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Embracing Hope this Holiday Season With Free Grief Services

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The bright lights of the holiday season do not shine as brightly as they usually do for those who have lost a loved one.

“A survey found grief and the recent loss of a loved one impacted the mental health of 36% of Americans who felt lonely during the holidays last year (more than 119 million people),” said Austin Mudd, media relations specialist of CareNu, Chapters Health System.

In this area, HPH Hospice offers free bereavement services to anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one, including but not limited to families of hospice patients. In addition, HPH Lights of Remembrance Ceremonies seek to return a little light to the lives of those who have experienced loss.

In Hernando County, the Lights of Remembrance Candle Lighting Service to celebrate those we Love took place on Thursday, December 14, 2023, at the Sturgill Hospice House, 12242 Cortez Boulevard, Brooksville.

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“This annual gathering is an opportunity for HPH Hospice families and community members to celebrate and remember their loved ones in a special way,” stated an event notice. “Candles are lit by all attendees, musical entertainment is provided by community members, holiday songs are shared and words of comfort are delivered by HPH Hospice staff. This annual outdoor, community event is free and open to the public.”

“The first holiday without a loved one can take away from the joy that you feel this time of year.,” said Tiffany Alessi, manager of social services at HPH Hospice. “Through candlelight, music and light, the Lights of Remembrance encourages people to celebrate and remember, even as they share their grief.”

Lights of Remembrance is a ceremony custom-made for those who still wish to share a part of their holiday celebration with a treasured loved one.

Attendees were able to light a candle in remembrance of their loved ones, have their loved one’s bane read out loud and was able to put the name of their loved ones on an angel ornament that was hung on the tree and lit up at the end of the ceremony.

Nancy Wenzel, bereavement specialist at HPH Hospice, stated that although HPH’s seasonal holiday workshops have been completed for the year, general counseling sessions are ongoing throughout the year, in which attendees are free to address issues of holiday grief. Visit https://www.chaptershealth.org/care-support/grief-services/ for more information.

“One thing we tell those experiencing grief is that they don’t have to celebrate the holidays,” said Wenzel. “They can let them pass by.”

For those who do choose to celebrate, or who must participate in celebrations due to family obligations, Wenzel has additional suggestions.

“Feel free to put limits on what you do and where you go, how long you stay, etc. Feel free to set an extra place at the table for your lost loved one,” she said.

Work projects, artistic endeavors and other activities can allow additional outlets for grief. And, especially this time of year, people can bring infinite comfort to themselves and others through the act of giving.

“You can take great comfort in doing for others. You might wish to volunteer or donate to a charity,” said Alessi.

Ultimately, those who grieve should take things at their own pace, always remembering to make time for self-care.

“One of the things we tell people is, ‘Don’t ‘should’ on yourselves,” Wenzel said. “There are no right or wrong answers regarding what you should or shouldn’t do.”

And HPH offers an ideal way to remember lost loved ones during the holiday season.

“With regard to the fundraising element, in concurrence with the Lights of Remembrance ceremony this year HPH Hospice is providing a special way to remember loved ones, through the display of Holiday Hope memorial ornaments,” said Andrea Arflack, director of philanthropy of Chapters Health Foundation in support of HPH Hospice. “For each $25 gift, a Holiday Hope ornament, bearing their loved one’s name, will be displayed on trees at HPH Hospice Houses through the holidays. Their generosity is a gift of hope and will help ensure the quality care of HPH Hospice remains available for the families, friends, and neighbors of the communities we serve.”

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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