Tree of Life Offers Opportunity to Reflect, Heal

Despite the joyousness of the holiday season, it can sometimes have a way of making the hurt of losing a loved one extra strong. In order to combat the loneliness the aggrieved often feel during this time, the Walla Walla Community Hospice (WWCH) offers the Tree of Life Ceremony, which lit up the Die Brucke Building on Dec. 8, as a way to reflect and start the healing process.

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Photo by Marra Clay

Located in the Die Brucke Building at the corner of First and Main Street, the WWCH Tree of Life is in its 27th year and is dedicated to honoring the life of special people. The Hospice began collecting names of those remembered in the community in October. For the ceremony, the name of that person was printed on a paper ornament and placed on a tree. The name was then inscribed in the Tree of Life Book and read at the Tree and Candle Lighting ceremony.

The Tree of Life ceremony is WWCH’s longest standing event.

“A lot of hospices hold similar events,” said Laurie Klicker, the marketing coordinator for the hospice for the past 13 years. “[I suspect] we wanted to do something here [in Walla Walla].”

Typically, only the family members of the ones lost show up to the Tree of Life ceremony. There is some crossover between people from the hospice support groups and those who show up to the ceremony, including some students from around the community. The ceremony is pretty short and sweet according to Klicker, lasting typically 45 minutes.

“Honestly, I was really surprised at how emotional the ceremony is for the length [of it],” said Klicker about her first ceremony.

As part of their mission, the WWCH offers grief and loss counseling. According to National Students of Ailing Mothers and Fathers Support Network, between 35 and 48 percent of college students have lost a family member or close friend within the last two years, and between 22 and 30 percent of college students have lost a family member or close friend within the last year. However, only 10 percent of college students seek grief counseling services. The WWHC sees around 200 members of the community between support groups and personal counseling sessions which includes some college students.

Photo by Marra Clay

“We are here for any student,” said Klicker. “Counseling is always available at no charge.”

Klicker encourages those who want to seek counseling to not shy away from it, especially during the holidays.

“When you’re not feeling what the rest of the world says you should feel [during the holidays], this is a good opportunity to start the healing process,” said Klicker.

The Tree of Life will stand in the Die Bruke Building until Dec. 29 and the names of those in the Tree of Life book will be printed online. Those seeking counseling should contact WWCH at 509-525-5561.




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