Handling the Holidays Without Your Loved One

Jeff Zhorne, grief counselor, of the Grief Recovery Program. Courtesy photo

“It’s Thanksgiving, I can’t believe he’s not here.” “I wish I could just cancel Christmas this year.” “How can I go on without her?”

The empty chair at holiday dinners can cause enormous pain. Whether it’s your 1st, 10th or 50th year without your loved one, holidays are sad reminders of those we have lost.

“As a society we are not trained or prepared to deal with life’s most predictable event and that is loss,” said grief counselor Jeff Zhorne, a resident of Valencia. This includes death, divorce, breakup, retirement, empty nest, loss of trust or any of 40 other losses we can expect during our lifetimes.

Maybe it’s a sad movie or listening to a friend’s battle with cancer, and slowly you feel your throat tighten. Feelings may bubble to the surface and get lodged there. Many of us push those feelings right back down. “C’mon, heart, be still!”

“This buried pain is very real, has energy and doesn’t go away on its own,” Zhorne said. Unresolved grief affects us negatively, sooner or later. “It will make itself known when you least expect it.” Reactions become disproportionate; our emotional, mental and physical well-being suffers.

Moving out of fear and isolation     

Zhorne said most people realize the need to resolve past loss issues and finish unfinished emotional business. “But you rarely hear how to actually do that,” he remarked. “How do we move out of fear and isolation? How do we end the pain?”

After the deaths of his two children in an auto accident, Zhorne found himself stuck in wishing things had been different and regretting not spending more time with them. The pain, isolation and loneliness were unbearable. He even reached the point of not wanting to be reminded of his children. “But I didn’t have that choice,” he recounted. “Thanks to Grief Recovery, I was able to finish what was so I could begin to live with what is.”

The more completion work he did, the fewer things were left unfinished, and the more he began to cherish fond memories of his children, Jeremy and Amelia. “They both left a legacy of love, not pain. I started to remember them for the way they lived, not just the way they died,” he explained.

After much education and training, and by sheer providence, Zhorne made some incredible discoveries about himself and the process of emotional healing. The result is The Grief Program. Its mission: to help hurting people complete relationships that have ended or changed because of death or divorce. Today, as a Certified Grief Counselor, his practice is centered in Santa Clarita.

 Loss of hopes and dreams

Zhorne said recovery starts by being able to freely express all the thoughts and emotions connected with loss. Maybe it’s regret, or grieving the loss of unrealized hopes and broken dreams.

“If you are tired of temporary pain relief, tired of quenching in, and want to expand your life and relationships, learn to finish unfinished emotional business and move beyond loss,” said Zhorne. With the correct tools we can cherish fond memories of our loved ones. Pain won’t control us anymore.

 The Grief Recovery Program is offering a free community presentation on the tools and skills needed for working through significant emotional loss at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 13 at the Education Center, Christ Lutheran Church, 25816 N. Tournament Road. For more information, call 661-733-0692 or visit TheGriefProgram.com.


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