Program helps families cope with loss together

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Losing a loved one is always difficult, but for many, the holiday season makes it even harder. A program through Northern Illinois Hospice hopes to make this process easier.

"A weight lifted, is how I would describe it. It's like I feel lighter in my heart."

Lori Johns says it often feels like her late mother is still here.

"I can't tell you how many times I've just called her number, and it's like, what am I doing?" says Lori Johns.

Johns lost her mother, Eleanor Phillips, on July 24th, after a stroke caused paralysis in her throat, which eventually caused pneumonia.

After going back and forth between hospice and rehab, the doctors eventually said there was nothing more they could do.

"We expected her to go to dementia care, but she just never recovered," says Johns.

Johns then got in touch with Northern Illinois Hospice Care. They gave her the tools she needed to give her mother a peaceful passing.

"When I was with hospice, they taught me how to give her the pain shots. If it wasn't for hospice, Idk what I would have done or how I would've handled it."

Now, Johns and her family are sharing their grief and memories with others who are feeling the same pain.

"Being able to know that you're not in that grief boat alone. That, in sharing our stories, there's always this common thread that weaves this beautiful tapestry of love and memories," says Bereavement Coordinator Andrew Vitale.

Johns says that this process of sharing is its own kind of healing.

"It's very insightful when you're talking to these strangers who suddenly become not strangers because they're sharing the same grief you're going through."

The Hospice Support Group meets twice a year and is for families who have lost a loved one within the past 13 months.