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Bryan Painter: Holidays can be tough on people who have lost a loved one

Celebrating Christmas after the death of a loved one is never easy, but there are strategies that help people cope.
by Bryan Painter Published: November 18, 2012

Each year Vicki Blount writes a letter to son, Tyler, and puts it in his Christmas stocking.

Unfortunately Tyler isn't there to read it. And because of emotions, husband, Pat, chooses not to.

“Maybe some day I will when I am a lot tougher,” Pat said.

The holidays are tough for some for different reasons. Among those are the individuals who have lost loved ones. Like so many things, there's no one way to handle it. But some of those who face this each year shared their experiences in hopes that doing so might helps others or at least people would know they aren't the only ones going through this.

The losses

On a June night in 2000 in Enid, Tyler Blount, 17, whipped under a saddle bronc horse at the Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association Finals. He was kicked in the head and suffered fatal injuries.

After helping stranded motorists for an hour during the 2009 Christmas Eve Blizzard, George Miller, 57, was walking back across State Highway 29 just east of Marlow to get in his truck. He noticed a young woman's car had just slid off the road close to him. He stopped and began to turn around. The young woman later told George's wife that George looked her in the eyes as if to say “I'll be there in just a second.” At 2:25 p.m., amid the horrible visibility, a car struck and killed Miller.

Patricia Loder was driving home on a spring day in 1991 with her and her husband Wayne's two children in the car when a speeding motorcycle struck their car. Pat survived. However, Stephanie, 8, and Stephen, 5, did not. Pat is now executive director and Wayne is the public awareness coordinator of The Compassionate Friends, Inc. a national, nonprofit, self-help organization offering friendship, understanding and hope to families grieving the death of a child of any age, from any cause. Pat and Wayne live in Milford, Mich.

Different situation

For the first time since Tyler was killed, the Blounts will not be living in Oklahoma during the holidays. Earlier this year, Pat received a job opportunity that would allow him to work in the New York City area, a longtime dream of his. They made the move from Guthrie to the Philadelphia area.

Before they left, Vicki and Pat visited the cemetery separately.

“It is always a difficult place for me to go,” Pat said. “It's the hardest place for me to separate Tyler's soul, which is surely in heaven, with his physical body that is buried there. The thought of what is physically in the grave is overwhelming even 12 years later.”

This year, they plan to spend Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania and travel to Oklahoma shortly thereafter to see their son, Mike, and his family. Then, Pat and Vicki intend to be in Florida for Christmas with their son, Matt, and his family.

Pat and Vicki have four grandchildren, and they “have been lifesavers for us during the holidays.”

This was Tyler's favorite time of year. And it makes Pat laugh when he recalls how his son, even at 15 years old said he was certain Santa Claus existed because he knew their family could not afford the kind of Christmases he had all of his life.

“It didn't matter if a present cost a $1 or a $1,000, they were all priceless to him,” Pat said.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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