Summit County community groups offering classes, resources for those dealing with grief and loss during the holidays |

Summit County community groups offering classes, resources for those dealing with grief and loss during the holidays

Building Hope Executive Director Jennifer McAtamney discusses mental health care in Summit County on Sept. 17.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

FRISCO — While the holidays are meant to be a merry time of year, they can be difficult for people who are feeling overwhelmed, suffer from seasonal affective disorder or another mental health issue, or are experiencing a loss. Building Hope, a Summit County nonprofit that offers community events, is focusing its December calendar on dealing with grief during the holidays.

Loren Pierce Coleman, a chaplain and certified grief recovery specialist, occasionally leads talks about mourning in an authentic way and reconnecting with others. 

“I try to combine providing some information about grief with an opportunity for people to talk and share with one another in a safe space because I think what really helps people to heal from grief is mourning or talking and getting your feelings out with other people,” Coleman said. 

Coleman said people experiencing feelings of grief can benefit from sharing and talking about their own loss.

“Any major life transition or change has a component of grief in it,” Coleman said.

That includes the loss of a job or relationship.

Coleman explained that having a support system during the holidays is especially important as it can be a difficult time of year to be dealing with grief.

“Grief is especially hard during the holidays because you see everyone walking around with smiles on their faces, and you think you should be happy, but a lot of people who are experiencing grief are not,” Coleman said. “That can be really hard to handle. I want to help people to realize that that’s really hard and then there are other ways to deal with it besides putting on a happy face.”

Coleman also offers grief counseling and leads support groups year-round.

Events and classes to help with grief

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, Building Hope is hosting its monthly art-focused workshop, called The Alchemists’ Writing Workshop. It aims to help people change their perspective.

Building Hope events and volunteer coordinator Nicole Maynard said the workshop focuses on shifting internal narratives. Maynard explained that the process begins with attendees journaling without any filter. Then they discuss ways to think of things differently and again write in a more positive, less comfortable way. Attendees then examine how their dialogue has changed. 

On Wednesday, Dec. 11, the Frisco Senior and Community Center will host Blue Christmas: Embracing Light and Dark, which will feature several stations that are aimed at inspiring joy. The stations will include things like motivational speakers, people teaching meditation techniques, pieces of different faiths and people sharing things that generally bring them joy. 

Maynard said Building Hope is putting on the event in conjunction with the Summit Interfaith Council.

On Thursday, Dec. 12, the Dillon Community Church is hosting a two-hour Surviving the Holidays grief class. Paul Rostek, a chaplain at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and a Grief Share leader, will lead the class. Rostek said it begins with a 40-minute video in which people share their experiences with grief, including what did and didn’t help them.  

“What we try to do is give people some practical tools to help them get through the holiday period, which is a very difficult time for people who have lost a loved one,” Rostek said. “It’s a really practical two-hour session with a book given to the participants that will help them get through the holiday season.”

The book participants are given contains information, resources and workbook-type exercises. After the holiday session, the church will begin a 13-week Grief Share program in January that will feature two-hour sessions every Thursday. 

“In the nine years I’ve been doing it, I’ve seen … every kind of imaginable situation of someone losing a loved one,” Rostek said. “And what has amazed me most is that the people that go through the program … it gives them the tools and the safe space to go through the grieving process and experience a new life.”

Building Hope also hosts two community yoga classes per month. In December, Maynard said the two classes are gentle, foundational yoga classes to help people ease into the holidays. 

Ashley Hughes, a yoga teacher who has previously taught Building Hope classes, explained how yoga can positively impact mental health. 

“A lot of times with challenging circumstances, our mind and body can have a disconnect,” Hughes said. “Yoga helps connect the two.”

Hughes explained that the mind-body connection formed in yoga can be taken out of the yoga room and into everyday life. 

“There are different yoga postures, breathing techniques where you can either sit with the emotion or breathe through it,” Hughes said. “The goal of offering these yoga classes is to develop more coping mechanisms.”

The next community yoga class, which is for all ages and levels, will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Breckenridge South Branch Library, 103 S. Harris St. Tea and snacks will be served after the class.

Additional support

Mind Springs Health, a psychiatric care facility in Frisco, doesn’t plan to host holiday-specific events, but program director Meredith Smith said there are several ongoing programs that can be helpful for locals over the holidays. Smith said Mind Springs therapy groups can help anyone struggling with emotional or behavioral difficulties or addiction.

  • COPES: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays. Abstinence-based recovery group for adults recovering from addiction.
  • SMART: 10-11:30 a.m. Tuesdays. Self-management and recovery techniques for those struggling with substance abuse.
  • Women’s dialectical behavioral therapy: 5:30-7 p.m. Wednesdays. Skills group for women hoping to manage difficult emotions and interpersonal relationships.
  • Men’s dialectical behavioral therapy: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Skills group for men hoping to manage difficult emotions and interpersonal relationships.
  • Seeking Safety: 4-5:30 p.m. Fridays. Support for women learning how to manage difficult emotions, including emotions relating to trauma.

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