Coping With Emotions

Christmas in the Hospital: Ways to Celebrate When You’re Away From Home

A few battery-powered twinkle lights, if allowed on your unit, can create a cozy atmosphere perfect for watching a favorite holiday movie.

Cancer isn’t convenient, as those living with the disease know all too well. If your diagnosis causes you to spend Christmas in the hospital this year, you may feel anxious or defeated about this change in holiday location. Here are a few ways you can celebrate a bit differently this year.

Take Advantage of Time With Visitors

Most hospitals work with volunteers in the community to spread cheer throughout the month of December. Resist the urge to close your room’s door, and lean into the holiday festivities as you feel like it. Ask your floor nurse when the visiting Santa comes to the ward or when the local choir carols through the hallways. You will be glad you did!

Decorate Your Room

Depending on the hospital regulations for your unit, you may be able to decorate your room with a few of your favorite holiday pieces. A small tree or even battery-operated twinkle lights can make your heart feel merry and bright, even if you aren’t at home. You can also ask family and friends to send you cards or paper ornaments to hang throughout your room.

Say Thank You

So much of the holiday season is about appreciating what you have. Try adopting a practice of gratitude by journaling three things you are thankful for each day. Big things, like a successful procedure, or small things, like your favorite soup on your tray at lunch, can add up quickly and make for a positive change in perspective.

Give Back

The holiday season is just as much about giving as it is about receiving. While you may not be able to shop and experience the hustle and bustle at your local mall, you can still enjoy purchasing gifts for the people you love via your favorite online shops. Wrapping gifts is a great way to pass the time, and you can even do it in bed when you are feeling weak. Finally, you can choose to give back to others in the hospital who could use some cheer. Consider passing hand sanitizer with a card to the nurses on your unit or making colorful cards for the kids in the pediatric wing.

Use Technology to Attend Parties

You don’t have to miss out on your family’s white elephant gift exchange or your cousin’s cookie swap while you are in the hospital. Instead, make an appointment to video call into the event. Chat with everyone and, if possible, send your gift to the party ahead of time and watch the person open it live via video chat.

Take Photos

It may seem especially difficult this year, but don’t skip on your family photos. Wear your matching pajamas and pose on your hospital bed or snap a pic as you and your daughter decorate prebaked cookies. These traditions are important, no matter where you are. In future years, when you are feeling better, you will look back on these photos as a reminder of how far you have come and what the holiday season really means to your family.

Spending Christmas in the hospital is not ideal, but it doesn’t mean skipping out on the joy of the season completely. Instead, accept that cookie from a volunteer (even if you only eat a bite) and tour the hospital’s holiday light displays when you are feeling well one evening. Christmas will find you, even in the worst of it. Sending you merry wishes and peaceful nights.

Spending the holiday season in the hospital can be an emotional time. UVA Cancer Center offers support services that may help, such as the opportunity to speak with a chaplain or counselor.

Learn More
Haley Burress
Haley Burress