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5 Tips for dealing with grief during the holiday season

It seems like every year the holiday season gets longer. Stores start putting out Christmas decorations before we’ve even moved past Halloween, and it seems like the holidays go on for months and months. For those who are grieving, it can feel like an eternity. How will you make it through the holidays this year? Decide on a course of action, and follow some simple guidelines.

1. Make your own plans. You get to decide whether to keep holiday traditions or create new ones, and you can do as much or as little as you want to do. Be assertive about events held in your own home, letting your loved ones know ahead of time what changes you are making to the holiday celebrations. If you’re going somewhere else to celebrate, make sure to take your own car so that you aren’t stuck waiting for someone else to be ready to leave. You need to be able to leave if you become uncomfortable or just want to be home

baking2. Allow yourself to feel. It’s ok to be sad when everyone else is celebrating. Don’t resist joy if it presents itself, but don’t feel guilty for experiencing negative emotions. Your grief experience is your own, and whatever you feel, be it sadness, guilt, anger, or joy, is part of that unique experience.

3. Accept support. This may mean surrounding yourself with friends and family, or it may mean talking about your feelings with one trusted person. It can also mean reaching out for professional help, whether that means attending a support group or a service of remembrance, or seeking counseling.

sadwoman4. Make room for memories. The holidays can be a nostalgic time, even for those who haven’t suffered a loss. If you allow them to, your memories may be a helpful part of your healing process. Share your memories of your loved one with others by telling stories and looking at photo albums. You can also make a memory box with photos of the person you’ve lost, and notes from family and friends. Consider memorializing your loved one in your holiday celebration, perhaps by setting an extra place at the table or lighting a special candle.

memories5. Reach out to others. Sometimes it can be very healing to help someone else. Find ways to connect with those around you by giving of your time, talents and resources. You might invite a guest to dinner who might otherwise be alone, or you might “adopt” a needy family for the holiday. You could also give a donation in memory of your loved one, or provide flowers or other decorations to your place of worship. Being generous with others helps you as you’re helping them, and can ease the pain of your grief.

If you need help dealing with grief this holiday season, we are here to help. We can provide resources, from recommended reading, to support groups, to counseling, to help you find your way through the grief and onto the path toward healing. Contact us today to learn more about what we have to offer. And above all, we hope you have a meaningful holiday season.

Caregiver of the Month – Rita Coalson


Rita Coalson is the winner of the Hospice Caregiver Award presented by Horan & McConaty. She was nominated by Rosalee Blake.

We nominate Rita Coalson for the Horan & McConaty Hospice Caregiver Award. Rita definitely fits into your recognition of “a dedicated person for her selfless devotion and generosity of heart…and a woman who excels in her profession.” She spends countless hours with her hospice patients and families, and her Agape peers. Rita’s presence, and guidance is such a gift to us all! She meets each day with smiles, warmth, laughter, and love. Rita is always willing to offer her presence and resources for those in need, no matter how busy she is. Rita has a remarkable compassion, and passion for bereavement care, whether she is working with Agape clients or team members. She is able to interact with all ages, with exemplary skills and knowledge.

Rita is so fully present during our weekly North Interdisciplinary Team meetings; the team can always feel the positive energy that shines from her. She is ready to offer practical tips for self-care as we process the difficulties of hospice work. As she observes and recognizes a need for possible support, she reaches out to individuals and to the group. Rita holds space and time for her team members to process grief and loss. Rita interweaves her comments in between the team’s reflections regarding patients, families, and ourselves. It’s almost as if she is performing a dance with us all. She allows us to dive deeply into the process of grief, and to cope and manage the days when grief feels heavy.

We all seem to have similar terms like “open” and “willing” in describing Rita, as noted in the comments from team members: Karrie – ”Always willing to lend a hand to anyone, goes the extra mile to help, embodies compassion, willing to be there for others, always has a hug and warm smile for everyone she sees, open heart.” Maggie – “She is always so willing for support when I come to her.” Jaclyn – “She is just so funny and warm and fun to be around.” Charlie – “Rita is one of the most passionate, understanding, and powerful counselors I have had the pleasure of meeting and working alongside. Rita’s love for others permeates throughout her life and inspires those around her to be the best that they can be, and in time of challenge, find strength. Rita’s ability to work through some of the most complicating challenges in life as matter-of-factly as she does promote a non-judgmental and open space that the client feels able to speak their mind and truly process their grief. I truly see Rita as a mentor and idol in the counseling realm as she always has an open door, not only for her clients, but for staff who work through end of life issues daily. Rita’s continual dedication to addressing the needs of those grieving and working with end-of-life issues brings clients to a beautifully fulfilling togetherness that only exceptional counselors can achieve.”

The image that comes to mind in fitting Rita is that from the Buddhist tradition of The Thousand Arms and Eyes of Compassion. This deity of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva hears the cries of the world and embodies the compassion of the buddhas. The thousand eyes on the palms allow the bodhisattva to see the sufferings of sentient beings, and the thousand hands allow her to reach out to help them. This beautiful and healing image of a deity fits Rita to a tea.
Rita is top-notch in her profession, and we appreciate her support as we do our fieldwork, and in her bereavement care of her families! Thank you, thank you!

Rosalee Blake, MA and Laura Bodmer, LSW


Each monthly Caregiver Award winner will receive a gift card that can be used for whatever the recipient decides and an award.

At the end of twelve months the review committee will select the Caregiver of the Year to be revealed at a banquet honoring the twelve finalists. The Caregiver of the Year will win a trip for two within Colorado.

Caregiver Award

Do you know a Caregiver? Nominate them today!

Facing Thanksgiving When Someone You Love Has Died

Thanksgiving is traditionally a family holiday when loved ones gather from far and near to count their blessings and spend quality time together.  For someone who has suffered a loss, though, this holiday can feel very different. When you’re grieving, it can be hard to get into the holiday spirit, and even worse if you worry about living up to others’ expectations for your behavior. If you’ve suffered a loss, make it easy on yourself, by being proactive about your Thanksgiving.


  • Keep it simple. This may not be the year for a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, and that’s fine. We all have an image of the “perfect” Thanksgiving celebration, but when you’re grieving, perfection should not be the goal. A simple meal, shared with people you love, may be the perfect salve for your tender spirit.
  • Allow yourself to honor the memory of your loved one. Sometimes, we try not to think about the person we’ve lost, but that can make the ache even worse. Don’t resist the memory of the person you love, but honor it by talking about favorite memories you shared. Especially if you’re celebrating Thanksgiving with others who loved that person, this can be a wonderful way to lessen your shared grief. You might remember your loved one in a prayer before a meal, light a candle in his honor, or set an extra place at the table. Whatever feels comfortable for you, that’s a good way to honor the memory of the person who has died.
  • Create new traditions. Maybe you’ve always entertained a huge crowd at Thanksgiving each year, and now that feels uncomfortable and wrong. Maybe there are traditions that you’re dreading because they’ll be too painful after your loss. This is the perfect time to create new traditions. It’s important to remember that life always changes and that you can allow yourself some fluidity in the way you celebrate important dates.
  • Know your limitations. Don’t push yourself to do more than you’re able to handle. If you’re normally the one who hosts, this may be the year to let someone else do it. Even if you’re not hosting, have an escape plan in mind, so that you can leave if it all becomes too much. It’s ok to cancel or abbreviate your Thanksgiving celebrations if that’s what you need to do to take care of yourself.

dinnerIf you’ve suffered a loss, we want to help you find your path to peace. At our funeral home, we have a compassionate and caring staff, well-equipped to help you as you learn to cope with your loss. Whether you need suggestions for reading material that may help, or you’d like to know about community events and classes that deal with grief, we can point you in the right direction to get the help you need. Visit our website, call or stop by, to learn more about all we have to offer. And from all of us, we want to wish you a blessed Thanksgiving.


Make this Veterans Day Meaningful by Respecting and Honoring Veterans

On Veterans Day, we honor our heroes. We celebrate the brave men and women who have given so much to ensure our freedom and protect our way of life. Unlike Memorial Day, which was created to memorialize those who died in service, Veterans Day honors the living veterans, those who have served and those who continue to serve. For many veterans, though, Veterans Day is a time of great sadness. While we’re celebrating their triumphs, we must also recognize the tragedy of war, and the impact it can have on the lives of service members and their families.

militaryfamilySome veterans return from their time in service with physical issues that are difficult to overcome. Aside from physical pain, some feel emotional pain, perhaps conflicted about their role in combat. Others feel deep grief over friends who died “over there”. No matter the reason for the pain, it should be respected. You may have a soldier in your life, or you may just feel a sense of appreciation for all the troops have done for our country. Whatever your motivation, there are some things you can do this year to make Veterans Day better for a veteran.

  • Listen to their stories. If you have veterans in your life, ask questions about time spent in service, including specifics about jobs and stations. Don’t push, because some veterans aren’t comfortable sharing, but make yourself available to hear anything that needs to be said.
  • Volunteer to help a veteran. Maybe you don’t know any veterans, but you’d like to find a way to express your gratitude through an act of kindness. There are many programs available to facilitate this, whether you want to volunteer in a VA hospital, drive disabled vets to doctor’s appointments, or visit homebound vets. Check with your local VA for information about opportunities to help.
  • Write a letter to a serviceperson. There are men and women in the service who risk their lives every day, to protect our freedoms. Operation Gratitude provides opportunities to reach out to these heroes, by sending a care package or letter.


  • Don’t forget the families. The men and women who serve in our armed forces make many sacrifices for the greater good of our country, but so do their families. If you know a military family, reach out. Sometimes, just inviting them over for dinner is an act of kindness they’ll remember forever. If you don’t know where to start, Operation Gratitude is once again a good resource. The organization donates stuffed animals to children with deployed parents, provides care packages to caregivers of wounded veterans, and offers support in many other ways as well. You can also help families by donating your frequent flier miles, to help them travel to be with a wounded loved one.
  • Do something meaningful for Veterans Day. Instead of just having a day off, or celebrating with your family and friends, go to a parade, or another event held to honor veterans. At home, talk about why Veterans Day is important, and teach your children to respect veterans. Get your child to draw a picture or write a letter, thanking a veteran for his or her service.
  • Do something meaningful when it isn’t Veterans Day. Veterans are among us every day, not just on Veterans Day. When you reach out on an ordinary day, you can make a real impact on a veteran’s life, and enriching your own life in the process.


We are pleased to be able to help the families of veterans, working to ensure that their loved ones receive the full honors to which they are entitled. If your loved one was a veteran, we can help you through the entire process, from filling out important paperwork to planning a memorial that honors not just a life, but also the service of an American hero.


Volunteer Honor Guards Serve When the Military Is Unable

Denver, CO – November 1, 2017 – From November 6th through November 11th, Horan & McConaty will host an Operation Honor Guard fundraiser, to benefit veteran honor guards who serve the greater metro area. The public is invited to make monetary donations, which will be used to support the needs of veteran honor guards and their members.

When a veteran is not eligible or the military is not available, honor guard members are volunteers who supplement the military and provide honors at the family’s request.  In the Denver Metro Area, there are only 2 volunteer honor guards, the All Veterans Honor Guard and Longmont American Legion Post #32 Honor Guard.

Dick Kounovsky, of the American Legion Honor Guard in Longmont, says that their group of 25 volunteers stays busy. “We provide military honors for deceased veterans, and we do that about 110-120 times each year. We also go to schools and retirement homes to do flag talks, and on Veteran’s Day we lead the parade.”

Maury Smith is the coordinator of the All Veterans Honor Guard, which is composed of five teams in the area.  He’s also Commander of the Aurora Honor Guard.  “There aren’t enough of us to go around,” he says.  “It’s truly a noble cause. We’re all volunteers, and the thanks we get is the appreciation of the families we serve.”

According to the Department of Defense, there are ten thousand Honor Guards in the United States, averaging 12 members each. These men and women donate their time and bear the costs of their uniforms, transportation, and equipment. Operation Honor Guard seeks to assist these volunteers by providing funds to conduct military funerals for veterans and service members, to raise awareness of the role of volunteer veteran honor guards, and to encourage more veterans to become involved and support this important mission.

In addition, there is the Honor Bell, providing a stirring tribute to a veteran’s service. Commissioned in 2016, the Honor Bell is a 1000 pound bronze forged instrument, created by veterans, and funded by donations. It’s rung by the Bell Honor Guard, and its mission, says Executive Director/Founder Louis Olivera, is to honor deceased veterans.

“No veteran should ever be buried without honor,” says Olivera. “Whether they served for 3 years, or retired after 30, they deserve honor.” He’s very proud of the selflessness of the Honor Guard volunteers, adding, “These individuals stand for hours in all weather conditions, many of them elderly, some even in their 90s, and demonstrate to their fellow citizens that America is the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

Horan & McConaty is dedicated to helping veterans in any way they can. Says Horan, “I’ve seen these men and women, all volunteers, provide stirring tributes to veterans on the hottest and coldest days of the year.  They seem honored to serve and do a great job.  Survivors of the veterans are deeply moved by the rifle salute, playing of taps, and the folding and presentation of the flag.  These honor guards need our financial support and they need more members. We are delighted to raise funds and increase awareness to support this important mission.”


About Horan & McConaty

For over 120 years, Horan & McConaty has served families in the greater Denver area, working to ease the journey of those coping with the end of a life with unsurpassed levels of compassion and professionalism. We facilitate services that provide comfort and meaning, and honor life.

About Operation Honor Guard

Operation Honor Guard, founded in 2013, is now a 501(c)(3) organization which has benefitted over eighty Honor Guards across the nation.

About the Honor Bell Foundation

Honor Bell Foundation, Inc. is a Colorado nonprofit, 501(c)(3) corporation based in Denver. The foundation not only provides a ceremonial bell for veterans’ funerals, but also veteran outreach and community education.

Caregiver of the Month – Susie Vincent


Susie Vincent is the winner of the Hospice Caregiver Award presented by Horan & McConaty. She was nominated by Jamie Weatherly.

Susie Vincent represents the epitome of what any hospice RN should strive to be. She is a devoted hospice nurse of 6 years, expanding her career from the bedside to teaching other nurses how to care for someone when they are at the bedside. She gives her time and energy unselfishly to help all around her understand and experience what hospice care is meant to be.

In addition to her work, her family, and her home life, Susie has taken the time to write her own book regarding her hospice experiences, her family dynamics in supporting and coping with their own loss and grieving process. From Hospital to Hospice: One Nurses Journey Towards Grace at the Bedside reflects just how much Susie supports and encourages others to understand the dying process.

Susie is a Caregiver of a Lifetime.


Jamie Weatherly


Each monthly Caregiver Award winner will receive a gift card that can be used for whatever the recipient decides and an award.

At the end of twelve months the review committee will select the Caregiver of the Year to be revealed at a banquet honoring the twelve finalists. The Caregiver of the Year will win a trip for two within Colorado.

Caregiver Award

Do you know a Caregiver? Nominate them today!

Caregiver of the Month – Desiree Lurie


Desiree Lurie is the winner of the Hospice Caregiver Award presented by Horan & McConaty. She was nominated by Felicia Kile, a volunteer from The Denver Hospice

It is my honor to nominate Desiree Lurie for The Hospice Caregiver of the Month Award. Desiree’s working title is “Social Worker” for The Denver Hospice but she is more like a “Guiding Light” full of WARMTH, HOPE and LOVE.

I am a volunteer who shares the care of a patient with her. For the last year I have not only observed, I have experienced her kindness, compassion and dedication. Desiree treats our patient and her family like they are her only priority, her only patient, while in reality Desiree continuously cares for 37+ patients along with their families at various stages of life.

Desiree began the Hospice Journey with our patient and her family approximately a year and a half ago. Our patient has dementia, is non-verbal and her family does not live in the area. Desiree is truly her “number 1” advocate, continually assessing and reassessing her situation as her needs change. Desiree gently helps with the small details as well as assists with her “Guiding Light” full of WARMTH, HOPE and LOVE through the more difficult decisions. Our patient lives with respect, dignity and grace because of Desiree. When there has been a problem Desiree’s persistence, character and heart shine like no other.

A quote from one of Desiree’s co-workers, “Desiree is the most professional social worker I work with. She doesn’t just put band aids on the problems, she talks to her patients and finds out what is needed to make their journey better.”

Desiree’s personal working responsibilities are vast but she is also an integral part of a team.

It has been my privilege to witness the team in action and to marvel at the many roles of Desiree Lurie. AKA: Social Worker AKA: Guiding Light

I have contacted Desiree many times over the last year concerning our patient. Regardless of my questions or concerns Desiree always takes prompt and appropriate action with the same level of urgency to rectify all issues.

Desiree continuously goes above and beyond for our patient making sure all of her needs are cared for while never losing sight of the larger specifics for her and her family.

Desiree exudes compassion, she is beyond kind, Desiree, is the consummate caregiver!

A Guiding Light full of WARMTH, HOPE and LOVE…

Felicia Kile

The Denver Hospice Volunteer


Each monthly Caregiver Award winner will receive a gift card that can be used for whatever the recipient decides and an award.

At the end of twelve months the review committee will select the Caregiver of the Year to be revealed at a banquet honoring the twelve finalists. The Caregiver of the Year will win a trip for two within Colorado.

Caregiver Award

Do you know a Caregiver? Nominate them today!

If Your Father has Died, If You are a Grieving Father … The Shadow Side of Father’s Day

Many thanks to Molly Keating and our colleagues at O’Connor Mortuary in California for allowing us to re-post this to benefit our community.

Dads. They’ve got their own unique hold on each and every one of us. With Father’s Day on the horizon, I am always drawn to thinking of the people whose voices will struggle on this holiday with what to say. How do you go through the day if your father has died or if you are a father missing a child?

If you are on this shadow-side of Father’s Day this post is for you.

If your dad has died …

If Your Father has Died, If You are a Grieving Father ... The Shadow Side of Father's Day

I’m so sorry. I hear many people refer to their dads as anchors or guides in their lives, light houses that assure our position and point the way. Losing such an important person changes everything, leaves us afloat, feeling aimless and confused.

So what are ways to bring joy and forward movement into the day? How do you invite your dad to be a part of Father’s Day?

Here are a few ideas:

  • What were some of his hobbies? There’s probably something you and family members could do together in his name; play a board game, throw a football around, tell some of his best bad jokes : )
  • Share a picture of your dad on Facebook with a tribute, it doesn’t have to be long. Key words, a favorite story or a life lesson he taught you are great places to start.
  • BBQ or enjoy some of your dad’s favorite things to eat.
  • Visit your dad’s grave and leave something for him. I have seen people leave a nice cold Budweiser for their dad and I love things like that because they make me smile and hold so much meaning.
  • Consider ways you could become that light house or mentor to others. Living out a legacy is one of the most meaningful ways of honoring people who have loved us & changed us.

If you are a grieving father …

If Your Father has Died, If You are a Grieving Father ... The Shadow Side of Father's Day

I think grieving fathers are some of the most overlooked grief communities that I know of. Understandably, there is a tremendous focus on mothers grieving because of the role their bodies play in the life of the child. These are different griefs tethered to the same loss but their differences don’t elevate one above the other.

I think one of the most significant issues dad’s face in grief is the role of responsibility they feel as protector of their family. When children die, no matter how, father’s take the burden of responsibility on their shoulders. “I should’ve been there,” “I could’ve done something different,” etc. That’s what being a dad is. It’s a protector, leader and helper and that identity is damaged and can even feel dismantled entirely when a child dies.

So, how in the world do you face Father’s Day when you don’t feel like you’ve fulfilled the role? We know that men, in general, are helped by taking action when facing grief and pain. Below are a few ideas that are hopefully constructive and instrumental in helping make the day more bearable, significant, and ultimately helpful.

  • Make something for your child. This can be as simple as paper airplanes, and as complicated as your skill set takes you. Creating a bench for your yard or a picture frame for a favorite photo can be special ways of crafting something for them that you can continue to enjoy.
  • Resist the stereotypical urge to “keep it bottled up.” This doesn’t help anyone, in fact, it only further isolates the people in the most pain. Share with your spouse or a trusted friend about the pain of the day and a way they could be of support to you through it.
  • Consider the kind of day you need; do you want to be with friends & family or would solitude be more helpful? If you have a gathering of people, set aside part of your time together to name your child and acknowledge the loss. Being together with people who love you and miss your child is a wonderful reminder that you are not alone in this.
  • Look forward. Because the loss of a child is in so many ways the loss of the future we can often become absorbed or obsessed with only looking back into the time they were a part of our lives. Spend time looking back, it’s not bad or wrong, it’s part of grief. But I would encourage you to dare to look forward, even if it’s just for 5 minutes, at what this year, the next 5, the next 10 years may hold for you. There is a lot of life ahead; look for ways to carry your little one with you into the future – it’s not the way you planned it, but it’s something you can do, if you choose.

To each and every person out there facing a Father’s Day on the shadow side, I am just so sorry. I know no blog or list of actions can fix what you are going through. The above is an attempt to guide, to be that light house for those of you who do feel adrift without fathers or your child.


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