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Season’s Grievings

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After losing their mother in 2011, siblings senior Parker Ray and junior Cassady Ray relied on each other for support. “As siblings, since we’ve [both] gone through [our mom passing away], we can connect with each other better,” Cassaday Ray said. “It made us bond more because it was so hard and we had to be there for each other.”

After losing their mother in 2011, siblings senior Parker Ray and junior Cassady Ray relied on each other for support. “As siblings, since we’ve [both] gone through [our mom passing away], we can connect with each other better,” Cassaday Ray said. “It made us bond more because it was so hard and we had to be there for each other.”

Jaden Purifoy

Jaden Purifoy

After losing their mother in 2011, siblings senior Parker Ray and junior Cassady Ray relied on each other for support. “As siblings, since we’ve [both] gone through [our mom passing away], we can connect with each other better,” Cassaday Ray said. “It made us bond more because it was so hard and we had to be there for each other.”

Rosemary Gregg, Writer

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This story was partially published in the December issue of Prospective.

 

Lost loved ones, scars, opened wounds and permanently changed families–while the holiday season is often filled with excitement and joy, for some people, it consists of dealing with personal tragedies.

For Karen Bridgman, a single mother and Finance Coordinator at Bryant City Hall, the best way to get through the holidays is through Griefshare, a program dedicated to helping people deal with the loss of loved ones. After attending three 13-week sessions of Griefshare, she began her own group at Midtowne Church in Benton in Sept. of 2016.

“It’s a lot easier to talk about something when you’re with people that you can trust, who understand what you’re going through,” Bridgman said. “Each person’s loss is unique, just like each person is unique.”

After experiencing the unexpected deaths of her mother in 2008, her brother in 2009 and her husband in 2010, Bridgman turned to Griefshare.

“I had a major loss three years in a row, and I knew I was struggling to deal with all of the emotions,” Bridgman said. “So once I got through [my losses], I knew that I wanted to help other people.”

Karen Bridgman’s husband, Robert Bridgman, dealt with high blood pressure problems throughout his life, but controlled them by self-medicating. When he began having continuous chest pains, he underwent a bypass surgery. The doctors thought he would be fine for another 30 years. 18 months later, he died from a massive heart attack.

“[When your spouse passes away,] you lose that future that you thought you were going to have, the things that you would’ve done together as a family,” Bridgman said.

Senior Parker Ray’s mother died Jan. 3, 2011, when he was in 6th grade. For Ray, holidays are still joyful, and his family honors his mother at Christmas time in remembrance.

“[The thing that I miss most about her] is her love of animals and horses and that she got me and my sister into the Bible and church,” Ray said.

For Ray, losing his mother has brought his family closer together and invited his stepmother into his life. Ray’s stepmother does not replace his mom, but according to Ray, she has helped his family bond again.

“I feel like I’ve gotten stronger mentally,” Ray said. “[She] has brought my family closer together.”

In middle school, Ray went through counseling after his mom’s death. It took him over a month in counseling to open up about his mom, but once he did, he began the process of accepting his mother’s death.

“There was a picture set up, and I had to talk to her and say what I felt, and that really helped me get through it,” Ray said. “I felt like I was holding things in about my mom, and I just got everything out in the open during that one session.”

Ray misses his connection with his mother, but appreciates her Christian faith that she shared with his family. Ray deals with his loss by not dwelling on the past.

“I don’t really think about [her passing] a lot during the holidays, because around Christmas time, everybody’s happy,” Ray said. “I just try to enjoy life as much as I can.”

Griefshare member Vickie Hill’s only daughter, Stephanie Doddridge, a former teacher at Harmony Grove, died at age 39. According to Hill, alcoholism and drugs took her life.

“As a teenager, she was addicted to alcohol,” Hill said. “If she was sitting here with me right now, she would say, ‘Mom, that’s not why I died,’ but she had a tear in her esophagus, and so she bled to death. I contribute that to the alcohol.”

Her granddaughter Brandy Doddridge is in college, and her grandson Blake Doddridge graduated high school in May. Hill is mostly bothered by all of the milestones that her daughter is going to miss in her children’s lives.

“She’s never going to get to see [her daughter] get married,” Hill said. “She’s not ever going to get to see her first grandchild. There’s just big things in the kids’ lives that she’s not ever going to be a part of.”

Hill continues to be a strong believer in God, but ever since her daughter passed away, she’s had a difficult time getting back into the church lifestyle.

“I love God, I love the idea of church,” Hill said. “I just don’t want to be a part of it right now. I don’t want to see the family structure.”

Ever since Doddridge died Jul. 9,  Hill has kept track of how long she has been gone. In honor of her daughter’s memory, every month on the 9th Hill writes Doddridge a letter to help her deal with all of her mixed emotions.

“Sometimes it was a mean letter, some months it was ‘How dare you,’ and then some months it was about what was going on with Brandy and Blake,” Hill said. “I’ve not gone back and reread the letters, but it helped.”

Before losing her daughter, Hill had no relationship with her grandchildren. However, losing her daughter caused her to get closer to her granddaughter.

“[Brandy] texts me and lets me know when she gets home so that I can go to sleep and not worry, like I worried about her momma a lot,” Hill said.

While losing Stephanie Doddridge brought Hill and her granddaughter closer together, it separated Hill from her grandson. According to Hill, Blake Doddridge has had a more difficult time dealing with his mother’s death. After losing his mother, Blake Doddridge lost contact with Hill and dealt with his loss by backing away from his family.

“She left, she left her kids, she told Blake she would come back and get him, and she didn’t,” Hill said. “I think [Blake] is angry.”

Hill misses her daughter and continues to honor her memory, but for Hill, losing her daughter is a better alternative to her winding up in prison or continuing to suffer from addiction.

“I thought it would be easier for God to take her if she wasn’t going to get better,” Hill said. “It’s better than worrying that she’s dead in a ditch somewhere or that her boyfriend is beating her again.”

For sophomore Aaron Morgan, the best way to deal with the loss of his mother is to keep himself busy with baseball and football. Morgan’s mom passed away as a result of injuries from a car accident three years ago, when he was in 7th grade. Morgan’s mom was put into a medically induced coma to see if she would recover. After three months, she was taken off of life support.

“The first day that we got back from the hospital after she passed away, we all came to my old house in Sheridan,” Morgan said. “[My family] helped us clean up, and then the whole family had a kickball game outside, and it brought us a lot closer together.”

Through holiday traditions, Morgan’s family honors his mother. At Christmas, he visits his mom’s side of the family and everyone says one thing about her that they miss.

“[Holidays] were difficult at first whenever my mom passed away, but we keep going on,” Morgan said. “My family helps me, because every year they give me a gift with her name on it.”

Morgan’s mother was an inspiration to himself and others.

“[My mom] was a great, loving and caring person,” Morgan said. “Whenever she walked into a room, it lit up. At her visitation, the line at East Union Baptist Church went all the way out into the parking lot because she made so many people’s lives better. That’s just the type of person she was.”

Freshman Isabella Herring’s grandfather died in June. Her grandpa had been sick for about a month, but he refused to go to the hospital until her grandma convinced him to. The doctors said that it was not cancer–that he just needed to have a quick surgery, and he would be fine. However, whenever the doctors started the procedure, they found cancer throughout his body.

“When he was dying, of course I was sad, but I was more angry than anything [else],” Herring said. “I knew that smoking was going to catch up with him. With a habit like that, once you start, it’s really hard to quit.”

The doctors admitted him into hospice and estimated that he had only about a week to live. Herring and her family continuously visited her grandpa throughout the week, even pulling her sister, senior Dahlia Bray, out of Arkansas Governor’s School.

“There was nothing that [the doctors] could’ve done about [the cancer], but if I had known, I would’ve had time to prepare,” Herring said. “I only had about four days to prepare for what was going to happen.”

According to Herring, she tends to deal with death well, largely due to the close relationship she has with her best friend, freshman Alex Beyerlein, who also lost her grandpa and understands what Herring is going through.

“It was really hard at first, and then it kind of eased out because I’m pretty accepting of death,” Herring said. “Everyone’s going to die at some point, and I feel like whenever it’s your time, it’s your time.”

Thinking about the long, happy life that her grandpa lived helped Herring to overcome his unexpected death. When her grandpa passed, her family grew closer together, and her relationship with her sister grew.

“He lived a full life, he got married, he had kids, he watched his kid grow up, he watched his kid have children, he watched his grandchildren for most of his life, he did what he loved,” Herring said. “Whenever I thought about that, it made it a lot easier.”

Herring now spends more time with her family and has grown a closer relationship with her grandmother because of her grandfather’s death.

“Whenever I’m spending time with my grandparents, or anyone, I know that my time is limited, and they’re not always going to be there,” Herring said. “You don’t know how long you have.”

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