Counseling staffers Tracy Horn and Dee Brandon

Counseling staffers Tracy Horn and Dee Brandon

The holidays ring with family, cheer and celebration. In the midst of this season, some people may feel like shutting out the holidays as they struggle with the loss of those they love.

There’s hope and help to get through this season at Empath Health’s Hope for the Holidays workshops at our community service centers. Everyone in the community is invited to attend free-of-charge.

Longtime social worker Deangelis “Dee” Brandon, cPhD, RCSWI, MCP, RTS-C co-facilitated the recent south county workshops with bereavement counselor Tracy Horn, LCSW, CAP, who joined Empath Health earlier this year with a background in grief and trauma work. Brandon says many people who are grieving are stimulated by the environment and it may be helpful to change their usual holiday activities.

“Some people don’t know what to do. They become overwhelmed and anxious while watching commercials, shopping inside stores or if they get pushed by family to participate in activities. Grief has its twists and turns and you’ve got to know what your triggers are. Sometimes, in order to deal with the holidays, you can skip them or do something different, such as volunteering. You don’t have to do the same routines,” Brandon said.

Brandon encourages bereaved individuals to reach out for support at holiday time. “If they can, they should talk with their neighbors or friends to have a support system and keep that encouragement going. With our workshops, we help people find their way in this season of grief and hold their hands in these journeys. When they come in to our workshops, they come in raw with emotion. Then they roll up their sleeves to talk and be real and leave with the tools they need to thrive in the community,” she shared.

DSC_0015The holidays can be challenging but also opportune to honor the past or start anew, explains Horn, who has experienced a rise in her client caseloads recently. “It’s a tough time but also a beautiful time to continue old traditions or create new experiences with family. I’m all about empowerment. It’s o.k. for people to say they’re going to go to a function but only stay for 15 minutes if they feel like it.”

Remembering loved ones also is important during the holidays, says Horn. “It’s o.k. to talk about your loved ones. Some folks are afraid to talk because they don’t want to be a downer. There’s no one right way to get through the holidays.

Horn says she’s honored to provide this meaningful support to the community. “I’ve worked with people who never had counseling, and when they lose a beloved their world turns upside down and they need somebody to talk to. It’s a privilege to walk with the beloveds in bereavement. They must start a new life for themselves.”

Check out our online calendar for the Hope for the Holidays workshops in December. You’re also invited to join our special Starting a New Year Without Your Loved One workshop on Dec. 31.