Add To Favorites

Grieving needs to be allowed and supported, Lake County mental health experts say

News-Herald - 11/22/2022

Nov. 22—With the holidays being a time that may trigger many emotions for people coping with grief, local therapists encourage them to accept that grieving is normal and to let themselves walk through it.

One of those therapists is Leslie Gray, who has been in counseling and social work for more than 20 years.

Eight years ago, she started her private practice, En Pointe Behavioral Services, located at 34950 Chardon Road in Willoughby Hills. Not only does Gray encourage people to not deny their grief, but to find people who will be supportive, kind to them, spend time with them and talk with them about their loss.

"It doesn't matter if it's been 20 years or two months," she said. "The need to talk about the person, to acknowledge they're feeling the loss, that they're grieving is what needs to be support and allowed."

Finding people who are safe to talk to about grief and who will allow people to feel their feelings may mean finding a support group or a therapist in addition to having someone who is not going to shame or put someone down if they still happen to be grieving, Gray said.

"Go ahead with the holidays if you're willing," she said. "Being alone could often increase the grief even though it feels like the right thing to do. Being alone is going to cause possible depression."

Doing something to honor a person's place, whether it's saying a prayer for them or putting together pictures of them, are among the things people copying with grief are able to do, Gray said.

"Grief doesn't follow a specific pattern," she said. "Just because you pass from one stage to another doesn't mean you aren't going to go back to a previous stage. Sometimes you get to the point where you're not thinking about that loss every single day. You're only thinking maybe once or twice a week or once or twice a month and then you go a year without constantly having deep thoughts. You think about the person, but you aren't grieving anymore."

However, it can be a smell, sound or sight that triggers someone's grief and could cause them to break down during, Gray said.

"(Grief) comes and goes," she said. "You could be going 20 years, missing your mother, child or spouse, coping well, but there's no time limit."

In speaking with people about grief in some form or another on a weekly basis, Gray has found that there are many reasons for grief other than the death of a loved one and that people may not even realize they're grieving because they don't think of losing a job as something they would be grieving over.

"Moving to a different town could be something to be grieving over," she said. "Divorce — even if you were the one who wanted the divorce, there's still grief."

What she is finding in relation to the pandemic is that people don't realize the anxiety and the grief they're feeling about all the changes that have taken place thus far, Gray said, and there's still a great deal of insecurity about what's going to happen.

"People want normal to be what it was before," she said. "There's grief about the loss of what we thought was normal in our lives in our country."

Meanwhile, over at 38039 W. Spaulding St. in downtown Willoughby, much of the work Cindy Billittier has done over the years out of her private practice has been grief-related in various capacities. A social worker who has been in practice for more than 30 years, Billittier said taking time to recognize emotions rather than hide them, as well as not resulting to drugs or alcohol as ways to manage grief is important.

Billittier's clientele is multigenerational and she feels she crosses the whole spectrum.

"I think everyone needs to remember their own self care and what they need to rejuvenate," she said. "During the holidays, it can be a very stressful time because people are running around a lot, going to parties or work functions."

People's mental health in general has been impacted since the pandemic because there's more isolation and with that, people are less likely to reach out for support, Billittier said. In much of her work, she tries to encourage people to decrease their isolation, continuing an exercise regiment, making sure they're getting enough sleep, eating enough and not overextending themselves.

In recent years, due to the pandemic, whether they lost family and friends because of the coronavirus or not, people were not able to honor their loved ones in the same way because people could not have large funeral arrangements, Billittier noted.

"They had just close family or nothing," she said. "The grieving process has been limited due to that. Now, we're back to people having funerals and memorial services, but for almost two years, people weren't having those traditional celebrations of life."

If a parent or loved one has died either a year ago during the holidays or even over the past year, sadness, emptiness and anxiety follow, Billittier said.

"This is a time that triggers a lot of emotions because people are used to being all together as a family," she said. "Families have traditions, so sometimes people want to keep the same traditions even with the loss of a loved one, but sometimes they want to change them a bit so it's not so difficult. It's sort of up to where the family is in their grieving process.

Among the things people can do to honor loved ones may be decorating a tree with friends and family in honor of a person, putting a wreath on a loved one's gravesite, making a memory box or choosing a candle or flower to be placed at the table in remembrance. Making a recipe that a loved one might have brought to the table is something else that can be done.

"My mom made these really good horseradish carrots," Billittier said. "I have her recipe that she wrote down for me and I make that every year for Thanksgiving."


(c)2022 The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio)

Visit The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.