Winter Solace Community Memorial

Although we could not be together in person, our virtual memorial on December 6th was incredibly moving and we thank everyone who participated, either by attending or by sending in names of loved ones.

For the first part of the memorial we took advantage of Zoom technology and broke out into small groups for intimate conversations in breakout room. We were honored that so many people choose to open up and share both their joy and sorrows.  We offered tips on how to cope with the upcoming holidays and participants shared stories of how we are choosing to remember our loved ones this year.

We’ve created a short video for those who weren’t able to join us.  Please enjoy our memorial video which features the wonderful music of Travis Knapp and a slideshow memorializing the community’s loved ones.

Always remember, Hospicare is here for you. The holidays are not going to be the same this year but know that you are in our thoughts. May peace and grace find you in the New Year.  

Support through the Seasons

Tools for Navigating Grief and the Holidays during COVID

At this point it’s clear, the pandemic will change many of the ways in which we celebrate the upcoming holiday season. We usually associate the holidays with being “joyful” or “merry,” gathering with family and friends, giving gifts, and engaging in festivities and traditions. This year we will need to consider how our celebrations will need to change in order to keep ourselves and our friends, family, and community safe.  

We will naturally feel some grief as we reassess what parts of the holiday we can still create and what aspects we will need to modify significantly or discard all together.  Grief can manifest in many ways, and it’s important to acknowledge its impact on our physical and emotional health as the holidays progress.

Hospicare is providing support to the community at this unusual time. Programs are free and all are welcome! To RSVP for programs or for questions call 607-272-0212 or email  Held online via Zoom. Login details will be provided after registration. Register for programs at least 2 days before event.

Winter Solace Community Memorial: Sunday, December 6. Join us at 7pm for fellowship and conversation and stay for a memorial service. Or come at 7:30pm for the program of remembrance. All in our community who are grieving, regardless of whether your loved one died on Hospicare’s services, are welcome to stop by for a time of remembrance during the busy holiday season.

Coping with the Holidays: Wednesday, December 9, 5:30-7pm. Holiday time can be especially difficult after the death of a loved one. Learn about ways to take care of yourself and honor your feelings as we head into the holiday season. Includes a presentation followed by a discussion and support group.

Yoga for Grief: Thursday, January 7, 5-6:15pm. Start the new year with self-care! Enjoy a gentle and peaceful yoga practice with Jody Kessler. No experience necessary.

Out with the old; in with the new? A New Year’s reflection

My best friend of 30 years – the woman who knew more about me than just about any other human – died in 2017, just a few days after Thanksgiving. She had brain cancer, so her death wasn’t a surprise, but I still wasn’t prepared for the pain. At times, the grief felt so heavy on my chest that I wondered if I might suffocate.

At my best friend’s wedding, 1998

After the funeral, I shuffled through the busy holiday season, pretending I was okay. Close friends saw through the fake smile, and they checked in frequently. Their compassion and understanding are the only things that got me through all those parties and all that cheer.

The new year began, and people largely stopped asking me how I was doing, as though flipping the calendar to 2018 was a way to leave my grief in 2017. That’s ridiculous, of course, but I still felt alone.

As so many of you know, overcoming grief and moving forward is a lot of work. I could write a memoir about the time between those dark nights and August 27, when I started as Hospicare’s new Director of Development & Community Relations.

New years are often a natural time for reflection. There is no shortage of material as I survey these past 12 months, which includes my first four months at Hospicare.

For starters, I don’t feel alone anymore. That’s because of you.

Through your actions, your advocacy and your generosity, you show compassion for people in our community with life-limiting illnesses, and their families and friends.

You volunteer to serve and comfort patients and give loved ones a chance to run errands without worry. You make meals. You hold hands. You bring your therapy dogs to visit our residents, and never forget to stop by the office area for some cuddles.

You support each individual through the grieving process. While the calendar pages may continue to flip, you understand that grief is different for each person, and it can never be completely left behind.

You show up, even on holidays, to serve patients with a smile. You brave snow-packed roads to ensure that no family is without the support they need in a difficult time. You rise before the break of dawn to swim or boat across Cayuga Lake in the name of Hospicare.

You make contributions that ensure Hospicare can offer the very best of care. You gift us items from our wish list so that we are never without soft tissues, hot tea, or suet for the birds in the back yard. You ensure that no one is turned away at our residence because of a lack of funds.

You are Hospicare. You make our mission possible.

I joined Hospicare because I felt I had a desire to help raise awareness and funds for an organization that does so much for our community – work I got to see firsthand last fall as my friend’s life came to its end. I feel deeply honored and humbled to be here, and to work with and lead a department of talented and committed professionals.

The Development and Community Relations team has lofty ambitions for 2019. Lack of awareness of hospice and palliative care means too many people in our community aren’t accessing services that support and comfort. In the coming year, you’ll be seeing more communications, as well as an increased presence for Hospicare in Tompkins and Cortland counties.

In concert with those efforts will be the work we do to diversify our philanthropic portfolio.  Women Swimmin’ is an event that most nonprofits can only dream about, and it will be a part of the fabric of our fundraising energies for years to come.  At the same time, we’ll look to grow other areas, including seeking foundation grants and corporate sponsorships. We also want to launch a program to recognize those individuals who have named Hospicare in their wills.

Of the many things my best friend taught me, one of the most valuable lessons was how to live an authentic life. There’s no question in my mind that as I work at Hospicare, I am honoring her, our friendship, and the community that helped shape us both.

I look forward to sharing more about our work in the months to come, and I urge you to reach out to me with your ideas and connections.  I can be contacted at or 607-272-0212.

And finally, for those of you who are grieving a loss, no matter how recent, we are here for you. These post-holiday winter months can be difficult, and we invite you to reach out to us whenever you need support. You are not alone.

Thank you again for your commitment to compassionate end of life care, and for welcoming me so warmly into the Hospicare family. I wish you and yours a happy and peaceful start to the new year.

Finding Comfort In Everyday Things

When a Mother Dies

Three months after I started working at Hospicare my mother died of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease. I thought I would be prepared for her death. After all, I had been grieving the loss of her for years. It had been a while since she had recognized me and even longer since she had remembered a birthday or initiated contact. But I was not prepared.

A friend whose parent had died of dementia told me, after death, memories of the disease fade and recollections of the person as she was resurface. I was skeptical, but I have realized that my friend’s insight is true. Now that I’m not confronted by the stark reality of my mother’s Alzheimer’s, in my mind’s eye she is the younger, alert, capable and loving woman she always had been. That has eased the loss of her.

I have found comfort in small everyday things: wearing jewelry that was hers, making a favorite family recipe. On her birthday and the anniversary of her death, I wear her favorite color, blue. Mother’s Day is still tough for me. While she was alive I could still reach out and connect on some level. But now Mother’s Day is a hard-to-avoid reminder that I no longer have a mother. I have found ways to cope. Hospicare’s grief support group provided an outlet for my grief and let me know I’m not alone. And every May since my mother’s death I get blue hair extensions. Mom would probably have been horrified by them. But for me the extensions have become a fun way to remember her on Mother’s Day.

Surviving the Holidays

The loss of a loved one can feel especially poignant around holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or other special times.

Holidays like Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day can be difficult for those who have lost a parent or a child. For grievers who have lost a parent, seeing others celebrating their parents can be painful. For those who have lost a child, Mothers’ or Fathers’ may be an especially painful reminder of their loss.

The holiday excitement and demands that come along toward the end of the year can be an exceptionally overwhelming time of the year for those who are grieving. Holidays such as Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanza and New Years are filled with traditions and memories. They are the days typically set aside to celebrate with family and friends around gift giving and food. No matter how and when these actual days are commemorated; our culture certainly puts a great amount of emphasize on them. Stores are filled with holiday music, decorations and enticements for the perfect gift to have on your shopping list.  So how do you cope during this season of merriment when you have experienced the death of a loved one?

Some suggestions that can be useful include:

  • Plan ahead-anticipate on how you might want to spend the day and plan accordingly
  • Consider doing something different than how you have usually celebrated the holidays. Perhaps going out to eat will feel easier than preparing a large meal at home.
  • Give yourself the option to change plans at the last minute if necessary. Grief is such an unpredictable experience, even if you make a decision for how you want to spend the holiday, you may decide differently when the actual day arrives.
  • Try to shift your perspective to be able to deal with your loved one’s absence. Perhaps your focus could be on the “gifts” he or she left behind. Healing may be in the form of gratitude for these unique “presents.” Only you know what they are and how they can help you heal.

Creating a Family Gift

Holidays can be extremely difficult for those who have experienced the death of a loved one, especially during the first year after the death. At a time when everyone is supposed to be thankful, happy and enjoying themselves, the bereaved often feel sad, depressed, and lonely.

Remembering a loved one at the holidays can provide much needed solace. My mother died just two days after Christmas several years ago. The first anniversary of her death was particularly poignant since it also coincided with the holiday season.

I particularly wanted to honor my mother but was faced with the same concerns many of you struggle with. How do I go about remembering her particularly when faced with a holiday so packed with nostalgia? What if other family members react differently and don’t find it comforting to talk and remember her when we gather to celebrate the holidays? Even grief counselors struggle with these same issues!

Here is what I decided to do. After some anticipation and planning ahead about what our time together might be like, I provided my siblings – all seven of them – with journals. In each of the seven journals, I recalled a special memory that I had about each sibling with my mother and wrote a personal recollection of this. As a family, we passed around our journals, allowing each sibling to personally transcribe a memory etched in their mind about our mother and that particular family member.

At the end of our gathering, each sibling had seven distinct glimpses of special moments with our mother to take home with them. My siblings were so appreciative of these journal entries. For all of us, it made that very difficult holiday just a little bit more Bearable.

My hope in sharing this personal experience is that it would provide you with the impetus to begin to think how you might want to remember your loved one this holiday season. Memories can help sustain us in our loss.