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Health Check: Coping with grief at the holidays

Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island offers bereavement counseling and other services. (WJAR)

Many people look forward to the holidays. They look forward to the festive atmosphere and gathering together with family and friends.

But it's a tough time of the year for people who've lost a loved one. That's where Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island is making a difference.

Ed Richard is a volunteer.

"There's something about this organization. The love there. It permeates wherever these people go and I wanted to be a part of that," said Richard.

He had his first interaction with Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island in March 2013. His wife, Beverly, was in a nursing home at the time, very ill.

"One of the nicest things that ever happened to me in the nursing home was a visit from a social worker," said Richard. "In 45 minutes, Beverly and I had told her our whole love story. And that was my first introduction to hospice, as a matter of fact."

A week after that visit, the woman he had shared 26 years with -- a woman he says was his best friend -- had died.

Richard said he didn't celebrate that first Christmas. But he did receive bereavement support through Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island that helped him through some dark times.

"It was a very safe place to be," said Richard. "It felt very safe to be there with other people who were experiencing the same type of loss."

Now Richard facilitates support groups, and he's made it a practice to reach out to grieving families within 48 hours.

"Ed comes in three days a week and calls families to offer support, reminding them that we're here for them in their grief," said Deanna Upchurch, bereavement coordinator at HHCRI.

The holidays prove to be especially challenging for those grieving a loss.

"'I don't know what I'm going to do on the holiday,'" said Richard, referring to people who are trying to cope with a loss. "'I'm going to break down. I'm going to ruin the holiday for someone.' They go in to all that negative thinking and all that negative projection. And I try to get people to get back in to today. Staying in the moment is very important."

These days, Richard said he's adjusting to a new way at looking at things and at life.

"I talk to her a lot," said Richard, referring to his wife. "We have, still do, daily conversations. She's always on my mind and always in my life still."

The only rule when you're grieving is there are no rules.

"There's nothing to rush," said Upchurch. "It really needs to take a natural course."

Learn more about bereavement and other services offered by

Visit the Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island website to learn more about its bereavement and other services, as well as its upcoming Light up a Life memorial services.

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