Holidays can be difficult for those who are grieving Centura Health – St. Catherine offers ‘My Hope’ support group

It is never easy to lose a loved one, and the grief and pain that follows a person’s death is a natural part of life.

Grief also doesn’t take time off for the holidays as the sadness is oftentimes magnified, even as others celebrate and enjoy the occasion. The emotions can become overwhelming as the absence of that loved one or friend becomes even more apparent during holiday gatherings.

“For many people, the holidays are filled with sadness because there’s an empty chair at the celebration table,” said Gina Cash, Centura Health – St. Catherine Hospice Supervisor and Bereavement Coordinator. “We grieve because we love, and our healing comes by acknowledging the grief and sharing stories of our loved ones not with us this holiday season.”

When it comes to resources on dealing with grief, Cash turns to Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt of the Center for Loss & Life Transition (www.centerforloss.com). He writes that “Holidays are often difficult for anyone who has experienced the death of someone loved. Rather than being times of family togetherness, sharing and thanksgiving, holidays can bring feelings of sadness, loss and emptiness.”

Wolfelt offers these suggestions to help people better cope with grief during the holidays:

  • Talk about your grief – Ignoring grief won’t make it go away and talking about it openly often makes you feel better.
  • Be tolerant of your physical and psychological limits – Feelings of loss will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you.
  • Eliminate unnecessary stress – You may already feel stressed, so don’t overextend yourself. Avoid isolating yourself but be sure to recognize the need to have special time for yourself.
  • Be with supportive, comforting people – Identify those friends and relatives who understand that the holiday season can increase your sense of loss and who will allow you to talk openly about your feelings.
  • Embrace your treasure of memories – Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone, and holidays always make you think about the past. Instead of ignoring these memories, share them with your family and friends.

St. Catherine Hospital’s Tree of Life, which is on display in the hospital’s south lobby now through January 6, provides the opportunity for anyone in the community to remember a lost loved one during the holiday season by purchasing an ornament with their name to be hung on the tree.

Ornaments can be purchased for a suggested minimum contribution of $10, proceeds of which go to the St. Catherine Hospice Comfort Zone Family Retreat.

St. Catherine also offers “My Hope,” a support group for adults who are grieving the death of a loved one. The group, led by Hospice Chaplain Rev. Gerry Dupuis, meets from noon to 1:00 pm on the second Tuesday of each month at High Plains Public Radio, 210 N. Seventh St. in Garden City. The sessions are open to the public, and participants are welcome to bring their lunch.

The monthly sessions are not therapy and not intended to replace professional counseling, but they are opportunities to share stories of grief and learn from others’ experiences. The goal for the group is to help participants experience hope and healing as they cope with the loss of a loved one and be able to move into new meaning and purpose for their lives.

Rev. Dupuis is a graduate of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, with certification in death and grief studies. He also is certified in Thanatology through the Association of Death Education and Counseling.

For more information about “My Hope” support group or to purchase an ornament for the Tree of Life, contact Cash at 620.272.2519 or ginacash@centura.org.