Grieving on Thanksgiving: What the holiday is like for families of homicide victims

Pooja Lodhia Image
Thursday, November 24, 2022
Families of murder victims grieve on Thanksgiving
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As families gather for a Thanksgiving feast, some have an empty seat at the table after Houston saw over 300 murders this year.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The same holiday season that brings joy for so many of us, also brings pain.

Houston has already seen more than 300 murders this year.

"This is going to be my first Thanksgiving without her. So, I'm not sure how exactly it's going to go," Nancy Bulla, whose daughter, Indigo Garza, was killed earlier this year, said.

SEE ALSO: Indigo Garza murder: 20-year-old killed in retaliation over robbery during drug deal, filing reads

"It's not as hard as it was last year. But tomorrow, we'll gather at my other brother's house for Thanksgiving," Aimee Castillo, whose brother, Joshua Sandoval, was killed in 2021, said. "My dad will be there, and my stepmom. There will be a place missing and we'll see how it goes."

"You gather together for dinner and it's so obvious that person is missing," Jessika Gaehring, whose fiancée, Austin Utley, was killed in 2019, said. "This will be our third year and it doesn't get any easier."

Grief doesn't always work how you want it to.

"It comes in waves. It's not, you're in it and you're done. It's not a program. One day, I'll be completely fine, and then one minute, I'll be thinking of something that reminded me of something, and then I'm crying," Castillo said. "When I think I'm over it, I'm never going to be over it. Grieving in the holidays is still necessary. You can't mask it. I think I tried to do that last year and I just ended up being a mess."

SEE ALSO: Man accused in 2 murder cases in Harris and Galveston county out on $1M bond, records show

"I try to warn them, this is something that will be with you everyday. In the beginning, it's kind of like a boulder that pins you down. Over time, you learn to carry that boulder with you," Gaehring said.

"Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. I hope all of you who are missing a loved one, I hope you have an extra special Thanksgiving," Bulla added.

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