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Open Door Support Groups Formed To Help Individuals Affected By Shootings

A consortium of hospices and grief centers are joining together to host a series of open door support groups next week at the Heartlight Center, 11150 East Dartmouth Ave. in Aurora in the wake of the theater shootings in Aurora.

The group support sessions will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and be led by counselors from The Heartlight Center, The Denver Hospice Grief Center, Colorado Hospice/Saturday Partners, Porter Hospice and Exempla Collier Hospice.

The sessions are free and open to the public. In addition to offering grief support, the drop-in sessions will offer literature and leaders will be available to offer other resources and support groups.

For information, call HeartLight Center at 720-748-9908 or visit www.heartlightcenter.org

“Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the horrific Aurora movie theater shooting. The victims, their families, friends and loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers. “ – says CEO and President of Horan & McConaty, John Horan.

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Making space in caregiving for “Ahhhhhhhhh”moments

Please join us as we welcome back Dr. Harold Ivan Smith, speaker, writer, teacher and story- teller extraordinaire. As a grief educator, Harold Ivan Smith is a wordsmith and storyteller, whether through his speaking, teaching, writing, or counseling. Through his word pictures and stories, listeners and readers say, “I never quite thought of it that way before.”

Harold Ivan Smith is a graduate of The Mid-America College of Funeral Service, Scarritt College (M.A.), George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University (Ed.S.), and has a doctorate from Asbury Theological Seminary. He is recognized as a Fellow in Thanatology by the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Harold Ivan also leads Grief Gatherings—innovative storytelling groups—at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, where he is a member of the teaching faculty.

Objectives:
*To diffuse negative strategies that prevent adequate self-care
*To explore common elements of “Ahhhhh”experiences.
*To enfranchise permission strategies for self-care.

When: Thursday, May 10, 2012. The same session will be offered in both the morning and afternoon to allow teams to take turns attending. Morning session from 9 – 11:30am. Buffet lunch from 11:30 – 1:30. Afternoon session from 1:30 – 4pm.
Where: Horan & McConaty 5303 E. County Line Rd. Centennial, CO 80112 (just west of Holly St.)
Who: Hospice and hospital staff and volunteers, victim advocate professionals and volunteers, clergy, lay ministers and others caring for our community
Cost: FREE, but you MUST register by May 7, 2012. Certificate of attendance provided.
How to register: Please Email ejohnson@horancares.com or call 720.748.9908.

Supporting a Grieving Child

When a death occurs, it’s important to acknowledge that children grieve as well. Here are some ideas to help you support a child dealing with grief.

Offering support to a child can be as simple as opening up a conversation, or making a simple statement. Here are a few suggestions of things to say: “I’m sorry your ________ died.”; “Would you like to talk about it?”; “I care about how you are feeling”. Try to avoid comments that could be harmful, such as “I know just how you feel”, “Get over it”, “Be strong” or “Don’t cry”. These types of statements may be more harmful than good, even with the best of intentions.

Giving the child a memory bag can also be a nice way to support the child through this difficult time. Get a sturdy tote and fill it with a variety of items, such as seeds (to plant in honor of the loved one), a journal for the child to write their thoughts/feelings in, a book, some paper and markers/crayons for the child to create a picture, and any other items that the child would like to keep as memories of the loved one who has passed.

The power of touch is a very powerful thing. Give the child physical contact.

It’s important that no matter how you choose to support the child, that you allow them as much time as they need to grieve. Some children may regress, which you should allow them to do.

If you’d like more information on helping a child who is grieving, please visit these websites:

http://childgrief.org/childgrief.htm
http://www.centering.org/index.php?page=book&id=50
http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/griefwar.pdf

Remembering a Loved One

It can be very difficult to think about your loved one just after they have passed away. However, there will come a time when comfort will be found in reminiscing about the wonderful experiences shared with that person.

There are many ways you can remember your loved one. The simplest way is by talking about him or her. When you feel that you are ready, try to tell a close friend or relative your favorite memories and stories about the deceased. Gathering with family or friends to share stories and memories can be very comforting.

During special occasions like birthdays, holidays, or anniversaries, make it a point to find ways recognize the presence of the loved one who has passed away. Using a favorite utensil or displaying a favorite item could be enough to bring up happy memories. Light a candle or make a toast in memory of the loved one.

Another effective and inexpensive way to reminisce about past experiences is by creating a photo album or scrapbook of your loved one. Drawings, poems, and letters both made for and by the deceased could be incorporated in the scrapbook along with pictures.

If you have larger pieces that remind you of your loved one, place those items in a special chest or box. These could include letters, diaries, photo albums, plaques, favorite books and other items that had great meaning to that person.

There are many ways you can remember your loved ones and cherish the happy memories. However you choose to do so, choose what feels right and what’s comforatable for you.

Loneliness on Valentine’s Day

Along with other holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day can be a particularly difficult time of loneliness, especially if you have lost your spouse.

While all of the television commercials and retail stores are packed with roses, hearts, candy, and messages of love, these messages may deepen feelings of distance between the life you once had with your spouse, and the one you lead today.

If you are experiencing these feelings, we suggest that you plan on doing something on Valentine’s Day. Plan your day to help in overcoming loneliness. Here are some suggestions:

1. Prepare your spouse’s favorite meal and invite friends and family over to enjoy it with you.

2. Visit your spouse’s resting place. If you’d like, bring a poem or card to read.

3. Spend time with others you love, possibly children, grandchildren, or good friends. Re-define the romantic holiday into another form of love, the love for close friends and family. If you feel up to it, reminisce of past Valentine’s Days you shared.

Valentine’s Day can be an opportunity to share memories, and reflect on the wonderful moments had with your loved one. Sharing your stories and memories with others you are close to can be a truly great way to share your love and surround yourself with goodfeelings this Valentine’s Day.

Coping with death around the holidays

If you have lost someone close to you during this past year, you may find yourself having difficulty getting into the “holiday spirit”. We hope this will help you find peace and comfort, and helps you cope this holiday season.

More than ever, you will probably find yourself missing your loved one during this time of year. Please remember that it is okay to allow yourself the emotions you are feeling. Allow yourself to cry, but then make sure to find time to do activities that make you comfortable, such as reading a book, meditating or exercising.

Finding ways to commemorate your loved one is an excellent way to help yourself through the holidays as well. You can do this in many ways, such as visiting places you did in the past with them, or talking about wonderful memories you had with others who were close to him or her.

Please accept help from others. Your friends and family may not know what to do or say, but they may help in other ways, such as assisting you with sending cards, cleaning your home or possibly even cooking Christmas dinner. It is important that you allow them to, as the extra stress from the holidays can become overwhelming when you are already grieving a loss. Also, it will help them cope as well, as helping you through the holidays will give them a sense of involvement in your life in a time when they are at a loss when it comes to being able to make things better for you.

And lastly, remember that it is okay to celebrate, even though you are grieving. Most likely, your loved one would want you to be enjoying yourself, focusing on the good and happy times you have spent in the past and will spend in the future.

We hope to have helped you make the season a bit easier for you. We wish you warmth and comfort this holiday season.

The World Grows Healthier in Expressing Grief

Following the announcement of Steve Job’s death, I was so deeply struck at the accounts of people showing up at Apple stores everywhere, putting sticky notes on the windows expressing their feelings, leaving flowers, lighting electronic candles, and connecting with others in their community. For me, as a person who has walked with grieving people for over 15 years, I felt so heartened to see that our society does this much more openly all the time.

Public deaths can help our society learn how to mourn the losses that are closer to us personally. The news stories and poignant photographs brought to mind Dr. William Worden’s Tasks of Mourning:

To confront the reality of the loss: This task involves overcoming disbelief and denial of death by acknowledging and accepting the reality of the death. It’s why people felt drawn to the Apple stores or to share the experience online connecting with others

To express the feelings: A continuation of the first task, but to have an opportunity within communities, either physical or virtual to express the impact.

To find meaning: What does this loss mean to this person at this time in his or her own life? It is said that every loss brings back all our other losses. These experiences all become part of our personal narrative.

To integrate the loss into our lives: Did you notice how many websites had a memorial to Steve Jobs on their opening page? People all over the world needed to express this and honor a person whom I heard referred to as the Thomas Edison of our time. In a news story last night, I heard Steve Wozniak interviewed along with the hundreds of people lined up for the newest version of the iPhone. People were clamoring for the last product that Steve helped to create. That is a tangible piece of continued connection as well as a chance to honor a life that has such a huge ripple effect.

For more information, please find the Griefwords Library of articles by Dr. Alan Wolfelt at www.horancares.com when you click on the Grief Resources tab.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, you’re still creating a tremendous impact in our world… You’re helping people learn to express grief in healthy ways.

I Want To Cry, But Instead I Laugh

Have you ever felt like crying, but ended up laughing instead? Has this ever happened at a moment that may have seemed inappropriate? If you answered yes to these questions, rest assured that you are not alone.

Even though it may seem inappropriate, psychologists say that uncontrollable nervous laughter is normal. It is typically a physiological response to a tragedy or event, such as a funeral.

So why is it sometimes people cry to the point that they laugh, or laugh so hard they cry? Because laughing and crying provide the same kind of physiological stress release. It can often be a defense mechanism when feeling uncomfortable in a situation, or when one is overwhelmed. Holding back tears hinders the body from relieving the anxiety that is building, so the human body discharges the energy by causing laughter instead. In these situations we usually laugh in a subconscious attempt to reduce stress and calm down. However, it often works otherwise. Nervous laughter is typically perceived not to be genuine, and can ultimately heighten the awkwardness of the situation.

If you see someone laughing during a stressful or tragic situation, please keep in mind that they probably cannot control it. They are simply overwhelmed to the point where the body needs to release it. If you find yourself laughing instead of crying, take deep breaths and try to calm down. It is a common reaction, and with the exception of a bit of embarrassment, everything will be fine.

Help In Times Of Grief

Working through grief takes time, and one can only work through it at their own pace. A positive first step in the grieving process is to participate in the funeral or memorial service. This will give you a chance to say goodbye, and share your feelings with others who are experiencing the same emotions. In the days following the service, you may feel the need to lean on others (and others on you) for understanding, encouragement and guidance.

When someone you know is going through the grieving process, there are many things that you can do to help him or her. Supporting a loved one as they grieve can make a positive impact on that person, and truly make a difference in their life.

Here are a few suggestions:

•    Call or stop by to make sure that your loved one is okay, and offer a listening ear.

•    Help your loved one put together a memory book with pictures of the person that has passed away.

•    Take him or her out for a cup of coffee or help with daily tasks. Sometimes just having the company of another goes a long way.

•    Send a card or gift letting him or her know that you are thinking of them.

In addition to what you can do to help a loved one through their grieving process, there are also many local and national support groups available to help with grief. Bereavement support groups can provide support to your loved one, as well as retreats, counselors, workshops, recommended readings and information about grief.

Grief During the Fall Season & As We Remember 9/11

We all know that weather affects our mood, so it is no surprise that the fall season affects our feelings of grief. Whether your loved one passed away in the fall, the cooler air and shorter days are bringing with them a sense of loss or sorrow, or the memories of those we lost on September 11th are affecting your mood, it is important to realize you are not alone.

This coming weekend, the media will be covering the events paying tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11. During this time, it is important to realize that there are many people still grieving today, ten years later, and that this coverage will be difficult for many to watch.

If you start feeling sad, or if you have a sense of grief, first try to find comfort in small things, such as warming up with a special sweater or cuddling up in a soft blanket. Many times, a small but positive activity, or shared seasonal meal or cup of coffee with a friend can go a long way towards stemming grief or sadness early. But please be aware that for some, grief will not be soothed by a small act or comfort. If you or someone you know is having trouble grieving their loss, whether past or present, we encourage you to find a grief support group or counselor.

Fall can often be a difficult time for many. This weekend in particular can be especially hard to deal with. Please take the time to take care of yourself emotionally. Recognize and accept that your feelings are not only normal, but are being shared by a great number of people throughout the country. Then do the things that will not only give you comfort, but bring emotional support and happiness into your life.

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