Michelle Meyer, LCSW
Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital Home Health/Hospice
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840
The holiday glow is upon us, lights are beginning to adorn homes in the
neighborhood, the hustle and bustle of shopping and holiday gatherings
are evident almost everywhere. As we approach the holiday season, it is
important to take a moment to remember that while many of us are eagerly
awaiting the lights, turkey and family togetherness; some in our community
are struggling through the loss of a loved one. Holidays can often be
a stark reminder of memories of loved ones that have passed on and a void
that is often hard to fill and even harder to articulate to others that
are basking in the seasonal glory. As you make your holiday to do list,
take a moment either to place a loved one or a neighbor on your list to
remember and include this holiday season.
Holidays are often full of family gatherings and celebrations during the
cold, dark winter that is beginning to wrap its arms around western Montana.
These celebrations are often how we find solace and comfort but what happens
when those times that are meant to improve our mood are instead a reminder
of a brighter yesteryear? One of the most moving expressions of grief
was stated to be all the love that we have for someone that has no place
to go, it wells up in our chest and in the corners of our eyes. Grief
comes in many shapes, sizes, frequencies and durations. There is no roadmap
that depicts exactly how grief will manifest in each person. The longing
for and the memories of those we have lost can be intense, constant or
come in waves. It is this that can make the season of family gatherings
and community togetherness all the more difficult for some people. Here
are a few helpful ideas to assist those that are struggling with grief
during the holiday season.
First, allow for the expression of grace and understanding this holiday
season. Grace is the kindness that we allow for acceptance and understanding
in others, with or without earning this virtue. Grace is the virtue of
allowing for others to grieve in their own unique way without passing
judgement. We show grace by listening, supporting and validating. We show
ourselves grace by allowing ourselves to feelings from the start to the
end without stifling. We often rush those that grieve ‘out loud’
and encourage them to move forward when in fact this is their means of
experiencing the loss. By offering those in our life grace we give a priceless
gift. The gift that can mean so much in a time that can be very lonely
and stifling for those we care about. Just as we offer it to others we
can offer it to ourselves as well.
Second, consider the importance of ‘setting the table for others’.
Invite loved ones or neighbors to join you and your family in holiday
celebration. Impromptu dinners during the week or drives to look at Christmas
lights are great times to include others. We often think of the importance
of donating during the season, but these gestures cost little and can
mean so much to those around us. While some will be glad to join, others
may feel that this is not what they would like to engage in and it is
important to know the value in offering even when these offers are not
taken. Allow for space to decline while remembering the importance of
that by setting the table we are extending an invitation to express our
support for others.
Third, start a new tradition to honor your loved one such as, lighting
an honorary candle at a celebration, have a special picture set out as
a memorial to your loved one during family events, create a photo book,
write a poem, or enjoy a memory sharing session with a loved one. Enjoy
a loved one’s favorite holiday dish. Invite grandkids or children
to join in the making of the dish and remembering your loved one with
stories as you work together to create the dish. This can be a very positive
memory for those around you and a way for you to connect with the memory
of your loved one. Journals can be incredibly useful if you find that
talking about your feelings can be too difficult. Journals can offer the
writer an opportunity to explore the depths of complicated grief, the
holidays and the things that some of us are too worried about expressing
out loud to another.
Most importantly take care of yourself. In the rush of the season, we find
ourselves often overcommitting of time and talent. We cannot fill from
an empty cup. Take a walk, enjoy some outdoor time if tolerable and feel
free to work on the importance of self-care. Though it may be difficult
initially to consider meeting with a counselor, it might be the opportune
time to establish a relationship with a trusted professional that can
offer support and validation during these difficult times. The support
of a third party outside of friends and family can be invaluable and offer
a much needed sounding board to process feelings that may be too complex
to share with loved ones. It truly could be the greatest gift you could
give to yourself this holiday season.
So as the trees begin to appear in windows, take a moment to think of those
that may need some extra support this year. If that person is you, remember
to ask for help. One of the greatest gifts of living in Montana is the
friendliness of neighbors and the comradery of community. May the gift
of grace be yours this holiday season.
Join us at the Marcus Daly Hospice Tree of Lights on Thursday, December 7th at 5pm at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in conference rooms Blodgett and
Canyon View. Take this opportunity to reflect and remember those we love
during this special season. Enjoy homemade soup, bread and treats followed
by a remembrance ceremony and the lighting of the hospice holiday tree!
Questions and or comments regarding this week’s health column please
contact, Michelle Meyer, LCSW at Marcus Daly Hospice Center and Services,
a service of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, 1200 Westwood Drive, Hamilton,
MT 59840. Working together to build a healthier community!