Tag Archives: grief

Preparing For The Holidays

Preparing For The Holidays: For Those Who Grieve

Holidays can be tough after losing someone, especially during the first year since their passing.  So many adjustments must be made every day; but, as the holidays approach the challenges can be overwhelming.

On Thursday evening, November 10, from 7-9 p.m. we are hosting a seminar at the Church of Christ of St. Joseph entitled “Preparing for the Holidays.” Our purpose is to provide a place and time where we can share stories, tears, and ideas for making it through the tough times ahead.

The seminar is free and open to anyone who grieves.  If you know of someone who may find this time helpful please invite them to come with you so they won’t have to come alone.

The seminar will be led and facilitated by Stephen Pylkas and Russel Hicks, both of whom have experience in leading grief groups and guiding discussion.

A grief support group will be available through the holiday season.  A sign-up sheet will be offered at the seminar.

For more information, to let us know of your interest or for any questions or comments, please fill out the form below and Steve will reply.  Registration is not necessary so you can wait until the last minute to decide.


Stephen “Steve” Pylkas is the minister of the Church of Christ of St. Joseph where he also has his private practice (Southshore Counseling, LLC) as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.



Since losing his wife, Carol Jean Hicks, to cancer in 2008, Russell Hicks has led grief groups at Lori’s Place for several years.



Grief & Marriage and Family Therapy

Talking about grief counseling with a licensed marriage and family therapist during the holiday season may seem strange.  This is partly because this time of year is such a joyous time for most of us.  Between the holiday meals, shopping, and gift-giving, we appreciate this season of good-will, smiles, parties and celebrations.  Caught up in the festivities we often have difficulty attending to the silent sadness that fills the hearts of many who have been forced to deal with tragic losses.

For many the holiday season can be one of the loneliest times of the year.  While they want to be a part of the festivities, those who are grieving feel many mixed messages.  Perhaps they feel that no one wants to hear of their sadness right now.  Certainly, they have no interest in burdening others with their pain at a time when their friends and family have every reason to be happy and excited about the season.  Perhaps they just don’t want to pretend to be happy when, in reality, they are overwhelmed with sadness.

Consequently, many grieving people spend the holidays isolated either at home or in their apartment.  At other times they may be found in the midst of anonymous crowds such as in the mall or local department store…places where they can be with people but they don’t have to talk to anyone.  Attending worship services can be especially difficult as the focus on the reasons for the season strike at the heart of faith, belief and conviction…that were shared with a loved one who is no longer here.  Parties and family dinners can compound the intensity of the sense of loss as families adjust to the empty spot at the table, the gifts that won’t be under the tree this year and the traditions that now seem hollow.

It is at times like these that Marriage and Family Therapists can be of special assistance for several reasons.  First, aware that the holidays will be tough for some, now may be the best time to open up and talk now that extended family members are in town.  Just spending time talking about painful feelings can be traumatic for families without some assistance.

Second, Marriage and Family Therapists specialize in addressing family communication patterns and behaviors that hold the potential–if not managed well–to flare into negative exchanges and hurt feelings.  By helping families establish guidelines and set boundaries the probability for navigating through the holidays in a positive way–though often painful–is increased.

Third, having a therapist available can provide a place where family members can speak of the intensity of their emotion without overwhelming other family members who are working hard to create a happy holiday atmosphere.  Blowing off emotional steam, hitting proverbial reset buttons and establishing strategies for addressing flash points in the family can go a long way towards making family events more safe for everyone.

Finally, A Marriage and Family Therapist has broad, expert experience with a variety of families and the situations they must address.  Strategically, when the time is right, he or she can offer suggestions for helping preserve memories, honor missing family members and respect the feelings of those who are grieving.

Grief is a complex experience dependent upon an incredible diversity of both predictable and unpredictable factors.  The goal is to channel our grief into avenues that create opportunities for healing and growth.  While many families are able to work through the holidays with balance and sensitivity, for others this can be especially difficult and fraught with difficulties. If those intense times are not handled well the injury and hurt can compound the challenges being faced by those who are grieving.

Perhaps now would be a good time to schedule a free session with Steve at Southshore Counseling, LLC.  He will be able to briefly assess the potential for working through the holidays and offer a plan for emerging with hope.  Why not drop him an email (steve@southshorecounselor.com) or by phone (734-676-3775).


Grief, Loss & Marriage and Family Therapy

When we exclaim “Happy Holidays!” to one another we are assuming that the holidays are happy times for others.  Yet, we all realize that the this time of year can be very challenging times for people for a variety of reasons.  Necessary, unavoidable losses in life can present real hurdles to overcome during the holidays.

Death of a Loved One can be devastating to a family, whenever it happens; but, during the holidays the intensity of the grief can be magnified.  Often we think of older people who were the center of the family who will no longer prepare the Thanksgiving meal or pass out presents from under the tree.  This is also a time to remember those who have miscarried or lost infants or young children.  The finality of death can be brutal during those first times through traditional holidays without their loved one.

Separation and Divorce can impose a fog of depression upon normally happy times for families and relatives.  When children are involved the holidays can often mean scheduled qui pro quo arrangements to assure equitable opportunities to be with different families where animosities and hurt feelings can overrule the hope for peace and mutual affection.  The grief that infuses the breakup of a family and its seasonal traditions is sometimes ignored or minimized so that everyone else can pretend everything is just fine.

The Loss of a Job can compound the grief experience of a family during the holidays because of the economic impact and the difficulty of looking for work in a depressed economy.  At the same time there are valiant attempts to be optimistic, keep their spirits high, to weather through the storms and to welcome change.  Nonetheless, when unemployment is extended and benefits run out the family may have to prepare for further losses as houses foreclose, cars go back to the dealers and bankruptcy becomes the only option to keep the creditors at bay.

Each family is unique in its adjustment to necessary losses and sometimes a therapist can help over the specially difficult transition points along the way.  In solution-focused marriage and family therapy we quickly define the goal and move at the family’s pace to achieve it so the family can move through their transitions.  The key is the transitions as families evolve beyond their losses and begin learning how to exist with the new constellation of relationships and responsibilities.

Whatever the challenge, Marriage and Family Therapists are specially trained to work with family members…in whole or in part…to work through the changes and move on to accepting the reality of their loss and lay out a plan for the future.

During the holidays, Stephen’s hours will be extended through weekends (including Sunday afternoon and evenings) in order to accommodate family members with conflicting work schedules.  Availability begins the weekend of November 17-18 and continues on into the new year as needed.  For more information you may confidentially contact Stephen by email at steve@southshorecounselor.com or by phone at