Christmas decorations started being displayed in stores as early as August. It’s now autumn, so the awareness that “the holidays” will soon be upon us is unavoidable. Pumpkins sold in October became Halloween Jack-o-lanterns. Pumpkins sold in November will become the fixings for the pies for our Thanksgiving dinner dessert. Some years ago, a now-deceased friend of mine made the comment that “the holidays” were “The Bermuda Triangle of heightened family dysfunction.” Though we’ve usually thought of the holidays as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s; traditions with the winter celebrations of the Solstice, Yule, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa probably have their own versions of holiday angst.
The Christmas movies that seem to run perpetually on the Hallmark Channel seem to poke at the discomfort of holiday stress with their standard and predictable happy endings. TV series will also portray something of holiday craziness. In 1995, the movie “Home For the Holidays’ unfolded the story of a museum restoration artist flying home for Thanksgiving with her affable parents, an eccentric maiden aunt, a black-sheep-of-the-family gay son, and an embittered sister. The star-studded cast included Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Geraldine Chaplain, and Robert Downey, Jr. Further back in 1968, there was a cinematic telling of a highly-conflicted medieval Christmas, “The Lion In Winter.” It won Katharine Hepburn her third Academy Award, and its own star-studded cast also featured Peter O’Toole, Anthony Hopkins, and Timothy Dalton. These powerful characters engage in some very brutal backbiting and hostile verbal exchange that is memorable in its cleverness. As entertaining as these portrayals might be, the element of recognition that strikes us is the familiar experience of holiday-related stress.
Lest you think I’m a “Bah! Humbug!” Scrooge-like person, I want to assure you that I normally enjoy the holidays, despite the pressures of preparation and the cranked-up party-going that is a challenge to my normally introverted personality. In my forty-plus years of work in various helping professions, I have noticed that the holidays are sometimes dreaded rather than welcomed by more people than we might imagine. In our own lived real experience, the holidays become even more difficult if we have endured a significant loss. These losses can include the death of someone we have loved, the breakup of a relationship, the loss of employment, relocation, witnessing the debilitating disability of someone we are caring for, or financial or material disaster. It’s not for nothing that Elvis sang of a “Blue Christmas” in his throaty and soulful baritone.
Because the holidays can be especially difficult for persons grieving losses such as those noted above, Pemi-Baker Community Health & Hospice will be offering TWO Monday times to meet with those in need of support throughout the holiday season. The groups will start before Thanksgiving and conclude after New Year’s: November 18 and 25; December 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30, 2019; and, January 6, 2020. The daytime afternoon group (12:30-2pm), will meet in the Grady Conference Room at Speare Memorial Hospital, 16 Hospital Road, Plymouth, NH. The early evening group (5:30-7pm), will gather in the Main Conference Room at Pemi-Baker Community Health, 101 Boulder Point Drive, Suite 3, Plymouth, NH. There is no cost for attendance.
Topics at the sessions will include: emotional self-care during the holiday season; choosing (or NOT choosing) to attend gatherings and celebrations; not feeling like “making merry”; recollections and reminiscences of previous holidays; suggestions for home rituals to remember loved ones; and, entering upon a new year without someone who is no longer present.
The groups will be facilitated by Guy Tillson, MDiv, MA, Bereavement Counselor for Pemi-Baker Community Health. If you have questions about the program or are interested in participating in one of the groups, please contact Guy by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (603) 536-2232, Extension 206 so that adequate preparations for the groups can be made.
Please consider donating to Pemi-Baker Community Health as the holidays approach. If you order gifts on line, Amazon will give a percentage of your purchases directly to Pemi-Baker Community health by using Amazon Smile. Visit www.smile.amazon.com and choose Pemi-Baker Community Health. Giving Tuesday, December 3rd, is the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and is a movement to create an international day of charitable giving at the beginning of the Christmas and holiday season. Visit our website to give: www.pbhha.org. Thank you from the team at Pemi-Baker!
~By Guy Tillson, MDiv, MA