KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It's common to experience grief around the holidays. Yearly traditions meant to bring joy may serve as reminders of those lost. But, there is help out there.
Branda Melinn is evidence of that. It's been almost four months since Melinn said goodbye to her 16-year-old daughter Makinna Smith.
Decorating for Christmas looks a little different this year for Melinn.
"This is the only tree that I'm putting up this year because that was something we'd done together," Melinn motioned toward the illuminated Christmas tree atop her daughter's grave.
The grave may not have a marker yet, but Melinn is making sure her daughter's light is around for the holidays.
"Her legacy is still just shining through just as bright as it was," Melinn nodded.
Smith, 16, took her last breath in August after a car crash in Dandridge.
"It does change your life forever," Melinn admitted. "We can't change the past, but we can choose what we do with the future I always say."
This is the first holiday season without her ray of sunshine. Her grief makes traditions difficult to remember.
"It'll always be different, but hopefully we can grow and just embrace what we are now," Melinn explained.
Melinn is choosing to give back and focus on new ways to honor her daughter.
"I've sponsored some children for Christmas to try to give since I don't have her to buy for this year to still yet try to make a difference in someone else's life," Melinn said.
Melinn also served food and gave back to those who are less fortunate during Thanksgiving and plans to do the same on Christmas.
She explained what helps her is only doing things she is comfortable with and not forcing emotion.
"I really am just trying to do what Makinna would want me to do and there will be tears shed, of course, but she will be proud of what I'm doing in her honor," Melinn smiled.
During this season, Makinna may be gone, but she won't be forgotten.
If you feel the grief you are feeling is too much and you need help, there are resources available. The American Counseling Association has information and ways to contact counselors who are available to help.