Merry and Bright store

The Merry and Bright Shop is located in downtown Mansfield. All proceeds benefit Hospice of North Central Ohio.

The holiday season brings a time for cheer and merriment— a time to gather together with family and loved ones to share good tidings. But for those who have lost a loved one, the holidays feel different. 

“We continue to find that grief is hard all year around,” said Kailey Bradley LPCC, Hospice of North Central Ohio bereavement coordinator. “Being surrounded by merriment and happiness can be hard for those experiencing grief. The enthusiasm for the holidays isn’t present and we see a lot of feelings of guilt.”

The holidays pose a unique challenge because they are steeped in recurring customs, and celebrating and experiencing joy is difficult when a family member or loved one is missing from holiday traditions. Finding a new way to celebrate a life when it’s no longer present is a paradox, given the underlying guilt of experiencing joy. The challenge with holidays is carrying on the traditions in a new way— celebrating the life not present and moving forward in a new capacity. 

“It’s hard to understand the difference between erasing the memory of a loved one and creating new traditions,” said Kathy Wantland, HNCO’s Hospice of Knox County bereavement coordinator. “There has to be a balance, and it can be creative!”

A memory stocking is a creative way to transform an old tradition into one that honors the memory of a loved one.

“It can be a family or group event. Decorating a new stocking and filling it with objects or reminders of loved ones—I had an idea of old pocket watches for my father,” Wantland said. “Put their names on the stockings, too.”

The other large part of the holiday grieving challenge is feeling alone. It sounds counterintuitive given the gathering nature of the season, but grief is unique in its ability to isolate. 

“A person experiencing grief has trouble navigating crowds of people full of cheer,” said Wantland. “Feelings like ‘where do I fit in?’ can cause the person grieving to sleep the season away.”

“For someone grieving, it is difficult to find spaces to express that they may not feel very merry during the holidays,” Bradley said. “We live in a culture that is in my opinion bright, shiny, and “happy-clappy.” We are not really sure what to do with those who grieve in a culture like this. This is perhaps most evident surrounding the twinkly lights of holidays.”

“You are not alone this holiday season,” Bradley reminds those who are grieving. “Find a support group, friend or counselor who will not give you advice, but who will listen.”

Hospice of North Central Ohio hosts community events throughout the holiday season in Ashland, Knox, and Richland counties. These events create a space for those experiencing holiday grief to connect with one another and celebrate their unique holiday season together.

“All activities are open to the public,” Wantland invites. “You don’t have to be experiencing grief and loneliness over the holidays to participate. All support from the community helps.”

Connect with community members at an upcoming holiday event:

  • Tree of Lights Celebration, Friday, Nov. 30 at 5:30 p.m. in Downtown Ashland’s Corner Park on Claremont and Main.
  • Memory Tree Lighting at Hospice of Knox County, 13300 Coshocton Rd in Mount Vernon, Monday, Dec. 3 at 5:30 p.m.
  • Christmas Caroling, Tower Lighting at Ariel Park, and Soup Dinner at Hospice of Knox County Tuesday, Dec. 4at 5:30 p.m.
  • World Wide Candle Lighting, Sun. Dec. 9at 5:30 p.m. Lakeholm Church of the Nazarene in Mount Vernon—a special service for individuals who have lost a child
  • HNCO and What Goes ‘Round Thrift Shoppe trees will be displayed in Kingwood Center’s Parade of Trees in Mansfield throughout the holiday season.
  • Angel Tree will be displayed throughout the holiday season at What Goes Round Thrift Shoppe, 113 North Main Street, Mansfield, where a Christmas shop, Merry and Bright, has been added. All proceeds from each shop benefit Hospice of North Central Ohio.

Hospice of North Central Ohio is a non-profit, community-oriented organization serving Ashland, Crawford, Huron, Knox, Morrow, and Richland counties. HNCO differs from other hospice organizations in that its bereavement services benefit anyone in the community, at any time. Thanks to the generous support of area individuals and agencies, free counseling, support groups, and other services are offered to not only the families of hospice patients, but to anyone in the community. Learn more about bereavement care.

Questions about any of the events? Call 800-882-1548.

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