The holidays can be hectic and trying even in the best of times. But facing a season dedicated to family and love after the death of a partner can be particularly hard.
“Holidays after the death of a partner can be tender and difficult,” says Linda Ellis, executive director of The Health Initiative. “The empty chair at the table can leave a glaring hole amid the traditional events and gatherings of the season, and often those around us are moving too quickly to recognize the loss in the same way we do.”
Nothing can fill that empty chair, but a new seasonal support group that launched Dec. 5 aims to give LGBT Atlantans a safe place to acknowledge and grieve their loss.
The groups, which run every Monday through Jan. 9 at the Philip Rush Center, are sponsored by the Health Initiative, which recently expanded its mission from the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative, and SAGE Atlanta, which focuses on LGBT aging issues.
The discussions are open to LGBT people of any age who have lost a partner due to death, regardless of whether the loss is recent or further in the past.
“It’s our hope that these groups will provide a safe place to stop for a bit in the midst of it all,” Ellis says. “Through the sessions, individuals will be encouraged to share stories and memories, explore together what self-care looks like through the season, and to begin to looking to what lies ahead for each of us.”
The sessions are led by Lesley Brogan, bereavement coordinator for Guardian Hospice. They are free, but attendees are required to register and are asked to also bring a donation to the Atlanta Food Bank.
Session topics include the following:
“Introducing Your Loved One,” Dec. 12: Bring something that introduces your lost loved one to the group and talk about what the holidays were like in the past.
“Leaving a Legacy,” Dec. 19: Discussion of ways to weave together past holiday traditions, acknowledge this year’s losses, and discuss how to spend the holiday season.
“Opening Our Hearts to What’s Next,” Jan. 9: Sharing of stories from this year’s holidays and discussion and blessings for the future.