They arrive one-by-one — bouquets, potted plants, green boughs, and more, lined up like a florist’s parade. But none of these plants make it to patients’ rooms. Plants are not allowed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Your loved one may be the hospital ICU now.

In late October my husband’s aorta dissected and he has been in the hospital ever since, almost two months, most of this time in the ICU. He had three emergency operations, one life-threatening surgery, and four wound-cleaning surgeries, or as doctors call it, “procedures.” Worse, it doesn’t look like my husband will be dismissed any time soon.

The holidays may pass him by this year. I thought and thought about how I could bring the holiday spirit to him. You may be in a similar situation. These ideas may help you bring some holiday cheer to your loved one.

1. Create a photo show. My granddaughter is a superb photographer and I asked her to take photos of our holiday decorations, including the fresh wreath by the front door. She transferred these photos to her computer and we showed them to my husband at breakfast time. The show was a hit.

2. Share greeting cards. We’re not sending out cards this year because it’s too much work and too costly. However, we’re receiving cards from friends. I take a few cards to my husband, three or four at a time, so he can catch up on news.

3. Deliver all get well cards. Friends are thinking of my husband and this comforts him. I deliver every get well card to him. One card, sent to the hospital, actually made it to his room.

4. Bring some magazines. You can only watch so much television when you’re in the ICU. “I feel like I know every commercial by heart,” my husband commented. Lately, I’ve been delivering December issues of his favorite magazines to him. When he is stronger I will deliver a book or two.

5. Decorate a bit. ICU rooms get crowded with stuff: machines, monitors, hoses, wires, sheets, blankets, pillows, meal trays, and other equipment. Since there’s little room to spare, I bought a small, artificial pine tree in a red pot for my husband’s room. It’s decorated with pine cones and so life-like a nurse was going to water it.

6. Display a family photo. A photo of family members gathered together can boost your loved one’s spirits. Last year we used a family shot for our Christmas card. He loves the photo and I brought a framed version of it to his room.

Visiting your loved one also boosts your loved one’s spirits. I visit my husband three times a day, but am careful not to stay long. He needs medications and sleep and physical rehabilitation in order to recover. Certainly, I don’t want to interfere with his schedule. “I love to see you,” he says constantly, and I love to see him. We are each other’s holiday spirit.

Copyright 2013 by Harriet Hodgson



Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 43 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 42 books, including 10 grief resources. She is Assistant Editor of the Open to Hope website, a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Alliance of Independent Authors, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. She is well acquainted with grief. In 2007 four family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling) and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and healing. She has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at The Compassionate Friends national conference, Bereaved Parents of the USA national conference, and Zoom grief conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy grandmother, great grandmother, author, and speaker please visit

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