Laura Wood was shy when she joined her first support group session with Roberta’s House. She was weighed down by grief and nervous about sharing something so personal and painful with a group of strangers on zoom. Each of the women on the call was learning to cope with their own loss but by coming together, to share their experiences, stories, and compassion, they hoped to help each other heal.
“Our work is about bringing people together to figure out how to help each other move through grief and heal” explained Veronica Land-Davis, the Executive Director of Roberta’s House. Roberta’s House was founded on the idea that everyone deserves a safe space to heal from grief. Helping people and families heal from grief supports public health and contributes to healthy communities. There’s been an increase in need for support this year as many families have lost loved ones to homicide, overdose, or COVID-19. Roberta’s House has programs for all ages and support groups tailored to different types of loss. Laura’s 10-week support group was part of the HOPE (Honoring the memory of those who have died by Offering opportunities to learn Positive and Empowering grief experiences) program to support mothers who have suffered a pregnancy loss.
Losing a loved one is devastating and can have a lasting impact on the mental health of adults and children. Finding meaningful ways to process loss and building positive relationships contributes to resilience and helps reduce the negative impact of loss on a person’s mental health. Support groups help people find ways to make meaning out of loss and create new positive memories.
For Laura, the community of friends she made in the group helped her heal. “We really pay attention to each other and got to know what was happening in each other’s lives. As time progressed, we were able to celebrate each other’s little victories, like when one woman was able to hold a baby for the first time since her loss. Celebrating each other’s little victories is rewarding and helped me reflect and understand my own growth. This has been the greatest sense of community I have ever felt as an adult.”
“I can see why it’s called HOPE – it really does give you hope and encouragement to not overcome grief but channel it in positive ways. I am in such a different place than I was 10 weeks ago. The tools I have learned have helped me develop as a person and be there to support my 6-year-old daughter through her grief process.”
Tips for Coping with Loss during the Holidays
The team at Roberta’s House knows how difficult the holiday season can be for families who have experienced loss. Here are some of their tips to help grieving individuals and families his holiday season:
Make a Plan
“Preparing for the holidays is stressful under normal conditions. When you add grief, it becomes even more so. We encourage people to celebrate the life, not the death of a loved one.” – Veronica Land-Davis, Executive Director
- If you have had a recent death in the family, make a plan for the holidays.
- Talk to your kids about the impact of loss. Include them in your plan.
- Celebrate your loved one by preparing their favorite food or setting a space for them at the table.
Create Tokens of Remembrance
“Create tokens of love and remembrance for loved ones. For example, last year we made a memorial ornament for my father, who had recently passed.” – Angela Dunlap, Program Manager
- Light a candle for your loved one.
- Create a memorial ornament or decoration for them.
- Create a memory box and write down cherished memories with them.
Let Yourself Grieve
“Feel your feelings. Whatever you are feeling is okay. It’s okay to be angry, happy or sad – the process is different for everyone. There is no linear timeline for grief.” – Latisha Preston, Family Support Specialist
- Whenever grief hits you, let yourself grieve.
- Be prepared for grief to hit you at unexpected moments.
- It’s okay if you don’t want to celebrate.
Help Others to Heal Yourself
“Helping others was an important part of my healing process. By reflecting on what I have been through I can help others. Helping others makes me feel like I am carrying on my daughter’s honor.” – Laura Wood, HOPE Program Ambassador
- Make donation to a charity in honor of your loved one.
- Volunteer with a local nonprofit. Roberta’s House has opportunities for volunteers.
- Do little acts of kindness to support your family members and friends.