What to do if holidays leave you blue

Several options for coping with holiday stress, depression

by Jeremy Nobile | Reporter Published:

Many wish for a white Christmas, but nobody wants a blue one.

The holidays can often be a challenging time of year for those coping with stress or the blues that may be brought on by the grief of loss or even mounting expenses.

Dr. Virgina Clark, a psychologist with Western Reserve Psychological Associates Inc., notes that while a stigma of a blue Christmas exists across society, the period after the holidays is often even more difficult to deal with because of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and often because there's little to look forward to for several months besides the cold, dreary winter.

"We have a lot of people that come in, and a lot of them don't always come in because around this time because they're so busy doing holiday stuff," said Clark.

However, for those with a case of the blues, Clark said it's important to not spend time "holed up" at home, dwelling on sour feelings.

"Just getting out of the house sometimes can make a big difference," she said.

For those feeling down around the holidays, Clark emphasized the importance of remembering that they're not alone.

Around Stow, there's a variety of options for people coping with emotional stress around the Christmas season to find friends and support.

Christmas Box Angel

of Hope

Hundreds of bereaved family members gather at the Christmas Box Angel of Hope Children's Memorial at Silver Springs Cemetery every year to remember the lives of their lost children.

Sara Ruble, founder of the Stow memorial where hundreds of engraved bricks pay tribute to the lives of children lost, said the site and the annual ceremony there can be a great release of pain.

"We know the holidays can be very challenging for some, especially when you're going through grief after your child has died," said Ruble, whose son Scott died at a young age.

Ruble encourages grievers to find solace in the support of those who have suffered the same loss.

"There's a release of angst and anguish in knowing someone else feels what you feel," she said.

The 12th annual ceremony to gather, reflect and light a candle symbolizing the lost life of a child took place Dec. 9. While it rained most of the afternoon, the weather began to clear up as the ceremony began that night.

She noted how traditions often change for families after the loss of a child. For Ruble and many others, the service at the cemetery has become a new holiday tradition.

Anyone interested in visiting the memorial can find it at Silver Springs Cemetery on 5080 Stow Road, and anyone interested in procuring a memorial brick for next year's ceremony can contact Ruble at 330-689-1089 or via email at stowangelofhope@aol.com.

The Grief Care Place

The GriefCare Place at 4499 Darrow Road specializes in supporting those coping with the pain of loss.

Founder Lou-Ann Redmon said the group prepares a list of packets each season with tips on how to "survive" the holidays for all groups of people dealing with grief.

"Some don't always feel like celebrating," said Redmon, "so that's why we use the term survival instead. These are things you can do to survive."

Some of those tips include remembering that feeling blue is a normal thing and that no one is alone in those feelings. The most important thing to remember, Redmon said, is that all emotional wounds can heal.

"All our leaders have been through the whole grief process," said Redmon. "What we say is, 'Reach behind me. Take my hand. I've been there, I'll walk with you, and we'll go on this journey together.'"

The GriefCare Place is hosting a Kids in Grief Holiday Workshop on Dec. 16 from 2 to 4 p.m. where children coping with loss can make holiday wreaths.

Beyond that, the GriefCare Place offers support during its office hours from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The group can also organize one-on-one phone conversations with support leaders for free.

Stephen Ministry

The Stow Presbyterian Church at 4150 Fishcreek Road hosted its first variation on Blue Christmas services just before Thanksgiving as a trial run.

Associate Pastor Wally Kukuk said the church is referring to the service as the Holiday Gateway, though, to get the oft depressing color out of the title.

Next year, he said the church will offer the Holiday Gateway service, which will be open to all people, once again.

While there's not another service like that planned before Christmas, the church offers its own Stephen Ministry that any and all individuals can seek support through.

"We're open year round, day by day," said Kukuk, leader of the church's Stephen Ministry. "We're glad to talk to people and see how they feel."

Kukuk noted how the purpose of the ministry is to offer a listening ear in a one-on-one setting to anyone who needs it. He added that it's never healthy to bottle up one's feelings.

"It's important to act on those and at least talk to someone," he said. "Sometimes, people need to go outside themselves, sometimes through counselors or group meetings, and sometimes they just need a person to talk to. That's what we're here for."

He emphasized that the service is free and you don't have to be a member of the congregation to seek support.

Anyone seeking to get in touch with a Stephen Minister can contact Kukuk at 330-608-5389 or via email at carepastor@stowpres.org.

Blue christmas service

The Bath United Church of Christ at 3980 W. Bath Road in Akron is offering two Blue Christmas services at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 21.

The service is open to all people, the Rev. Mark Frey said.

"It's a time to recognize the grief and loss we've had, which is very much a part of life, and put that in a place we can remember so that we can move to Christmas and share in the joy of the season," said Frey.

Being in a supportive group offered, such as that offered in the service, can be a good release for any person coping with grief in its various forms.

"Part of the idea is to let the loss we have become recognized and honored so that we can be with others that may be know the same feelings, but aren't going through it as much as we are," said Frey.

Email: jnobile@recordpub.com

Phone: 333-541-9400, ext. 4179

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