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For most of us, the holiday season is a time of joy, warm homes filled with the love of family, good food and relaxed togetherness.
But for many, there is someone missing.
Grief over a loved one who died looms especially sharp during the holidays and can cast a cloud over the most joyful gatherings.
Wise County Christian Counseling Director Beverly Ross will host a seminar this Thursday designed for those who have lost someone dear to them – particularly focusing on how to deal with that grief as the holidays approach.
Ross lost her only daughter in February 2010. As the holidays approached that year, she found herself unable to face what she knew was coming.
“On Nov. 1, I took off work because I couldn’t function knowing Thanksgiving and Christmas were coming,” she said. “Just knowing the holidays were coming was very, very unsettling for me.”
As she worked through those feelings, she realized she had lost her shopping buddy, the one who helped her cook, who showed up early and set the table. All the roles her daughter had filled would now be filled by others – or simply not filled at all.
“The holidays are such a family-oriented time that anybody in your family that’s missing, it’s just spotlighted,” she said. “What I found is that a lot of that is from what we call secondary loss. That’s not just the death of the person, it’s the death of the roles they provided for us, centering around the holidays.”
On that Nov. 1, she went to lunch with a friend who handed her a book called “Jesus Calling” – and the page that was marked said, “Don’t try to predict the future. Rest with me and walk with me. Let me show you what it’s going to be like.” Ross said that became her prayer.
That experience, plus her skills as a counselor and speaker, will be focused Thursday night on helping participants work through their own loss.
“What I’d like to do Thursday night is just give people permission to be where they are, to be fully in the moment – which may mean no two moments may look the same,” she said. “Some grieving people need permission just to laugh and to feel joy. Some people need permission to be on the floor.”
That grieving is part of life, Ross said.
“This is part of the human experience,” she said. “There’s not just one emotion attached to this.”
Thursday’s seminar runs 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the fireplace room at the Decatur Church of Christ, 2601 FM 51 South, at Preskitt Road. An art activity will be included along with the discussion, where participants can make an ornament and put a note to their loved one in there, or write down some of the loved one’s characteristics.
“We want people to reach out, if they wish to, or give them permission to retreat,” Ross said. “I’m OK with that, too. Sometimes they just need somebody to say, ‘It’s OK, you don’t have to do that.'”
The idea is to be able to go on.
“I don’t want to be on the floor for the holidays,” Ross said. “I want to continue the human experience for my grandchildren, and for each other, for us.”
Everyone is welcome.