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Hardy2
November 15, 2006

Hospice Offers Holiday Help


The holidays are stressful for most people. For those who have lost a loved one, that emotional pain can ratchet up exponentially. Tomorrow, East End Hospice's bereavement group will offer its annual seminar, "Coping Through The Holidays."

Sarah Zimmerman leads EEH's bereavement team. The workshops are in their tenth year, she reported, and close to 60 local people so far are expected to participate in two sessions — one in Riverhead tomorrow afternoon from 1 to 3 p.m. at Cornell Cooperative Extension on Griffing Avenue, and a second in the community room in Bridgehampton National Bank in Bridgehampton on December 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. Call 288-8400 to register.

The holidays signify family togetherness, Zimmerman pointed out. "When someone major in our life is missing, it's in our face," she said.

Additionally, the season is fraught with expectations. Society expects us to be joyful, family members expect certain traditions, and even survivors burden themselves with expectations. For example, family members wonder why a widow doesn't feel like cooking a big holiday meal, and unwittingly apply pressure. She in turns, feels bad about letting the rest of the family down.

It's completely normal for the bereaved to feel they aren't up to their usual holiday exertions. The goal of the seminar, Zimmerman said, is to give people information about the grieving process, to talk about why the holidays are especially hard and to offer tips on how to get through them. Survivors should expect some pain, the bereavement expert said, "They need to give themselves permission to grieve."

Anticipation of Christmas or Thanksgiving Day without a loved one can be worse than the actual day, Zimmerman noted. "People need to think about what they are comfortable with doing just this year." There is strength in having a plan for a certain day or particularly emotionally charged time. A meditation taught in the seminar is especially helpful for dealing with anxiety, Zimmerman said.

It's important that survivors acknowledge their loss and grief. Being mindful of the loss, and not denying it — "that's really important," Zimmerman said. "We do a candlelight ritual they can adapt and take home to their family."

From a home base in Westhampton Beach, East End Hospice provides home health care to terminally ill patients and support to their families and friends. To learn more about the bereavement group or any Hospice programs, call 288-8400.

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