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Gloria Lloyd, bereavement community educator at Mary Washington Hospice, is held by her father, Burnett Smith, in this family image. Her mother also is pictured.
In the photograph, Gloria Lloyd's parents smile at the camera while 9-month-old Gloria--in the arms of her father--looks away.
"I spent a lot of time looking away from my parents," said Lloyd, a bereavement educator at Mary Washington Hospice. "I've really gotten closer to them since they died."
Every parent-child relationship is unique, whether tender or more contentious. And that relationship doesn't necessarily end with a parent's death.
Adults who lose their parents often seek a sort of emotional closure, said Lloyd. But new research indicates that it can be healthier to keep the doors to the past thrown open.
Hospice will explore that theory in a six-week program for adults titled "Continuing Bonds: Reflecting on the Life and Death of a Parent."
The free, once-a-week workshops start the Thursday before Mother's Day and end the Thursday before Father's Day.
They're designed to "give people time and space to reflect on 'What was the life of my parent and what has their death meant to me?'" said Lloyd, who will facilitate the group discussions.
Lloyd lost her mother, Lloyd Smith, 21 years ago and her father, Burnett Smith, four years later. Her bond with them has continued through photos and memories, inherited objects--like her mother's Christmas dishes--and inherited attitudes, like her father's aversion to travel. She even took her mother's first name, Lloyd, as her last name about 12 years ago.
To explore her relationship with them and keep their memory alive, Lloyd writes regular letters to her grandchildren, telling them stories of her parents and sending them photographs like the one of her as a baby in her father's arms.
"Writing just makes things come into sharper focus," she said, "and I'm the person to tell their stories."
Over the course of the six weeks, participants in the "Continuing Bonds" workshop will be encouraged to share their own stories and explore the lasting impact their parents have had on their lives.
"Even if the relationship was challenging, it's a time to think about that," said Lloyd. "The better you know your parents, the better you know yourself."
Edie Gross: 540/374-5428
"Continuing Bonds," a free, six-week program designed to help adults who've lost a parent, starts May 10, the Thursday before Mother's Day. The class continues on May 16 (the only Wednesday), May 24, May 31, June 7 and June 14.
All workshops run from 6 to 7:30 p.m.,
For more information or to register, contact Diane Ebenal at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540/741-2377.