Wellness Champions: The holidays bring joy to many, but can be difficult for those struggling with losses

GRCC adviser Lynnae Selberg smiling.

Be a champion! GRCC is helping students and employees focus on all areas of health and wellness as we emerge together from the pandemic.

Wellness is a full integration of physical, mental and spiritual health. That includes physical health, but so much more. During the next year we’re also looking at emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, environmental and occupational health, and how we all can work to help ourselves and each other.

There are many resources at GRCC to help all of these types of wellness. Each week, we’ll introduce you to people and places here on campus ready to support you on your wellness journey.

The holidays that arrive this season bring joy to many. But they also can be a difficult time, especially those struggling with losses.

“Grief and loss are powerful emotions,” said GRCC adviser Lynnae Selberg, who has worked in a variety of counseling roles for the past 30 years in many educational and health care settings. “There’s a misperception that people grieve only when somebody dies. But people also grieve over the loss of a job, a relationship, a pet, housing and freedom.”

Selberg graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University and earned a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Michigan State University. She is a licensed professional counselor in the state of Michigan and is a nationally certified rehabilitation counselor. 

She has worked in many different student services and academic affairs departments, at various institutions, which has provided her a wide range of experiences to draw upon when working with students at GRCC.

Selberg has experienced a number of personal losses from her high school friends to her cousin, and more recently her father. The most impactful loss was the tragic loss of her infant son, Andy.

She lost her son, Andy, to sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS, on Oct. 15, 1989. For more than 20 years, she volunteered to work with groups supporting families who faced similar infant losses.

“The holidays are rough all the way around,” she said. “People heading into the holidays after experiencing some kind of grief or loss need to take care of themselves. We need to offer grace and patience to each other, but also with ourselves.”

Selberg said dealing with grief doesn’t mean sitting each day and thinking about the loss, but it is about understanding the experience and how it may be impacting a person. Typically, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries will bring the grief more front and center, compounding the sense of loss.

These are some things you can do:

  • Slow down and take time for yourself. Familiar tasks may take more effort, energy and time.
  • Recognize that everyone experiences grief differently and that is ok.  Some may want to go out for a run or chop wood or cry in the shower… do what feels right to you.
  • Ask for help – tell people what you need and be willing to accept help when it is offered to you.
  • Understand the impact grief and loss can have on concentration and memory as well as your energy level.
  • Journal your memories, writing down what you are feeling and experiencing can help you process your grief.
  • Plan ahead- do what YOU feel up to… some traditions you might not be up for this year… or you can start new ones.  Know that whatever you do is ok and those around you need to understand that.
  • Manage your stress responses (over eating, drinking, medications, over spending), bad habits are easy to start and hold on to when grieving.
  • Recognize you may struggle to control your emotions, but give yourself permission to feel happy or sad.
  • Connect with others, surround yourself with supportive people who care about you.
  • Most of all have grace and patience with yourself and those around you.

If you know someone grieving, Selberg said it is good to ask them how you can help- ask them what they need, and don’t assume that you know what they need.

Here are some links for resources for people who are grieving, and those who care about them.

Grief recovery support groups in Grand Rapids, Michigan – GriefShare

Articles on dealing with grief and loss: Help Guide – Coping with Grief and Loss

Grief: Coping with reminders after a loss – Mayo Clinic

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