Oh, good grief! The holidays are here

Oh, good grief! The holidays are here

Soon Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays will take the place of the standard comment about the weather as the greeting du jour around Greater Pocahontas County. However, for some people, the holidays aren’t necessarily so happy - and not because there simply aren’t enough shopping days left until the big man comes down the chimney.

“For some people, the holidays are a tough time of the year,” began Rachel Olson, a bereavement coordinator and social worker at Pocahontas Community Hospital Home Health & Hospice.

That’s especially true for people who have experienced the loss of a loved one. “Society has this notion that everybody’s supposed to be happy and life’s perfect, but it’s not. Our expectations are so high, but reality sets in - life is not perfect and not always happy and we have to do the best we can and keep our expectations realistic.”

Which can make navigating what is supposed to be the most joyous time of year challenging, especially when a certain song, or a family gathering, or even getting out the decorations brings back strong memories. In those moments, Olson urged folks who are grieving to do just that - grieve.

“Do what feels comfortable to you,” she stressed. “Everybody grieves differently. If what you or your family is doing to celebrate doesn’t feel right to you while you’re grieving, don’t do it. If you want to do something different or special while you grieve, do it. Don’t let your family force you to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing.”

Which, Olson was quick to note, if one of your family members or loved ones is grieving, be conscious of their needs. “Give them the space they need to grieve and remember their loved one,” she instructed.

To help members of the community grieve over the holidays, Home Health & Hospice holds a celebration of life event each year, where people can purchase angel ornaments as a memorial to their loved ones. During the celebration of life, hospice staff read the names of the dearly departed while family members place the angel ornaments on the tree. Each year, approximately 350 ornaments adorn the Christmas tree. Olson said such an event can help people cope with their grief. “Rituals are a big part of the holidays and this is a nice way for people who are grieving to remember their loved ones.”

But the holidays aren’t the only time Home Health & Hospice helps community members grieve. Among the services hospice staff provide are monthly phone calls to check on those who are grieving, regular mailings with helpful information on the grieving process, home visits, and support groups, which begin each spring and fall. Olson said the current support group has about 10 people who regularly attend.

“It’s perfectly normal to grieve, whether it’s at the holidays or any time during the year. It’s important to grieve, because that’s how we heal. At Home Health & Hospice, our job is to help you heal,” Olson concluded.