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Thousands of Hoosiers to deal with grief during holiday season after record-breaking homicides in Indianapolis

Tonya Hegwood is about to spend her second Christmas without her son, Darnell, who was shot and killed in a parked car in Hendricks County.

INDIANAPOLIS — Thousands of Hoosiers are going to be missing loved ones during the holiday season. With record-breaking homicides and COVID-19 deaths, more people will be struggling to deal with their grief.

It's Tonya Hegwood's second Christmas since her 17-year-old son, Darnell, died. She spent last Christmas physically with him in the mortuary so he wouldn't be alone on the holidays.

"This will actually be the very first Christmas that I don't actually see him or touch him," Hegwood said.

Darnell was shot and killed while sitting in a parked car in Hendricks County last year. She said the holidays are hard for families missing loved ones.

"We are just trying to live and learn how to live without one of the people we love the most," Hegwood said.

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Thousands of people are going through this same struggle this year. Amanda Tarter's 11-year-old son, Kyson Beatty, died in a hit-and-run crash on Dec. 11. Tarter said Christmas is the last thing she wants to think about.

"He had his whole outfit picked out for Christmas, what he wanted to wear. We made sure we got everything he wanted so he could be laid to rest in his Christmas outfit he wanted," Tarter said.

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Julie Leet, grief counselor at Community Health Network, said these emotions are normal for people dealing with a loss.

"Everyday things that people who have been exposed to a life loss, they feel like they're going crazy. They feel like they've lost their mind," Leet said.

According to Leet, it's important that those going through grief feel empowered to do what they need to do to help them get by. Brooke's Place, an organization that provides support for grieving young people, offers the following reminders and tips:

  • It is alright to say "no" to holiday events.
  • Don't schedule too many activities.
  • Take care of your physical, spiritual and emotional needs.

Leet also suggests if you know someone experiencing grief, reach out to them.

"That last thing people will ever do is ask for help. Let them know you're thinking about them. Offer support, more than just a phone call," Leet said.

"I know it's uncomfortable and people don't know what to say to me, but take that chance and drop by and give people a hug," Hegwood said.

For more information on how to deal with grief, click here and here.

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