Coping with grief: Holidays often difficult for those suffering loss

November, 2009 Posted in Your Health

By Mary Owen

Holidays are filled with happy thoughts that can turn sad quickly with the loss of a loved one, whatever the circumstances.

Grief support and remembrance
Willamette Valley Hospice’s six-week grief support
Nov. 5, 12, 19; Dec. 3, 10, and 17, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
Santiam Hospital, 1401 N 10th Ave., Stayton
Professional counselors will facilitate the meetings.
The public is invited and there is no charge,
although pre-registration is required.
Monthly drop-in grief groups are available
for those unable to make a six-week commitment.
To register or for information call 503-588-3600
Also, to help people remember and honor their
loved ones as part of their holiday celebration,
Willamette Valley Hospice will host its Light
up a Life Community Memorial Gathering 2009
Thursday, Dec. 3, 3-5 p.m.
1015 Third St. NW, Salem

“I wouldn’t say that holidays bring out he worst emotions, but the difficult emotions that people believe they ‘shouldn’t feel’ because it’s supposed to be a happy time,” said Lori Ensign, a bereavement counselor with Willamette Valley Hospice.

“When you’re grieving, you may feel the need to live up to the traditions and expectations of your loved one who has died. Just as there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there is no right or wrong way to handle the holiday when it comes.”

To help people cope, Willamette Valley Hospice will offer a six-week grief support workshop, “Coping with the Holidays,” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Nov. 5, 12, 19 and Dec. 3, 10 and 17 at Santiam Memorial Hospital in Stayton.

Professional counselors will facilitate the free meetings. The public is invited, and pre-registration is required.

Monthly drop-in grief groups are available for those unable to make a six-week commitment.
“The group helped me focus and process through the grief rather than stay stuck in it at the most intense level,” said a bereavement group participant.

Becoming proactive about grief can help people find the path that will help them to heal, Ensign said.
“We find healing in our grief by allowing ourselves to feel what we are feeling, not by pushing it away,” she said.

“Sometimes a friend is who we need to talk with, at times coming together with a group of people who have also experienced death of a loved one is helpful, other times we may wish to seek individual counseling to talk through our grief. No single path is the right one for each person and each individual is the best person to determine what are the right process and the right time for them.”

Suggestions for coping
Hospice Foundation of America offers these tips:
• Plan for the approaching holidays.
• Recognize that the holidays might not be the same.
• Be careful not to isolate yourself.
• Remember the holidays may
affect children and other family members.
• Avoid additional stress.
• Find a way to acknowledge the person lost.
• Find new traditions that honor those who are no longer here.
• Do what you can, only what is special
and meaningful to you this year.

Experts also suggest making decisions for the holiday period only and giving yourself the freedom to change plans as you go.

“It is empowering to see people find healing through their grief,” Ensign said. “Often people come not recognizing the holistic way that grief affects us. Not only the emotions of grief, but that we’re affected intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially.

“For people to realize they are not going crazy helps them to look at how they can process their grief and find a way to move forward in their life with their loved one’s presence guiding them.”

Family members are often protective of one another, Ensign said, and hesitant to talk about their grief with other family members.
“They don’t want them to be upset,” she said. “It’s an honor to see folks talk with one another and realize the ways that their grief is the same and respect the differences in their process.”

The workshop is designed for adults, families and children 5-17 years. Practical ideas and coping strategies will be offered, as well as a discussion on planning ahead, dealing with losses, accepting feelings and starting new traditions.

The last hour of the workshop will provide an opportunity to create a memory candle, button or wreath to remember loved ones during the holiday season. Donations will be accepted to offset the cost of craft items.

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