Help for the holidays

Published 12:40 am Friday, November 4, 2011

The holidays can be a stressful time of year for anyone, but they can be especially difficult for those who have recently lost a loved one.

Tonight at 7 p.m., Hillside Funeral Service & Cremations will host Deborah Dunn, a licensed marriage and family therapist from the Raleigh area, for a special program, “Managing Grief during the Holiday Season.”

According to the Hospice Foundation of America, the key to coping with grief during the holidays is to find the way to cope that is right for you.

“We may dread the season — having little interest in celebrating, decorating, traveling, or pretending that we are happy at all,” said Dunn via email. “But at the same time, we don’t want to ruin the season for others.”

Dunn goes on to say that learning ways to be true to self, and the grieving process, and at the same time respect the rights of others, will relieve a great deal of holiday anxiety, especially if the circumstances may make others seem awkward.

Dunn advocates dealing with grief in a group setting because participants are encouraged not to hide their true feelings.

“Unlike our well-meaning friends and family members, who are often frustrated and possibly even worried about us if we express our grief too openly, a support group allows us to grieve at our own pace and helps us talk through the thoughts and feelings we may be having,” Dunn continued.

Dunn is a certified critical incident and grief specialist, and she worked with staff after the Virginia Tech massacre and with employees of the Army Corps of Engineers after Hurricane Katrina. She teaches trauma counseling to pastors and lay counselors dealing with people traumatized by sudden tragedy.

The program represents a renewal of the bereavement services offered by Hillside Funeral Service.

“This is going to be a more meaningful version of the program we had before,” said Joe Stringer, a Hillside funeral assistant. As part of the new program, Stringer, a vocalist and guitarist, will perform “God is Our Refuge.”

Tonight’s program, open to the public, will feature a catered reception afterward. Hillside requests that anyone planning to attend the event RSVP to 252-975-4500. Hillside Funeral Service is located at 4500 U.S. Highway 264 East, Washington.