MARION — Holidays can be particularly difficult for those coping with loss and grief. To help, Hospice of Southern Illinois hosts an annual Tree of Life ceremony each year. The ceremony allows families and the public to remember loved ones who have died.

“It is basically a memorial service for the families of patients we have lost. I think it is a way for them to honor their loved ones' memories,” April Ehlers, bereavement counselor at Hospice of Southern Illinois, said.

This year’s Tree of Life Ceremony will be from 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, in The Journey, 9833 Old Bainbridge Trail in Marion.

The ceremony includes holiday music, readings, a lighted tree, reading the names of loved ones and refreshments. Also, candles are lit in memory of loved ones.

As the names of loved ones are read, families can celebrate their lives by placing a card with a ribbon on a lighted Christmas tree, the Tree of Life. Family members are welcome to talk about their loved ones at this time.

“It is a really good service. I think it is the perfect time of the year to have something like that,” Ehlers said.

Hospice of Southern Illinois is committed to walking with patients and their families through the end-of-life process and grief.

“We provide grief support for a year after a loved one had passed to anyone in the family,” Ehlers said.

She added that they typically follow up with family members at least a month after a loved one has died. Most of the time it is talking to them on the phone. However, they sometimes go out and provide a visit in a home, depending on the needs and wishes of the family.

Hospice of Southern Illinois is a not-for-profit hospice program serving 27 counties in Illinois.

Families who wish to attend the Tree of Life ceremony are asked to RSVP by contacting Deborah Hogg or Jennifer Lee at 1-800-233-1708, or



Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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