The holiday season is supposed to be the most joyous time of the year but for those who are grieving, the blessings of the holidays can be mixed to say the least.

For many years, Hospice of Lake Cumberland has been helping to support families facing the coming season with a loss. Whether you're facing the first year without a loved one or you've gone through many, grief shared with others is better than carrying that burden alone.

"It's a remembrance for our families," hospice executive director Euretha Godby said of the Holiday Hope program.

This year, the program is taking a turn from a traditional meal to an open house format -- to be held this Monday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Hospice of Lake Cumberland's main office at 100 Parkway Drive in Somerset.

"We thought we'd change it up this year," hospice executive director Euretha Godby said. "We already have close to 100 RSVPs for this year."

Hospice of Lake Cumberland serves a seven-county region including Pulaski, Russell, Wayne, Casey, McCreary, Cumberland and Clinton. Over the course of the year, 125-130 volunteers have worked with some 1,100 families.

"Some of the volunteers do just home care and visit with our patients," Godby explained. "Some of our volunteers do events like this."

Volunteer coordinator Sasha Gossett noted that all of the food -- including cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and various homemade candies -- for Monday's event will be prepared by volunteers.

Those attending the open house will have the opportunity to visit several resource stations, including one for trimming a Christmas tree in memory of their loved ones.

"Our volunteers have put together ornaments that we've left blank," Gossett explained. "We've got paint pens and markers to hand out to let people create an ornament themselves in memory of their loved one. It could just be a name or it could be a memory."

The ornaments will decorate a tree in the hospice lobby until about a week before Christmas, when the families may take them home to place on their own trees.

Activities for children will also be available, courtesy of a volunteer family who have been active with the program for many years.

"I think it's helpful for staff too," bereavement coordinator Tina Caldwell added, "that have spend time with all these families. It's good for the families to be able to see them but it's also good for the staff to be able to have time to go back and visit and remember with them the loved ones they served also."

Though Hospice of Lake Cumberland directly contacts the families served throughout the year, the Holiday Hope open house is free and open to the public.

"It's not just [for] hospice patients and families," Godby said. "It can be anybody who's had a loss."

For those who cannot attend the open house, Hospice can still provide support by calling 800-937-9596. Those interested in volunteering may also call the same number.

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