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First holiday gathering post-vaccinations could trigger grief: How you can cope

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Posted at 5:09 PM, Nov 23, 2021

CINCINNATI — The Ohio Department of Health is cautioning families as they head into the Thanksgiving holiday, recommending a COVID test before you gather.

“Make sure you’re not carrying anything to Thanksgiving other than the sides that you’re supposed to bring,” said Benjamin Robison, a Wood County Health commissioner and guest on a state-wide call conducted by the Ohio Department of Health Tuesday. “We tend to see an increase in cases and by taking some additional precautions, like symptom monitoring and introducing test-use into the process, we have a chance to potentially change the trend.”

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff with ODH said the state is experiencing a surge in the number of hospitalizations due to COVID. The agency believes those numbers could rise with transmission over the holiday.

“The threshold per 100,000 is 100 cases per 100,000. And we are many times above that both at a state level and in each and every individual county,” said Dr. Vanderhoff.

All this talk about hospitalizations and fatalities due to COVID brings on a level of grief for families entering another holiday season without a loved one. The staff at the Goldstein Grief Center say they are on standby for families looking for ways to cope.

“I think it's a double whammy this year and in the past couple of years,” said Marjorie Rentz , who works at the Goldstein Grief Center. “COVID plus loss [has people] experiencing new changes to their routine due to COVID and everything that that entails.”

Rentz along with staff at the center lead virtual and in-person counseling sessions for those trying to make sense of a loss. Her advice is to make a plan before Thanksgiving on how you will celebrate.

“Thanksgiving can bring with it a lot of triggers,” she said. “We always tell people that it's really important to prepare and to think ahead if possible. We use the example of carving your turkey. So if dad used to carve the turkey and he's passed away, thinking about that beforehand, maybe passing it on to a grandson or granddaughter, a son or a daughter. It'll be bittersweet, but at least you've planned for it."

She also advises being kind to yourself as you grieve.

“It can be really stressful during the holidays with cooking, the shopping,” she said. “So if people carve out time during their day to lay down for a little bit to take some quiet time to go for a walk that can really go far in terms of giving them the endurance to get through a long day.”

Her advice for those supporting someone who is grieving is to communicate.

“I think sometimes what people who are with a grieving person do is they don't want to mention the person's name for fear that they will make them sad,” said Rentz. “Of course, they're sad already. So we always encourage folks who are supporting a grieving person to talk about that person. Bring up memories of the last holiday they were together to really feel free to say their name and tell stories”

Rentz says it's OK to tell someone that you are not OK and to be honest with your feelings.

“Know who your support people are and who can manage and handle it if you're crying,” said Rentz. “Just be open about how you're feeling and hopefully people in your life will give you space to express those feelings.”

On December 7 at 6pm, the Goldstein Family Grief Center will host a workshop on coping with loss during the holidays. You an register by calling (513)246-9208 or emailing