Art doesn’t have to be sophis­ti­cat­ed, real­is­tic, or “good” to have val­ue. Self-expres­sion, in any form, can be heal­ing. In good times and bad, we can always cre­ate some­thing. Art is a form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion — with our­selves and others.

Last year at this time, my Mom was not well. My sis­ter and I were alter­nat­ing stay­ing overnight with her, and an angel care­giv­er named Michele was watch­ing over her by day. Anticipation was run­ning high for us all, but it wasn’t the joy­ful type usu­al­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the holidays.

Even if you’ve nev­er heard the term “antic­i­pa­to­ry grief,” you’ve prob­a­bly expe­ri­enced it. It is the gut-punch of sad­ness that pre­cedes loss — of a loved one, a job, a rela­tion­ship, an ail­ing pet, vir­tu­al­ly any­thing that means a lot to us.

Like all grief, it’s an inter­nal ache that no one sees. And talk­ing about it, espe­cial­ly dur­ing the hol­i­days, makes peo­ple squirm, smile polite­ly, and scur­ry back to their mer­ry­mak­ing as quick­ly as possible.

This reac­tion is under­stand­able, of course, albeit unfor­tu­nate, since lots of our fel­low Clark Countians suf­fer silent­ly through the holidays.

No one wants to be sad, wor­ried, or scared at Christmas. But many peo­ple are. We do our­selves and our com­mu­ni­ty a grave dis­ser­vice if we fail to acknowl­edge this fact and don’t respond with com­pas­sion­ate action.

If some­one you know is suf­fer­ing, please don’t avoid them. Instead, look them in the eye, ask how they’re doing, and lis­ten to what they say. Let them speak freely, with­out inter­rupt­ing to ask ques­tions or fin­ish their sen­tences. Resist the urge to change the sub­ject, check your phone, or look at your watch. And please, don’t begin any sen­tence with, “Well, at least…”

Watercolor by Adra Fisher
Watercolor by Adra Fisher (Click image to view full size.)

If you’re at a loss for words, as are many of us in such sit­u­a­tions, a sim­ple “I’m sor­ry” goes a very long way. If the con­ver­sa­tion gets too deep or you fear for the person’s safety/emotional well-being, encour­age and help them to seek pro­fes­sion­al help (see three local resources below). We are for­tu­nate to have these agen­cies right here in town.

Grief, ill­ness, pover­ty, and death don’t take off dur­ing the hol­i­days, so find­ing a way to cope is essen­tial. For me, it’s mak­ing art and eat­ing choco­late. For you, it’s like­ly some­thing else. What it is doesn’t mat­ter, as long as it helps.

Just before Thanksgiving 2020, my Mom’s doc­tors rec­om­mend­ed we con­tact Hospice soon­er rather than lat­er. That news was upset­ting and unex­pect­ed. After we got her set­tled at home and made the call, I reached for my water­col­ors, feel­ing utter­ly help­less and child-like. Words often fail me, but my paint­brush rarely does.

Two days after Christmas, she had a small stroke. The day after New Year’s, she had a big­ger one. Four days lat­er, she was gone.

So this is my first Christmas with­out her, and it’s… strange. I’m 63 years old, yet some days I feel more like nine. Yesterday, when I went to the ceme­tery to put the Christmas wreath on Dad’s grave, for the first time ever, I was putting it on Mom’s grave, too. Christmas will nev­er be the same. And nei­ther will I.

But that’s OK. I’m OK. I’m cer­tain­ly not the only per­son who’s lost a loved one this year. Covid-19 alone has claimed over 9,000 Kentuckians, and cas­es are esca­lat­ing — again.

But life goes on, and so do the hol­i­days. In the com­ing weeks, let’s remem­ber that while hav­ing a Merry Christmas is a com­mon goal, not every­one will achieve it. Taking time out from the hol­i­day bus­tle to check in with our neigh­bors — and our­selves — can help.

We all ben­e­fit from slow­ing down and show­ing we care. Christmas is com­ing no mat­ter what, and while the cal­en­dar is indif­fer­ent, we don’t have to be.

If you or some­one you know is hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty cop­ing this hol­i­day sea­son, help is avail­able from the fol­low­ing agen­cies. They all have 24-hour helplines and offices that accept walk-ins dur­ing week­day oper­at­ing hours.

Mountain Comprehensive Care Center
114 S. Maple St.
Winchester KY
(859) 737‑2900
Walk-in Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
24-hour helpline: (800) 422‑1060

New Vista
325 Professional Ave.
Winchester KY
(859) 744‑2562
Walk-in Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
24-hour helpline: (800) 928‑8000

Hospice East
407 Shoppers Dr.
Winchester KY
24-hour helpline/office num­ber: (859) 744‑9866
Walk-in Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

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    Adra Fisher grew up in Winchester, moved away in her ear­ly 20s and returned a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry lat­er. She enjoys all types of art and encour­ag­ing oth­ers to live creatively.