There’s no place like “HOPE” for the Holidays.

The first time a loved one is absent for the holidays a griever may conclude that all of the progress and healing that has taken place has vanished.

Starting with Thanksgiving and through New Year’s are the days on which mourners are reminded of loss by the painful absence of their loved one. Feelings of longing and sadness are especially acute this time of year.

In our culture there is a strong expectation of a “Norman Rockwell” holiday with loved ones harmoniously gathered around the hearth. This expectation burdens many individuals, not just those who are mourning.

We are bombarded with holiday music, decorations, cards, parties etc.   There is no avoiding it.

For this reason I say: There is no place like “HOPE” for the holidays. What a blessing it is to have a group of people with whom there is no pressure to act jolly.

Although each person at Hope connection has a different story, there is a bond like no other that links everyone together.

A group member said at one of our last meetings: “I know when I come here I belong.  No one will judge me… we’re all in the same boat.” Knowing that others have survived equally devastating experiences gives us courage and strength.

It is very important during this season to reach out to our fellow group members. As we nurture these relationships we feel less isolated and alone. For some, reaching out can be difficult. I recommend calling fellow group members to see how they are managing with the holidays.

It takes the focus off yourself and most people are very appreciative to know that you are thinking of them.

There is no simple list of guidelines that will take away the hurt that may arise this time of year. Please remember to be tolerant and compassionate with yourself and know that you will continue to heal.

— Nancy Willinger, Psy.D., LMFT and HOPE Connection therapist