The holiday season is not a joyful time for everyone.
At Linda Rannals' house, there are no lights on the roof and nothing strung around the trees. A single wreath on the door in the only sign of Christmas time.
"The holidays are just tough and I haven't decorated since," said Rannals.
On Dec. 14, nearly two decades ago, Rannals lost her youngest daughter, Kaci.
"I've had a lot of people say 'you just need to move on.' You don't ever move on," said Rannals. "You don't ever get over it. A piece of your heart is gone."
Kaci was born with heart complications, leading her to receive a transplant at just 16 months old. The anti-rejection medication is what took her life nine years later.
"Kaci's last Christmas in '97, we had five Christmas trees in our house," said Rannals. "Every room in the house was decorated, every inch of the house was decorated."
Rannals said the spirit of Christmas left their home as soon as their angel did.
"It's just too hard when your heart's not in it," said Rannals.
Elizabeth Timmons is the program director at Heart of Texas Counseling Center. She said grief is unique to each person, it comes in many different forms and can last for any period of time.
"Grief is a natural process that everybody really has to go through," said Timmons. "So one of the ways to help with that process is to remember the fond things about the person that made them unique to you. Funny stories about the person, I think, are really helpful."
Timmons said those struggling with loss shouldn't feel guilty for enjoying the holiday season. She suggests spending time with family and talking openly about your loved one during social gatherings.
"As long as we're talking about people who have died, we're keeping them close to us," said Timmons.
But during the holidays, Rannals and her husband choose to shy away from the parties. Instead, they keep to themselves so they can reminisce about happier times with their little girl.
"We never would expect or want anybody else to do what we do. Everybody deals with it in their own way," said Rannals.
For those gathering with their families this weekend, Rannals wants to remind you to treasure every moment.
"Always say 'I love you,'" said Rannals. "Let them know."
For additional ways to cope, click here. You can also contact the Heart of Texas Counseling Center at 254-297-7100.
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