Dealing with grief during the holidays
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The holidays are a natural time to celebrate with family and friends. Good food is in abundance, the season of giving brings out the best in people, and a break from work allows time to relax with loved ones.
But for those that have lost someone dear to them, the holidays can be a stark reminder of that absence. The celebrations and joviality of others only sharpens the loss felt by the bereaved.
The hardship of losing a loved one, however, does not have to be endured alone. Ministry Home Care offers resources for those dealing with grief. Drop-in support groups will be open to the public on Dec. 8 from 1-2:30 p.m. and on Jan. 12, 2015 from 1-2:30 p.m. The groups are held at the Ministry Home Care offices in Marshfield at 303 W. Upham St.
Any adult who is dealing with the loss of a loved one may attend the sessions regardless of how long it has been since the death. Designed to be a place to share the emotions related to grief, the groups will deal specifically with how to manage the holiday season and will be co-facilitated by experts in dealing with the bereavement process.
One such expert is Sharla Dreikosen, who began work with Ministry Hospice Services in 1988. She is a social worker and bereavement coordinator who helps to facilitate the support groups and works with families that go through the hospice program. Dreikosen works to assess the needs of families and individuals, and the level of support they may need through the grieving process.
Dreikosen said the support groups are a place where people can be honest about their emotions related to grief and feel like they have permission to be open with those feelings.
Ministry Hospice Services also sends mailings to bereaved families reminding them of services offered for dealing with grief.
“Many times grievers just really need to know that what they’re experiencing is understandable and normal. So the mailers do a part of that normalizing throughout the year,” Dreikosen said.
She added that the mailings allow people to choose for themselves if they would like to seek help and professional support.
“I, as a social worker, really like to empower people with information and with autonomy, and I believe in choice. So I … allow people to let me know what their needs are. I like to help people help themselves,” Dreikosen said.
She said that the support groups she helps facilitate may be best for people who are not in the initial stages of grief.
“That’s what the mourning process is. Grief is the reactions, the responses we have to the loss, and mourning is getting that outside of us,” Dreikosen said, adding that part of the grieving process is realizing that a relationship still exists with the departed but that it is a very different kind of connection.
“Accepting that we still have a relationship (with the departed) however now adjusting to a relationship of memory, so the relationship changes. It’s no longer a relationship of presence and of physical contact but one of memory,” she said. “To try and get comfortable with that is the process of mourning, and that’s when I think groups become helpful for folks that need a place to talk safely about it.”
Dreikosen said that the holidays can be particularly difficult for the bereaved because they are a time of traditions, and those traditions will be different when someone significant has died. It may be particularly difficult for the newly bereaved who have not yet experienced a holiday season without their loved one.
She said that with planning and a support system in place the holidays can be easier to get through.
Dreikosen said that it is important for the griever to communicate how he or she feels and what he or she needs or wants out of the holidays so that people can respect those wishes. What you want as a griever, what you have energy for, and whether you would like to be alone or with people are important things to know.
“It’s looking at the expectations of the season and determining, ‘Honestly, what of that do I want to participate in?’” she said.
The feeling of loneliness can be especially strong during the holidays.
“You feel like you’re grieving alone,” Dreikosen said. “When we feel alone, when we are lonesome, I think that’s when often times people struggle.”
Working with the bereaved, Dreikosen said, has been a rewarding experience.
“When you see people that were loved so greatly that people don’t ever want to forget them, … that’s beautiful,” she said. “Don’t we all want to be loved and remembered? That’s mostly what our dying people want.”
For more information on Ministry Home Care and their services, visit ministryhealth.org/MinistryHomeCare.nws, or call 800-397-4216.