St. Joseph's Home Care and Hospice will sponsor its eighth annual Hope for the Holidays service for the community from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12, in the Theresa meeting room at St. Joseph's Medical Center, located at 523 N. Third St. in Brainerd.
The program is intended to help people cope effectively with grief and loss through the upcoming holiday season.
For more information, call 828-7442.
HEAD:Community session set Nov. 12
HEAD: 'From what people tell me, the actual worry about the holiday is sometimes worse than the holiday. So we offer some suggestions even to get through anticipating the problems that could arise.' -- Jeanne Christensen St. Joseph's Home Care and Hospice
BYLINE1:By HOLLY BIGGINS
The holiday season can be tough to get through for some people. Some even find it emotionally debilitating.
Frequently, the difficulty is related to unfinished grief. For those unprepared to deal with profound feelings of loss over someone or something dear, grief can become frozen. The holidays can heighten the intensity of their sense of loss.
Recent losses naturally create grief. But even losses that occurred years ago can hold a memory fresh enough to cast a pervasive sadness in the mind and heart.
A session set Monday, Nov. 12, at St. Joseph's Medical Center will get to the heart of this matter for those dealing with grief or who know someone going through it. All community members are welcome to participate and learn about getting through the holidays in spite of any grief they may be dealing with, possibly even finding joy in living.
Those who may still be grieving because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the ensuing reverberations can also benefit from the session's content, said Jeanne Christensen, LSW, of St. Joseph's Home Care and Hospice. Christensen will help host the program.
"It's a one-time meeting where we try to offer some ideas for support for people to get through the holidays. And it's called Hope for the Holidays," Christensen said.
Kate Whitney, a licensed social worker also associated with St. Joseph's Hospice and Home Care, originated the Hope for the Holidays program about eight years ago. She and Pat Bluth, a licensed clinical social worker also with the agency, will help coordinate the program.
"If you've had a loss, this is typically a very hard time of year going into Thanksgiving and then Christmas," Christensen said. "We also offer a chance to recognize anniversaries, Valentine's Day, birthdays ... anything that's significant. People have certain holidays that are more important to them than others. Valentine's Day may be more difficult for some people than Thanksgiving, depending on what history you have attached to that holiday.
"It's a time (at the Hope for the Holidays program) to kind of validate the loss," Christensen said. "After a month, people tend to move on after the grief. They tend to move on after the funeral; and then things tend to quiet down in terms of support.
"We have actual suggestions or steps to a process to try to help you through the holidays," Christensen said. "I guess the other worry is that during grief people can be very distracted. I always say confusion hits first. And you're so busy with the holidays that it's a reminder to be gentle with yourself and take care of yourself.
"From what people tell me, the actual worry about the holiday is sometimes worse than the holiday," said Christensen. "So we offer some suggestions even to get through anticipating the problems that could arise."
The Hope for the Holidays program developed out of St. Joseph's hospice program grief support groups. These groups, held quarterly, involve a number of sessions done consecutively.
"Kate Whitney, Pat Bluth and myself coordinate that (the grief support groups). People have to sign up for that," Christensen said. "The way that they learn about that is it's advertised in all the local papers, church bulletins and they can also call my office number, 828-7442."
In conducting the grief support groups, the facilitators found that because there were enough holiday coping concerns among participants to warrant it, a separate program evolved -- Hope for the Holidays.
St. Joseph's Hospice also offers one-to-one bereavement, or grief, support. Trained grief support staff go out and meet with people or families individually who are experiencing loss. The objective is to help them learn to cope and, wherever possible, to make the most of the loss experience -- to try to make it a growth experience, rather than to let it become their undoing.
"Since Sept. 11, I believe people are recognizing more often their own grief," Christensen said. "You just have to read the paper to realize there are a lot of people in this community that have had losses. And then with the Sept. 11 events, I think people are more aware of their losses.
"It's almost like people are having a certain amount of guilt about enjoying the holidays right now," she added. "We're all kind of on hold. And yet the grief work teaches a lot about giving back to other people to work through your grief also. In fact, a lot of what you see in the national media, people working through grief, we do on a smaller basis."
The Hope for the Holidays program spans two hours.
"We talk about accepting the likelihood that it's going to be a painful time, but still feeling whatever it is you feel," Christensen said. "We talk about keeping a tradition and getting rid of a tradition (when necessary). We talk about some special remembrances you can do for the person you lost. We talk about taking care of yourself and your body and watching caffeine use, nicotine, alcohol ... those things that just plain tire you out when you're in grief already. There's kind of a gray zone when you're in grief so (it's important) to pay attention to what your habits are."
They also touch on other practical things like working on getting back to ordinary sleep patterns and practicing good nutrition, Christensen said.
Another benefit arising out of the Hope for the Holidays program and the grief support groups, Christensen said, is "people meet up and form kind of amazing alliances with each other. They might go to lunch or go to a movie and find other people they might have a lot in common with. So it's not just my coordination of it (that has an impact). It's that people will attract at that time friends who will help them the most, and someone you meet just becomes a great friend. I see that all the time.
"There is no charge connected to these services and we really encourage people to use them," Christensen said. "It seems in this area we have a little trouble asking for help. We're kind of a stoic, up-north kind of group. If we can just get people to walk in the door, I think people will benefit from it."
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