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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (734-676-3775).