For those dealing with the loss of loved ones, the holidays can

For those dealing with the loss of loved ones, the holidays can bring heartache

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Death or a significant life changing event is always difficult to deal with, but when they happen around the holidays it can make the situation even tougher.

Vanessa Riley lost her 21-year-old son Sean to suicide April 26, 2006.

"We thought we were going to save him," Riley said. "People will tell you, you'll find your new normal - we don't have a new normal. It's evolving. It's ever-evolving."

Vanessa said her son struggled for about a year with depression. They tried medication and therapy.

"I think suicide is preventable in many cases but we were unable to prevent Sean's death," Vanessa said.

Now she and her family are trying to deal with a deep loss.

"The first two or three years we felt like robots," Vanessa said. "We went through the motions of life. We functioned. We didn't live. We certainly were not thriving. We were surviving day to day."

Grief counselor Linda Gill said that coping is normal for a period of time. And when the holidays hit, she says you need to find what works for you to get you through.

"You don't get over it, you work your way through it," Gill said. "Sometimes to do a tradition hurts in a good way because the person that's gone is a part of that tradition and the family feels their presence and the family can talk about them."

But, sometimes the hurt is too raw to celebrate.

"The first year, my husband, surviving son and I took a cruise," Vanessa said. "We went to the Bahamas. We were just going to totally avoid Christmas. I'll always be a grieving mother. I miss my child's future."

If you or someone you know who may be thinking about harming themselves, visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at

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