The Holiday Season: A Time for Difficult Family Conversations

by Sokolove Law

The holidays: It’s a season when we honor traditions, exchange gifts, and surround ourselves with family and the ones we love. Get-togethers prompt trips down memory lane and animated conversations. All too often, however, the subject of health or a medical condition is delicately avoided. Sure, we want to embrace a warm and happy atmosphere — but in truth, a holiday gathering is the best place to have that challenging conversation we’ve been avoiding all year.

Here are 4 reasons why the holidays make having a difficult family discussion — especially about health — a little easier.

1. At Last, Everyone Is Together.

While it may sound a little morbid and awkward to combine challenging conversations with holiday spirit and gifts, a holiday gathering is an ideal time to hash out important details about a health condition. Why? Because the simple fact is, a holiday get-together is often one of the few times during the year that family members are together in one place. With parents, children, siblings, aunts, and uncles all under the same roof, a holiday gathering provides the best opportunity of feeling loved, safe and secure, supported, and protected.

2. Step out of Isolation.

It’s not uncommon for people to ignore or put off discussing their health problems. For example, victims of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related lung cancers are often older men who have had proud, distinguished careers in the U.S. military, or as firefighters, shipyard, or constructions workers. In fact, U.S. veterans account for approximately 30% of all mesothelioma patients. In many cases, such men often avoid talking about their health because they don’t want to appear feeble or weak. While everyone responds to difficult news in different ways, it’s important not to stay in isolation.

Using a holiday gathering as a way to open the lines of communication about a health issue or other tough topic can be tremendously resourceful. All of the sudden the situation becomes something that everyone has to face; the family becomes a team— offering help, guidance, stability, advice, and assistance. A family member may know of a specialist, new treatment options, or perhaps an encouraging new study that may offer peace of mind to a loved one who has been recently diagnosed.

3. Learn Caregiving Options.

After a serious health diagnosis, caregiving options need to be explored. A holiday gathering is the perfect platform to begin this discussion. Find out who and when family members are available to help with daily activities or personal care — such as meal preparation or bathing. In-home health care is often a necessity for many mesothelioma patients become too ill to care for themselves independently. Family members can divide chores and responsibilities, and hash out the important details concerning care, safety, and emergencies. Family members can even arrange to have an electronic alert system set up that can be used to summon immediate help in life-threatening situations.

4. Laughter Is the Best Medicine.

There’s no way around it: Challenging conversations almost always involve serious discourse that tug at the heart strings. But after the difficult issue has been presented and everyone has had a turn to compassionately speak, families have a natural way of channeling a different form of energy: Humor. A light-hearted game of “family favorites” or telling a few “remember when” stories can fuel some great belly-laughs. And, do you know what? Laughter can go a long way — particularly for stress relief.

Remember: The holidays are time to enjoy your family. You are all on the same team, sharing a common goal — to support your loved one’s quality of life, wellbeing, and safety.