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5 Tips for Handling Grief During the Holidays

Physician will share his personal journey through grief after losing his wife to cancer at free community event.

Holidays are a special challenge for people who have experienced the loss of a loved one. While others are celebrating and shopping, people who are grieving may be feeling lost, alone, confused and often depressed. Grieving -which is natural and necessary- intensifies during the holiday season.  Family and friends want to be helpful but often are not sure what to say or do.

Mary Jamerino, LMSW, ACSW, grief expert and bereavement counselor, will discuss Coping with the Holidays and helpful tips  at a special free community presentation on Tuesday, Dec. 11 beginning at 7 p.m. at  A. J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Home, 2600 Crooks Road (between Maple and Big Beaver) in Troy. Reservations are recommended but not required. Call: 248 362-2500 or email: DesmondTroy@desmondfuneralhome.com.

Jamerino will be joined by Dr. William Miles, a psychiatrist, whose life was shattered when his wife, a pathologist, was diagnosed with cancer and died within three months, leaving him suddenly alone in a new city with no support system.

“My wife and I had just moved from Chicago so that she could take on her dream job as an associate dean of the new Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine,” says Miles. “Michele was diagnosed in February and died in June. I was lost. I had no family here and didn’t know anybody. I was living one day at a time for the first six months. I was in pure survival mode.”

What helped Miles to survive was understanding that he had to embrace his grief, talk to other people, and give himself time to grieve.

“You have to feel your grief. If you try to handle it alone or deny your feelings, you are in trouble. It is essential for me to talk about my loss. Don’t think you should feel any particular way. I had a profound sense of disappointment that Michele would never see the medical school open. I was angry. Give yourself time. Today I am searching for meaning in her suffering and mine.”

Jamerino counsels people like Miles to talk openly about their loss and create a path that is personally helpful for their individual needs. Grief, she explains, takes courage. Grief is a journey that takes a lot of time and endurance especially during the holidays.

“Talk about your feelings. Talk about plans for the holidays including changing or keeping traditions, “ says Jamerino. “Remember, what you decide to do this year can be changed next year.”

Here are some five helpful tips for handling grief during the holidays.

  • Talk. Talk honestly about your feelings. Talk about the deceased, your memories and the happy times. Sometimes, you need to initiate the conversation.
  • Communicate with each other. Sometimes a hug is all that is needed.
  • Simplify the holiday season. Avoid planning every detail.
  • Remember: time does heal. Others have successfully rebuilt their lives after a loss, and although it is never easy, you can too.
  • Be thankful for the blessings of family and friends.

Jamerino offers this advice for relatives, friend or co-worker wanting to comfort someone that is grieving:

  • Call them. Leave a message saying that you are thinking of them and ready to help them with their holiday traditions such as shopping or preparing a special dish.
  • Send a card letting them know you care about them.
  • This holiday season some families – from the young grandchildren to the older parents and friends - will write down and then share memories of the deceased making sure that their loved one always has a place in their minds and hearts. 

Mary Jamerino, L.M.S.W., A.C.S.W., is a licensed social worker and author. To register for the Dec. 11 presentation or for additional grief resources call A. J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Directors at 248-362-2500 or visit www.DesmondFuneralHome.com.

Source: A. J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Home

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