Methodist Healthcare - Employee Assistance Program


Can You Hear the Bell?

Donna Tosches
December – I don't believe there is another month that conjures up so many wonderfully vivid, colorful dreams and expectations. Yet, we know that many people feel particularly stressed, depressed and lonely during the Holiday season.

It's easy to imagine why some have a love/hate relationship with December. Unemployment is high, money is tight, people are doing more with less. Add the reality of shopping, wrapping, baking, traveling, and increased social activities all result in an unintended consequence. Where did the Holiday go and when did this runaway train take its place? And, how do we get it back on the tracks?

My book club decided that instead of reading a book for December, we would share our favorite children’s Holiday book. That is an easy choice for me, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. This is a book I have read aloud to my daughters many times for many years – each time brings tears to my eyes and a catch in my voice.

The book chronicles a young boy's experience on Christmas Eve when he is picked up by a magical train and whisked off to the North Pole to meet Santa. Along the way, he has wonderful adventures. When he reaches the North Pole, he is given the first gift of Christmas - a bell. He loses the bell on the way back home, but later that morning finds it wrapped under the tree. When he rings it and hears its joyful sound, his parents remark that the bell is broken. The boy is surprised! His parents can't hear the bell. The boy tells the reader, "Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe."

What does this month mean for you? What do you "truly believe?" Has the beauty and joy of the December Holidays changed? When did that happen? During the best of times it may be difficult to keep the true meaning of your beliefs paramount in December. The pressure to do it all and to give more than you can is hard to resist.

I remember years when I have been able to hear the bell loud and clear – others not so much. What muffles the sound? For many people struggling with loss, unexpected change, financial hardships, illness and family concerns; remaining positive and hopeful in a season overflowing with external pressure is too hard.

We are familiar with the complexity of this month but how do we get in touch with the simplicity? Each of us must define what is important, what is achievable and what to let go – for this year only. We are all invited to hear the bell! To do this, we have to quiet the chaos, reconnect with what makes the Holiday meaningful and then act accordingly.

Perhaps, this is the year when you don’t travel to see family, or maybe it is the year that you do. Maybe you will choose not to rack up credit card debt buying gifts that will take 6 months to pay off. Or, is this the year more of your time is spent volunteering than at the mall? This can be the year you limit parties and cookie swaps by choosing to spend more quiet time at home. This can be the time to reach out for support because you are grieving, sad or confused.

The Methodist Healthcare Employee Assistance Program is here for you and members of your household who are experiencing increase stress, loss and loneliness this Holiday season. Please call us at 901-683-5658 to schedule a time to talk with one of our counselors. We want to hear from you.

All of us here at the EAP wish you a Holiday of peace and connection with what is important to you. You deserve to hear the bell.

Author: Donna Tosches, LCSW, CEAP is Director of the Methodist Healthcare EAP. Donna received her Master's Degree in Social Work in 1989. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Employee Assistance Professional. Her experience includes EAP, hospital psychiatric and medical social work, crisis services and private practice for 21 years.