BILLINGS — Although it’s often called the most wonderful time of year, the holidays for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one can turn into confusion, stress, anxiety, guilt and even anger.
That is why Compassus Hospice and Palliative Care is teaming up with Highgate Senior Living to help people cope with grief and loss and get through this seasonal strain.
“Grieving is one of the hardest things we do in life and we all go through that,” Compassus Bereavement Coordinator and Chaplain Brent Long said.
Grief, holiday stress and the lack of sunlight this time of year pile up.
“It’s one of the most stressful things we do, and on top of that all the holiday pressures and we need sunlight,” Long said.
Saturday, Dec. 21, is the Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year. Long said it’s considered a symbolic day to recognize the difficulty so many people are facing.
"There are an awful lot of people who kind of hide their emotions this time of year because it’s not socially acceptable to be sad, to be down, and yet there's so much pressure to be happy to be joyful and go to Christmas parties. When you've lost a loved one, you can't force yourself to be happy. You try to force yourself, but it doesn't work," he said.
Most importantly, Compassus and Highgate employees want people to know they are not alone. They need to give themselves permission to hurt, create boundaries and learn how say no to another Christmas party or invite if they don't want to attend, and to not feel guilty.
“To take care of yourself means being able to say, 'I don’t want to do this right now. I can’t do this right now,'" said Long.
It's about giving yourself permission to be sad and hurt, and to give yourself room to do what you need to do at this time because next year you may be in a much better place.
This Saturday, Winter Solstice also marks an opportunity to take part in some helpful conversations. If you are dealing with grief and loss during this sometimes-difficult season you can attend one of two one-hour sessions at Highgate Senior Living, 3980 Parkhill Dr. The sessions are schedueld for 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Call 406-651-4833 to sign up.