The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but they can also be a source of stress and anxiety for many people. This is especially true for those who have undergone a major surgery like an organ transplant, which can affect their physical, emotional, and social well-being. How can transplant recipients cope with the challenges and enjoy the festivities of the holiday season? In this article, we will share some tips and resources that can help you or your loved one deal with the holidays after an organ transplant.

Use technology to connect with family and friends. You may have some restrictions on the number of visitors you can have, or you may not feel comfortable traveling or attending large gatherings. You can still celebrate with your loved ones by using video calls, social media, or online chats.

Celebrate on your own schedule. You may not have the same energy or appetite as before, so don’t feel pressured to follow the usual holiday traditions. You can adjust the timing, menu, or activities to suit your needs and preferences.

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. If you usually host large family get-togethers, you may decide to do small celebrations with close family and friends instead. It may be an obvious decision, but a difficult one emotionally and hard to accept that it will be different than usual.

Make small switches to holiday food/decoration traditions. You can still enjoy some of the things that make the holidays special, but with some modifications. For example, you can decorate your home with artificial plants instead of real ones, which may carry germs or allergens. You can also order food online or ask someone to bring it for you, instead of cooking yourself.

Express your gratitude and appreciation. Receiving an organ transplant is a life-changing event, and you may have mixed emotions about it. You may feel grateful to your donor and their family, but also guilty or sad about their loss. You may also feel thankful to your medical team, your caregivers, and your support network. You can write a letter, send a card, or make a donation to show your gratitude and appreciation.

Consider volunteering for a cause that is meaningful to you. This can help you feel productive, connected, and fulfilled. You can choose a volunteer job that suits your physical abilities and interests, such as mentoring, fundraising, or advocacy.

Try to resume some of your hobbies or activities that you enjoyed before your transplant. This can help you regain a sense of normalcy and joy. You can also explore new hobbies that are safe and fun for you, such as gardening, painting, knitting, or playing an instrument.

Plan for your travel needs. If you want to visit family or friends who live far away, you may need to consult your transplant team and take some precautions. You may need to avoid certain modes of transportation, such as flying or cruising, that may expose you to infections or altitude changes. You may also need to pack your medications, medical records, and emergency contacts. You may need to arrange for follow-up care at your destination.

Seek support from other transplant recipients. You may find it helpful to talk to someone who has gone through a similar experience and understands your challenges and emotions. You can join a support group, an online forum, or a peer mentoring program. You can also share your story and advice with others who are waiting for or recovering from a transplant.

Seek professional help if needed. It’s normal to have some emotional ups and downs after an organ transplant, but if you feel overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious, you may benefit from talking to a counselor or therapist. They can help you cope with your feelings, adjust to your new situation, and plan for the future.

As you prepare for the upcoming holiday season, give yourself permission not to treat the holidays the way you previously 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.