Christmas Isn’t Always Ho Ho Ho | How To Support Someone Struggling This Christmas
This is something Anikka, founder of Not Another Bunch Of Flowers knows only too well, having been treated for cancer over the Christmas period.
‘Living with cancer is hard,’ says Anikka. ‘It’s relentless, exhausting and emotional and people forget that treatment drags on and on and takes its toll. And when you are unwell during the Christmas festivities these feelings can be amplified. The days are shorter and the nights longer, colder and darker. Suddenly everyone is out and about having fun, going shopping and having parties. Social media is flooded with images of everything you are missing out on and you can end up feeling even more isolated. There is also that unspeakable question, could this be my last Christmas?’
But knowing that you are loved and supported can really help.
Flowers are lovely, but tend to be the first thing that people think of when someone is sick, so the result can often be an overwhelming number. Why not send a thoughtful gift that will stand out from all of the flowers and last longer?
Practical gifts are greatly appreciated…
A care package full of useful items is always a hit!
…as are little treats
Treats to lift the spirits will also go down well. We may spend more time cozied up at home as we recover from surgery, our latest treatment session or are feeling sad or depressed, so comforting, cosy or pampering gifts are much appreciated. Think pretty lounge-wear, cosy hot water bottles, a natural bath oil, magazines, blankets, comfy bed socks and candles.
Avoid anything too clinical
Some gifts might appear to be really useful such as a thermometer, or a giant size tub of E45, but gifts that are too clinical only act to reaffirm that we are unwell. Something to take our minds off this and make us feel more ‘normal’ is much more appreciated.
Be aware of ingredients
Some cancer patients, for example, are advised to or opt to avoid certain ingredients. They may choose to cut sugar and/or dairy out of their diet, meaning edible treats such as cakes, chocolates and candy may go to waste. Similarly with pampering treats, many cancer patients prefer more natural toiletries that don’t contain nasties such as parabens and SLS. They may also find strong fragrances nauseating and there are some essential oils that are best avoided during treatment. So if you are selecting some body and bath treats, natural and organic is probably best.
It is probably safer to avoid comedy gifts
OK, if you’re very close to your friend, and you know for sure that they will find the gift funny, then go for it - anything to cheer us up is very welcome. However, if you’re not sure, I would avoid it. You don’t want to belittle their feelings with a gift that ends up upsetting them rather than making them laugh.
Be very careful with self-help books
There are thousands of self-help books out there and many offer conflicting advice and opinions, leading to feelings of confusion and fear. Others unfortunately do not have a happy ending. So, if you want to send your friend some helpful books, ensure the message is encouraging and positive and that they don’t scaremonger. Most people are likely to have researched their own information including alternative and holistic therapies so respect their decisions and try not to interfere or comment on them.
Speak from the heart
When choosing the words to accompany your gift, speak from heart. Try to avoid meaningless clichés and platitudes such as ‘you’ll be fine’ as it belittles our very real fears. We have some specific Christmas cards that recognise this year might be a struggle for some. Christmas may not be the most wonderful time of the year for your loved one, so make sure you acknowledge that.
Practical and emotional support is maybe the greatest gift of all
Living with a serious illness or depression is hard, it is relentless, exhausting and emotional. However when you are unwell during the Christmas festivities these feelings can be amplified. Everyone appears to have so much going on, busy going out and having fun, that you can end up feeling even more isolated. Being offered practical and emotional support from loved ones can be invaluable. Giving a gift does not have to cost the earth, it could be a matter of giving your time. Anything from helping with the school run, walking the dog, offering a lift to hospital to simply offering a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to cry on may be the greatest gift you could give someone this Christmas.