Local funeral home offers help for those dealing with holiday grief
Green Bay — 'Tis the season to be jolly, right? Well what if you are dealing with the recent loss of a loved one and being jolly is the last thing on your mind as the Christmas season draws near? How are you supposed to enjoy or simply deal with all the emotions of Christmas when you are grieving the loss of a loved one?
That was the topic of discussion earlier this month at a talk sponsored by Blaney Funeral Home at the Rock Gardens Conference Center in Green Bay. This year marked the 22nd time this free event has been offered by Blaney.
Around 50 people, many of whom were personally invited by Blaney, attended the talk. It was lead by Beth Haasl, a grief counselor at the funeral home. She noted that the Christmas holiday, particularly the first Christmas, can be difficult after the death of a family member.
Coping with the loss of a loved one during the Christmas season was the subject of a session sponsored recently by Blaney Funeral Home in Green Bay. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
"The holidays are difficult," said Haasl "because there are a lot of expectations placed on us. The season sparks us with the reminder that it's Christmas and our loved one is not with us."
She also noted that the Christmas holiday presents us with lots of expectations.
"We are supposed to be full of holiday spirit, but at times we are not able to muster any happiness," she said.
Haasl offered some practical advice for those not sure what to make of the approaching holidays. These included establishing new Christmas traditions. This might mean going to a different church for Christmas Mass or cutting back on all the holiday decorations.
Haasl explained that it is OK to not put up a Christmas tree this year. It does not mean this becomes a new tradition; just one to get through this difficult Christmas.
Also important for those grieving is to ask for and accept help. Haasl noted that it's important to surround yourself with people who understand what you are going through. If, for example, you would like someone else to bake the Christmas cookies this year, ask them, explained Haasl.
A final suggestion was to not be afraid of the memories or of talking about what you are feeling. Family and friends want to hear from you and follow your lead in mentioning the deceased. Hassl suggested that a good way to keep memories alive is to have a candle that is always lit in a prominent place in the home with a picture of your loved one next to it. This is a constant reminder that he or she is not forgotten.
At Allouez Catholic Cemetery and Chapel Mausoleum, administrator Steve Gooding agrees that the holidays can be a very difficult times for those who have lost a loved one — especially if the death was unexpected. While the Allouez cemetery does not offer any direct grief counseling or bereavement programs, they do provide references to area counselors and grief programs. Special monthly and holiday Masses for the faithfully departed are also celebrated at the cemetery's chapel.
"The holidays are filled with reminders of loved ones gone before us," noted Gooding. "These naturally become triggers for grief, whether the death occurred recently or many years past."
Gooding added that it's important for those grieving a loss during the Christmas season to let the grief occur naturally. "Do not attempt to block or ignore it, as this is not healthy for you or others around you who are suffering as well," he explained.
Sharon Lain, a Green Bay resident who attended the grieving presentation offered by Blaney Funeral Home, found it to be very helpful. She lost her husband, Joel, four years ago. Lain said that these types of talks on dealing with grief are helpful.
"It reaffirms that I am not alone in this," she said. "It is reaffirming to know that I'm doing OK in my own grieving process."
While each year the Christmas season gets easier for her, she said there is an ever-present feeling of being alone. However, she is hoping for a peaceful Christmas holiday season this year.