Each year when January 1st greets us with the opportunity for new beginnings, we fill our list of resolutions with diets and weight-loss goals, plans to tackle dozens of new projects, and the very best of intentions of organizing the entire house. Technically, every day we wake up is a chance to start fresh, but there is just something about New Year’s Day that fills us with inspiration and the motivation to improve our lives. This year, amidst the fitness routines and home improvement plans, let us also include staying connected with family in our list of 2017 goals!
So often, at the bedside of a loved one who has just passed away and in the weeks and months to come, we hear the same regrets echoed over and over by grieving family members, “I wish I had spent more time with her when I had the chance.” Or, “If only I had known this year would be his last…” With tears and anguish, the living wish they had given more of their time and attention to the dearly departed while they were yet alive, or said the things to their relative which they no longer have the opportunity to say. Death has a way of putting everything into perspective for us, but sadly the results often bring great remorse and longings for which there can be no satisfaction.
Grief is inevitable, but regrets do not have to be. The following is a list of 5 ways we can stay connected with family in the coming year. Let us embrace these tips in order that our own lists of regrets might be diminished when our time comes to stand at the bedside of a loved one.
- Call or Visit Frequently. Making calls or visits to loved ones on Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is very special and should never be overlooked, but calling or stopping by “just because,” even when it is not expected, is far more meaningful. Frequent calls and visits to those we care about help them feel loved, appreciated and let them know that they are important to us. These calls and visits also help us to gage any change or decline in the health or circumstances of a loved one; especially those who are aging. Sadly, many adult children who do not make regular calls or visits to their parents or grandparents are sorely shocked to learn of a health condition that had gone untreated until it was too late or appalled to discover that their loved on was living in deplorable conditions because he was no longer able to take care of himself. This should never be the case and regular calls and visits to check on our family members can effectively prevent such circumstances. When a loved one crosses our minds in the coming months, let us take a moment to pick up the phone and brighten their day or plan a visit as soon as possible!
- Speak the Words in Our Hearts. So much is left unsaid in life as we ponder thoughts and feelings, but fail to share them with those we love. We must allow ourselves to be transparent and vulnerable in order to share our hearts and leave nothing unsaid that someone else needs to hear. We must speak our appreciation, our love, our fears and our desires. Let us never keep to ourselves something that could bless another living soul, nor conceal something that should be uncovered. It’s not always easy to put our feelings into words, but we must try our best to do so. We can start a conversation, write a letter, send a card or simply say, “I love you” as we embrace a family member, but we must never leave our vital words unspoken. We don’t want to stand at a casket one day thinking about all the things we wish we had said while we had the chance.
- Forgive and Ask Forgiveness. Old hurts often fester; bottled up inside of us like volatile poison, leaking out into our being and affecting our relationships. The only remedy for bitterness is to resolve issues, let go of offences and forgive. We must forgive others and we must forgive ourselves. We can talk it out, write our feelings in a journal or even seek counseling if necessary, but we must not allow for harbored resentment to have any place in our lives. There is nothing quite as painful as loosing someone with whom we have not been able to make things right. We must address issues now, forgive those who have wronged us and ask forgiveness of those whom we have wronged. We must relinquish guilt and animosity. We must allow old wounds to be cleansed so that the sweet healing oil of peace can wash over our hearts.
- Make Time to Make Memories. We live in a fast-paced society where careers, entertainment, social media and overflowing family schedules send us racing around the highways of our lives at breakneck speed. We must remember in the coming year that we need to slow our pace and travel down the backroads every now and then. All too often we hear, “I wish I could have taken Dad on one more fishing trip, but it’s just so hard to find the time.” Or, “I wish I would have taken Mom to the beauty shop to get her hair and nails done more often. We just stay so doggone busy all the time.” Time is a precious commodity, indeed, and we don’t just “find time” laying around like a stray penny in the street. Instead, we must MAKE time. We have to carve it out of our schedules in order to make room for spending quality time with our loved ones. Let us make family visits, road trips and gatherings a high priority this year!
- Preserve Our Family History. Our heritage is precious, whether our family tree is laden with doctors and diplomats or vagrants and vacuum cleaner salesmen. We all have stories of our ancestry; tales that must be told, lest they be forgotten by the generations yet to come. Let us record our parents and grandparents telling their life experiences in audio or video files. Let us plan multi-generational family photoshoots so that we have new photos to cherish and pass along. Let us compile the boxes of family photos from the attic into albums and scrapbooks while our elders can help identify the names, faces and stories they contain before that knowledge is lost and the boxes are filled with only strangers. In the new year, let us begin a mission of preservation of our family memories to immortalize them for our children’s children. We must insure their link to those who have gone before them on this journey.
Join us as we eliminate regrets and savor priceless family moments in 2017.
Happy New Year from Serenity HospiceCare!