Missoula's Tamarack Grief Resource Center sheds light on grief during holiday season

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Posted at 2:35 PM, Dec 01, 2022

MISSOULA - For some people, the holidays are a time to rejoice and gather with loved ones, but for others, the holidays are just a reminder of the loss of their loved ones.

Reporter Hannah Hislop sat down with Tina Barrett and Tami Sparks with the Tamarack Grief Resource Center, who shared more about a tough topic to talk about — grief during the holiday season.

Grief impacts everyone in a different way, with the holidays typically exasperating the stress and loneliness.

HANNAH: “I will just start simply by saying thank you both for sitting down and joining me in this discussion that's, you know, kind of maybe a taboo topic during the holiday season and griefs, very personal for lots of people. So thank you for sitting down with me. We'll just talk very broadly right now, what is grief? What does it look like?”

TAMI SPARKS: “I think we get this idea that grief has some sort of timeframe on it, you know, like, oh, it's been three months or it's been two years or it's been five years or in my case, it's been 15 years. I'd say the piercing effect. gets softer over time, but it stays with us.”

HANNAH: “How can people who aren't struggling with grief during the holiday season welcome those who are or have a deeper understanding for them?”

TINA BARRETT: "May we — as friends or colleagues or family members — show up for one another in whatever way makes sense. I think to not ignore it, but it's okay to give voice to it without pressure. Also, I read recently something that said if you're inviting someone to your home who is grieving make space for their grief and that may there be permission to do things very differently. May there be permission to climb into the joy and delight if you do gain strength from the gathering from the music from the lights. Unapologetically give yourself permission to grab those bits of joy and comfort, and if not, maybe give ourselves permission to do it so very differently. So should a friend opt out of a gathering, may we extend grace and continue to extend invitations without pressure.”

HANNAH: “Tami I want to jump to you now. I know that your husband passed away 15 years ago. Talk to me about your grief journey and especially during the holiday season.”

TAMI: “We stay close with my husband's family and so we did so a lot of holiday traditions with them and have continued to do things to honor his memory as far as like specific movies he really loved and foods he loved. And so we still continue to bring him into our holidays even though he's not here with us in person.”

HANNAH: “For people who are going through a grieving period right now during the holidays. What can they do to maybe you know, help themselves out or help other people understand where they're at?”

TINA: “I think we can look at that from a few different ways. How can we get rid of stress we don't need to deal with? How can we manage stress that we can't avoid? And then how are we finding meaning? And so first, looking at the inventory of what is the holiday and what can we give ourselves permission to do differently and create boundaries around it like ‘nope, I'm not cooking for 14’ or ‘I don't need to attend this event.’ What stress can we get rid of? And then how can we manage stress again? Could there be a friend or a colleague that could join us at an event that we can't miss for whatever reason? And/or can we delegate responsibility for some roles that we need? Like ‘I really want to get a gift for this person and I don't have the energy. Can you help me write the cards?’ Or whatever it might be. And then finding meaning. What is it about the holidays that gives me strength that's important to me?”

The Tamarack Grief Resource Center has posted a guide on how to survive the holidays if you are managing the loss of a loved one.

Tami and Tina shared that grief looks different for everyone, so maybe it's volunteering, traveling somewhere new, including your loved ones in your rituals, or another way to get through the holiday.

Below is a listing of events the Tamarack Grief Resource Center will be hosting:

  • Wednesday, Dec. 1: 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. / Grief Amidst the Holidays, Virtual Holiday Workshop
  • Thursday, Dec. 2: 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. / Anticipatory Loss series - Supporting the Family System
  • Wednesday, Dec. 8: 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. / Anticipatory Loss During the Holidays (in-person meeting at Tamarack Grief Resource Center)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 14: 5 p.m. - 6 p.m. / Holiday Workshop - Discuss tips for managing grief during the holidays
  • Wednesday, Dec. 14: 6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. / Open House
  • Thursday, Dec. 15: 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. / Anticipatory Loss series - Living Legacy

Visit to register for any of the no cost meetings.