Flint, MI —  As a licensed therapist, Quayeria Rushing knows the holiday season can elicit different feelings in all of us, even if we don’t regularly want to talk about it.

“One of my things is, I just like to always validate people’s feelings,” said Rushing, who is one of two therapists hosting “Grief and the Holidays” support group sessions at the Gloria Coles Flint Public Library over the coming weeks.

Rushing has worked with all ages and backgrounds over her years in the mental health field, but she said that throughout her career she’s noticed that grief is not a topic many wish to discuss, even if those experiencing it have questions.

“[People think], ‘Am I the only one?’” she explained. “The energy I bring to the sessions I’ll be facilitating is just to free us from any type of expectation on what grief is supposed to look like … It’s very different for every individual.”

Rushing said that over the holidays, grief can hit us at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. She added that some may tend to think of grief mainly as a response to a recent death, but the feeling is not so exclusive.

“You can grieve a lot of things,” she said. “People grieve the loss of ability — let’s say you had an accident. People grieve the loss of a marriage.”

Similarly, Rushing said, we can also grieve people who are still with us, albeit in a different way than they once were. 

“Let’s say you have a parent who’s maybe dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia,” she said. “There’s a grief that the mother I knew is no longer here. She’s still in front of me, but she’s not the same.”

Rushing said all these things are why she works to “expand the definition of grief” beyond the idea that someone had to experience a death, and even further a recent death, to feel grief.

“You may have lost someone 20 years ago, and out of the blue, it may just hit you,” she said, especially when life events and holidays happen in that person’s absence. 

That’s what Rushing said her upcoming sessions are for: acknowledging that grief — new or ongoing — validating it, and realizing you aren’t alone in it.

“Just to start the conversation, and then just making sure that I give people resources if they want to, you know, explore it more… I’ll call that success,” she said.

Rushing added that she knows group settings aren’t for everyone, so for those who don’t feel comfortable coming in to talk, she suggested finding another safe space or person with whom you do feel comfortable sharing, or even just journaling.

“It may sound kind of cliché, but there is a benefit of getting it out of your head and onto paper,” she said.

Rushing’s holiday grief support group sessions will take place at the Gloria Coles Flint Public Library on Saturdays at 3 p.m. from Dec. 2 to Dec. 16, 2023.

Another therapist, Regina Baker, already began facilitating sessions earlier this month. Her next session will be Saturday, Nov. 18 at 11 a.m., and she will host her final session at 11 a.m. on Dec. 2. There will be no session on Saturday, Nov. 25.

To register, visit the library’s website.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....

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