Wrapping up Holiday Emotions

Wrapping up Holiday Emotions

By Ellen Lenox Smith.

As much as I love the atmosphere of the holiday, including the return of our family to the family farm they grew up on and the joy of being all together, there is always a piece of sadness that I have to try to talk away from my emotions. The holidays are times of being with close family and friends, so when one is no longer with us, the holiday also brings those losses back to light. Does this happen with you too?

Ellen Lenox Smith

I feel weird that I can be so thrilled to have our now adult sons return home with their wives and children and even pets, but daily, my mom and dad, for instance, are in my heart too. I lost them both within three months of each other back in 2005, yet I still feel that void when we get closer to the special celebration. I suppose it is healthy to go through this process, for it reminds you how lucky you were for the good you had in your relationships. But that cloud that can hang over your head, at times, needs to be recognized and addressed to be able to truly enjoy the warmth, love and sometimes chaos that the holidays bring.

So, what can we do to ward off those emotions? For those of us also living with chronic pain, maybe the heartache is even more intense. Whether it is a lost parent, friend, neighbor or co-worker, people that have had an impact on our lives tend to come into our memories as these holidays come up. If we can take those memories, honor them and recognize the feeling of loss, then we tend to ease away in time from these emotions reemerging.

The hardest for me has been the loss of my parents. I adored them both and valued that they truly believed that there was something medically wrong with me long before anyone else in my life, except my husband. Despite being many miles apart, they called, asked and supported the roller coaster ride of confusion, addressed my in proper diagnosis, chronic pain, and judgement I was receiving from others. Before they passed, I was finally vindicated with two real, incurable diagnosis, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Sarcoidosis. While others left me by the wayside, they were always there for me, no matter what. But they are gone and life must go on.

But I hold on to what I learned from them, always. At one time, when mom was near death and in a comatose state for over five days, she brought herself out of it for a brief moment, shocking me, to ask me:

#1, Was she was dying?

#2, Could I live without her?

I consider that moment to be a gift I carry with me at all times. To think the human body is able to fight that stage, to say what she needed to say to me before feeling free for passing, is amazing and something I will always treasure.

And for Dad, a man that was handed cigarettes for free upon entering the Navy in WWII, and becoming addicted, his life had a very painful ending. However, he always continued to care about others, and not pity himself. He lived life the best he could, despite all he faced with cancer that attacked his body in all forms - prostate, lung, kidney and then bone that took his life after seventeen months of progression. One of the many gifts he gave me was to still care about others, smile and still find the good in life and people despite the suffering. He achieved this up until his last breath. I try so hard to emulate this, thanks to his model.

As I age now, I have one huge apology that I would want to say to my parents: I am sorry I didn’t better recognize how difficult aging is. I want them to know that I respect, even more now with aging, how gracefully they took the challenge on.” Life is not an easy road to go down. Some of us are lucky to be able to share a good childhood and adulthood while others have a tough go from the beginning. Whichever one is you, we all still have to move on and live the life we have been given.

As the holidays come and go and these emotions enter again, like the years before, I hope I can wrap them up for another season and go back to living life, remembering the past fond memories by honoring those that took the time to care about me and help mold who I am today.

May Life Be Kind to you,

Ellen Lenox Smith

Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain- And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.

Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website. https://ellenandstuartsmith.squarespace.com/

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Authored by: Ellen Lenox Smith

Ellen Lenox Smith and her husband Stuart live in Rhode Island. They are co-directors for medical cannabis advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation, along with Ellen on the board and they both also serve as board members for the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. For more information about medical cannabis visit their website. https://ellenandstuartsmith.squarespace.com/

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As always you post revealing articles that make me stop and think, then thank. I truly appreciate it.

Joco I am sorry about Marley. I believe our pets come when we need them the most and am grateful Marley came to you. The loss is deep, but so was her love for you. You gave her the ultimate gift of love, just as she did for you. When the loss has less sting, her memory will warm your soul for the rest of your life. May another find you when it’s time…..

Virginia God bless you and may your year be filled with comfort.

ElizabethR Your post made me smile! And did any of us great our bodies particularly well? May your year be filled with joy.

Stephen. Perhaps you can just get a companion? My 5 may not wear the vest, but they absolutely fill my heart! May your year find what you are looking for….I

Kristen. I am sorry for the loss of your mom. She obviously raised her daughter well. Congrats on your first grandchild! Your Christmases will now be filled again with the childish joy we all forget we used to feel! May your year find you reveling in the joys of grandparenthood!!

Sandy. It seems a pretty rough last year for you. I sure am glad you have chosen family to share with. My sister is mentally ill and an addict. It’s harder than hell to mourn for your sibling when they are alive. May your year(and mine) be one of reconciliation.

Merry Christmas y’all!!! May we all remember to dance…..


Thank you all for sharing holidays grief stories. We lost Mom in April, and step-dad in November, so this is the first Xmas without them, and I can really feel the difference. It has been a really tough year. My remaining close relative, my brother, has not been talking to me for two years, and refusing to share information with me. He is very intelligent, but delusional, and accuses me of stealing family money. So I am feeling like an orphan. Thank goodness my husband and his family include me in their circle. So we still get to have a family Christmas. We try to include our other “orphan” friends in holiday celebrations, so everybody will feel they are loved and wanted somewhere.


Ellen ,Thank you for sharing!I recently lost my Mother last month unexpectedly.She had COPD among many other chronic health issues and moved into a Nursing home so she could get what she thought was more care.She didn’t want to burden me as she would say because Of all my Chronic Health issues.I feel very fortunate that I was able to Thank her for raising me and for being the best Mom she could.Though she was not awake I do believe she heard every word I spoke.To make matters worse after she passed I ended up getting sick and was Hospitalized for over a week and the Dr’s didn’t think it was in my best interest to attend her funeral because i was a high risk of going into respitory failure.I felt horrible and still do but I know she wouldn’t have wanted me to sign myself out to attend.I could almost hear her say take care of yourself as she always said.I know this Christmas will be difficult without her as we spent every Holiday together.I will treasure the last day I had with her forever.Though I’m greatful to have Adult Children and my First Granddaughter to spend the Holiday with which im very greatful for,it still will not be the same without my Mother but I will keep her close to my Heart.I want to Thank you for sharing! You are such an inspiration to myself and many others.I Wish you and your Family and everyone on here a Merry Christmas and the best of the Newyear!


On a different note. I NEEDED and wanted a service animal one that could go everywhere with me and also act their part. It was not to be this life. I even could pay thankfully but it made no difference. What good is a law for one to go with if you have none?
Talk about discrimination! I am verv happy for your good fortune still it makes me….. well you know.


Thsnk you Ellen! I am thrilled to hear you can deal with the pain sieuation at your 90 mme! As for some of us we cannot stand it and our family wants nothing to do with us because they fear somthing about it will slip out of with our emotions. Like we fear we cannot make it much further. The cold facts are we are as gone as the people in Paradise yet we are being made to endure torture. Why?.


Since I’m almost 82 my parents have been gone a long time. My mom died of breast cancer in 1974. My father died in 1989, and my only brother died last year; unfortunately, we had been estranged for many years at the time. In 1978 I married a wonderful man of another race (best decision I ever made!), which my father and brother could never accept. So, my relationship with the remainder of my small biological family was pretty much nonexistent. Holiday memories, good and bad, date way back to when I was a child and young adult.

What I can certainly relate to now is the difficulties of aging. I never expected to live this long, and I’m quite sure that my body didn’t expect me to either. I didn’t treat it particularly well in its youth. Still, I did not foresee a life of chronic pain and, worse, the benighted policies now ruling the medical community around managing (or I should say NOT managing) pain. Along with many others, I’ve chosen to do the best I can for as long as I can. It is what it is.

I sincerely hope that the voices of patients with pain will be heard in 2019 and that progress can be made in changing the draconian (and misapplied) policies that serve to greatly increase needless suffering across our nation. If that can happen, it will indeed be a very good year.

Wow, what a relevant post for me …. I lost my Mom in 2007 and Christmas has never felt the same for me since. Her birthday is December 28th & I pretty much isolate myself the entire month. Pain is intensified & depression hits me hard. I had to put down my beloved dog Marley this week & my heart is shattered. I rescued her from a kill shelter in 2013, while going through chemo. It made no sense at the time to adopt a 4 year old dog with kidney disease. My house didn’t have a fenced yard yet, and l already had 2 dogs to care for. Little did l know that Marley would be nothing short of Divine Providence. She never left my bedside on chemo days & could anticipate when the Neulasta bone pain was starting. Marley was a beautiful comfort to me during the stress & animosity of divorce, loss of health insurance and of course chronic back and neck pain. She was more than a pet to me, she was my best friend.


I just lost two of the most important people in my life who took me in off the streets over 35yrs ago, nursed me back into mental, physical health, and led me to the Lord and helped me grow in my spiritual life. They were the mother and father I never had. He a pastor, and she a dear, sweet wife. Both of whom no words could adequately describe how beautiful their hearts and souls and service and love for others were.
In January this year I came to help Mary take care of Hugh, who was bed ridden. But she died two days later from kidney failure and pacemaker quit. At 92yrs old it would be too much trauma for dialysis and a pacemaker put in. On September 30th, Hugh died. My mentor, pastor, best friend, pillar, and the one always there for me. I’m living in their house now until I find, or rather the Lord sends me to my next mission.
I’m a live in caregiver and take care of mostly end-of-life, and hospice patients because I have seen the way some are treated by their families, and especially the medical people when they are not going to live much longer, or are elderly and have no one. I don’t charge for my services, only ask they provide a space for me to set up my airbed, bathroom and kitchen privileges, and that my cat won’t be a problem.
I have no one except my cat, so the holidays aren’t so hard on me, usually. I’ve many people to go to and join in their celebrations if I choose to. Or not.
If you can do anything at all, do it for somebody else who needs it. Give a smile, a phone call, hold a door open. There is always something you can do for someone. And if there isn’t, do it for yourself. Thank you all out there for everything you share here. It helps me to open up. I love you guys, and gals. Merry Christmas y’all.

Sharon Anderson

Ellen, your words are so true. Holidays are not easy for everyone. And we do miss those who are gone. My mother died when we were all young. She was 56. Cardiac arrest. My 23 yr old nephew died Christmas Eve. He was a healthy Marine Biologist. He had just arrived home. Cardiac arrest. My dad died last November. He crashed on the Cath Lab table. All different states. All that dreaded call. But the most difficult happened September 24,2018. My brother an myself are long term chronic pain patients. He was 66. His meds were pulled and he did something not one thought he would do. He killed himself. He was a veteran of Vietnam. And so much more. I love him dearly and always looked up to him. I myself have had my meds pulled. Christmas never seemed more distant or more hard than now. All the memories of the good are not helping. There is this huge black cloud over Christmas. I want it wrapped up and put away forever. Except my faith part. I so understand how you feel. Then add bodies in pain and it seems an impossible task. I have read your writings before and enjoy what you say. I live in WY. Two states extremely far from each other, but next door in our hearts. God bless you and yours, Sharon Anderson


What a sweet, thoughtful, poignant letter that hits almost everyone, with or without chronic pain. I recently lost my eldest last two close relatives, a dearly loved Aunt and Uncle, who always made Christmas bright and cheery. They were always holding hands and smiling, many, many good memories. I think Christmas, especially, does make us remember the people we are missing in our lives. I think of it as the passing of time, making the most of the precious moments we are given, loving those that surround us, and finding joy in the smallest of blessings. Merry Christmas! And may the coming year be especially good to all.