Vickroy: When it’s not the most wonderful time of the year
By Donna Vickroy firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @dvickroy December 12, 2012 2:50PM
Henry Dudik at Smith Crossing in Orland Park, Illinois, Monday, December 10, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media
Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ, 9411 S. 51st Ave., Oak Lawn; (708) 422-4200; pilgrimfaith.org
Immanuel United Church of Christ, 9815 S. Campbell Ave., Evergreen Park; (708) 424-3755; www.immanueluccep.org
Faith United Methodist Church, 15101 S. 80th Ave., Orland Park; (708) 444-8560; www.faithumcop.org
Tips for coping with the blues
Get physical activity.
Share your stress. Talk about your concerns or worries.
Learn to accept what is until you can change it.
Make time for fun.
Invite new people, especially supportive people, to join your holiday observances.
Change the menu if you don’t feel like making a traditional meal.
Take a trip to a special place you and your loved one enjoyed.
Make or buy a decoration in memory of your loved one.
Request a service, reading or song be dedicated to your loved one.
Source: Terry Finn, registered clinical psychologist, Chicago; (773) 854-4100.
Updated: January 14, 2013 6:35AM
Henry Dudik’s wife, Alice, died on Christmas Eve two years ago.
Even though she had been sick for a long time, her passing left a sad quietness that was at times deafening.
“I worked in sales all my life. I was used to talking to people all the time,” said Dudik, of Orland Park. “After she died, I just sat in front of the TV.
“Until I couldn’t stand it anymore.”
Though grief and loneliness know no season, they seem to strike with particular harshness during the holidays.
For people who are alone or who have lost someone dear to them, the brightness of holiday get-togethers can seem glaring. The expectation to be joyful can conflict with the compulsion to simply cry.
Terry Finn, a registered clinical psychologist in Chicago, said it is perfectly normal for grief reactions to resurface or become more pronounced on holidays, just as they can be on birthdays, anniversaries and even during a change in seasons.
“Christmas was a fun time for my wife,” Dudik said. “She loved all the decorations. She used to take forever picking out cards.”
Christmas carols and decorations are memory triggers, which can be good or bad.
“When you love someone so much, it’s hard to forget them,” he said.
Experts say you shouldn’t try to forget them. You should, in fact, do the opposite, celebrate their memory.
Finn suggests having a church service, reading or song dedicated to them, taking a trip to a place that was special to both of you or honoring your loved one’s memory by helping someone who needs it.
Every Christmas, Faith United Methodist Church in Orland Park holds a Blue Christmas service for those struggling with the loss of a loved one. This year’s service is at 12:15 p.m. Sunday.
Organizer Jan Shaulis, who was a grief counselor most of her life, said the service is meant to recognize people who are hurting and give them a positive way to deal with the pain.
“When a bad thing happens, you have two choices: You can let it weigh you down and hurt you,” she said, “or you can take it and turn it into a good thing, by celebrating that person’s life.”
Shaulis, director of congregational care, said each person who attends the small intimate service receives an activity to do at home afterward.
This year, the pastors at Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ in Oak Lawn and Immanuel United Church of Christ in Evergreen Park have teamed up to offer special services for those who are not experiencing a happy holiday. They are set for 2 p.m. Sunday. In addition, Immanuel United Church will offer a Blue Christmas/Longest Night Service at 7 p.m. Dec. 21.
Whether dealing with a death or a ruptured relationship, the loss of closeness at a time when family togetherness is expected can be overwhelming for some people, said Peggy McClanahan, pastor of Pilgrim Faith United Church of Christ.
“It’s too hard to act happy when you’re not,” McClanahan said.
The season can be particularly rough on senior citizens because many are retired, and they may be experiencing a dwindling list of personal contacts.
McClanahan recommends that sufferers find a way to do something kind for someone else, either through a church or charity or simply by reaching out to someone in need, perhaps through a kind gesture or a handwritten letter.
It’s important, she added, to remember that emails and Facebook messages, while convenient, are not enough to take the place of actually spending time with someone.
“People need someone to sit down with them and talk for awhile,” she said.
Dudik finally decided that in order to save his mental health, he had to make a lifestyle change. He sold his Orland Park home, which was located on a golf course, and moved into Smith Crossing retirement village in Orland Park.
Now Dudik concentrates more on his demanding schedule than the TV listings. His doctor jokes that his calendar has more “to do” reminders than the physician’s. He also has many friends to dine with and go on short excursions with.
This year, he will spend the holidays in Washington, D.C., with his oldest son’s family.
Marge Gardiner, who lived in Homewood for 47 years, moved to Smith Crossing six years ago, in anticipation that she would one day be alone. Her husband, Dick, had Alzheimer’s disease.
“I had a plan ahead of time,” she said. “I kept imagining what it was going to be like when he was gone.”
Dick Gardiner died in October 2011. Marge Gardiner also lost a son to cancer several years ago. She said you appreciate family and friendship more as you age.
“Everybody here is concerned about everybody else,” Gardiner said. “We all have been through similar things. We’re very open about it.”
She also is fortunate to be close with her son and daughter, who live across the street from each other in New Lenox.
Now, she said, the holidays are manageable.