Christmas is a time of celebration, bringing family together to bond over food and gifts. But for some the holiday can be a crippling reminder of love lost. Because the holiday season brings up a lot of memories it can be difficult for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
“Some have a longer process of mourning,” said Faye Tkachuk, past-chair of the St. Albert Bereavement Fellowship.
The non-profit meets every second Tuesday of the year and usually sees an increase in attendees during the holiday season.
“Christmas seems to run for a long time and then comes the new year, which is a very tough time to go through. It brings more to your attention that you’re going to be going through this celebration without your loved one,” she said.
To prepare for the season, the non-profit has a candle-lighting ceremony in November. It helps people recognize Christmas is coming and helps the healing process. Instead of pushing their feelings aside, members are encouraged to accept their emotions head on.
She said it’s common for the bereaved to feel guilty for being happy over the holidays, often depriving themselves of food and withdrawing socially.
“It’s lonely, it’s not only depressing, it just seems wrong at the time. We want to show them that life goes on and little by little you have to take that first step,” she said.
Every Tuesday in December the fellowship hosts a dinner where members can share food and connect. For more information on the dinner contact the non-profit at 780-851-6562.
If members of the non-profit need extra assistance, Tkachuk said they will be referred to the Primary Care Network.
Linda Harrison-Fabing, mental health nurse at the St. Albert and Sturgeon Primary Care Network, said Christmas can be hard for a number of reasons. Some may go through depression, while others may be stressed about finances.
“This time of year for a lot people, there’s an increased amount of stress,” she said. “There’s some heightened emotions, anxiety, those kind of things can make it especially difficult.”
She said people could be working through financial issues from buying gifts to break ups and losing a family member.
Whatever the reason, the Primary Care Network is a place where people can talk through their problems.
There are a number of ways people can take care of themselves when they feel a slump coming on. Exercising, eating well and self-awareness is key to managing the Christmas blues.
“Once you know what you’re thinking about, you can do something about it,” she said. “Positive self-talk, also, looking at, are our worries really realistic? Sometimes we catastrophize an upcoming event.”
For those struggling through the holiday season the best thing to do is reach out for help. While the St. Albert Bereavement Fellowship and the Primary Care Network are excellent options, there are other organizations available:
Crisis Support Centre: 780-482-HELP (4357)
Alberta Health Services Mental Health Help Line: 1-877-303-2642
Alberta Health Services Crisis/Distress Line Edmonton: 780-482-4357 and 780-342-7777
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Rivers Edge Counselling: 780-460-0022
Poundmaker’s Lodge Tele-Mental Health: 780-458-1884
St. Albert Bereavement Fellowship: 780-851-6562
St. Albert and Sturgeon Primary Care Network: 780-419-2214