Coping With Grief During the Holidays

It is the time of year when everyone is supposed to be in a merry mood. But for those who are missing loved ones, this is far from the most wonderful time of the year.

“It’s okay to feel sad during the holidays,” said Andrea Gordner, Hospice RN with Good Samaritan Health System. “And your feelings are justified during this time of the year,” she said.

Gordner sees firsthand how tough the holidays can be.

“I walked into this room surrounded by probably a good 10-15 gentlemen in their leather jackets,” said Gordner. “In walked me at 5’2″, a little intimidated until I really got to know their personalities and the joy and the love they have for him,” she said.

Gordner is talking about Larry Burke. He died two years ago from lung cancer.

“Very full of life, and he lived life right up until the last few months,” said Virginia Owsiak, Burke’s widow. “You can be doing something that you do every day and all of a sudden, this memory will come flooding back,” she said. “But I try to dwell on the positive rather than the negative.”

Gordner said you should do whatever it takes to stay focused on positive those feelings.

“Just talk about them or express them in any way you can because one coping mechanism works for someone you know doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you,” said Gordner. “Find what works best for you and stick with that.”

For Owsiak, that means keeping Burke’s memory alive.

We, as a family, try to maintain the traditions that we all have and honor Larry’s memory that way. So he’s always with us,” said Owsiak.

“Keep up with that tradition if you’re able to,” said Gordner. “If they loved to cook Christmas cookies, use their recipe. If they put the ornaments on the tree in a certain way, continue to do that. It’s a good way just to remember them and to honor them,” she said.

Another way to cope, Gordner said, is by attending support groups. Good Samaritan Health System offers them a couple times a month. For more information, visit http://www.gshleb.org/Main/HomeHealth.aspx.

And if you know someone who is lonely, reach out.

“I think just the simple contact whether it’s a card, a phone all, offering to go out to lunch with them, bring them over for supper, is a big gesture,” said Gordner. “A lot of times they might decline that offer, but just knowing that someone is there to reach out and that you’re there is a big thing,” she said.

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