The Wellness Center helps those dealing with grief during the holidays

By Diana Kesablyan

Although the holidays may seem a time of happiness and cheer, this is not always the case. For someone dealing with loss, it may be difficult to feel the jolly spirit that comes with the winter holidays. 

From Santa Claus in front of every Ralphs, ringing his bell and wishing you a Merry Christmas to Micheal Buble singing to you about Dasher and Dancer, when wintertime comes, it is difficult to avoid holiday cheer.  The intense holiday culture that surrounds the month of December is only emphasized by American marketing and advertising. It can feel like the holiday spirit is forced onto us at times, especially for those dealing with grief. 

However, it is okay to not be in tune with the jolly mood that may be surrounding you during these times. Especially now that so many people have experienced losses due to COVID-19, many are experiencing a somber holiday season. 

Being surrounded by people who are not going through the same thing as you may be isolating. Know that you are not alone. Talking with a family member, friend, or even counselor at school may help to relieve some of the negative emotions you may be feeling. Understandably, some people may feel a bit awkward when trying to comfort others. That doesn’t mean that they do not wish to help, and it should not be a reason for you to withdraw your call for help. 

An essential part of learning to deal with grief is understanding that bottling up emotions or avoiding your feelings will only make things worse.  

If you are in need of a helpful ear, the Wellness Center is always open for students who need to talk about what they may be going through. Social workers Helena Vargas, Vicky Wen and Jacqueline Orcutt, are an excellent resource for students looking for just this.

“The purpose of the Wellness Center is to provide all members on campus, whether they are faculty or students, a safe space to ground themselves and/or seek emotional, mental, and/or social health support,” Vargas said in collaboration with her colleagues.  “The Social Workers oversee the space to ensure safety and comfort and work with those who need or want to develop insight, challenge perceptions, build coping skills, etc. The Wellness Center is important because of the message of normalcy and validity towards emotional, mental, and social health concerns. It provides a quick space for anyone on campus to compose themselves to go on with the rest of their day.”

Grief is a personal journey that does not have any rules, instructions, or even a predicted timeline. It is about the person’s willingness to address how they are feeling, what is making them feel this way, and their reflection on it all. 

“First and foremost, any person who is supporting one who suffered a loss needs to approach the grieving person with empathy and patience,” Vargas said.  “What that can look like is: allowing them the space to talk about the loss, validating their current emotional state, psychoeducation about the 5 stages of grief to normalize the current experiences, or encouraging them to seek social support. That support at GHC can be with the School Social Workers, the Counselors, or the space in the Wellness Center. We would also offer and share resources for grief support outside of school, because grief touches all aspects of one’s life.”