Holiday cheer is hard to come by when people are grieving.
To help bring people comfort during the holidays, Mercy Hospice hosted a “Coping with the Holidays” program at Carrington Place on Nov. 7 and Via Christi hosted a remembrance to facilitate the healing process with prayer, scripture and reflection on Nov. 3.
Mercy Hospice, reaches people in a 50 mile radius from Fort Scott, and serves Pittsburg and the surrounding the area, brought information for grieving families on how to plan ahead for holidays.
“As a society, we think about the holidays as a joyous great and happy time, while they are and can be, for many it is not,” Mercy Hospice Social Worker and Volunteer Coordinator Lashawn Noel said.
Mercy Hospice Chaplain Melissa George said the holidays are a “family-centered time,” and when a loved one dies family traditions may no longer be the same.
“Working in hospice, people lose their loved ones and they will have their first Thanksgiving and first Christmas without their loved one,” George said. “We want to help give them permission to grieve during this time and give them tips to hold on to so they do not feel alone in this process.”
There is a lot of pressure during the holidays to do things the way they’ve always been done, to hold on to traditions, but people grieving may not have the energy they did before their loved one was lost, George said.
“We encourage people to listen to themselves, listen to their body, mind and spirit — take some time out so the holidays are not too much,” George said.
Building flexibility into the holiday season gives people space when planning, George said.
This could include meal preparation, visiting and holiday cards. Past traditions, decorations and more can be scaled down, Noel said.
Noel encourages families to plan ahead, knowing it’s the upcoming holiday season and they should accept limitations, “knowing what it is that you can handle, while also setting limits on things you can do.”
This includes making changes to holiday routines, maybe go to two dinners instead of three dinners and bring separate cars.
It is also encouraged to ask for and accept help — other people have an important role in grieving, George said.
“No one can handle everything by themselves,” George said. “Reach out to community support — a friend, church or neighbor.
“Often times, people wanting to support someone through a loss are looking for something to do.
“We encourage [grieving] people in that position to stop and think … give people the gift of helping you.”
George and Noel encourage people to keep the lost loved one around in spirit. Special decorations or maybe something to specific to hang up — say they were a sports fan.
Some families also set a place at the table for their lost loved one with their picture, Noel said.
“I think there are lots of things people can do, because they will always have those memories and will always be on their mind and in their heart,” Noel said.


Thoughts for the Holidays
(Information provided by Mercy Hospice)

Plan ahead
Bereaved individuals who experience the most difficulty with the holiday season are those who have given little thought to the challenges they will encounter. Consider ahead of time what may be expected of you, both socially and emotionally, as well as your own preferences.

Accept your limitations
Grief consumes most of your available energy no matter what the season. The holidays place additional demands on your time and emotions. Plan to lower your expectations to accommodate current needs.

Make Changes
Your circumstances have changed. Expect to make necessary alterations in holiday plans to accommodate those changes. Consider changing your surroundings, rituals and/or traditions to diminish stress. Serve notice on family and friends that this year things may be somewhat different.

Trim down to essentials
Limit social and family commitments to suit your available energy. Shop early, through catalogues or online. Reevaluate and forego unnecessary activities and obligations.

Ask for and accept help
Accept offers for assistance with holiday shopping, decorating, cleaning, cooking. Chances are loved ones are looking for ways to lessen your burden at this time of year. Allow those who care about you to offer their support in concrete ways.

Inform others of your needs
Give family and friends the tools they need to help you through the holidays. Be specific with them about your preferences and desires, and keep them up-to-date when those needs change.

Build in flexibility
Learn to “play it by ear.” There is no concrete formula for learning to deal with loss. You are the foremost authority on what is best for you, and your needs may legitimately change from day to day. Accept the fluctuations that must occur when walking in unknown territory, and
learn to take each moment as it comes.

Give yourself Ppermission "To Be”
Allow breathing space and expect fluctuations in mood and perspective the bereaved work overtime. Not only is life more complicated, but all energy is siphoned into mental and emotional resolution. Grieving is nature's way of healing the mind and heart form the greatest injury of all. Allow yourself the privilege of limping until your wounds have healed and you can learn to run again.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.