Holidays can accentuate sense of loss

    At 37 years old, Jeff Turner, a devoted father of two, lost his 14-year battle with brain cancer. 

    His widow, Sheila, is determined to make the first Christmas without him as special as it’s always been for their two children.

    When Turner became very ill, he entered inpatient care at Penn Wissahickon Hospice. There, his wife took advantage of grief programs for herself and her family. She said getting counseling for the family was the best decision she’s made.

    So far it hasn’t been easy, but she said creating a joyous holiday atmosphere for their kids is what Jeff would have wanted.

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    “It really is my responsibility as their parent and as their mother to show them that there is so much in life that still needs to be enjoyed,” she said. “We absolutely, as a family, grieve together, we still have hard times. They can see me be upset, that’s OK. I can see them be upset and that’s OK.”

    For six years, bereavement coordinator Maureen Erdlen has been helping families cope with loss. The holiday season is a time of joy for most, she said, but if you’re mourning a loved one this time of year can be torture.

    Recalling positive memories can help those in pain get through the holidays.

    “People are reluctant to do that because they’ll say, ‘Well, we don’t want to make everyone else sad.’ But that person is on everyone’s mind, so just to acknowledge that before you begin your celebration is an important way to remember,” she said

    Sheila Turner wants to keep her husband’s memory a part of Christmas. With a natural knack for sewing, she got creative. Turner took his Christmas stocking and cut it up into little heart-shaped ornaments. She used the stuffing from his pillow to fill the heart-shaped creations.

    Turner is giving the ornaments as gifts to close family members, so they can each have a piece of Jeff’s favorite things.

    “I need to do something that will be meaningful to us and meaningful to our families,” she said. “I’ve wanted to give our families something special from him and I thought this was just such a perfect way to do that.”

    Now, every year, Jeff Turner’s memory will be a part of the holiday he loved so much.

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