Certified local counselor Jaylene Whitehurst was the guest speaker who offered thoughts and ideas on hope to cope with grief during the holiday season.
"My hope was to provide a safe, confidential atmosphere for the participants to share their stories and honor the memories of their loved ones. I was pleased the people here had that need met. The participants were grateful for the opportunity to connect with others who have gone through a loss," said Whitehurst after the hour-long session.
The public was invited to participate and share. For the purpose of confidentially, no individuals are directly quoted.
One of the first exercises the group performed was to pair up into groups of two people and they talked to each other about why they were there. They spent a few minutes explaining who they had lost and why the holidays were going to be different for them this year without their loved one. This went on until each person had talked one-on-one to everybody in the group. They all shared their stories about who they lost, when they lost them, and how they lost them.
After the group sat back down together, they discussed how this holiday season was going to be different for each of them. They talked about the fact that some of the holiday traditions might be too painful to do this year without their loved one.
Another issue they touched on during this meeting was not isolating one self during the holidays. After the loss of a loved one, they said some people may feel alone and so they do not interact with the family and friends still with them. They discussed the fact that even though it would be difficult to enjoy the holiday celebrations without the one they lost, it was important to maintain the relationships with the people around them because they might also be grieving about that same person.
It was suggested that dealing with a loss during the holidays can cause someone to throw themselves into over-preparing for their holiday celebrations. They might feel as though they need to pay attention to each and every detail of their Thanksgiving dinner or their family Christmas party. It was explained that doing this will only cause more stress and anxiety for a person who is already deeply troubled by the loss they have suffered. Their suggestion was to tone down their holiday celebrations.
They also talked about having a plan for the holiday season. It is important to plan ahead about what the Thanksgiving dinner will consist of and where they will be having Christmas.
If the usual celebration was held at the home of the person they lost, it was suggested they host the party instead. It was also suggested that if they were the one who usually hosted the family gathering, it might be easier to ask another family member to have it at their home this year. If there was a special dish that their loved one always made, having dinner without it might be easier. They discussed the fact that down-sizing their holiday celebrations this year would lessen their stress and make this emotional time in their lives a little easier.
Another important topic they mentioned was having someone they trusted enough to talk to about how they were feeling. They explained that those who are grieving should only confide their personal concerns and emotions with people who they know will listen.
One of the suggestions made was to do something special to honor their loved ones who had passed on. It was suggested they could place new flowers for their loved one at their cemetery. Another idea they mentioned was to light a candle in memory of the person they lost.
They also suggested they purchase a special memory Christmas tree ornament and add it to their usual holiday decorations. They even talked about making donations to any charities or organizations their loved one was especially passionate about.