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Holiday grief talk offers hope

Union Leader Correspondent

December 09. 2012 9:04PM

HENNIKER - Although the holidays are a joyous time for many, others instead feel grief as memories of personal loss flood in.

But folks who are struggling to find peace this holiday season can share their experiences and learn ways to cope at a talk, "Discovering Happiness Among Holiday Grief," Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the White Birch Community Center.

Members of the Concord Regional Visiting Nurses Association will be on hand to talk about ways to make the holidays seem brighter or to just be OK with being sad.

"It's an opportunity to share a little bit of what is difficult about the holidays, and to walk away with some concrete tips on how to manage grief at this time of year," said bereavement coordinator Carmella Dow.

For many people who have lost loved ones, the biggest challenge is heading into the holidays knowing that someone who was an important part of the annual traditions is not going to be present, Dow said.

"We talk about people giving themselves permission to make the holidays what they need to be, and to do what they feel is comfortable," she said. Sometimes that means letting go of old traditions in exchange for new ones, but that requires communication with friends and family who talk about and plan those changes.

"Normal is not always better," she said. "Sometimes new rituals and traditions are what's needed."

Some people hang a stocking on the mantle for the person who has died and then have friends and family fill that stocking with slips of paper sharing warm memories and funny stories that are read aloud on Christmas morning. Others may leave an empty seat at the dinner table. There are many more ways of dealing with that emptiness, Dow said.

The talk also gives people a chance to prepare for those moments when reminders of a departed loved one hit unexpectedly, said Laurie Farmer, hospice director of social work for the Visiting Nurses. Opening a Christmas card, or walking through a store and finding the perfect gift for someone who is no longer here can cause unanticipated waves of grief.

"We offer ideas on how to deal with all of these things, and we let the participants decide what fits for them," Farmer said.

"But this event also gives people a chance to learn from each other and to connect with those who are experiencing the same feelings."

A similar program will be offered by the Visiting Nurses Association at the Hospice House in Concord on Dec. 19 at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, go to

Mont Vernon service

Those experiencing a blue Christmas are invited to Mont Vernon Congregational Church on Dec. 20 at 7 p.m., where a special service will be held for folks who need a boost this time of year.

Whether facing broken relationships, unemployment, poor health, aging parents, loneliness, depression or the seasonal sadness that comes with shorter days, the service will offer a break from the holiday blues. For more information, call 673-3500.

Health New Hampshire Holiday or vacation