Wilma Justice was the owner of a grocery store when her father died.
She didn’t know how to deal with the grief, so for a while, she didn’t.
Eventually, she sought the help of a psychologist, which set her on the right path.
Over a few years’ time, she realized she wanted to become a counselor and help others who might not know how to deal with grief, either.
“I recognized other probably were feeling the same way I felt,” she said.
Justice, who now is director of support services at Community Hospice, said the change in her career is an example of a positive change that can come from the loss of a loved one.
Justice said when a loved one is lost, the survivors should allow themselves time to grieve, take time to remember and then say goodbye.
Sometimes, the grieving process doesn’t move along at a healthy pace and survivors should be aware of signs they might need help.
For instance, physical symptoms include tightness in the chest and throat, empty feeling in the abdomen, numbness, weakness and trembling, anorexia, fatigue and sleep disturbances.
Emotional symptoms include disorganization, inability to make decisions, absence of emotion, throw one’s self into work, personality changes, anger, withdrawl, drug and alcohol abuse.
While grief is normal, prolonged grief isn’t.
Community Hospice offers educational sessions that aim to help attendees cope with grief. Justice said sessions are open to anyone, not just those who received Hospice services. Sessions are educational, providing information about working through grief.
Justice said grief often is more prominent on one’s life during the holidays because it points out traditions that can’t continue, leaving the family feeling the loss.
“Going to Grandma’s house is a tradition, but if Grandma dies, we have to make new plans,” she said.
“Christmas and Thanksgiving are a time for memories and if we have lost someone, it leaves a vacant space in our lives and it’s more recognizable at the holidays.”
Talking about one’s feelings is the first step to coping with grief, she said.
“Sometimes we think if we keep it to ourselves, it will get better as we go along, but any counselor would tell you, when you have any problem, to talk about it with someone that can be open and have the knowledge to guide you is helpful,” Justice said.
She said grief can be physically draining as well as emtionally draining, so those dealing with grief also should get plenty of rest, eat properly, drink plenty of liquids and get some exercise during the holidays.
She said remembering loved ones during holidays is helpful, adding she remembers her parents by placing a plant in her church sanctuary in their memory.
“One way to deal with the loss of old traditions is to create new traditions,” she said.
Upcoming grief sessions
Community Hospice will offer “Grief and the Holidays" sessions at the following times and locations:
‰Monday, 6 p.m. — Community Hospice, Ironton Office, 2122 S. 9th St., Ironton.
‰Dec. 11, 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. — Community Hospice, Ashland Office, 1480 Carter Ave., Ashland.
For more information or to reserve a space, call Community Hospice at (606) 329-1890 in Ashland, (740) 532-8841 in Ironton, (606) 297-1095 in Paintsville or (800) 926-6184 toll-free.
LEE WARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2661.