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Dealing with grief during the holidays

December 27, 2018

The holiday season is a joyful time for most people, but for many others it’s an occasion for sadness. This is especially true for anyone grieving the loss of a loved one.

In her position as outreach supervisor for Mercy Home Health and Hospice, Kimber Nutter has helped many grieving people learn to cope better during the holidays. She says the first step in that process is to not ignore feelings of grief, but to “own them and lean into them.”

“You cannot get over grief and you cannot get around it or go under it,” Nutter says. You have to go through it.”

Grief can come in waves, she adds, and sneak up on those experiencing it at times when they are least expecting it.

“We just encourage people to have that meltdown and feel all the feelings they need to, and to continue to work their way through it,” Nutter says. “Most people are not afraid of the grief. They’re more afraid of the pain, and it will be painful. There’s no escaping that.”

Holidays are often a time for gathering with friends and loved ones, which can be especially hard for anyone who has experienced a recent loss. Some may feel better being around other people; others may experience feelings of guilt for taking part in a celebration. The key, Nutter says, is to follow your feelings.

“Some people can tolerate being around others so they accept their invitations,” she says. “But many people need a Plan B in place because they aren’t sure they can make it through an event.

“If you are the one grieving, don’t get caught up in trying to be OK because you know people are hoping you’re OK,” she said. “Allow yourself to do what you need to do. Take care of yourself.”

Nutter says there are techniques that people with a grieving family member or friend can use to recognize the loss loved one during their gathering. These include asking for a time of prayer during dinner or lighting a candle for that person. You can ask guests to share a story about the loved one, or even create an online tribute.

“People who have lost someone love to hear the name of the person they’ve lost,” she says. “They like to hear stories about their loved one or have others recall their favorite memories.”

This year, people have the opportunity to remember their loved one while also supporting Mercy’s Hospice program. For just a $10 donation, Mercy will hang the name of a loved one on its first Tree of Remembrance in the hospital’s south lobby.

“People are welcome to come to the hospital, just sit and reflect and see the name of their loved one honored publicly,” Nutter said.

Anyone interested in making a $10 donation in honor of his or her loved one can call 541-677-2384.

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