Nov 01
Blog: Surviving the Holidays When Grieving

That empty chair at the holiday table can be especially heartbreaking when you are grieving. You don’t have to bear it alone. Licensed Mental Health Counselor Jean Malone is hosting a free grief workshop on November 6, as well as spearheading a new grief support group, which will begin on November 20, both of which are for adults and will be held here at Saratoga Hospital.

Jean holds a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and has earned a certificate in Bereavement Studies. Before joining Saratoga Hospital Medical Group – Oncology/Hematology, she was a spiritual care counselor and bereavement coordinator for Hospice of Washington County for 13 years. 
“The support group will be ongoing on alternating Wednesdays, but I wanted to have the workshop before Thanksgiving, so those who are grieving have time to prepare for the holidays,” Jean says. “Among other things, the workshop will address how to talk with friends and family about where you’re at this year. You don’t know how you’re going to feel that day, so we’ll discuss how to make a Plan A, B, and C for the holiday. It’s okay to keep things flexible.” 
The two-and-a-half hour workshop will offer practical ideas to help you get through the holidays. Jean recommends acknowledging the loss up front. Some families reserve a place setting, others light a candle, but any kind of in memoriam ritual will help break the tension so everyone can breathe.  

Surviving the Holidays When a Loved One Has Died,” sponsored by Saratoga Hospital Cancer Patient Fund, is being provided at no charge to participants. It will take place from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on November 6 in the C-1 conference room, right off the hospital’s main lobby. There is limited space, so registration is required. You can register by calling Jean at 518-886-5210. Attendees are invited to bring pictures of their loved ones. 

Registration by calling Jean is also requested for the ongoing Grief Support Group, which will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Café Conference Room on alternating Wednesdays beginning November 20. The group is to continue offering support through and beyond the holidays for adults who have lost a loved one. Discussions will address various topics involving grief, with time for participants to share whatever is on their mind about their loss. 

“They say time heals all wounds. That’s not true. Time and good grief work heal all wounds,” Jean says. “The ongoing support group is a safe space where we can work together so the grief becomes bearable. The loss will always be with you, but it doesn’t have to be that sharp pain where you feel you can barely breathe.” 

People can come and learn to identify grief reactions, which are more than sadness and crying, as well as how to handle those grief bursts that seem to come out of nowhere. Jean will also discuss conflicting emotions like relief and guilt. Together, the group will create and share healthy grieving skills.  

“It’s difficult for people to bring their grief out in public,” Jean says. “‘What’s the point?’ they ask me. ‘It’s not going to change anything.’ But it does. Grief demands to be witnessed. It must be validated. That’s why people find relief through support groups. I’m going to have plenty of tissues and chocolate, so we’ll work through it together.” 
For additional resources on grief and other behavioral and mental health concerns, talk with your doctor and visit our website to learn about our Behavioral and Mental Health services.


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