For some folk, it is the most joyous time of the year, when friends and
family from near and far gather together.... often for the only time of
the year. For others, regrettably, the holidays become known as
Families and individuals do not necessarily require a specific time of the year
to unleash old hurts, unacceptable behaviors, or to inflict grief upon
each other. It just seems that the holidays bring out either, the worst
or best in people.
Why is this so? In reality, it is far easier to maintain a family
relationship from a distance. However, it is in part, because families
who often hold deeply harbored resentments are thrown together and in
part because all of us hold some notion or ideology of how the season
'should' be celebrated.
Both reasons, give rise to a set of expectations which then lead to conflict
and discomfort for all parties involved, when those expectations are
met or not.
For example, families with members who do not get along, have a history
often stretching back for years (or generations) of conflict. Just
because it is the season of 'thanksgiving, or peace on earth' does not
guarantee that these feelings will be put aside.
Additionally, when individuals plan for the occasion, they will often develop
expectations, hopes, ideas etc. of how the event will proceed, what
joys will be had, even sometimes daring to believe that 'this year will
Both situations have the potential to give rise to anger, hurt, frustrations
and deep grief. This is because expectations have not been met in the
second example - in the first example, however it may be a little more
complicated....chances are that for some expectations are met.
When people come together to interact, over time they develop a series of
beliefs regarding the other person.... for example, reliability,
kindness, genuineness and so forth.
In addition, these beliefs or attitudes are then refined by past
experiences. Therefore, if 'Uncle Joe' has always become argumentative
or hostile whenever you have seen him, chances are that you will have
developed an understanding or opinion about Uncle Joe (my apologies to
the uncle Joe’s in the neighborhood lol)
Therefore the next time the two of you meet, Uncle Joe, (unaware of your
attitudes) will be his normal debating, blustery self, while you will
be on the defensive. Unfortunately, in this state, the chances are that
every action, every word will be interpreted as hostile, by
yourself...or others in the family who have formed this opinion about
In other words, people may react to a given situation, without a word said
or a cork popped simply because the expectations held are deemed
negative.... end result? Anger, frustration and hurt, therefore
holidays are the horror-days as expected.
The chances of this continuing as a pattern of behavior permeating the
family are exceptionally high unless intervention is offered, for
example, unless uncle Joe is aware that he is offending all and sundry
by his behavior, he will continue to hurt the feelings of family
members - totally oblivious...
Behavior then is seen in this situation as active and reactive due to expectations.
In the first example of the 'perfect holiday', people often hold dreams
and hopes that if they 'only work hard enough, plan hard enough' it
will all be wonderful. Depending on the individual how far or wide
these hopes will extend. As with most things, the more unattainable the
desire, the greater the subsequent disappointment.
For people with chronic progressive ms, often holidays are doubly arduous.
Partly, because since last holiday, bodily functions and abilities have
declined, and therefore, facing the family questions and stares can be
The inability to move around the home freely if visiting, the inability to
contribute as one once did, are all factors which remind us that life
is no longer the same....or as we expected it to be.
Alternatively, if the family, have grown accustomed to being served, or having x
amount of festivities provided, then their expectations will not be
met, if we are no longer able to perform those duties. Coupled with
this, the person with the MS, usually adopts the disappointment of
others, and subsequently converts this into self-blame or guilt.
Probably even more difficult for folks with MS to cope with the holidays, is the
loneliness and pain of isolation or separation from loved ones.
The life and joy of the holidays will often pass by the individual who is
homebound or bed bound, simply because they are unable to travel,
negotiate steps etc. of others homes....or simply no longer invited or
visited because of other engagements.....the pain of expecting to hear
or see loved ones on 'special' days because that is what 'should'
happen, for some is unbearable.
Even if families are together, pwms folks often find themselves relegated to
a corner, too ill to partake, or too exhausted to remain long.
As people with chronic progressive MS, it is perhaps becoming easier for
us to understand the plight of the elderly.... Unfortunately, most of
us are not elderly in chronological age, and we expect as much of our
selves as previously.....and so do others...
Ultimately, the expectations of the season, somehow seem to exaggerate or worsen
the grief and disappointment of failing to meet the expectations we all
hold of who and what we are.
It is suggested that communication, an honest appraisal of what we want
and need from people is at least a start for making this upcoming
holiday a joyous one. We cannot change our physical abilities, but we
can alert people to our limitations, perhaps suggest that everyone
bring a dish – if we are hosting the festivities.
It is also important to set aside time for yourself, take a break or rest
away from the crowds. We do not want to ‘miss out’ on the fun, but by
becoming over tired we will not be able to concentrate and or enjoy the
Maybe, it might be a thought to consider having smaller celebrations spread out over the days?
Perhaps, even to enlist the help of family and friends to entertain others for
you – so that you are not stuck with the "Uncle Joe’s" of the family.
Also, a thought to the guest list or table placement in advance may forestall
arguments, for example not seating a democrat next to a republican!