The holiday season is not always quite so holly and jolly for everyone, especially those who have experienced loss and are coping with grief.
According to psychotherapist Jonathan Eric Carroll, this time of year, with Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s on the heels of each other, has a way of heightening a sense of grief for many with missing faces at family gatherings during a time that is supposed to be joyous and celebratory.
Carroll operates his own practice, The Clinic at The Montgomery and serves as COO, HR director, and grief therapist at Haley-McGinnis Funeral Home & Crematory, providing state-licensed and specialized grief therapy for individuals, couples, and families who have lost a loved one to death.
“Grief is unimaginably palpable during the holidays,” he said. “They bring people together who love one another. Memories are powerful, and while they can bring great joy, they can also bring deep pain.”
This pain, he said, is present no matter how much time has passed.
“It may feel like for many ‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,’ but for those whose living rooms and family tables are missing members of the family cast of characters, it is most certainly not,” he said. “Every season, every birthday, anniversary, and Christmas is hard, in its own way, for the rest of our lives.”
Grief, Carroll said, becomes a regular part of life for many that have lost loved ones.
What is important, especially around the holidays when those feelings of grief can become even more prominent, is to remember that coping with loss is a marathon, not a sprint, and every day looks different.
“Understanding, accepting, and learning to love our grief is a vital part of living in the absence of someone we have lost,” he said. “Grief is, they say, the tax we pay for having loved someone; it is the where all the love goes now that our beloved is gone.”
Carroll said, as a grief therapist, his goal is to provide support to those individuals and someone to talk to, as well as advocate for those individuals in a culture that shies away from grief and many other negatively associated emotions.
“Helping grievers grieve, promoting a cultural understanding of grief, teaching people to support those who grieve, and continuing the conversation community-wide in a grief-avoidant society — that is what I do,” he said.
Additionally, he said, nobody has to be alone in their grief. There are services out there to help individuals experiencing loss cope with grief and gain support from others who might be going through similar things.
Along with offering grief counseling and comprehensive grief therapy, or aftercare bereavement with the Haley McGinnis Funeral Home & Crematory, Carroll also leads a grief support group, “Good Grief” every fourth Tuesday of each month.
For December, the meeting will be moved to the third Tuesday, Dec. 21.
The group, he said, meets at Haley McGinnis Funeral Home & Crematory at 6 p.m. and is open to anyone experiencing loss, no matter what that might entail.
The December meeting will also include a memorial service called “The Longest Night: A Service of Wholeness and Remembering.”
The service is open to the community and will be streamed live on Facebook.
Grief, Carroll said, “is not a problem to be fixed, but is an emotional [reality] that must be experienced, and that despite what others might say, being kind, gentle, and patient with one’s self in the midst of it is the most important and most sacred thing one can do.”
For those who have a friend or loved one who might be experiencing grief this holiday season, Carroll said it is important not to shy away and to let that person know he or she is remembered.
“Offering grief support has to be all about them. Reach out to them. Show up for them. Be quiet and listen to them. Sit in silence with them. Love them in this way,” he said. Grief has no timeline, so check in long after the death has passed ... you will never be reminding someone of their loss by bringing up their loved one — you’ll be reminding them that you haven’t forgotten, and that means the world.”
Christie Netherton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 270-691-7360