Facing the holidays can be a challenge under the best circumstances, but the transient aspect of Southwest Florida compounds the isolation many of us feel during a season focused largely on family. Grieving a loved one deepens feelings of separation and loneliness.

How do you handle paradise lost? Allow yourself to experience the full-range of emotions, from the joy of the season to the despair of loss. Feeling is where healing begins.

Let loved ones know which traditions you plan to keep and which are too painful, at least for now, so they know how to support you.

Incorporate your loved one into celebrations. Share a favorite memory, continue her traditions, toast him at dinner – whatever works for you.

Share with loved ones how they can support you through this time of year. Do you need help preparing Thanksgiving dinner, sorting holiday cards, lighting the Menorah, taking down Christmas décor? Be honest with yourself and those who care for and about you.

Avoid isolating. Make a point to enjoy dinner, coffee, movies or shopping with people who love and support you. Be honest about what’s too much and bold enough to ask others out. If you don’t know where to begin, start with your place of worship, a club or civic organization like Collier Senior Center—Golden Gate.

Consider helping others. Adopt-a-family, donate in memory of your loved one, babysit for a neighbor, teach someone your favorite holiday recipe, join UPSLIDE our mental wellness-friendship connection group. In giving, we’re also receiving…moments away from grief and isolation.

Create a new tradition. Do you know others who are “solo” this holiday season? Celebrate together! Plan Friendsgiving, a movie night, cookie exchange, brunch or potluck dinner. It can be as elaborate or simple as you decide, it’s about enjoying each other’s company.

Stay active. Nature walks are restorative and visiting with others strolling can reduce loneliness. Even gentle exercise boosts the feel-good hormones (endorphins) that relieve depression and anxiety.

Allott a specific amount of time each day or week to grieve. Cry, yell, be still. Allow whatever comes up. Grief is a process; there is no right or wrong way to move through it.

Reach-out to loved ones. Whether surrounded by family or celebrating solo, take time to call, text, email and/or message family and friends. Bridging the gap breaks that wall of isolation. I know one woman who’s mastered self-care by messaging friends before the holidays reminding them that she’s alone and will be reaching-out on the hard days. (In turn, family, friends, caregivers and neighbors can give the gift of their presence this season by checking-in regularly with the older adults in their lives).

Visit Collier Senior Center-Golden Gate, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 4898 Coronado Parkway, and join our family!

Membership is free and our dedicated staff and volunteers are here to support you and your caregivers, offering a coffee bar, hot lunch, classes and lectures, monthly birthday parties, holiday celebrations, dance and exercise classes, art and craft classes, cards and games, support groups and other life-enhancing offerings designed specifically for seniors. For more information, please visit www.CollierSeniorCenter.org, or call 239.252.4534.

Let’s take time this season to support each other and make new memories along the way.

Esther Lully, MSLS
Senior Center Director
Collier Senior Center—Golden Gate