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      Dealing with grief during the holidays

      It's the most wonderful time of the year except when it's not.

      The holidays can be the most difficult time of year for people who've lost friends and loved ones.

      We've heard from many of you who told us Christmas is a reminder of the ones who aren't around to celebrate any more.

      KHQA spoke with one mother who shared her story with us in an effort to help others who might be grieving this holiday season.

      "I found out during the night, actually at 3:18 in the morning, that my daughter, Gena, had been in an automobile accident and lost her life," Rita Gardner said.

      Gardner will never forget December 16, 2003. Her daughter, 42-year-old Gena Smith, died in a car accident less than 25 miles away from home.

      "It's the worst hurt that a parent can have," Gardner said. "No matter what anybody says or thinks, the hurt of losing a child never goes away. People say get over it. There's no getting over it."

      And she says the holidays are still painful.

      "The reason I could carry through with Christmas was the fact that Gena LOVED Christmas," she said.

      William Spear, with Hansen-Spear Funeral Home in Quincy, writes a blog about dealing with grief during the holidays.

      "Those of us who are grieving sometimes feel lost in the commotion," Spear said. "You have to be able to give yourself permission to have to participate in everything you did before. If you're not comfortable going to a party or being out in a crowd because you've lost your parent or a spouse or someone important, then you need to take that time for yourself. Your friends and family will understand. But you need to do what's good for you. You don't need to ram through and do everything that you always did."

      Spear said there are several online sources available for people who are having a difficult time dealing with grief during the holidays. Gardner encourages other people to read about what to say to someone who's lost someone special.

      "The best thing to do is if you don't know what to say, don't say anything," she said. "A hug is the best thing. We always like to get a hug."

      Although everyone might be different, Gardner prefers to talk about her daughter rather than avoiding her name. She even wrote a poem to help deal with her feelings.

      There are grief support groups available in the Tri-States throughout the year.

      H.E.A.L. meets on the 3rd Tuesday of every month at the Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing in Quincy.

      S.H.A.R.E. for grieving parents meets on the 2nd Thursday of every month at Blessing, and a Bereavement Support Group will meet January 7th at Passavant Area Hospital in Jacksonville.