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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This year has been a challenge as many of us have experience loss and life changes. Teacher, minister and now blogger Maya McNeary is uisng her life experiences to help anyone dealing with grief this year.

McNeary lost her sister to cerebral palsy complications. She puts her pain on paper every month, calling it Grief + Hope.

“That was the whole reason for me to start this. Like, what does it mean to add hope to that grief? Grief is going nowhere. It doesn’t have a time limit, it doesn’t have a day where you can shut it off or on,” she told WREG’s Symone Woolridge.

McNeary realized the power of writing her feelings down. It’s given her a way to connect with others in pain, particularly during the holidays.

Last weekend, McNeary hosted a Zoom call on how to stay hopeful during the holidays. She partnered with women in different states who she never met before.

The call was a safe space for the women to share their stories and feel comfortable being vulnerable.

“Sometimes you just have to allow yourself to feel what you’re going to feel. It’s ok not to be ok,” said participiant La’Keshia Allen.

No matter how their loved one passed, the sense of emptiness was the same. The main message was that it’s okay to cry, to feel upset and even frustrated.

And they all agreed there are ways to help shift any feelings of discomfort to comfort as you try to remember the good times.

“A seat at the table with an empty plate. Balloons, release of balloons, doing prayer, you know, speaking about them,” said Andrea Moore.

McNeary and the women she now calls her sisters said it’s important to maneuver through the triggers. If there’s a memory that saddens you, try if you can to shift the focus to something that will lead to a smile.

“Everybody needs a little hope this year no matter what you’re going through. We all had some type of different loss.”

If you would like to reach out to McNeary, please email her at