By Rebecca Simkin

Mara always loved the holidays. She would plan her gift purchases months in advance. She would cook and freeze lots of dishes in preparation for family get-togethers and she looked forward to the appreciation and smiles that always came when the parties started.

All that changed the year her son died. Panic set in when she tried to think about the coming celebrations. She was having difficulty getting out of bed each morning. Doing her regular routine took all of her energy, but how could she avoid what had become a tradition? Everyone would be disappointed if she didn’t bake their favourite casserole.

Finally, Mara realized she simply couldn’t attend the parties this year. She was so sad and everyone else would be happy. She wanted to hide away until the holidays were over. How could she tell her family, though?

For those who have experienced the death of a loved one, holidays and family celebrations can be a time of stress. Feeling sad around happy people makes it worse and the empty chair where her son used to sit is an uncomfortable reminder of what has changed.

Evergreen Hospice will be holding its annual Coping with Holidays and Family Celebrations presentations for those who are grieving. The tools and mindset will be offered to help manage the emotional minefield of those occasions.

“When a person is grieving the death of a loved one, every day has its challenges, but celebrations create additional anxiety,” says Jan Pearce, Evergreen executive director. “At our presentations, we offer some strategies to get through these sticky situations.”

Sessions are available at 10 a.m. on Nov. 29 at The Shops on Steeles and 404, in partnership with Mosaic Home Care Services, and at 7 p.m. at Evergreen’s Markham office, located at 201-5762 Highway 7 East.

Another session will be held at the Stouffville Legion Hall (150 Mostar Street) at 7 p.m. on Dec. 4 with live music by Bruce MacNeil. Please bring a non-perishable food item for the Stouffville Food Bank.

The free events begin with a talk, led by Evergreen’s counsellors. Participants will then be able to honour their loved ones during a memorial activity. Refreshments will be provided. Call the Evergreen office at 416-499-2185 if you plan to attend.