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By Liza Horvath


The Sadness of the Season


The holiday season is here and people are busy buying gifts, lighting the menorah, decorating trees and other various and sundry celebratory activities. The season can be a wonderful time or it can be a very difficult time. Mostly, children are excited with a Santa in every mall, brightly decorated houses and the prospect that someone may be “making a list and checking it twice.” Young families will begin their own unique holiday traditions and most parents and grandparents look forward to seeing loved ones for that once or twice a year visit.


Irrespective of your personal form of celebration or non-celebration, it is helpful to understand and be sensitive to the fact that the holidays can come to some spring-loaded with decades old feelings which may include hope, disappointment, grief or a host of regret-filled memories of “better days.” The holidays can bring out the best or worst in us.


If you or someone near you has lost a loved one, the holidays can be particularly difficult and often amplify feelings of grief and hopelessness. Recognizing this, the Hospice Giving Foundation hosted a free “Coping with Grief During the Holidays” workshop shortly before Thanksgiving and a panel of speakers that included Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Suzanne Graybill, Chaplain Connie Riley and the Reverend Lawrence A. Robles presented possible solutions and tools for dealing with grief. While the opportunity to attend this year’s presentation has passed, reaching out for counseling, whether clinical or spiritual, should be considered when dealing with grief. According to Graybill, “Challenges, stress and unexpected changes can interrupt our journey. Therapy is a pause on the journey, a time to identify obstacles and learn new skills to get back on track.”


Other bereavement groups or one-on-one counseling opportunities are available through the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, 649-7755 or 753-6045, Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital and Health System, 759-1951, or the Central Coast Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, Inc., 758-8243.


Another thing that happens to many of us around this time of year is Seasonal Affective Disorder. Often misdiagnosed, SAD produces symptoms which include insomnia, sluggishness, weight loss, anxiety and difficulty in concentrating and is brought on by the decrease in sunlight we experience as the days become shorter. Less sunlight can disrupt our circadian rhythm – also known as our biological clock. With the disruption, serotonin levels in our blood drop which can trigger seasonal depression. While you should always check with your doctor when symptoms like these arise, the “cure” for SAD can be as simple as more exercise – preferably outdoors – and increased sunlight. Because I suffer from SAD each year, we replaced a few lights in our home with full spectrum bulbs that mimic natural outdoor light. There are also light therapy boxes you can buy but the local hardware stores sell the bulbs and they seem to do the trick – at least for me.


Whether you or someone you know are suffering this season from something as serious as grief or from an ostensibly fixable condition like SAD – remember that the first step is to recognize that the holiday season brings unique “gifts” to all of us and there are solutions available to help us get back on track.

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com










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