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Bangor hospital honors deceased with holiday lights, ornaments

The fundraising effort supports the St. Joseph Healing Arts Program for hospital patients.

BANGOR, Maine — Lights of Remembrance is an annual ceremony hosted by St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor to honor people who died and aren't present to ring in the holiday season.

Thursday's ceremony featured a choir led by students, a tree lighting, Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a speech by St. Joseph Hospital President Mary Prybylo.

This year, 19 new name ornaments were added to the Christmas tree with names of loved ones who died. Almost 200 names now adorn the holiday tree.

For a name of a loved one to be on an ornament, people make a donation to the Healing Arts Program at the hospital, which aims to help people being treated or going to a doctor's appointment feel at ease. 

"The art is uplifting. The art is a distraction," said Brad Coffey, senior vice president of Covenant Health, the parent company of St. Joseph Hospital. "The art is actually something that can take someone from an unhappy state to maybe a slightly happy or perhaps very happy state."

Those funds are used to purchase art that is hung in patients' rooms to promote a calm and healing environment. 

"Every single piece has the potential to help someone feel better," Coffey said.

But not everyone is feeling happy and joyous this holiday season, said Internal Medicine Director Dr. Kerry Ricker.

"If you believe that you are not just sad, but possibly depressed, one has to ask themselves, 'Are you having an alteration of your sleep cycle? Has your appetite changed? Are you having trouble concentrating?'" Ricker said.

Ricker added it's normal to grieve for a few weeks, or even a month when a loved one dies. But if the feelings persist, he recommends seeing a doctor for potential depression.

"You don't have worthlessness or hopelessness with grief as much as that pervasive sadness. With depression, it really alters your being," Ricker said.

Ricker said it's very important people set boundaries this time of year, spend less time on social media, exercise, eat healthy, sleep well, and pay attention to their feelings.

"Taking care of yourself," he said. "No one is going to take care of you as well as you are capable of taking care of yourself."

On Wednesday night, community members, hospital staff, and other people took the time to pause, reflect, and come together to honor those lives. 

"The generous gifts from all 46 donors this year will support the St. Joseph Healing Arts Program, which helps purchase art for patients who are in the hospital, allowing them to choose the art they would like displayed in their patient room during their stay," Amy Proffitt, director of marketing and communications, said.

The art comes from a wide variety of artists. All of them are Mainers or have ties to Maine.

"Through the Healing Arts Program, St. Joseph is also able to support performances by members of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra who play for patients, promoting a calm, healing environment," Proffitt said.

“We continue to be moved by the love and support of our community members, not just during the holiday season, but all year long. We are grateful to be part of this community and honored to serve them by providing health and care. The Lights of Remembrance is a special ceremony that brings us all together and starts this most special season,” Prybylo said.

Here are some tips to reduce stress during the holidays: 

  • Pay attention to your feelings: Consider journaling or blogging. Try spending five to 10 minutes in meditation. 
  • Seek support from your network of people: Be clear about what you need, either help to solve a problem or just a listening ear.
  • Be realistic around the expectations of others: Don’t expect perfection from yourself or others, especially during the holidays when stress levels may be higher than usual.
  • Budget your time and your money. Set yourself up for success: Make a plan for your time and your money, and write it down. We are more likely to stick with plans if we put them on paper.
  • Set healthy boundaries with family or friends who may demand more of you: It is okay to say no, especially when it comes to protecting your mental health and reducing stress.
  • Maintain healthy habits with food and exercise: If you normally dedicate time to exercise or meditate, and you make healthy food choices, don’t throw that out the window during the holidays. Sticking with healthy habits, or beginning new healthy habits, is a great way to keep stress at bay.

Click here for some Bangor Area Support groups.

Click here for other tips from the Mayo Clinic.

Click here to support the Healing Arts Program at St. Joseph Hospital.

More NEWS CENTER Maine stories. 

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