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2017 Grief and the Holidays


In the midst of the deepest, darkest sorrow, there is always light, The Piano Guys’ Jon Schmidt says. 

Schmidt spoke at Caring Connections’ Grief and the Holidays program Nov. 11—one year to the day that searchers found his daughter’s body at the base of a cliff in Oregon. A fog lifted that day, Schmidt said, and every day since as he has looked for comfort in the everyday and the extraordinary.

“It was a miracle. And it was a huge crushing weight lifted off of our shoulders,” Schmidt said.

Annie Schmidt, 21, went missing while hiking at a national park outside Portland, Oregon in October 2016. Her father joined the search along with dozens of volunteers. Her body was found a month later. The year since then has been difficult, Schmidt said. But there also have been moments of joy and peace as people drew near and expressed their love and faith to him.

“I used to hear the word comfort and I took it for granted,” he added. “But this year, that changed.

“It’s amazing to me how filled this world is with things that are designed to comfort—music, movies, people’s gifts, smiles, the incredible variety that I see out my front window, depending on the clouds casting different patches of light.”

The holidays can be particularly painful for those who are grieving, Caring Connections Director Kathie Supiano said. Some are ready to give and find comfort, but others need to feel the absence of their loved one. Both are legitimate ways to process the emotional pain of loss. “This is a very difficult time of year for grieving people,” she added. “It’s a dark time. The days are short. Darkness comes early and darkness leaves late.

"It seems like everyone else is celebrating about life and family. But for you, the holidays this year are a time of absence. You have recognized that the holidays will be difficult. Face that fact and plan ahead for your holidays. That is a courageous step in managing the holidays,” Supiano said. “Planning ahead, even if your plans don’t work out, is better than having your grief take you by surprise.”

Every person grieves differently, she said. And each grieving person is on a different part of the grief journey during the holidays. Supiano told the crowd of more than 600 Caring Connections grief group participants and their friends and family members to take the time and space to honor their own feelings as well as the memory of the person lost.

"For some of you, this is the year you need to receive. You need to receive support, guidance, compassion, forgiveness, grace," she said. "Don't feel badly about needing it. Seek it tonight and seek it tomorrow. Don't make the mistake of being the tough one or being the strong one. And for goodness' sake, don't say, 'I'm fine.'"