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Grief can make holidays tough RESOURCES
Holidays can be tough for those mourning lost loved ones

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Date published: 12/2/2007

BY KAY BOATNER

After Randall Clingenpeel's son died in a car accident during Thanksgiving weekend in 1992, he felt he no longer had anything to be grateful for.

"The holidays were heart-wrenching," said Clingenpeel, a Fredericksburg resident. "I just wanted to get in bed, climb under the covers and not wake up until Jan. 2."

For those grieving the loss of a loved one, the time from Thanksgiving to New Year's can be the most difficult period of the year to get through.

While the holidays will never return to the way they were before the death of a relative or friend, they can get easier over time, bereavement specialists say.

"Grief is like a torn tablecloth," said Gloria Lloyd, a bereavement coordinator at Mary Washington Home Health and Hospice. "It can be patched, but the reminder will always be there."

Lloyd's co-worker Kate Klos, a medical social worker at the hospice, warns those grieving that they must take it slow. They should not expect to get over their grief immediately.

"If you had a broken leg, you wouldn't just put it in a cast and run on it," Klos said at a grief seminar held at the hospice last month. "It's the same thing with grief. You will need to take the time to heal."

Klos encourages those suffering from a loss to determine what activities they will feel up to participating in this holiday season.

"People should make a list of tasks, like decorating the tree and shopping for gifts, and decide which of those things they still want to do," Klos said. "If they like doing it and their holidays would not be the same without them, then they should still perform them."

Activities that would be too difficult to participate in without a loved one can easily be removed from the list. And those grieving can get help from family members or friends while performing difficult holiday traditions.

"Do whatever makes the holidays easier for you," Klos said.

Michele Stacy-Wenner of Fredericksburg, whose father died at 43 from a massive heart attack in 1991, found that some aspects of the holiday were simply too hard to continue after such a loss.


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Mary Washington Home Health and Hospice will host a discussion group on coping with grief during the holidays on Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more information, call Gloria Lloyd at 540/741-7850.

The Fredericksburg chapter of Compassionate Friends, a bereavement group, will hold its 10th annual Candle Lighting Memorial on Sunday, Dec. 9, at the Harrison Road Community Center at 2 p.m. For more information, call Kathie Kelly at 540/663-1937.