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Emanuel offers hope, help for coping with the loss of loved ones during the holidays
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Tips for coping through the holidays 

— Seek support from friends and family


— Don’t ignore the holidays


— Change holiday traditions


— Share memories of your loved one


— Write in a journal


— Exercise


— Give in the name of your loved one


— Light a candle for your loved one


— Say your loved one’s name


— Set a place for loved one at the dinner table

 Information provided by the Hospice of Emanuel

Carolyn Alhem wanted the holidays to go away after her daughter took her life in 1988. She didn’t know how she was going to make it through Christmas. Feelings of sadness, anxiousness, anger and depression clouded her thoughts every day.

And then she lost her son to cystic fibrosis over 20 years later. Again, she had to figure out a way to make it past the holiday season. She didn’t know how she was going to survive, but in the end she did.

“It is a journey — one step at a time,” Alhem said. “After a while there is light and there is hope. We will be dented by grief but not demolished.”

And dented she was but she didn’t let her grief demolish her.

For people like Alhem who have had to deal with a loss and didn’t know how they were going to survive, Hospice of Emanuel puts on a yearly Coping through the Holidays workshop that they conducted on Thursday at Monte Vista Chapel.

Over 20 people showed up seeking some tips and suggestions to help make the holidays a little easier this year without their loved ones.

“We pray to give you inspiration, touch your hearts and make your day a little brighter,” said Laura Springston, Hospice of Emanuel supervisor. “Our hope is that something today will help you.”

One of the main tips given at Thursday’s workshop was to seek support from friends and family.

“Let your family and friends know what you need,” said Sandy Ricardo, Hospice of Emanuel support services coordinator. “You need to talk about it and you need to tell your story over and over again.”

Another tip is to not avoid the holiday season.

“Holidays are right in your face wherever you go,” Ricardo said.

She suggested not ignoring the holidays but instead changing traditions. One family spent every Easter at grandma and grandpa’s house and it was a big family tradition. After the grandfather passed away, the family decided to go on a picnic every Easter and now they have a picnic every Easter.

Another family would spend Christmas at their parents’ house and after the father passed away, they decided to spend Christmas at Disneyland, which was the father’s favorite place, Ricardo said.

Putting up memorials is also a good way to remember the loved one and make their presence known.

One wife struggled to put a Christmas tree up after her husband passed away and didn’t want to decorate for Christmas, Ricardo said. But one year she put up a tree and decorated it in orange and yellow for fall because fall was her husband’s favorite time of the year.

Alhem took things that reminded her of her daughter and son and turned them into Christmas ornaments so they are with them every year, she said. Her daughter’s favorite heart necklace and her son’s practice welding piece hang on the tree every year.

When a loved one is lost, most try to avoid their feelings but Alhem suggested taking hold of those feelings to help move through the grieving process.

“Try not to avoid feelings by sleeping too much or keeping too busy or overindulging yourself,” Alhem said. “Take timeouts from holiday gatherings if you need to.”

Hospice of Emanuel also offers grief support or support groups for those in need due to the loss of a loved one.

Those interested can contact Hospice of Emanuel at 664-2550.

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.