Remaining Hopeful For The Holidays

By Sister Mary Louise Mitchell

We all feel the collective grief that has come from placing our lives on pause due to COVID-19. The loss of time with friends and family who are still with us, the freedom to go about one’s day without restrictions, and the joy of celebrating holidays and milestones in our community weigh on us. The good news is —even amid this grief — we can find the strength to give the gift of hope this holiday season.

When we choose to be present with grief instead of trying to make it go away, we arrive at a middle ground: A place that does not ask us to deny our grief and does not doom us forever. Honoring this very human experience will lead to healing and joy.

  • Honor this time with compassion. Start by getting out of your head and into your heart. Trust that love will prevail and extend kindness, care, and compassion regularly to yourself and others. This simple act can help restore peace and balance to everyday life.

In recent months, many seniors at St. Ann’s Community expressed their gratitude for being safe and well-tended, yet they felt powerless to help others. When they looked within, they quickly found ways to extend compassion to themselves and others. Their advice includes:

  • Write a gratitude list. Record the blessings of each day to keep hope alive. Merely reading your list can help you stay balanced and maintain a more positive outlook on life.
  • Send prayers and positivity. Say prayers for those on the frontline, positive affirmations to yourself, and offer praise to others to help counter the news’ negativity and help bring balance to your life.
  • Write letters. Hand-written cards will brighten the day and are more personal than email or texts. Having lived through World Wars and the Great Depression, seniors can be wise messengers of hope and reassurance that bad times do come to an end.
  • Plan now for online celebrations.

With COVID still circulating, extended family gatherings may not be the safest way to go, but they can always be uplifting. The pastoral care team at St. Ann’s Community recommends using online technologies to have virtual dinners with loved ones. Another option is to place photos around your table to remember loved ones who’ve passed or to include those who cannot celebrate with you this year.

Senior living communities can also adapt holiday celebrations to be as uplifting and inclusive as possible. St. Ann’s Community will ramp up the decorations to lifts residents’ spirits and hope to broadcast holiday masses so their families can share in the celebrations.

With compassion, love, and creativity on your side, you’ll not only find new and beautiful ways to inhabit what hurts, but you’ll also keep traditions—and hope—alive. That’s the best gift you can give!


Mary Louise Mitchell, SSJ, PhD, RN, is the director of pastoral care for St. Ann’s Community, which offers a full continuum of eldercare options. You can reach her at 585-697-6446 or mmitchell@mystanns.com, or visit www.stannscommunity.com.

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