Grief counselors understand and can help

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By Olympia Cianfichi, BSW / CT

You are probably reading this article because someone close to you has died or maybe you have had a different kind of loss. We wish to extend our deepest sympathy and hope we can provide reassurance that you are not alone.

The holiday season is upon us – the “most wonderful time of the year!” Time with family and friends to share traditions, customs and spiritual beliefs is becoming a reality. However, this year is different. … Perhaps you have experienced a significant loss in your life, or experienced the death of someone special. Both can leave us feeling a myriad of emotions and confusion. Our body, mind and spirit is reacting to the loss in the form of GRIEF!

Grief counselors understand the confusion grief may cause in everyday life and recognize that holiday time magnifies emotions. What can be done to “get through” this sometimes difficult time? Here are a few suggestions designed to help us survive this season.


Create a memory tree. Everyone can bring an ornament, made or purchased, in your loved one’s memory to decorate the tree.

Get family and friends together to share their memoires of your loved one. Talk about vacations, events and any special times that are most important to you. Mention your loved one’s name and talk about their favorite foods, music or special sayings they used.

Light a special candle in celebration of the memory of a life and love shared.

Hang a “special” stocking and have those who enter your home write some memories on a small piece of paper. Place into the stocking and read them whenever you wish.

Volunteer to serve a meal in memory of your loved one. Reach out to others in the form of food, clothing, or your time. Giving and caring for others can help ease the emotional pain and help in the healing process.

Make a few batches of your loved one’s favorite cookies and enjoy with tea or coffee to relax.

Decorate a small tree or place a wreath at the graveside. Join as a family, read a poem, say a prayer and have the children release balloons with their own messages tied to the string.

Have children read a holiday themed book that was special to your loved one. Do the same with favorite Bible passages to celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas or other faith tradition.


Communicate by discussing choices with family. Remember, the way in which we deal with grief may be different, talking about plans is important. For example, do we put up a tree or not? Should we have a traditional meal or plan something different? Do we attend temple, church service or Mass together?

Since we all deal with loss in our own particular way, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to grieve. Compromise is essential. Working together gives us renewed strength and hope, so choose activities that will benefit most of the family. During the holidays we feel the presence of our loved one’s absence. Finding ways to recognize and acknowledge that individual can bring positive focus to our grief and sooth the anticipation of what the holidays will be like without them, especially for children.


Our annual Tree Lighting on Nov. 9 at 6:30 p.m. celebrates the lives of loved ones who have died. Reading and music during this candlelight program help us to remember the significance of a life well lived. Fellowship and refreshments are provided.

Join VNA’s Bereavement Support Group on Nov. 17 or Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. for some extra support and conversation.

Come to our Holiday Tea – Coping with Life Changes on Nov. 18 from 1 to 3 p.m. at VNA. Fellowship, refreshments, music and education provided.

All events held at VNA Hospice 301 Delaware Ave., Olyphant. Call 570-383-5180.

Programs are open to the public with no charge.

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