Correction: The time given for “Light Up a Life” was incorrect. It starts at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, at WKFL Park.
For many the holiday season is one of cheer and togetherness, but not everyone’s circumstances easily facilitate this. Within our community — in every neighborhood, business and team — there are those who find the loss of a loved one to weigh heavily upon them during this winter season, and especially as the traditions of the holidays come around.
“We have so many memories, you know, connecting us to those who have passed and it’s never the same again,” said the Hospice of Homer Executive Director Holly Dramis. “So to have this upheaval every year at a time where everyone else just seems merry and bright … it’s a tough time for people.”
Dramis and the rest of the Hospice of Homer, a nonprofit which operates by its donors and nearly 70 volunteers, are working to help those who feel distraught because of their grieving process this winter, alongside their more traditional work with those people in the end-of-life stage.
Despite death being an ubiquitous part of being human, the experience of a loved one’s passing often leads to isolation and increased feelings of hopelessness within our culture, according to Dramis and Morgan Laffert, the Bereavement Consultant for the Hospice.
“I believe in our culture a lot of us feel that we need to be strong, and that we’re not allowed to express our feelings … and what ends up happening is we suppress our grief,” Laffert said. “When someone we care about is undergoing this difficult process we often don’t know how to help them, which only leads to more suppression and isolation.
“Many people don’t know how to ask the questions, they don’t know what to say to somebody who’s grieving,” Laffert added. “And so they avoid the topic altogether, they avoid the person altogether. So not only are you [the bereaved] losing a loved one, but you are losing the life that you formerly had, and the people that were in that life.”
Hospice of Homer seeks to aid those who are grieving and feel isolated, providing opportunities for community expression and remembrance which help allow the bereaved person to feel less alone.
This month, Hospice holds several events:
• At 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec, 8, a showing of “Love Actually” at the Homer Theatre. Admission is by donation, and all proceeds benefit Hospice of Homer.
• At 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, “Into the Dark: An Open Mic on Grief and Loss” at Ano Kissaten Cafe. Join hospice for coffee and catharsis.
• At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, “Light Up a Life,” a display of luminarias to honor lost loved ones at WKFL Park. People wishing to honor loved ones with customized luminarias can make a donation up to the night of the event through hospice.
It’s important to remember, however, that these events are not attempts at creating more merriment or simply cheering up individuals facing loss, but rather to create spaces for sharing experiences in an honest way and for individuals to grieve together.
“When you are grieving one of the best ways to grieve is to talk about that person, is to share the stories,” Laffert said. “… to remember, to talk, to do these things, to commit these expressions, these acts, in honor of them because it remembers the love. … It’s so important because so many things in society make us feel like we can’t do that, we have to let that go. And in grief you never let go.”
Dramis added in describing the value of these community events, saying, “that phrase, ‘grief is love with no place to go,’ definitely comes to mind. … It’s places to put that love and channel it out again, when things are most difficult.”
But what if you’re not the one processing through grief, but you would like to support someone you care about who is?
Besides attending events there are many avenues of support for people who are facing loss, according to Laffert.
“My advice would be not to leave them. … Set things of actions you can do. So instead of saying, ‘I’m here whenever you need me,’ … it’s giving actionable items. ‘Hey, would you like to go out for coffee today at noon, I’ll drive?’ … and if the griever says no, that’s okay, but I’m just not going anywhere,” Laffert said “It’s the little things that make such a difference.”
If someone within the community wants to help support the Hospice of Homer in their work outside of bereavement, including helping individuals who are in the end-of-life stage, there are always chances to volunteer or donate to the Hospice. There are a wide range of activities one can take up depending on their wishes and availability.
As hospice continues to expand its community outreach opportunities and the need for their palliative care increases, they are entering an exciting time of growth.
“I think we hope to keep filling that gap for the community. … It means bringing someone in like Morgan and allowing our grief programming to evolve, and then checking back in with the community and saying, ‘What works for you?’” Dramis said.
“What I believe is that hospice isn’t going anywhere; I think we’re just growing in terms of programs and ideas,” added Laffert.
During the holiday season, and year round, the people of the Hospice of Homer are working tirelessly to help those members of our community who are grieving, in the end-of-life stage, or are coping with death in some other way.
For more information about the organization, check out the Hospice of Homer’s website: hospiceofhomer.org.