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Dec 6, 2012 9:20 AM by Callie Eike - Q2 News

Coping with loss during the holidays

BILLINGS- While others are wrapped up in the festivities, the emptiness that accompanies the death of a loved one is more Silent Night than Deck the Halls.

"I don't think there's a way to avoid the grief and the sense of loss during the holidays, but I always encourage people to recount the wonderful memories they have of the life of their loved one," said Merle Bryson, Rocky Mountain Hospice RN Case Manager.

One year ago this week 21-year-old Thomas Mountains passed away from Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, leaving his family just weeks before his 22nd birthday, and Christmas. This year his family members are finding ways to cope.

"Exercise, family, find a way to commemorate their life, and in time you'll be able to celebrate their life again," said Thomas' mother Teresa Mountains

Before he died Teresa says Thomas instilled a little hope in each of his family members, and a mantra to help others instead of focusing on the past.

"So I started doing Zumba and I can now find happiness between my counseling at Rocky Mountain Hospice, and the Zumba," said Teresa. "I liked it so much I couldn't explain it, but it was a huge drive so I became an instructor so I could help others be healthy."

For people dealing with loss during the holidays, it's difficult to find joy in parties and presents when their loved one isn't present.

"He would want us to keep it as traditional as possible," Teresa said of her son Thomas. "We're not making tamales because I'm so not ready to do that yet without him, but we have the Christmas tree up, and I'm watching new Christmas movies, not the ones I watched with Tommy, and new Christmas Music so it's not as painful."

Some say the first Christmas after a death can be the toughest as family and friends attempt to put one foot in front of the other.

"We still have to keep living until we get to see them again," said Teresa.

Thomas' birthday will bring more tears this December 20th, but a new Thomas, due any day now, will bring tears of joy.

"Nobody will ever replace Thomas, but a little Band-Aid I guess," said Teresa.

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