LAKEWOOD - Living through the loss of loved ones - particularly in the wake of two notable local deaths this year - inspired the theme of an annual prayer breakfast Friday hosted by the mayor.
About 200 attendees filled Sycamore Plaza for the 36th Annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. Mayor Diane DuBois, whose husband Bruce died 10 months ago at age 76 of an aneurysm, spoke of her loss.
"I just can't say enough about the support that a community - whether it's relatives or whether it's friends - can give," she said. "How helpful it was. It certainly has sustained me."
Longtime Councilman Larry Van Nostran also died in November at age 79 of a progressive lung disorder.
Those in attendance observed a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., and prayed for the families of four people killed during the recent shooting spree of Christopher Dorner, a former LAPD officer.
Keynote speaker and longtime friend of DuBois, Bill Hoy, a professor at Baylor University in Texas and a former Lakewood resident, shared his advice on moving forward after loss.
According to Hoy, who has counseled people dealing with grief for nearly 30 years, it is essential to be surrounded by loved ones during times of grief.
"The support of people around us will help us become better people," he said. "And tomorrow will be a better day than yesterday, because of loss, not in spite of it.
During the breakfast, people from several faith backgrounds offered prayers of encouragement and peace.
It's important to remember that God uses crisis and loss to transform our lives, Hoy said.
His overall message was that crisis and loss is inevitable, but growth is a choice.
"It doesn't help us to try to do an end run around the pain. But, rather to embrace the pain, to say `Yes, we are sad, we are grieving, but something good will come out of that," he said.
DuBois said: "I think it helps me understand that this is what happens to us, whether it's tragedy or whether it's good things, it's all about growth."
Adjusting to the change will take time, DuBois said.
"I'm no longer a wife, I'm a single woman again. You're different, it's a new life, it's a different way of living and you have to remake yourself a bit," she said. "But, I've learned that it's OK to understand that you have to move on."