By Teresa Taylor Williams
Contributor, The Muskegon Tribune
The holidays are upon us, but the joys are not shared by all.
In fact, for many people who have experienced loss, they dread the holiday season because it intensifies depression, loneliness and heartache.
Support and relief may be found in individual counseling and support groups for adults and children provided by the Mercy Health Hospice Scolnik Healing Center. These services are available to anyone and are offered at no cost to the community.
Within the last two years, Robert Pringle of Muskegon lost both his wife and his mother, as well as a good friend. After his wife died, he admits that he wasn’t able to leave his home for about two weeks.
“Even after that, I only went where it was necessary. After about a month, I must have looked like a haggard mess,” said Pringle. “This is the first place I came. Sometimes people shared laughter during the group meetings, and I was offended. It didn’t make sense that they were laughing. Now I’m one of the guys laughing. I can look back and say I’ve made progress.”
People grieve differently, and it is important not to allow others to dictate what is appropriate for an individual, according to Laura Ecker, MA, LPC, one of the center’s Grief & Loss coordinators.
“A lot of people don’t understand, or underestimate, how long it takes. Grief affects the whole being – brain chemistry, emotions, spirit, health. It can be draining,” said Ecker.
Loss is not limited to the death of a loved one. The devastating effects of grief may be experienced with any loss, including a divorce, a home, or a job.
“Loss and grief are at the root of a lot of issues,” said Ecker.
When Anita Smith of Twin Lake lost her mother last year, she felt that something was wrong with her because she couldn’t get past it.
“After my mother died, I found myself consumed by grief. I felt like I didn’t know who I was,” Smith said.
She was referred to the Scolnik Healing Center from a minister who works at Hackley Hospital. Shortly after she began attending the Grief Healing support group, which meets every Tuesday evening.
“I found that I wasn’t alone, and that everyone felt like they lost themselves,” said Smith, who continues to attend regularly. “Most importantly, I found that there was nothing wrong with me, I was just grieving. In this group I have found belonging, support and constructive ways of coping.”
Attending support groups can be very helpful because the bereaved can learn tools to help make their grief more manageable, according to Beth Bolthouse, MA, LPC, a grief counselor and Coordinator of Grief & Loss Support with the Mercy Health Hospice Scolnik Healing Center.
“There’s an assumption that if I go to a counselor or support group, my grief will get worse. (Grievers) will try to work things out on their own or stay busy. This can be negative later because (grief) comes out. It has to come out,” said Bolthouse. “You should be somewhere you are accepted, not alone.
“It’s important for people to keep telling their story, which is where group helps. Nothing will ever be the same again, but life can be more manageable and have more meaning.”
A ministry of Mercy Health Hospice and a program of Trinity Home Health Services, the agency also provides hospice and home care. The Center depends on donations and support from the community. It’s primary fundraiser is the Pooches & People Picnic, which is held every fall.
The Scolnik Healing Center recently started a grief healing support group in Oceana County. Meetings are 11:30 a.m. the third Wednesday of each month at the Ladder Community Center, 67 N. State Street in Shelby.
“I feel very blessed that these services are available,” said Smith, “and I recommend them every chance I get.”
The Mercy Health Hospice Scolnik Healing Center is located at 888 Terrace Street, Muskegon, MI., 49440. For more information, call (231) 672-3266. On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScolnikHealingCenter/
The Grief Groups Schedule for December, January, and February 2016-2017 is as follows:
Grief Healing (general loss of a loved one, 7 p.m. Tuesdays) — December 13, 20, 27; January 3, 10, 17, 24, 31; February 7, 14, 21, 28. In Shelby, the group meets at 11:30 a.m. the 3rd Wednesday of each month at the Ladder Community Center, 67 N. State Street, Dec. 21, Jan. 18, Feb. 15.
S.O.L.O.S. (Spouse/Partner Loss, 10 a.m. Thursdays) – December 15, 22; January 5, 12, 19, 26; February 2, 9, 16, 23.
Paws 2 Remember (Pet Loss, 6 p.m. 3rd Monday of each month) – Dec. 19, Jan. 16, Feb. 20
Moms Together (Child Loss, 9 a.m. last Saturday of each month) — Dec. 31, Jan. 28, Feb. 25.
Tips on Coping with the Holiday Blues
- Set boundaries on your own and others’ expectations. Be flexible. It’s ok to say “no.” This is not the time to worry what others think. This is the time to take care of you.
- Take time for rest and create a day of self-care. Take time for relaxation whether it be a massage, or a cup of tea. Don’t let the stress of the holidays take over—instead, do something good for yourself!
- Honor your emotional life. “To thine own self be true.” Take time to validate your feelings, and talk with a close friend or family member.
- Don’t be afraid to mention the name of your loved one and share memories. Letting others know your comfort in talking about your loved one will help them open up as well. Display photo albums, light a candle in his/her honor, make their favorite food, do something meaningful in their name.
- Do something totally different. If you need to get away to a new location or completely ignore the holiday experience, do so and give yourself permission to let go of the guilt.
- Connect to the spiritual. Some find it walking on the beach, some in a synagogue or church, some in meditation, music and prayer. Do whatever it is that brings you to the quiet place within.