Mental Health

Dealing with grief, sadness at the holidays

2012-12-23T00:00:00Z 2012-12-23T22:31:04Z Dealing with grief, sadness at the holidaysBy Vanessa Renderman vanessa.renderman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3244 nwitimes.com

The egg nog is flowing, the lights are twinkling and words like "joy" and "jolly" are in season. But not everyone feels that joy or is in the mood for holiday festivities.

Short, gray winter days can lead to seasonal affective disorder, a mood disorder associated with depression and related to seasonal variations of light, according to Mental Health America.

It affects half a million people between September and April, peaking during December, January and February, rarely affecting those living within 30 degrees latitude of the equator. Exposure to sunlight has shown positive results in reducing symptoms, according to the organization.

Even for those not suffering from the disorder, the holidays can be tough. 

Methodist Hospitals Chaplain Calvin White facilitates a support group called Living After Loss. When the holidays roll around, the grief is amplified.

"It does get harder for the group," he said, adding, "One is to grieve in order to heal." 

The holidays are a time of get-togethers. But a grieving person can feel alone in a crowd, he said. 

"They could be surrounded by their loved ones, but yet, that spouse, that child, that parent—the fact that they're not there, they still have that sense of loss," White said. 

He suggests those experiencing loss seek out a support group and talk about their loss with family and friends. It's OK to talk about a deceased loved one during conversation at the dinner table, rather than feeling it would be inappropriate, White said. 

Sharing the good memories can be therapeutic. 

"So many others sitting around, they're just waiting for someone to talk," he said. "Then they chime in. It's therapy for all of them." 

People who don't want to talk can journal or write a letter to their loved one. Grief affects people in different ways and for different lengths of time. 

"One of the main things we stress: march to your own beat," White said. "No one knows how you're feeling but you and God. You move as you feel led." 

For those who expect to be alone this Christmas, White encourages them to seek social situations. 

"Try as hard as possible not to be by yourself," he said. 

People without family or friends should find a church or charitable group that is serving dinners. Either attend as a guest or offer to volunteer, he suggested. 

"Make connections with someone, somewhere," White said. 

Living After Loss meets from 6 to 7 p.m. Mondays on the ground level at 8701 Broadway, Merrillville, and from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in the South Auditorium Pavilion at 600 Grant St., Gary.

For more information about the Merrillville meetings, call (219) 738-5590. For more information about the Gary meetings, call (219) 886-4522.

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