YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The holidays can bring a range of emotions for those who have lost loved ones, no matter how much time has passed. We spoke with two women who know the heartbreak of loss all too well. They share their outlook on the holidays and how they cope with grief.
“She was angelic the day she was born,” said Amy Giovannone about her daughter, Sierra.
Sierra was killed in Warren in 2014 at the age of 23. This year marks Amy’s eighth Christmas without her.
For others like Hope Haney with the Mahoning Valley National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the loss is more recent. She lost her husband, Don, in March 2020 to the coronavirus.
“He became sick very suddenly and then he passed,” Hope said.
Hope says grieving around the holidays can be difficult because most people expect you to be happy.
For Amy, she has drawn a lot of her strength from her faith. She says Sierra would not want to see her stop enjoying her life.
“I have a different take on holidays. Even though I love them, and I still love them and I’m so thankful for all of my friends, for all of my blessings I still have,” Amy said.
Hope says it’s important that you set realistic expectations, adding that working on ways to work through the emotional turmoil is key.
“You have to allow yourself to feel those strong emotions. You have to acknowledge, ‘Yes, this is not like the other holidays, this is going to be very difficult,”’ Hope said.
A process that Amy continues to work through.
“For 23 years I was Sierra’s mom, and then to have such a horrible tragedy happen and not really know where to turn or who am I now?” Amy said.
Some days are harder than others for Amy, but she says it all comes down to mindset.
“I do have sadness, and those are normal human emotions, but being miserable is a choice,” Amy said.
Amy says she’s choosing not to be miserable on Christmas, adding that grief is not chronological and it’s part of the healing process. She says unfortunately, we can’t change what has happened.
“But we don’t have to be what has happened to us, what has happened to us does not have to define us,” Amy said.
Amy’s nonprofit Sierra’s Sanctuary has a group called Healing Hearts for anyone struggling.
NAMI also offers support groups run entirely by people dealing with mental health issues.