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"A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long."

-E.E. Cummings

October brings change, whether we want it or not. The earth begins to prepare for it's long slumber before winter. It can be very easy to loose sight of it's beauty when we can only see it's darkness. It brings glorious vibrant colours, and leaves that crunch and that smell of the earth, only found in fall. It's pumpkin spice everything and wearing extra sweaters. But it's difficult to visualize the beauty when all you are able to fixate on is the absence of another.

In addition to the Pumpkin Spice craze, October brings us Thanksgiving. Although Thanksgiving is not as big of a holiday here in Canada, it’s still is a beautiful opportunity to sit down, break bread with the ones that you love and come together. Even if you are not a "Thanksgiving person" it can still feel lonely. If this is your first Thanksgiving without your person, this can be a tough one, especially if that special person was the glue that held the family together and maintained all of the special family traditions.

I personally fall into the Clark Griswold (remember National Lampoons Christmas Vacation) manic way of thinking about holidays, every holiday. In my head, I envision my family around the table looking at me with love and gratitude. Their eyes glass over a little with delight at the amazing food I have prepared. There are not dirty dishes from the food prep stacked to the ceiling, the house looks like it was styled by Martha Stewart in her prime… in my head. The reality is trying to fight dogs off of stealing from the table, dishes stacked on the counter and sink like Jenga, one teaspoon away from a giant crash. The meal itself is always ready to erupt into “FOOD FIGHT”, and I need to force out of each person’s mouth what they are grateful for, and inevitably am irritated when they just repeat the person before’s answer. What I am saying is that it does not live up to my ridiculously high expectations of perfection. My unrealistic expectations are setting myself and my family up for defeat. I know that I am not alone in setting unrealistic expectations for a holiday.

Think of family traditions like a family recipe. Great Grandma’s pumpkin pie.

Not too many of us still use old woodstoves to cook, and we use different measurements. Over the years there have been modifications (ever ask your mom or grandma for a recipe and most cannot nail down the exact measurements, it's a pinch of this, a dab of that).

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Set aside premade pie shell.

Mix in a stand mixer 1 can of pumpkin pie filling; 7 large eggs or 2 cups of liquid eggs; 1 tablespoon of 18% table cream; 1 and a half cups plus 2 teaspoons of light brown sugar packed tight; 1 teaspoon of salt; 3 cups of evaporated milk. Mix until it is smooth. Pour into pie crust and bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool. Before serving top each slice of pie with ready whip coconut flavoured whipped cream in a can or cool whip.

Is this the same recipe, no, well kind of… traditions can change to suit what we need when we need it. The world will not spin off of it's axis if you take a year off from family tradition to mend your broken heart. It’s also ok to go to a bakery and buy a pie, or buy a grocery store pie. It’s ok to go out for dinner, or even eat sandwiches or skip this year. The important thing about tradition is not the actual execution of events, but rather the joy and comfort they bring. If they no longer provide joy or comfort why would you put yourself through it?

The moral of the story, it’s ok to lower your expectations, because you didn’t follow the family traditions this year, doesn’t mean you can’t next year of the year after. Traditions can change and morph like Grandma’s pie. The important thing in this world is allowing yourself space and time. There are ways that you can include and honour your person in every celebration, to include them. Set an extra setting at the table that remains empty, or if that's too hard, say their name. Tell funny or heart warming stories about them around the table. Celebrate, or abstain from celebration, it's ok.

Whatever you decide to do this holiday, remember to be grateful. It can be difficult to think of gratitude when in grief, but it actually changes your brain chemicals and sets up up to better deal with the loss.

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Mornings are getting cooler, and the leaves have already begun to hint at their colourful splendor. For the last 23 years, September has signaled “The New Year” for me. It is where I put to bed the lazy delight of summer and begin to shore things up making preparations for our long cold winter ahead. For me September means change. It is not the traditional January 1, but September that I make New Year resolutions. Every year I vow to become organized, and keep that promise for the month of September. It’s where I take stock of my life and decide what serves me and what I am able to let go of, not unlike the leaves themselves.

I experience a touch of grief anxiety because of the change of season. I feel like freedom and joy are being pulled away from me with the end of summer and the beginning of the rigid school year. I don’t pretend that this makes sense to anyone but myself. It means that my children are not mine anymore, but belong to the world once again. I don't pretend that this makes sense, but it is how I feel, and feelings are ok. I also know that as the school year progresses, I acclimate to this strange new word, that is neither strange nor is it new after 23 years of it. What it boils down to is that change is inevitable, no matter how doggedly we try to hold on to our happy place. Joy turns to other emotions, and if it didn't would it feel as... well joyful? We have to taste the bitter to know the sweet.

Fall is the death march of summer. I prepare for it mentally, take joy in some of it apple picking, pumpkin carving, the smell of fallen leaves, the crunching sound that leaves make when you stand on them), but I'm always looking over my shoulder, knowing that the end of fall means the beginning of winter. In a much smaller scale fall is like a new beginning. New beginnings can be exciting, if it is of your choosing, but when it is thrust upon you against your will, it can be difficult. If you have not been reading into the symbolism, I am referring to loss. Loss is difficult. Sometimes the slow loss begins at time of terminal diagnosis, sometimes it comes suddenly from accident. Loss means change, and change is difficult, but change brings rebirth if you allow it.

In my grief group that I run, I ask participants to think about their life as a tree.

*The roots represent the people, activities, beliefs that ground you, keep you safe in the storm.

*The trunk is the support that holds you tall. Not all trunks are tall and straight, some grow in difficult conditions and twist and bend, but still they stand, they can still weather the storm, sometimes better than the tall trees, because they have grown in adversity and have the skillset to withstand difficult events. The trunk represents your story. Who made you who you are?

* The leaves represent things that are not constant. Green healthy leaves are the things in your life that bring you joy, that make you healthy. The leaf buds are ideas, hopes for the future, they are in transition. Coloured leaves represent things that you are now ready to let go of. These are beliefs, lies, patterns, habits that may have served you once, or maybe they never served you but you did not know how to shake them off. These are ideas, that you can allow to fall to the ground.

Take a minute and grab a paper and pencil and give it a try. Really consider what you believe in and does it still hold true today as it did yesterday. What are you ready to let go of to make tomorrow better?

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Updated: Sep 28, 2023

On Tuesday August 29th, The Heart of Hastings Hospice was pleased to host their long-awaited Open House and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony. Staff, volunteers, board members, local dignitaries and other community guests were on hand to help celebrate. MPP Ric Bresee was on site to speak about the importance of this expansion, and the impact The Heart of Hastings Hospice has on local communities.

Hospice care focuses on relieving suffering and providing a holistic approach through psychosocial, physical, clinical, spiritual, and emotional support. The hospice model has long proven to be a high quality, cost-effective solution for people at end-of-life. Demand for hospice continues to increase with the aging demographic in the Centre Hastings area. All hospice services are offered at no charge.

It must be noted that the number of hospice beds across the province is significantly less (271 of 755 to 1080 beds) than what the Ontario government advises is needed.

After lengthy consultation with stakeholders in the communities, they serve, the hospice recognized in their 2018-2023 - strategic plan, the need to expand their footprint from a 2-bed hospice to a 3-bed hospice. “It is wonderful to see this project completed after years of planning, and for us to be able to better meet the demand of our community with the addition of the a 3rd hospice bed and 2nd guest room.” Explained Pauline Pietschmann, Fundraising & Awareness Coordinator at The Heart of Hastings Hospice.

Construction of the expansion was completed in September 2022; however, the addition of a Serenity Garden for Hospice clients and families was added in early August of this year, after raising funds with a Fund a Need Campaign at the 2022 Handbags for Hospice Signature Fundraiser. The Garden was a group effort with help from landscaping businesses, including Lyman’s landscape, Willowlee Sod Farm. The project would not have been complete without the expertise of Quinte Field Naturalists, Natural Themes Native Plant Nursery as well as The David Suzuki Butterfly Project.

The expansion increases the hospice footprint to three resident beds, and an additional guest bedroom for families, while also providing dedicated private space for Grief and Bereavement Support and Practical Caregiver Training, as well as increased space for the equipment-lending program. These programs have an enormous impact for the 22 thousand + people served locally, including Centre Hastings, Marmora, Tweed, Tudor and Cashel and the townships of Stirling Rawdon and Madoc.

The Hospice recognized many donors and contributors who have supported the expansion, including local Municipalities, families, and community organizations and foundations, including the Parrot Foundation, as well as donors who supported our Fund a Need Campaign.

“We were thrilled to share this moment with Gay Lea Foundation representative Brigitte Baumann.

Gay Lea Foods is a leading Canadian co-operative, dedicated to innovation, the development of high-quality products and growing the market for Canadian milk. 100% Canadian owned, locally, Gay Lea is the parent company of Ivanhoe Cheese and Stirling Creamery, and pledged $40,000 in support of the hospice expansion.” Adds Pietschmann

To learn more about Hospice services and ways you can support, please visit

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