Holidays don't bring joy and hope for all
By Aynsley Anderson Sosinski, LMH Health
Joy to the world! Merry Christmas! Happy holidays! We hear these phrases often this time of year. But the holiday season does not always bring enjoyment and hope for everyone.
Many people who have experienced a loss -- because of death, divorce or a move far away from loved ones – actually may approach the holiday season with a sense of dread, emptiness and pain, knowing that things will never be the same.
Memories may emerge and trigger renewed and increased feelings of grief and sadness over one’s losses or life changes.
There is no right or wrong way to handle the holiday season. Some people find comfort in familiar traditions and rituals, while others may wish to entirely change the way things are done or even bypass the holidays this year. Do what feels best and right for you and your family, with no apologies.
LMH Health can help
The LMH Health Bereavement Support Group welcomes adults who have lost a loved one. The group meets from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. the first and third Mondays of each month at LMH Health. Use the Arkansas Street entrance. The group does not meet on holidays. For information, contact Angela Lowe, chaplain, at 785-840-3140 or Angela.Lowe@lmh.org.
Here are some more tips for coping shared by the Rev. Angela Lowe, director of spiritual care and staff chaplain at LMH Health:
- Honor your loved one or your past life during the holiday season in some way. Suggestions might include giving a donation to an organization that you or the deceased were connected with; making a holiday decoration that represents the spirit of your loved one and then sharing these with others who also knew and loved the person you lost; or lighting a candle, hanging a wreath or contributing to a floral arrangement at your faith community in their memory. Lowe notes that she remembers her deceased loved ones when she decorates her Christmas tree with ornaments that used to belong to them.
- Be forgiving of and patient with yourself for things that you are not able to do now that you did in the past. Take care of yourself by getting adequate sleep, regular exercise, eating nutritious meals and avoiding using too much alcohol or other drugs. It is OK to cry. It also is OK not to do much for others right now. You need to be the priority in your life as you work through the grieving and healing process.
- Reach out to others. If you feel up to it, accept invitations to be with family and friends whose company you enjoy and feel comfortable in. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings when you are with others and allow them to comfort you. Share remembrances of your lost loved one and let others tell you stories that will lead to pleasant memories and feelings for you. Allow yourself to stay at events only as long as you are comfortable, and don’t feel badly if you have to leave early.
- Keep yourself busy. You need to work through your grief but you don’t need to focus on it all of the time. Invite a friend to go to a movie or out to dinner, or volunteer to help others, by taking a meal to a homebound person, helping with a community holiday meal or visiting someone who is alone.
- Remember that the grieving process has no set timetable and will be different for everyone. It also is perfectly normal to feel like you are moving forward and then suddenly find you have a setback. Often, things like the holidays can trigger these.
- Consult a healthcare professional if you have symptoms of depression or if you feel like you are not coping well. Many community counseling centers, funeral homes or faith communities offer grief or loss counseling or even support groups. In addition, there are many resources available online. Try griefshare.org; aarp.org; or compassionatefriends.org, which is designed for people who have lost a child.
Aynsley Anderson Sosinski is a wellness specialist at LMH Health. She is board certified by the Mayo Clinic and the National Consortium of Health and Wellness Coaches as a wellness coach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.