The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time, but people grieving the loss of a loved one can find themselves struggling with sadness and even depression.

“Everybody has scars and you will remember exactly how you got them, even though the wound has healed over,” said Tim Willis, pastor, celebrant speaker and “general problem fixer” for Celilo Chapel in The Dalles. “My father died in 2000 and every Christmas I get a little sad about it.”

He invites people who want to honor lost friends and family to attend the “Tree of Remembrance Memorial” at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the chapel, 202 E. Fourth St.

Although this is the first year the memorial is being held in The Dalles, owner Jack Trumbell began organizing a remembrance in Hood River 10 years ago at Anderson’s Tribute Center.

Hood River’s ceremony will be 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14, at the center, 1041 Belmont Ave.

Willis said people can pick up a red heart-shaped ornament in advance at either location to personalize for their loved one, or they can wait until the event when metallic gloss markers will be available to write in a name.

The ornaments are hung on a special tree and displayed through the holiday season. They can be picked up and taken home in January.

People unable to attend either service can visit the facilities to add a decoration to the tree.

“These services are good because people realize they are not the only ones going through things,” said Willis, who also pastors Wy’East Community Church in Odell.

“The remembrance is not just for the families we’ve served, but for anyone who’s feeling a loss.”

Both evenings include live music and messages of comfort delivered by several speakers. The names of those being honored in 2017 will be read.

“Grief is natural, it’s to be expected,” said Willis. “You can’t ignore, and you can’t dismiss it. It’s something you’ve got to look at eyeball to eyeball. You acknowledge the presence, but don’t let it run over you.”

There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, he said — the mourning process just has to run its course.

“Grief is the way we heal our soul,” said Willis.

He said it seems to have become more difficult for Americans to cope with grief because better health care and longevity in the modern age has made untimely death less frequent than in times past.

Willis said working through grief tied to the loss of a close friend or relative might take time, but it can be a catalyst for a renewed sense of purpose and direction to life.

For more information about The Dalles program call 541-296-2600. To learn about the service in Hood River call 541-386-1000.

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