Oct 27, 2014 8:00 AM

Author: Eryn Gorang

November is drawing near, and as you are testing out Thanksgiving recipes and getting a head-start on Christmas shopping, something may not feel quite right. The holidays should be the “most wonderful time of the year,” but for many, they serve as a painful reminder of those who have passed away and will not be there to join in the festivities.

“The holidays are hard because they involve the challenge of moving forward with traditions without someone there who was once a participant,” says Kathie Supiano, PhD, LCSW, Associate Professor and Director of Caring Connections: a Hope and Comfort in Grief Program through the University of Utah College of Nursing.  “You may be expected to be joyful, when in actuality, you are miserable.”

On November 3rd at 7 p.m., the University of Utah College of Nursing Caring Connections Program will be hosting their annual Grief and the Holidays event.  The event will feature uplifting speakers, including Richard Paul Evans, author of the New York Times #1 bestselling book The Christmas Box, and Mark Probst, chief information officer for Intermountain Healthcare.  Evans and Probst are both familiar with the pain associated with celebrating the holidays after the loss of a loved one.  In fact, as friends for many years, Evans provided support to Probst after the death of Probst’s 16-year-old daughter in 2012 from leukemia. 

“They provide great examples of people who have experienced great loss, but who are coping with it in a healthy way,” says Supiano.

This free event will also offer food, music and gifts to help set the tone for grievers during the holiday season.  Supiano stressed that she insists on keeping this event free and open to the public in order to reach as many people as possible. “Grief is a normal part of life for everyone.  The only way to avoid it is to never love, or die first, neither of which are good options,” says Supiano.

Founded in 1997, Caring Connections is the only bereavement program of its kind to be based within a College of Nursing. In addition to their twice-annual speaking events, Grief and the Holidays and Seeds of Remembrance, Caring Connections also provides regular support groups for about 350 people each year.  The support groups are designed to assist a wide range of people, including children, teens and adults who have lost someone dear to them.

“We live in a world that tells people who are grieving to ‘get up and get over it,’ “ says Supiano. “But our programs offer spaces where people don’t have to hurry up.  They can receive the support and care they need in a very non-threatening way.”

If you would like more information on Caring Connections and their programs, please call 801-585-8522.

Eryn Gorang

Eryn Gorang is an intern in the Office of Public Affairs

grief caring connections holidays support group

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