Hospice plans workshops to offer help with grief during the holidays

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Staring at the remnants of once carefully wrapped gift boxes, my mother did her best to stay caught up in the excitement of Christmas morning.

She affectionately watched as my fingers tore through paper, tape and box corners, nodding at me as I smiled when I pulled out the gifts inside.

Each Christmas morning when I was a kid, my mom rejoiced in my excitement, finding pleasure in the joy each surprise gave me. When I was done and the wadded paper had been tossed into piles on the floor and opened boxes had been pushed away, she would turn toward her cup of coffee, pick up a cigarette and lean back to relax.

Her eyes often wandered away from our living room and stared off into a distant place.

As a kid, I was too young to understand the meaning of that far-off look in her eyes. As I got older, I couldn’t help but wonder why she rarely kept a smile on her face late into Christmas morning.

Finally one day when I was a teenager I got the courage to ask.

“What are you thinking about?”

She took a long, slow drag off her cigarette and blew it out in front of her.

“I miss my mom,” she told me.

As a young person, I couldn’t understand what that really meant. I wasn’t able to understand the depth of what she felt. I couldn’t grasp how a loss that to me was so long ago could linger strongly over time.

My mother was in her early 20s when she lost her mom to cancer and years later as we celebrated holidays together, it seemed her pain never really went away. She learned though, as many people who grieve the loss of loved ones do, how to deal with that sadness on a daily basis.

But it was always during the holidays when that loss seemed to make life’s journey all the more difficult. Even happy moments were overshadowed with an emptiness that couldn’t be filled.

It wasn’t until 2006 when I reached my 30s that I finally understood that loss. That year, my mother was killed in a car crash, and missing her darkened each holiday that followed.

Now, two years later I’ve learned to better deal with that pain, but I’ve yet to master my emotions. Friends who’ve also experienced such loss say it never goes away, but over time we learn how to handle it better.

This holiday season countless people in our community will struggle with the many emotions associated with grief. That’s why the folks at Lower Cape Fear Hospice & LifeCare Center want to help.

Throughout November and into early December, the nonprofit organization is offering “Loss and the Holidays” workshops. The workshops are geared toward adults experiencing holiday grief.

If you’re interested in finding out what the workshop has to offer, you’ll need to call ahead to register. There are two nearby sessions. There’s one from 10 a.m.-noon Tuesday, Dec. 2, at St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southport and another that day from 6-8 p.m. at Seaside United Methodist Church in Sunset Beach.

For more information, call 754-5356. When leaving a message, be sure to give your name and phone number and indicate which session you want to attend.

If you’re looking for additional assistance beyond the holidays, hospice’s six-week grief support groups start in January.

For more information, go to www.hospiceandlifecarecenter.org or call 796-7991.

Don’t struggle through your grief alone this holiday season. There are people out there who are willing to help and hospice wants to be one of them.