Coping with Grief During the Holidays

fall/winter 2011 The Yule-log sparkled keen with frost, No wing of wind the region swept, But over all things brooding slept The quiet sense of somet...
Author: Jack Atkinson
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fall/winter 2011

The Yule-log sparkled keen with frost, No wing of wind the region swept, But over all things brooding slept The quiet sense of something lost. – Alfred Lord Tennyson (written after the death of his best friend just before the holidays, 1833)

In This Issue 1

Coping with Grief During the Holidays


Special Events




Children and Holiday Rituals


Adult Support Groups

Coping with Grief During the Holidays As the days get shorter and cooler, and as leaves turn color and begin to fall, those who have lost loved ones often begin to dread the holiday season. Whatever holiday was most important in your household is full of memories and traditions. Whether your favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa or Christmas, it will be different this year without your loved one. The question is, “How do I cope with this time of year?” Spend some time thinking about what is very important to you – and what might be of less importance this year. It may help to take a good look at your holiday traditions. Some traditions may be very important to you or impossible to avoid. Others may be more flexible. Christmas trees are a good example. Some of us need to cut a fresh Christmas tree and decorate it with family and friends. Others can celebrate with an outdoor tree or a visit to a tree display. Perhaps sending cards and notes was never your favorite part of the holiday season, but this year communication with friends and family is of prime importance. Spend some time thinking about what is important to you – and what might be less important this year. This year will be different no matter what you do, but you can thoughtfully reduce some stress. Ask for support from family and friends. Let your family know your thoughts about the holiday season. Family may not be aware of your feelings. Some may have their own fears and may be relieved to know that you are not planning to keep everything the same. Others may be surprised and upset that things will not be the same as always. Continued on page 2

Coping with Grief During the Holidays Most families are willing to compromise when they understand how you feel. Perhaps someone different can host the family meal. Perhaps gift giving can be cut back. It might reduce stress to reduce the baking or side dishes at the family meal. Include memories of your absent loved one and don’t avoid talking about him or her. Avoiding mentioning your loved one can make their absence more painful. Talking about favorite memories can make the day sweeter. Some families light a candle in their loved one’s honor, set the table with their favorite flowers as a centerpiece, make a toast to their absent loved one or make their favorite food and include it in the menu. Macaroni and cheese with turkey? Why not? Make plans for the special day. Try not to avoid making plans. The whole day does not have to be filled with activity. It is perfectly okay to have some time for rest or reflection. But plan to have something to fill the day that will be enjoyable and something to look forward to. Sharing time with others who know what you’ve been through and care about you can be nourishing and healing.

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Be gentle with yourself. One of the best things you can do is to treat yourself lovingly. Give yourself plenty of time for rest. Keep healthy but easy to prepare foods in your kitchen. You may want more time for solitude than usual. Use this time to do what you enjoy: reading a novel, watching TV or engaging in your favorite hobby or spending time outdoors. Set easily attained goals and congratulate yourself whenever you have accomplished one. Do something for others. People in grief are naturally centered on themselves. Don’t let the weight of your grief incapacitate you. You may be surprised at the difference helping another person can make, for both of you. You will be drawn into other people’s lives and out of your own. It may also help you place your own loss in a broader perspective. You may begin to feel that you are gaining as much as – or more than – you are giving! There is no one right way to make it through the stresses of holidays. Even when you weren’t grieving, you probably experienced additional stress during the winter holiday season. Be gentle with yourself as you struggle to cope with holiday stress in the midst of your grief. Trust yourself to do what will make the holidays easier for you. And give yourself permission to have moments of happiness in the midst of your grief. For additional information, support and tips on coping, you are invited to attend our annual Coping with the Holidays Workshop in November. See our special events section in this newsletter for more information. – Debbie Hutton, Chaplain

Recommended Readings “Surviving Holidays, Birthdays, and Anniversaries: A Guide for Grieving During Special Occasions” by Brook Noel “Healing Your Holiday Grief: 100 Practical Ideas for Blending Mourning and Celebration During the Holiday Season” by Alan D. Wolfelt 2

Special Events Coping With the Holidays: A workshop offering information and support for coping with grief during the holidays. Olympia  Thurs., Nov. 3rd or Thurs., Nov. 10th (choose one date) 6 – 8 pm Providence SoundHomeCare & Hospice 3432 South Bay Rd.NE, Olympia

Lacey  Mon., Nov. 7th 10 am – 12 pm Lacey Presbyterian Church 3045 Carpenter Rd. Lacey

Shelton  Tues., Nov. 1st 1 – 3pm Shelton Health & Rehabilitation 153 Johns Court Shelton

For more information or to register, call 360-493-4667. Light Up a Life Memorial Celebration We invite you to visit our Light Up a Life tree and join us for a special service celebrating the lives of those we love with music, reflection and readings.  Sunday, November 27 | 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm Red Lion Hotel, 2300 Evergreen Park Drive SW, Olympia All friends of hospice are welcome to attend and admission to Providence Christmas Forest is complimentary at 7:00 pm for Light Up a Life ceremony guests. In addition to the memorial, donations are greatly appreciated. A special ornament with your loved one’s name will be placed on the tree and an acknowledgement letter is sent to the person or family that you honor. You may contact Providence St. Peter Foundation for more information on donations to Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice, 360-493-7981.

Mason County Remembrance Service A county-wide Remembrance Service for those who have recently lost a loved one.  Thurs., Nov. 17 2:00 – 4:00 pm Hope Chapel Shelton, Washington For more information, contact Bill Batstone at 360-426-7928

Grief support for children, teens, and the adults who care for them. Children, teens and their caregivers have found understanding and support at SoundCareKids for almost 20 years. Group nights begin with pizza and play. Then kids, teens and caregivers meet in small groups (Littles 3-5, Bigs 6-8, Middles 9-12, Teens, and Caregivers) for discussion and activities designed to explore different aspects of grief. Each week builds on the concepts, discussions, and activities of the previous week, so attending all six weeks is recommended. Our regular session topics include: 2011 Fall Group Schedule Week 1 Learning about grief and getting to know each other Week 2 Exploring grief feelings and learning how to cope with them Thursdays, 6:15-7:45 p.m. Week 3 Sharing our stories October 20th - December 15th Week 4 Dealing with regret, guilt, and other unfinished business in West Olympia Week 5 Identifying and adjusting to changes 2012 Winter Group Schedule Week 6 Memories and Staying Connected The Fall Session will include two additional weeks focusing on grief during the holidays. This program is provided at no cost to families in Thurston, Lewis, and Mason counties through funding from the Providence St. Peter Foundation. Call Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice at 360-493-5928 for more information about individual or family counseling or to reserve your spots in the upcoming session. Pre-registration is required. 3

Thursdays, 6:15-7:45 p.m. January 26th - March 1st in West Olympia

Children and Holiday Rituals As the holiday season approaches, reminders of the joys of this special time are everywhere. Everyone else may seem to be enjoying the anticipation of and preparation for the holidays their families celebrate, and their excitement may seem a stark contrast to your own feelings as you imagine a holiday season without your loved one who has died. Although your child is acutely aware of the absence of this person as well, he is probably also excited about receiving gifts that you are far less excited about having to purchase and about participating in holiday events that you dread having to facilitate. You may wonder how or even whether you will survive the weeks ahead. Although you may be tempted to avoid acknowledging the holidays altogether, your child will likely make that impossible as he insists on repeating your family’s holiday rituals. The absence of your loved one will be even more conspicuous if he or she was involved in any of these rituals. You may wonder whether you should change your family’s rituals or if you can bear to keep them the same, whether you should act like everything’s normal or acknowledge in front of your child the changes that are so glaringly apparent to you. One particularly helpful activity for many parents as the holidays approach is intentionally planning ahead. Often, the anticipation of a holiday can be more difficult than the day itself. Having a game plan that addresses the aspects of the holidays that you are dreading the most can help by preparing you to deal with those elements and thus reducing the anxiety you might feel ahead of time. What aspects of the holidays worry you most? Who can help you with these things? One mother recounted standing in line for most of a day in an attempt to get a gift that her child wanted. As a grieving widow and mother, she was exhausted already; and this only contributed further to her distress. Although she was able to get the item for her child, she ended

up so depleted of energy that she was unable to be as emotionally sensitive and available to her child as she would have been otherwise. It may be helpful to keep in mind that although gifts are probably important to your child, no gift will make up for your loved one’s absence. What will be most important for your child in the long run is spending time with you, remembering the loved one whose death you are both grieving, and acknowledging the love you both have shared with that person, which will never be lost. Remembering the person who died in some way that is meaningful to your family during the holidays’ events has also proven to be important to many bereaved families. Although your holiday routines will never be repeated in quite the same way, acknowledging the person’s absence and working together as a family to decide what activities to keep, which to change, and whether to introduce new elements can be helpful for you and your child: you won’t have to make these decisions alone, and your child will have the opportunity to talk about memories of your loved one and to express what she needs most during the weeks ahead. Some families create ornaments, enclosing a note to the person who died in a glass ball before decorating and hanging it. Others include a place setting at the dinner table, light a special candle, or hang a stocking in memory of the person. What is most important is that your memorial to the person who died is significant and special to you and your child. Keep in mind that even during the best of times, holidays are never perfect. While you might wish that someone would tell you what to do during the weeks ahead, you are the person best able to determine what you and your child need most at this time. There truly are no right or wrong solutions to your holiday dilemmas. So be gentle with yourself during the weeks ahead, give yourself permission to be flexible, and don’t forget to ask those around you for support. – Sharon Shadwell, SoundCareKids Program Coordinator

Recommended Readings “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscaglia “Everett Anderson’s Goodbye” by Lucille Clifton “The Wishing Tree” by Roseanne Thong 4

Adult Support Groups

Every individual has the capacity to heal and grow after the life-altering experience of a major loss. Our goal is to help people understand and cope with their grief while offering support and opportunities to learn and grow. We help people identify needs and strengths and work with them to develop a plan to address these. We work with individuals, families and groups in the community. For information about individual counseling or to make an appointment call: 360-493-4667.

Adult Support Groups (Quarterly) Grief Works Six-week grief support group for adults. Registration required. Meetings are on Wednesdays from 9 – 11:30 a.m. at Providence St. Peter Hospital, Olympia. For information/registration, call 360-493-5751. Fall: October 12th – November 16th

Adult Support Groups (Ongoing) Daytime  1st and 3rd Monday of each month 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. Lacey Presbyterian Church 3045 Carpenter Rd. SE, Lacey Information: 360-493-4667  1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. Shelton Health and Rehabilitation Center 153 Johns Court, Shelton Information: 360-493-4667 Evening  2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice 3432 South Bay Rd. NE, Olympia Information: 360-493-4667  Loss of Child Support Group (The Compassionate Friends) 1st Monday of each month 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice 3432 South Bay Rd. NE, Olympia Information: Allen Roth @ 360-427-1418 Connecting Caregivers Support Group For those who are currently providing care to a loved one, meeting and sharing with other caregivers can decrease stress and provide hope and emotional support as you continue on this challenging journey.  2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month 4 – 5:30 p.m. Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice 3432 South Bay Rd. NE, Olympia Information: 360-493-4667


Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice 3432 South Bay Road NE Olympia, WA 98506



Grief Support for All Ages Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice provides a full range of grief support and bereavement services for adults and children. We can help you better understand and cope with your grief, while offering support and opportunities to learn and grow. See INSIDE for more information!

Departure – F.R. Scott

Always I shall remember you, as my car moved Away from the station and left you alone by the gate Utterly and forever frozen in time and solitude Like a tree on the north shore of Lake Superior. It was a moment only, and you were gone, And I was gone, and we and it were gone, And the two parts of the enormous whole we had known Melted and swirled away in their separate streams Down the smooth, granite slope of our watershed. We shall find, each, the deep sea in the end, A stillness, and a movement only of tides That wash a world, whole continents between, Flooding the estuaries of alien lands. And we shall know, after the flow and ebb, Things central, absolute and whole. Brought clear of silt, into the open roads, Events shall pass like waves, and we shall stay.