The first holiday season after losing a loved one can be the most difficult time of someone's life, but there are some who are lighting the way out of depression.
After losing his father in 1995, Coastal Carolina University Social Psychologist Dr. Tony Albiniak felt a void for the entire month of December that same year.
"That first Christmas without him was six months later," said Dr. Albiniak, "and I'm usually in a jovial mood because we enjoyed being around family. But without him there that year, it just changed whole complexion of things. So I'm sure I at least went through a mild depression during that month."
Because the holiday season is centered around family and friends, dealing with the passing of a loved one can put someone into depression who has never dealt with the emotional disorder in their entire life.
"I think after a few Christmases it gets better, but that first Christmas is awfully difficult for people," said Dr. Albiniak. "I think your moods shift to good memories of him to depression because he's not here and you wonder what would dad want me to do now that I'm in his shoes. It's a complex thing."
That complex emotional roller coaster many endure inspired St. Paul's Church in Conway to hold "A Light in the Darkness" service. The service helps those who have suffered the loss of a loved or struggling with pain, loneliness or sadness.
The ceremony begins at the St. Paul's chapel on the corner of Main Street and Lakewood Avenue Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. The service will include prayer and Christmas carols.
"I think for most people that ceremony will be extremely good for them and rewarding," said Dr. Albiniak. "It gives people an opportunity to think about their loved ones in a public forum, honor those people and probably benefit them in the long run."
The majority of people not dealing with losing a loved one or those on a high this season should also be aware of people dealing with an emotional time, said Dr. Albiniak.
"I think we ought to reach out to those people," said Albiniak. "I think that is what Christmas is all about. Christmas is not about gifts. It's about reaching out to other people. Particularly people in bad circumstances. People in our community that are poor. People in our community that have lost loved ones."
Those who plan to attend the ceremony should be aware that bringing up difficult memories could hurt their coping process, added Dr. Albiniak.
"There are going to be some members of that group that by recalling that loss of that loved one may have adverse effects on that individual," said Dr. Albiniak. "It may remind them of how much they miss them and how they may never see them again."
To find out how you can cope or help other do so, click here.