General — TransplantLyfe

General

Do you feel like you grieve more about your donor's death over holidays (like Christmas)?

ShelbycreatesExpert
Transplant Patient
November 29, 2022 in General

I know this might sound weird, but I feel like Christmas is a hard time of year for me because I feel like my donor's family is probably grieving their loved one during this time of year. And then I feel sad for them.

Does this happen to anyone else?

1 - 10 of 10 Replies

  • TServoldTransplant Patient

    I feel like this might be a really long reply with way to much story... I logged into TransplantLyfe today just for this topic...

    This is my first holiday season since transplant. It is hitting me hard. We rotate all the holidays (except Christmas, which I host) between my husbands father & his wife, mother, and my parents. Luckily my mother in law, and my parents all get along very well and "share" nicely. This year was my MIL's turn to host Thanksgiving. My parents live out of state, and really wanted to visit for Thanksgiving, but understood that we spend Thanksgiving with them last year. Considering I was still very newly post-op they wanted to spend the holiday with us. My MIL understood and graciously invited my parents, and my sisters to her house for the holiday. My sister in law came down with the flu and had to stay quarantined at her house, which made me feel awful, but overall we had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration. (thanksgiving is also one of my favorite holidays - we keep it casual, make all the food from scratch together in the kitchen and just spend time together without any need for gift giving, etc.)


    Back story: my son's birthday is December 24. So, my husband and I decided when I went into labor on December 21 that we would prioritize his birthday over Christmas every year. We did not want him to become victim to "birthday/Christmas" combinations. We celebrate his birthday on December 24 every year. We take him to do something non-Christmas related and spend the whole day just celebrating him. My husband's family always hosted a big white elephant celebration on Christmas Eve. We attended up until our son was born. Christmas 2019 my husband's Uncle, who used to host this celebration, passed away suddenly. The event has been on pause since then. This year, they want to host it again, with ALL the family. I have not been around anyone other than my own household, or mine and my husbands direct family (moms, dads, sisters) since surgery. This will be with all the cousins, and there are a lot of them :) As someone who is very extraverted its been a challenge for me to not attend social gatherings however, its a priority since I had two rounds of Thymo after surgery. We said we likely wouldn't attend the Christmas Eve event this year. We have "big plans" for our 8 year old. (not really, but to him they are) My husband's dad keeps asking us to attend. He doesn't seem to understand that I don't have an immune system right now, since I "seem like I am doing so well". I am doing well, but I don't want to jinx anything. I am struggling with this a lot, I feel so guilty about saying no we can't attend, not just because it's our son's birthday but because there are individuals attending who do not believe in any vaccinations, or masks; do not know our current situation post transplant (actually, they probably do because the family shares everything, but we have not told them), and there are too many people in attendance for me to feel comfortable.

    Also, I know that my donor was a young adult in their early 20s. As a mother, who loves to celebrate holidays and who's child's birthday is right around the corner, I can't help my think of my donor's family and grieve for them. They have lost a young family member, and this is their first holiday season without their loved one. I am so thankful for my new opportunity at life, and for a (so far) very successful transplant but it came at a cost for another family, and that weighs heavily on me. It seems difficult to spend this time with my extended family when I know, first hand, that someone else is missing part of their extended family.

    I haven't yet tried to reach out to my donor's family, or even start that process. Part of me really wants them to know my story, and that they have given my son more time with his mamma, but I also feel so guilty about that. My poor donor's mamma does not get that time with her baby.

    So much to be grateful for, and so much to be sad about.

    December 19, 2022
  • MelsammTransplant Patient

    Hi, I know how u feel my first year I thought so much about my donor too I am 2yrs LTP , my donors name is Andy and he was only 25 yrs. My TP surgeon told me that this was something the family wanted to do so that we could get another chance at life, I have been in contact w/my donor family and they said that when they received letters from the recipients it made them feel so much better that their “Andy” helped so many people get a second chance at life. I am fortunate b/c my donor family contacted me to tell me how grateful they were that I received there sons Liver…

    So as hard as it feels just try and celebrate this second chance at life especially for you your 8yr. old son. 😊💚

    Stay safe and only u know how u feel and if u need to be around people at this time in your journey.

    Merry Christmas ☃️🎄🎅🏻

    December 19, 2022
  • AliEm14Expert
    Transplant Patient

    The holidays never really seem to hit harder for me. If anything it's around my transplant anniversary, which would be when my donor died. But my grief, especially regarding this, doesn't seem to follow any particular timeline. Sometimes I'll wake up on a random tuesday and be sad about it, but it's not worse around a particular date or time of year

    December 20, 2022
  • TServoldTransplant Patient

    OMG! I hadn't even thought about transplant anniversary, yet. Now, I am mad at myself for not even considering that. (I know, that is silly) I wonder what that will be like... I wrote in my planner that at my one year anniversary I wanted to reach out to my donor's family. I am not ready, yet, but I know I want to I just have a lot to process still and and that was my goal date.

    December 20, 2022
  • AliEm14Expert
    Transplant Patient

    That was my goal date too. We've now passed 2 years and I still haven't reached out. I realized I have no desire to. It's different for everybody but if you hit the 1 year mark and still aren't ready, that's totally fine

    December 20, 2022
  • ShelbycreatesExpert
    Transplant Patient

    @TServold Yes, I've had a lot of those same stressors! I totally feel you on that. I think it's challenging that invisible illnesses are just that--invisible. And you looking and doing well is great, but if you aren't comfortable with the circumstances of being around a lot of people who may or may not be sick, that can definitely impact you. I think the biggest thing for me has been setting my priorities and values, and sticking to them, even if no one else understands.

    Just know that I'm holding space for your big feelings this Christmas. You are loved and supported here.

    I find that it helps to think about my gratitude for my donor and their family and imagine them feeling my gratitude for them. And I let myself cry or grieve when I need to.

    December 20, 2022
  • My little guys transplant was in November so my body just remembers. Each year at Christmas we try and donate to a family who is needing a little extra love in the bereaved community, the transplant commuity or just someone who has an extended stay at the hospital over the holidays.

    I think sometimes when we give service it helps fill the ache for the person who lost their life and gave to another.

    December 25, 2022
  • montrealTransplant Patient

    At every holiday my thoughts go to the family of the deceased; my donor. You name it, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, the religious holidays or any type of occasion that calls for family members. I do fell sad for them, I just imagine that there is that empty spot, a special chair or a place at the table. Is that a macabre way of looking at it? They may well be smiling and happy that their lost one has saved so many lives. A celebration of life. Maybe I should alter my thoughts to the happy scenario.

    December 31, 2022
  • TServoldTransplant Patient

    I appreciate you sharing that you haven’t reached out and don’t have the desire to. It’s very helpful. It actually weighs on me wondering what if I never reach out. So many people I have talked to have asked about connecting with my donors family already and to be totally honest it feels like a lot of pressure. I am a people pleaser by nature and sometimes don’t keep myself pleased before everyone else. I need to remember when it comes to this to really focus on what will help me and benefit me not add stress.

    January 5, 2023
  • @TServold it's important to remember that the bereaved family can reach out through the transplant coordinator as well.

    I remember when my son was recovering after transplant that we honestly didn't know if the organ would do it's job. We did a piece for a news network about his recent transplant and being "home for the holidays". Yet I knew we were going back to the hopsital for a biopsy the next day and whether or not we'd be admitted was another story.

    It's easy to want to reach out if everything is going well, but when it isn't it is so hard to bring light to it, you know? And it's hard to read how others are doing. You might be great but the family who donated may still be grieving. I think that is why at our center all possible interactions between the two parties was filtered through the transplant coordinator.

    January 5, 2023
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