Dealing with Loss During the Holidays

Most of us look forward to the holiday season but depression can set in if you've recently lost someone close to you.

Dealing with the death of a loved one can make this time of year unbearable.

But there are places to turn for help.

Hospice is a philosophy that enables people to live life as fully and as comfortably as possible until death.

This kind of care is a specialty of the Visiting Nurse Association Hospice Center.

They consider not just the needs of the patients, but the family members that are left behind.

So it's natural for VNA to reach out to them during the holidays, when many are feeling their most vulnerable.

When someone you love is gone, so is the magic of the season.

Sister Jenny Miller a Spiritual Care Coordinator understands the grieving process: "We need some time to really grieve, to own our feelings, to decide what we really want to do. We need some time to plan and if we don't take that time, if people are saying. 'why don't you do this?' or 'you should do that. You should do this.' we're lost."

Sister Jenny Miller runs a grief support group for the VNA hospice.

She tells members to take time for themselves during the holidays. That may mean putting up fewer decorations or turning down some party invitations.

Sister Jenny says you only have so much energy and some of it needs to be spent grieving, "Grief work is work. Some people expect it to go away if you ignore it or to go away if you run away from it. It doesn't go away."

So, she says, cry if you need to. Write down your feelings in a journal.

Sister Jenny says it amy help, "Often once we read what we've journaled, we say, 'I didn't know that was in me, but now I've gotten it out in a healthy way.'"

She says don't hesitate to talk about your loved ones out loud too.

Now that both of their parents have passed away, Sister Jenny and her siblings include them in holiday gatherings by making their mom's favorite dish or passing on dad's traditions.

Sister Jenny has her own way of celebrating her father's life, "My dad loved to give $2 bills. So often we put a $2 bill in Christmas cards especially to the kids and they say, 'Butch!' 'Grandpa, he's still present.'"

Visiting Nurse Association hospice workers make the distinction between grief and self pity.

Grief is healthy.

Self-pity is non-productive and selfish.

It's the "poor me" mentality and it drives people away.

They say people will not avoid you if you cry and your spirit shines, but they will if you whine.