While often an exciting time of year for many, the holiday season can be very difficult for those who have lost a loved one. Whether it’s a family member or close friend the swell of grief is often strongest during times of the year when togetherness is highlighted more.

Gina Dixon, Essentia’s program manager for grief support services said it’s not time that heals, but what we do with that time. With more than 25 years of serving grieving families, she has made it her mission to make sure that grieving youth and adults have access to adequate support and resources.

“Grief can be messy, confusing and overwhelming,” Dixon said. “There is so much pressure around the holidays, but preparing in advance while remaining flexible can help those who are grieving cope.”

That starts with the ABC’s of holiday coping.

• Acknowledge that grief impacts us physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually

• Be gentle with yourself and others

• Communicate your wishes and concerns with friends and family

• Cut back on obligations or shorten visits if you’re feeling overwhelmed or exhausted

• Connect with others who support you

• Create rituals to honor your loved one who died that fit your current needs Essentia Health offers a number of options for those who are going through these difficult times to help ease the pain of loss while navigating the holiday season. That includes virtual and in-person counseling, grief support groups, printed grief resources and more. These services can help people process their feelings, gain resiliency, and find hope alongside others who understand.

On Sunday, Dec. 5 at 4:30 p.m., Essentia will hold their annual Tree of Lights event outdoors at 400 East Third Street, Duluth. The lighting ceremony has been a part of family remembrance since 1999. Funds raised by this event are vital in maintaining free virtual and in-person grief support groups for youth and adults, crisis education and outreach with local schools, memorial keepsakes and printed grief resources for the community.

To make a donation to remember, to honor, or to thank someone special visit Essentiahealth.org/giftofgriefsupport For more information regarding our free grief support groups and other resources, email griefcenter@essentiahealth.org or call (218) 786-4402.

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