays stir up is enormous.

Making plans for family gatherings for the holidays involves negotiating with various family members who have varying opinions on how things should be. When the holidays include the participation of frail loved ones, stress and tensions run even higher. When a loved one can’t (or shouldn’t) attend, because of distance, time, physical/cognitive limitations, the pandemic, or logistics, emotions run high.

Some family members might feel guilty because they don’t want to go through what it takes to have their loved ones attend these gatherings. It’s just too hard.

When caregivers do pull it off, they often feel stressed and resentful instead of warm and loving – and that causes even more guilt, anger and frustration, and not only with their loved one, but with other family members as well.

It’s hard to admit to “I wish we could just give ourselves a break this year and leave Dad home.” – at least without fearing that you’ll look like a horrible, rejecting, and unloving child!

Guilt is appropriate when you have done or are doing something wrong. However, we sometimes feel guilty because we’re doing something that is different, and this triggers the belief that we’re doing something “wrong”.

When you feel that you might need to make a different choice than in the past, ask yourself:

  • Is it too much logistically, physically, emotionally, or cognitively to have your loved one attend a holiday celebration?
  • Is it too much for your loved one(s)?
  • Is it too much for you, emotionally, physically &/or logistically, or all of the above?
  • What is the impact of this pandemic on your options and decision?
  • Whatever the issues are, are you willing to explore the issues and options that might be available before making this difficult decision.
  • Is your guilt overwhelming?
  • Are you used to doing what is expected, so exploring a different option causes too much tension within the family?

It’s understandable that you feel uncomfortable; it’s a big change, and change is difficult and challenging… if not for you, then for those around you.

Whether it would be too hard on your loved one (for whatever reasons are presented), too much for you, fear of the impact of the pandemic, or you’re concerned about creating family conflicts, please focus on the Desired Outcome.

If you need time off from caregiving in order to enjoy a family event without added stress, or your loved one’s health is a serious risk factor, or you’re not even sure you want to attend the family gathering, you need to give yourself permission to have your needs addressed and respected.

Remember that YOU MATTER…and whether your or your loved one attend or not this year, there will be some uncomfortable feelings…you have to decide which discomfort you’re willing to deal with.

5 Steps to Release Holiday Guilt Around Changes in How Holidays are Celebrated:

1And We Breathe! Step one is always to give yourself space so you can fully process what is going on, what your feelings are, and what your thoughts and reactions are to the situation.

2: What is Your Desired Outcome? Remember that it must A) be what you want, not what you don’t want, and B) it must be something over which you, yourself, have control.

If your loved one doesn’t attend the event:

3: Thank Everyone who asks about your absent loved ones, for their thoughtfulness and consideration. Let them know you appreciate their concern, and that you, too, are missing those who couldn’t be there.

4: Do NOT Explain, Defend or Justify. A simple statement that “it just didn’t work for them to attend” is enough. (You do not need to go into any reasons for your loved one not being present.) Let them know you will share their good thoughts and love the next time you see the absent loved one(s). If your loved one is cognitively aware, you can lovingly suggest that they would love a call from family or friends.

5: Practice Gratitude. As you work through any conflicting feelings that arise, give yourself permission to enjoy the family gathering without the added responsibility, continue to acknowledge that you deserve this time off, and are allowed to feel grateful for this time.

If you decide NOT to attend the family gathering:

Communicate with your family that this time this is something you are not comfortable with and send your love and wishes for everyone’s good health and that you look forward to seeing them in the future. Be open, honest, and sincere but you do NOT need to explain, defend or justify… (see #4 above)

If you’re feeling judged, or struggling with your decision, reach out for support and guidance…talk with a trusted friend, talk with your therapist, connect with our Facebook Group for caregivers. You can also access the Step By Step Guide for further guidance and encouragement in exploring new possibilities… go to

As the holidays approach, please take time to take care of you. The holidays can be enjoyable, even if they’re different this year more so than ever before. Remember the importance of taking as good care of yourself as you do of those you love. I wish you ease…

And we breathe

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