By Jim Mentink: Freedom New Mexico Correspondent
Brightly shining red and green balls. Resin-coated reindeer and snowmen. Tinsel, popcorn strings and tiny white lights. These are all typical ornaments that people use to decorate their Christmas trees.
Some ornaments, though, hold special meaning, like a Christmas-themed fairy that Clovis resident Fern Tredway will hang on her tree this year. She found the ornament after her 17-year-old daughter was killed in an auto accident in October 2005.
“Dayna loved fairies,” Tredway said. “I found an ornament with Christmas wings. That and a cross will always be on our tree now. Ornaments that she’d made that were put away will now go on the tree.”
During the first holiday season without her daughter, the hardest part was getting out of bed in the morning. She recalls that the holidays were a blur and she doesn’t remember it that well.
“What helped that year was knowing that other people were depending on me. My husband, my other kids and grandkids,” Tredway said.
As the next holiday season came around, Tredway felt a hole in her heart. It is a hole that she says will always be there. That year, she didn’t have the spirit to put up the tree or do the Christmas shopping, but she did it anyway.
In her family, the holidays are “a big thing” and she tries to make them as normal as possible. In spite of Tredway’s loss, she is grateful it was not worse, considering that her mother and son were in the vehicle when Dayna was killed.
The feeling of loss or depression during the Christmas season, often called “holiday blues,” can be common. Tony Bustos of TeamBuilders Counseling Services in Clovis offered some helpful advice for the person having a difficult time dealing with the holiday blues.
One idea is to focus on one’s social support system.
“They can lean on family, friends and their church,” Bustos said. “They can also focus on their blessings and not what they’re missing.”
Thinking about the original purpose of the holiday and focusing on that is another step an individual can take, Bustos added.
“Talk with loved ones you have and talk about the gifts left behind by those who are not with you,” he said. “It’s ok to cry with your family, but think about the blessing the missing person is to you.”
He also encourages people who are dealing with holiday loss to stay active and keep their spirits up, to stay busy and help others.
A sometimes especially vulnerable group is older adults.
Baxter-Curren Center Program Director Brenda Hankins said she tries to schedule evening activities as well as daytime ones.
“Most seniors can make it through the day okay. It’s at night when they feel most vulnerable and lonely,” she said.
In addition to several Christmas parties, Hankins has planned an overnight trip, a Christmas bazaar and a Clovis light tour. She can be reached at 769-7908 for more information on activities.
Bustos added that a help-line is in place for New Mexico residents who are having a difficult time with overwhelming grief or depression. That number, made available by Agora Services, is 1-866-HELP-1-NM.
Ted Wiard, founder of the Golden Willow Retreat Center and assistant clinical director of TeamBuilders, said, “There is no timeline or time restrictions of when one should start or ‘be over it’. Permission to choose to heal from loss is up to each and every one of us.
Choosing to step out of the anguish and pain of loss and the feeling of being stuck can be scary and can feel very vulnerable.”
For Tredway, dealing with loss has been real.
“You just have to get out of bed in the morning and gather strength from friends and family. Don’t dwell on what you can’t change,” she said. “My husband and I had another couple visit that had faced loss and they told us, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you how to grieve. You have to do it your own way. Everyone grieves differently.’”