Northwest NEWS

November 22, 1999

Features

Evergreen's 'Light Up a Life' celebration is a powerful way to remember

Light Up a Life tree

Evergreen's Light Up a Life celebration will be held on Dec. 8 at 6 p.m.
File photo.

by Deborah Stone, features writer

   This time of year can be difficult for those who have lost someone close to them. The holidays seem to create a lot of stress because it's a family time when people attach meaning and importance to their relationships.

   The pain of the loss never quite disappears and there are always memories that emerge, which cause grieving to reoccur. It can be particularly hard on those who are spending their first holiday without their loved ones.

   "People grieve in many different ways," explains Roger Decker, Bereavement Coordinator for Evergreen Hospice. "The death of a loved one affects a person completely: physically, emotionally, and spiritually."

   Through his work with Evergreen Hospice, Decker counsels children and adults through the grief process. There are stages or steps in this process that a person may go through while coming to terms with the loss they have experienced. First, people acknowledge the reality of the loss, and according to Decker, this can happen almost immediately. Next, they experience the pain of the grief.

   "This is the really tough part, because we don't like pain and we avoid it," Decker said, "but avoiding it complicates the healing process."

   After that, people have to learn to adapt to living without their loved one, and this can be a difficult adjustment. Finally, they reinvest the energy of the relationship they had with their loved one into another part of their life. Memorial events can be especially healing at this time.

   "Memorializing a loved one is a crucial part of the healing process," says Decker. "It's important to acknowledge that this person made a difference in life and to make sure they're not forgotten--that their life had meaning."

   Decker is instrumental in the fourth annual Light Up a Life celebration held at Evergreen, where participants can purchase lights in honor of friends or family and watch as a giant evergreen tree is illuminated in remembrance.

   He sees this celebration as a powerful way for people to remember those they have lost. "It's a way to say, 'You are gone, but not forgotten.'"

   Evergreen's Light Up a Life celebration will be held December 8th at 6 p.m. on the Evergreen Hospice grounds, across the street from the main hospital. Lights may be purchased for thirty dollars each, with all proceeds benefiting the Evergreen Healthcare Foundation. For more information and to reserve a light at the ceremony, call 425-899-1900.