Tips for supporting your loved ones this holiday season

November 9, 2022

The holidays are officially here!

Twinkling lights, the smell of holiday dinner in the oven, holiday music playing softly as we stroll through the mall…all things with the intent to offer happiness and joy.

But what happens if we feel intense sadness, loss, grief, or loneliness when we see or hear things that are intended to bring joy during the holidays?


For many people living with cancer, this can be what happens. In the most recent episode of our EnCOMPASSing Cancer podcast, we provide some tips for managing expectations, planning for the holidays, and effectively communicating with loved ones.

Lauren Bineau chats with Michelle Massey (Board-Certified Oncology Social Worker) about how you can care for your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, preserve your energy, set boundaries with family members, and take space and time to grieve the loss of a loved one whose no longer there to celebrate the holidays with you.

Additional suggestions:

We also asked community members to share what’s helpful (and not so helpful) to hear from family and friends. They provide insight on how best to help cancer patients and caregivers when they’re tending to medical needs and juggling everything all at once. Included below is a summary of what to say and what not to say to someone living with cancer:

Please don’t tell us to live every day like it’s our last or to live our best lives. Life with kids after cancer is harder. My home and kids still require all the same amount of work, but I’m struggling to get through the days with pain, fatigue, nausea, and chemo brain. I feel like my life kept going and I got removed from it and then dropped back into it, only less capable than I was before. I certainly appreciate that I’m here for it, but these don’t feel like my best days. 

-Support Group Member

Don’t tell me everything happens for a reason. There is no valid reason for me to be away from my children and family for weeks at a time and so unwell that I can’t do anything for them when I’m home. There’s no reason my life should be at risk right when my kids need me most. There’s no lesson in this for me or for them. There’s no logic in this – it’s cancer. 

-Support Group Member