Archive for December, 2009

The first Christmas after losing someone dear to you, is always hard. Those around you are celebrating, spending happy times with family – or moaning about how stressful it all is.
How can you deal with this time of year when there is such a gap in your life? It’s not too late to jump off the merry-go-round if you feel it is all becoming too much for you this year. Here are a few points to consider.

  • Don’t pretend that nothing has changed – it would be false to pretend that there isn’t a gap in your family. Even children want the loss to be recognised.
  • Consider abandoning the traditional celebrations. If you have lost someone dear to you this year, you don’t owe it to anyone to fake cheerfulness if you’re not ready for it. You may get invitations from well-meaning people to spend time with them because they hate the idea of you being alone. Only accept if it’s what you want.
  • Express how you feel. You may be terrified of opening up your heart because of your grief. But expressing that grief to someone else, or in writing, is the best way to heal it.
  • Make a special memory of your loved one. This could be something you create yourself, such as writing a poem. It could simply be drinking a toast in their memory. Or you could light a candle each day for a few minutes of recognition and remembrance.
  • Appreciate what you do still have. However much you miss this person, there are others who are still here. Write a list of everybody you appreciate having in your life. Taking the time to count your blessings is a step towards the future.

There is no rule which says you have to behave in a certain way at this time of year in order to make others more comfortable. However, if you can let the holiday spirit in just a little, perhaps that will also help you move forward into the year ahead.


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Last week I went to be interviewed on Hope FM radio, and was talking about how there are many people who find it hard to join in with the general happy mood of Christmas because of a variety of challenges. One of these is facing cancer in your family, another is Christmas without a loved one who has died in the last year (or last several years).

I wanted to share with you this video about facing Christmas, and how you can help others even if you are not in this situation yourself. I recorded it last year, but think it is just as relevant now.

Next time, I’ll share some coping strategies which may make a difference. I hope to be able to also share the interview with you next week.

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Last week a news item was reported saying that a person’s chance of surviving a year from a cancer diagnosis in the UK varies depending on where they live. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘postcode lottery’. You can read more on this news item here.
These statistics are certainly cause for concern. Where you live should not determine the quality of your care. But is the issue really as clear cut as that? Are the differences a result of the care that is given, or the screening in the area – or are there cultural factors at play, with people in one geographical are more likely to go to the doctor with worrying symptoms than others?
The parliamentary group has suggested that targets for one-year survival which do not take account of age be put into place across the whole of the NHS. It is claimed that this would benefit over-75s in particular. But benefit them in what way?
Unfortunately, I fear that what would actually happen is that, given such a target, there would be an emphasis on prolonging peoples’ lives beyond the one year measure. This could be at the expense of that natural death I was supporting in my last post. Prolonging life can be an expensive business. In our already stretched health service, I would hate to see the focus being put on causing suffering to the dying by extending their lives to meet a target at the expense of helping them die well, or even worse at the expense of other treatments.
Surely a better focus would be to reach the underlying reasons for the geographical differences – which may not be the same in each area. Sure, ask health services to improve their practices where they are not up to scratch – but also make sure that the money does not need to be spent on education for doctors to recognize symptoms, or outreach to communities as to what symptoms require investigation (as in iVan which I mentioned in an earlier post).

How do you think this information can best be used? Do you like the idea of targets? Let me know your thoughts in the replies below, and let’s join the debate.

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