He Considered Himself an American: A Vietnam Veteran’s Pursuit of Citizenship

Blog Writer,  Lt. Col. David Benhoff, USMC (ret.), is Director of Capital Caring’s Veterans Affairs Program

Vietnam Veteran.  Army Ranger.  Tunnel Rat.

Three Bronze Stars.  Vietnam Gallantry Cross.

Severe PTSD.

He considered himself an American, but his country did not.

Werner Trei, an American hero, had one final wish before his Final Deployment.  American Citizenship.

In his own words, “It would mean the world to me.”

 

Wow.  Think about that.  I mean really think about that.  Quite literally, his final wish.  I fear that many of the younger generation in our country couldn’t begin to come close to appreciating this.  But I digress.

Hopefully I’ve captured your attention with that somewhat less-than-conventional lead and you’ll indulge me in a little background—and update.

Werner Trei, now 71 and in ill health, was a German immigrant at the age of 2.  So if I’ve done my math correctly, (hopefully I paid close enough attention in “Math for Marines”) that means he left Germany around 1950.  Only five years after the end of WWII.  If anyone would have an understanding of freedom and appreciation for freedom, it would likely be someone whose family came from a country just freed from the devastation of a fascist government.

Perhaps this is why, upon receiving his draft notice after graduation from high school here in the United States, he didn’t even ponder using his lack of citizenship as an excuse to not serve.  He saw it his duty.  Think about that as well—especially given less than 1 percent of the population today is willing to serve.

But despite his service, and attempting to gain citizenship over the years since, he had been unsuccessful.  As luck (or Providence, maybe) would have it, that would not be the end of the story.

Enter Carrie Sladek, of the Peaks Care Center in Longmont, Colorado.  She began helping him in pursuit of this most noble dying wish—to include helping him study for the citizenship test.

However, there was great concern—given his failing health—that he would not live to see that day.  At some point, the press picked up this story, which is how I became aware.  And rather than go into more detail—which I think would just take away from the story and add nothing—let me just insert an e-mail Carrie sent on May 17, 2019, at the end of this quest:

“I want to thank you for reaching out to me and my Veteran.  The USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) came in a couple hours ago and did his Naturalization.

My Veteran is so very happy and we Thank Everyone for all they did.  I am proud of the response that our nation came together, sending letters and calling representatives, congressman, and senators.  The People made this lifelong dream happen for one of our Veterans.”

So what’s the moral of this story?

On the grand scale, freedom isn’t free.  And freedom isn’t forever.

As Thomas Jefferson eloquently stated, “The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance.”

We need to not forget the principles upon which our nation was born.  And we need Americans willing to take up arms to defend these principles. I don’t know about you, but less than 1 percent doing so is a shocking statistic.  Werner was willing, despite not even having the benefits of citizenship—until his final hours.

On the personal level, the moral is just as Carrie exemplified in her email, “…the people made his lifelong dream happen for one of our veterans.”

As our veterans age and find themselves in need, we need to step up—as they stepped up for us.  The need is overwhelming, and mostly unknown.

Get involved.  Whether that be volunteering and spending time with a veteran patient, “adopting” a veteran neighbor and getting him or her to medical appointments, or helping a veteran navigate the confusing array of possible benefits that might be of help.  There are endless ways to help.

You will be paid back several fold what you put into the endeavor you pursue just knowing you helped someone in need.  As the poet John Holmes said, “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”

Learn more about Capital Caring’s Veteran’s Impact Program here.

Note from Editor: Some information and quotes were included in the following news article :

https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/05/02/decorated-vietnam-veteran-seeks-citizenship-end-life-draws-near.html

 

 

 

PTSD Awareness and Community Support

Grief over loss affects each of us in different ways. When it’s due to the death of a loved one, it may feel traumatic, disrupting our everyday life – from relationships to work and school.

When our response includes severe anxiety, that’s part of how post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined. While most often associated with veterans, PTSD affects others, too.

With National PTSD Awareness Day observed on June 27, it’s a good time to learn more about Capital Caring resources and how we help people of all ages in our community cope with loss, trauma and death.

As a community-based non-profit, we offer support to more than the individuals and families who receive our hospice care. If you live in one of Capital Caring’s neighborhoods and need grief support, we’re here to help. You don’t need to be one of our hospice patients and our services are free of charge.

Serving our community is part of our mission. Our commitment and how we share our expertise are illustrated by the programs Capital Caring has developed especially for children and teens. We help individuals, groups and even entire schools.

How We Help the Kids in our Community

Children experience the death of a close loved one in different ways than adults. It’s an emotional journey and feelings of loss and grief may be hard to communicate and share. Depression and anxiety, withdrawal, social difficulties, and a decline in academic performance are all common reactions. Young people may also have problems adjusting to school after a loss.

The sheer number of children affected by death underscores why help is needed:

  • Most children will experience the death of a family member or friend by the time they complete high school
  • 5% will lose a parent by the time they are 16
  • Nearly 40% will experience the death of a peer
  • 20% will witness a death

In the areas we serve, as many as 4,000 children will need significant grief support. For local school personnel, this means they are highly likely to encounter a grieving student almost every day.

Unfortunately, despite a well-documented need, there are few programs in our community offering bereavement support groups and active, creative outlets to help children and teens deal with their grief. The cost of individual and family counseling – even with insurance coverage – makes it an unaffordable option for many.

That’s why we’ve established a school-based-program – Caring Circles. The six-week grief support group is designed to help children process their grief. When trauma is part of their experience, we make a referral to outside counselors.

The school setting is effective – it’s familiar, children spend most of their time in school, and problems due to loss can be identified and helped by school counselors. A school-based program also allows a large number of students to receive supportive services and be monitored over time.

In our program, students struggling with the death of a close loved one learn to share their emotions. Music, art, storytelling and movement, encourage children in a positive, active environment. Here, they learn to process their grief along with peers who have also experienced loss, in the familiarity of their own school.

Caring Circles is led by our counselors working alongside school counselors, at no cost to families or the schools.

Our support for children and families doesn’t, however, end with our six-week program: we offer other grief support programs and in some cases, our bereavement counselor may meet with the student and family to provide additional needed support.

Educational information is also sent home to parents including how to identify symptoms of grief and tips on how parents can help their children through the process.

Direct to School Assistance

Capital Caring directly supports school administrators, teachers and crisis team members, too. We offer guidelines on how to respond to both student and staff needs when a personal loss affects one person, a few, or an entire school.

Our assistance to schools includes:

  • Basic information on children’s bereavement
  • How to talk to a child and family dealing with loss
  • How a school can play a role in healing
  • The protocol suggested for letters to a school community dealing with a death

We know we make a difference: many school counselors call, telling us they feel ill-equipped to handle the issues that arise from loss experienced by their students.

In 2018 alone, we served 220 children in 14 schools.

Capital Caring also offers Point of Hope Camp for kids who have experienced loss. Held annually in several of our Capital Caring neighborhoods, this half-day camp engages kids and their peers in fun activities. With expert staff — social workers, counselors and chaplains — they work through the grief process by building trust, self-esteem and skills to cope with their recent loss.

A Variety of Support to Help with Loss

We know well from our decades of experience that everyone grieves in their own unique way, so we’ve developed a variety of support programs to help those dealing with loss. All services are available to our community members at no charge.

Capital Caring resources, individual and family counseling, support groups and local workshops are designed for all ages and interests. There are group walks in nature, music and dance sessions, scrapbooking to preserve memories, a return-to-work workshop and a book group for widows.

Our hope is that among all the services and programs we’ve developed, there’s something that will help you and your loved ones on your emotional journey as you move from grief to positive memories.

 

To learn more about specific support groups and workshops, click here.

For more information about grief counseling services, please click here.

 

Caring for Alzheimer’s Patients

CARING FOR ALZHEIMER’S PATIENTS What You Need to Know

Despite the high awareness of Alzheimer’s these days, there’s still a lot of confusion about the condition. Briefly, Alzheimer’s is the most common and recognized form of dementia, affecting approximately 5.8 million Americans today.  Alzheimer’s is not really a disease, but a range of symptoms caused by damage to the brain cells. As such, it may spring from other diseases of the brain such as Parkinson’s Disease and Huntington’s Disease. Or, it may arise in someone who has had multiple strokes or other advanced illnesses such as heart disease or COPD.

Just as there is no single cause for Alzheimer’s, there is also no single path for how its symptoms begin and progress—everyone is different. For some people, the journey to late stage dementia may take years, while others decline quickly. A person with dementia may also appear to get better at times, only to deteriorate again.

What is known, however, is that Alzheimer’s or dementia is a primary cause for admission to hospice, accounting for 18 percent of patients—nearly one in five, according to the latest data from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Common Signs of Alzheimer’s

Memory loss is the most common symptom of Alzheimer’s and initially, may simply look like aging—forgetting what you’re doing, misplacing the house keys, and more. But when problems with memory, thinking and behavior begin to disrupt life’s daily activities, it’s time to consult a doctor.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, if at least two of the following mental functions are significantly impaired, the issue can be considered dementia:

  • Memory
  • Communication and language
  • Ability to focus and pay attention
  • Reasoning and judgment
  • Visual perception

However, Alzheimer’s can quickly progress to a point where all involved would likely benefit from extra help.  You know it’s time to consult with a hospice professional when your family member with Alzheimer’s:

  • Can say only a few words
  • Can no longer walk and may be bed-bound
  • Is totally dependent on others for eating, dressing and grooming
  • Shows signs of severe anxiety

Early detection is key to giving you and your loved one the utmost benefit from treatment and the time to define what “quality of life” looks like moving forward. It also provides the opportunity to be proactive. All too often, dementia care is reduced to frequent trips to the Emergency Room and hospitalization when a problem becomes acute.

Capital Caring can provide more condition specific information and may also perform an evaluation at the request of you or your doctor. We can help determine if hospice care for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is the right care option and if so, the right time to enter hospice care.

Caring for the Alzheimer’s Patient

There’s no doubt caring for a loved one in their last stage of life is stressful; yet caring for someone with Alzheimer’s may add to the challenge. Your loved one may have changed into someone different from the person you have always known. He or she may experience severe agitation, stress, anxiety and emotional instability that is new to both of you and hard to deal with.

That’s where hospice can really make a difference. Research shows that Alzheimer’s patients with hospice care have better pain control, are less likely to die in a hospital, and their families have greater satisfaction with end-of-life care.

That’s because hospice provides comfort, warmth, kindness, and the peaceful environment dementia patients need. While certain aspects of one’s personality are lost to Alzheimer’s, emotions remain with the affected patient long afterwards. Expert hospice care responds to those emotions, and the dementia patient in turn, responds to the specialized care and attention.

In short, we help nurture what remains.

How Capital Caring Can Help You

The staff at Capital Caring are knowledgeable about common problems and symptoms that often occur in patients with advanced Alzheimer’s and dementia. This expertise serves both the person affected and family/caregivers. We can help families understand how to best manage care, what to expect in the last stages of Alzheimer’s, and also provide support through the last phase of life.

For example, Capital Caring clinicians and aides know how to “read” patients who often can no longer verbally express themselves. We can identify visible signs of pain and discomfort and teach family members and caregivers how to recognize these expressions in order to make the patient more comfortable.

Our goal is to create a supportive and comforting care plan that meets the comprehensive needs of you and your loved one as you deal with Alzheimer’s and dementia. We offer meaningful support for your unique situation, addressing medical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs including grief counseling.

Our team of hospice experts will work with you and the other medical providers you already have to provide daily assistance and care that emphasizes pain control and quality of life—as you and your loved one have defined it—in any setting your family member calls home.

Ultimately, hospice can help both you and your loved one as everyone deals with the changes that Alzheimer’s, dementia and the last phase of life bring about. Hospice is about life, and the team works to make each day as good as possible…for every patient and family in our care.

1-year-old Graduates from Hospice Care

Summer is the season for high school and college commencement ceremonies, and Kenya and her son Bryson are celebrating a unique graduation. One-year-old Bryson has graduated from hospice care.

Bryson had been a patient in the Capital Caring pediatric hospice and palliative program in Washington, D.C., since he was born.  He experienced some trauma during birth that led to brain damage and he has spent much of his young life in the hospital.

“It was hard to explain to my friends that I have a baby but he’s was not with me; he was usually in the hospital,”  Kenya remembered as she bobbled Bryson from hip to hip.

“They told me he wouldn’t make it when we took him off the machines. I held him one last time and left the hospital. They called me a day later and told me he was still breathing on his own and to come back and hold him.”

Surrounding Families with Care and Support
With specialized post-natal care, Capital Caring is helping families sort through the  choices of services and treatments and providing assistance to families as they cope with the complex issues resulting from a serious illness or condition.

Throughout Bryson’s time in hospice care, our expert team was with him and his mother every step of the way – whether was giving him medication or helping Kenya talk through her situation.

“They let me talk it out and say what I needed to say. I knew that they were here for us day or night,” Kenya said.

During the holidays in 2018, Bryson’s condition started to improve. His hospitalizations decreased and his strength increased as he began developing into a strong baby boy. Right around his first birthday, Baby Bryson was discharged from Capital Caring hospice as his condition no longer met terms for him to receive hospice care.

While the Capital Caring team misses the frequent interactions with him, we are thrilled that he continues to thrive and defy all the medical predictions of his condition.

Kenya knows Capital Caring will still be here to support them both if things change, but our hope is that Baby Bryson continues to thrive and live a long, healthy life.

Baby Bryson is shown below with his mom on his first birthday.

Learn more about Capital Caring’s Children’s Program.

Local Nonagenarian Sets an Example for Young and Old Alike

May is Older Americans Month, an observance that provides an opportunity for all of us to acknowledge the contributions of older individuals. 

Every Wednesday at 7 a.m., Bernice Dinion leaves her home in the southernmost region of Fairfax County and joins throngs of other drivers on I-95. Yet unlike most of her fellow travelers, Bernice’s 40-mile round trip is a labor of love, not a professional obligation.

Bernice, who just turned 90 in January, is a volunteer at Capital Caring, the region’s leading nonprofit provider of hospice and palliative care and grief counseling services. And ever since she retired in 1994, she’s been contributing her time and talents to help nurses and other staff provide compassionate care for patients with advanced illness and their family members.

Altogether, she has spent 24 years as an extra set of hands at the hospice, which relies upon a cadre of volunteers to help fulfill its mission. Capital Caring estimates Bernice has logged more than 5,300 hours doing everything from changing bed linens to sitting and talking with patients, from filling water pitchers to consoling loved ones.

The need for such care is great, as underscored by the following facts:

  • An estimated 43.5 million adults in the United States have provided unpaid care to an adult or a child in the prior 12 months.
  • One in eight full-time workers in the U.S. are caregivers.
  • The average age of the caregiver is 49 years old and the majority are female (60%).

Looking back on her years of experience in caring for others, Bernice sums it up best. “To me, the end of life is just as important as the beginning. You need someone to be around, to be with you. I just can’t imagine what life was like before hospice care.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Capital Caring, visit: https://www.capitalcaring.org/get-involved/become-a-volunteer/

A Memorial Day Reflection

From the heart

What Memorial Day Truly Means 

As we observe Military Appreciation Week and the upcoming Memorial Day Holiday, Lt. Col. David Benhoff, USMC (ret.) and Director, Capital Caring’s Veterans Affairs Program shares his personal Memorial Day reflection.

As I sit here pondering (struggling, really) what exactly to write, it occurred to me to just speak from the heart.  I’m not a scholar, or an historian, and certainly do not want this to read in such a way. Rather, I want this to be truly heartfelt.  I think that is the best way to memorialize not only our fallen, but all veterans—including and especially those whom we have the honor to serve.

While Memorial Day began as far back as the Civil War, it has evolved over time to encompass much more.  Memorial Day honors the fallen, of course, and rightly so.  They paid the ultimate sacrifice, and remembrance is really all we can offer them now as well as looking out for their families. Many of the citations for bravery that accompany the Medal of Honor, Silver Star, and Bronze Star, make it clear they gave their lives, or came very close to doing so, looking after the men and women to their left and right.  Not for some national policy originating from thousands of miles away, and certainly not for personal glory.  They did it solely for their comrades. They were willing to give the full measure simply out of love for their fellow shipmates and soldiers. From the heart.

As we honor the fallen, we are also looking out for their comrades-in-arms who have landed, not on a beach, but in our care. Capital Caring is proud to serve the many veterans and their families within our community covering Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia.

So, let us resolve to remember the fallen by honoring their brothers and sisters who came back—and are now facing their Last Deployment.  All veterans, even those who never deployed to combat, risked it all.  By swearing the oath, pulling on their boots, and slinging that rifle over their shoulder they put their life on the line for their country with their willingness to run toward the sound of the guns, not away.

And, let us resolve to do this each and every day—not just this one day a year.  The fallen have no more days to give.  Let us stand in the gap left when they departed us, and look out for their brothers and sisters as best we can.  Until the bugler plays the sweet and heart-wrenching notes of taps, and the flag is folded.

Thanks for your service!

Learn more about Capital Caring’s Veteran’s Impact Program here.

Families and Friends Put the “Care” in Caregiving

Celebrating Caregivers during Older Americans Month

Since 1963—more than 50 years ago!—Americans have recognized May as Older Americans Month. The observance provides an opportunity for all of us to acknowledge the contributions of older individuals – past and present. In fact, there are events, ceremonies and fairs in honor of our older citizens all across the country. (Closer to home, Capital Caring is doing our part with an expo designed to celebrate older Americans and their caretakers, as you’ll see below.)

The designation and recognition is especially important as America continues to age. No matter where we are on the age spectrum, our role with our families – whether we are related or connected through years of friendship – may eventually involve more responsibilities and different relationships. If a loved one faces a serious chronic condition or advanced illness, the title of “caregiver” may be added to that of family member or friend.

A caregiver may be a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor–anyone who assists another, usually at home. Functions are often broad, ranging from being a companion to a decision-maker or health care advocate to financial manager, and much more.

The nature of the caregiver’s role is captured by this year’s theme for Older Americans Month: Connect, Create, Contribute — establishing or deepening connection, creating a supportive, caring environment and contributing to the quality of life, no matter at what stage.

A few key facts reveal how critical all caregivers are to individuals, families and the community:

  • An estimated 44 million people serve as unpaid caregivers in the United States each year.
  • Sixty-six percent of caregivers are female: the average caregiver is a 49-year-old woman who works outside the home and provides 20 hours per week of unpaid care to her mother.
  • Sixty-five percent of seniors with advanced care needs rely exclusively on family and friends for assistance. Another 30% supplement family care with paid assistance.
  • The estimated annual value of total unpaid assistance is estimated to be at least $306 billion. That’s nearly double the combined cost of home healthcare and nursing home care.

At Capital Caring, we know well the value of every caregiver. In fact, sometimes that person is the spouse or partner who is also a senior. That’s why our daily support of patients extends to families and caregivers as part of our mission to offer comfort and enhance quality of life.

Our support services are comprehensive and include practical help such as bringing everything needed to the home — a hospital bed, oxygen, medications and more.

We also understand that dealing with the advanced illness of a loved one and serving as a caregiver can be physically and emotionally challenging and stressful. We offer coaching to make sure every caregiver is comfortable in their role. Capital Caring also offers counseling, pastoral counseling and temporary respite care when the caregiver needs a break..

Once our care for advanced illness begins, a significant part of the care burden can be lifted or shared. Our care team of doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, counselors and volunteers provide physical, emotional and spiritual support allowing you to focus on your loved one.

No matter who the Older American is in your life – including you! – the month of May is a time to celebrate and appreciate their contributions. And, if you’re a caregiver, please make sure to acknowledge your own role for what a difference you make.

Celebrating Local Caregivers

On May 11, Capital Caring will celebrate local family caregivers with a free day filled with appreciation, information and advice. Free respite care is available upon request.

Hosted in partnership with AARP and Virginia Hospital Center, the Expo will feature speakers on such topics as Alzheimer’s and dementia, caring for someone with chronic pain, navigating the health care system, and advance care planning.

Expo participants include more than 35 local experts in home care, elder law, financial planning, and other caregiver services. Free massages, health screenings and refreshments will also be available. To learn more and/or register, click here.

Among the attendees we expect to see at our Caregiving Expo are volunteers who help us deliver the best care and support possible. Included in the group of those who volunteer with Capital Caring — making a commitment to connect, create and contribute — are individuals who are also “Older Americans.”

Coping with Grief During the Spring

By Sara Moore Kerai, MA, LPC, Grief Counselor, Capital Caring, Washington, D.C.

What comes to mind when you contemplate the transition from winter to spring?

Spring is often associated with rebirth, relief, new life, and a sense of hopefulness. But for those who are grieving, the spring can be a bittersweet and painful season, triggering painful reminders of “this time last year,” rather than happy anticipation.

Mother’s Day is a hallmark of spring, but for my grief counseling clients who are grieving the death of a mother, or for mothers grieving the death of a child, it is one of the most difficult holidays of the entire year.  Also, the perceived pressure to tackle spring cleaning, which might include sorting through and donating a loved one’s clothing and possessions, can add to the stress of the change of seasons.

However, springtime also provides many opportunities for self-care, which is an important component in healing from a loss.

Below are helpful tips for healing, self-care activities and information about Capital Caring’s grief support groups:

  • Participating in activities such as walking, bicycle riding, meditative hikes, putting your toes in the green grass, planting, gardening, or going to a yoga or dance class, improves the mind-body connection.
  • Research shows that focusing on activities involving our five senses and our bodies, such as paying attention to our walking steps, noticing the sun on our skin, or feeling the grass beneath our feet, helps our brains recover from stressful events.

Capital Caring grief counselors are offering several programs to support you in your grief journey this spring, including spring strolls and mindfulness walks in Arlington and Alexandria; Mother Loss Workshops in Washington. D.C.  and Largo, Maryland; and many other support groups and programs for those who are grieving the death of a loved one.

Please join us for a moment of healing and self-care.  Learn more about our grief support groups and other programs here.

 

Let’s Talk: How To Tell Your Story with the Ending You Want  

We all tell at least one story, and usually many more, that describes major life events, reflects who we are, and reveals what’s important to us. Typically, we share these with family and friends – sometimes over and over again, as they may remind us!

Yet most of us leave out a key element of our own narrative — how we hope our story will end.

 

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day an occasion to encourage you to start the conversation that can affect how you spend your final days. It begins by learning how to share your values and preferences for advanced illness and end-of-life care. And it ends with a guide for family members, loved ones and caregivers that illustrates what you want, and how to follow your wishes.

You don’t have to be old or sick to start the conversation. In fact, the best time to talk about your preferences is before the need arises.

Having the conversation about end-of-life care

To help you get started, Capital Caring offers some valuable resources available on our website (https://www.capitalcaring.org/campaigns/advance-directives/).

The resources cover how to think about your values and preferences, how to discuss them with others and how to complete an advance care directive, a legal guide to implement your wishes.

A majority of people – according to research – strongly believe this is an issue they should deal with. However, the gap between thought and deed is wide:

  • 90% of Americans say that talking about their end-of-life care wishes is important, yet only 27% of people are actually having these conversations;
  • 60% say it is extremely important not to burden their family with such decisions, yet 56% have not communicated their end-of-life wishes;
  • 82% say it’s important to put their wishes in writing, but only 23% have actually done it.

While these are not easy discussions, having the conversation and committing your preferences to paper can make the situation easier for yourself, your family and caregivers when the time comes.

Resources you’ll need to document your care preferences

An advance directive can also comfort loved ones dealing with stress, grief and depression by knowing that they honored your last requests.

Capital Caring provides the resources you’ll need to document your care preferences, including “Five Wishes” – the country’s most popular living will – which meets the legal requirements for 42 states including Virginia and Maryland. If you live in Washington D.C., you’ll need to use this form. You can also request a printed version of the Five Wishes document.

Dr. Christopher Pile talks about the importance of Advance Care Planning

Tools and resources for our community 

Our Capital Caring team will also be out in the community in April talking about the importance of advance care planning, advance directives, end-of-life care and what you can do to make the transitions easier and more comfortable for everyone involved—patients, family members, caregivers and medical professionals. We’ll be visiting assisted living centers/senior centers, health facilities, employers, and faith communities. If you or your organization would like to learn more – either where to attend a talk or to arrange a presentation, please email: marketing@capitalcaring.org.

We know these are challenging issues, but day in and day out, Capital Caring is committed to helping you tell and end your story in just the way you want, wherever you are in your healthcare journey.

 

Coping with Grief During the Holidays

As the winter holidays approach, we are bombarded with messages that this will be a season of joy, peace, and love.

And yet for those who are grieving, any holiday can be a time of greater sadness, stress, and isolation.  Wonderful memories of happy times may bring pain and tears now, or, if the holidays have always been a difficult time, there may be guilt or regret.  While those around us may be in festive spirits, we may be reminded even more of our loved one who will not be celebrating with us.  We may lack the energy or interest to plan or attend holiday events.  There may be family conflicts related to where and how the holiday will take place.  Many questions and fears may arise, such as:

  • Who will cut the turkey?
  • What if I start to cry in the middle of dinner?
  • What if I just don’t want to celebrate this year?
  • How will I manage to just cope with getting through the day?

It is important for those who grieve to recognize limitations—we are not functioning at normal capacity and must reevaluate our priorities.  This means that we must:

  • Realize that we have physical and emotional limitations.
  • Know that there is no right or wrong way to respond.
  • Set limits with others.
  • Recognize that the absence of a loved one will be painful no matter what we do, and thus allow for the pain.
  • Remember that it is natural and appropriate to miss someone we love.

Discuss and plan ahead with family and friends.  Knowing what to expect will reduce everyone’s anxiety.

Learn about Capital Caring Support Groups here.