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Navigating the holiday season after a transplant

The holidays can be a hectic time of year, especially when you’re recovering from a transplant. Rob, a transplant recipient, remembers what the holidays looked like for him and his family throughout his recovery. 

Setting new holiday expectations

Rob says there’s one important thing to do when planning for the holidays: reset your expectations so you can do what’s best for you. You may need to celebrate the holidays in a different way after your transplant. Before his transplant, Rob and his wife hosted large family dinners during the holidays. For the first year after his transplant, they decided to do small celebrations with close family and friends instead. “It was an obvious decision, but a difficult one emotionally that we weren’t going to host Thanksgiving dinner,” he says, “and we had to accept that what we were doing was going to be different than what we typically did.” 

You and your loved ones may have a mix of emotions during the holidays, and that’s OK. You’ve been through a lot together. “When you think about the holidays,” Rob says, “the expectation is that everyone will be happy. But for my family and me, that wasn’t always easy to do after such a serious illness. I had to open myself up to sharing these emotions with everyone who had been through so much with me.” 

Explore new ways to keep old traditions

Every year, take small steps to get back to your pre-transplant holiday celebrations. Rob remembers the first time they hosted Thanksgiving dinner again. It was important for him to try to cook like he used to. Even though he couldn’t do all of the cooking, he decided he was at least going to do some. He says, “I remember it was hard. My energy level still wasn’t where it used to be. But it was a good step for me.” 
The first holidays after transplant have special challenges because you may have many restrictions. You may need to be creative with your traditions. 

If your tradition is to: Consider:
Travel to visit relativesConnecting on FaceTime or Skype
Attend religious servicesLooking for services that may be broadcast online
Cook or bakeTeaching a younger person your recipes and encourage them to do the cooking or baking
Go shoppingMaking your shopping list and send someone out to the stores for you
Volunteer in your communityEncouraging your friends and family to give back on your behalf

Focus on what matters most to you

As you prepare for the upcoming holiday season, “give yourself permission not to treat the holidays the way you previously did,” Rob says. “With so much going on,” he adds, “it helps to focus only on what’s most important to you.” For Rob and his family, they’ve realized “it’s not the celebrations themselves that are important, it’s being in the present when family and friends are together.” 

The Be The Match Patient Support Center offers free education and support: