This is a printer-friendly version of an article from

11/03/2016 12:01 AM

Facing the Holidays Following a Loss? GriefShare Program Provides Strategies for That

The holidays can be a magical time full of joy. But they also can create complicated emotions, and even grief, for those who have suffered a loss. A program offered later this month provides strategies for dealing with those complicated emotions. File photo

Now that we’re into November, thinking about and planning for the holidays starts to move into high gear. Turkey. Stuffing. Shopping. Christmas trees. Travel.

This can be fun.

This can cause stress.

And, for some, this can create heartache.

For those who are facing a holiday season after the death of a loved one, Christ Chapel CMA, at 1185 Durham Road in Madison, is offering a seminar on Surviving the Holidays, what church officials say is “a helpful, encouraging seminar for those who are trying to make sense of loss in their lives around the holidays,” on Sunday, Nov. 13, from 1 to 3 p.m., and Monday, Nov. 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

“The cost is $5 per person, and the seminar will feature video interviews with counselors, grief experts, and other people who have experienced their loved one’s death and who will offer practical suggestions and reassurance,” church officials wrote in a prepared release. “Topics include dealing with hard-hitting emotions, what to do about traditions, how to survive social events, and where to find comfort and strength. Participants receive a ‘Survival Guide;’ filled with practical tips, encouragement, journaling ideas, and exercises for daily help through the holiday season.”

For more information or to register by Friday, Nov. 11, contact Christ Chapel at 203-421-4667.

Joanne Baker Deal, who has her masters degree in professional counseling, is a GriefShare Ministry coordinator at Christ Chapel, and she answered these questions about the event, and about strategies for dealing with grief around the holidays.

Q: What might people learn if they attend the seminar?

A: Those attending will view a video with input from counselors, pastors, and real life people who have experienced the death of a loved one. These people share honestly about being prepared for surprising emotions that may hit over the holidays; what to do about traditions and other coming changes; how to handle holiday parties and invitations; how to survive potentially awkward moments with other people; and where to find comfort, strength, and hope in a seemingly hopeless time. We will then have the opportunity to discuss what we’ve watched; participants are encouraged to take part in the discussion and to bring up concerns, but no one is required to do so if they’re not comfortable with it.

The seminar will conclude with a candle-lighting ceremony in remembrance of the loved one(s) whose loss we are grieving.

Q: Do you have some suggestions about how to handle holiday traditions that might remind people of someone they’ve lost?

A: Individuals who have recently lost a loved one should give themselves permission to not do the holidays “perfectly,” but to be intentional about what they have the emotional and physical energy to undertake. All sorts of activities may have been undertaken with the loved one in previous years, be it sending greeting cards, gift giving, decorating a tree, decorating the house indoors and out, baking, hosting or even attending gatherings: the grieving individual should give him/herself permission to determine ahead of time what activities or functions he or she will undertake or in which s/he will participate. Or, perhaps something could be undertaken but on a smaller scale than in previous years—or perhaps on a limited level with the assistance of a friend or family member. Having a plan helps keep you from becoming overwhelmed.

Q: Do you have some tips on how to handle social events?

A: It’s all right to decide in advance to attend some events, but to say no to others. Only plan to stay for a portion of the time (it can be helpful to tell your host of this possibility beforehand). This is a good time to learn to say “No,” to set boundaries in a firm but gracious manner: the grieving person needs to take care of him/herself instead of trying to meet the expectations of others.

A grieving individual should never feel guilty about not going at the last minute: When you accept an invitation, it can be helpful to let the host know that if you don’t feel up to it on the day of the event, you might back out at the last minute. And if you’re having a difficult day on the day of the event, let your host know you’re not able to make it. Thank him or her for the invitation and encourage him/her to invite you again. Again, you need to do what’s best for you in this time.

It can be helpful to find out ahead of time who else is going to be at the event: knowing if these are people you feel comfortable with, that you want to spend some time with, can help lower the stress of making decisions about holiday events.

Q: Do you have any other suggestions about where to find comfort and strength?

A: GriefShare is a nondenominational, faith-based, weekly bereavement support program, with thousands of groups throughout most of the English-speaking world. Individuals are encouraged to identify who are the safe people in their lives, those who will not misjudge but will listen, pray, and cry with you; give you good counsel; and point you to the Lord for help. A weekly GriefShare support group is a safe place where others have an idea of what you are facing and want to help. Christ Chapel hosts the weekly GriefShare program; individuals may join at any time.

GriefShare encourages participants to read and meditate on the Psalms, to trust in the promises of the Scriptures, to pray honestly to God, to help others, to recognize what they have to be thankful for in the midst of their struggles, to get grounded in the strength their church will bring to them, and to rely on God to be their strength.

Q: Can you tell me more about the survival guide provided by GriefShare?

A: The Surviving the Holidays survival guide includes a note-taking outline for the video portion of the program as well as suggestions for journaling. It also includes more than 60 pages of practical tips, words of strength and encouragement, and charts and exercises to help a grieving individual face and survive the unique stresses of the holiday season. Topical categories include What to do with your holiday emotions, Having a plan, Tips for surviving social events, and Surviving Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Supplemental online resources (article and videos) are also listed. All of these tools are designed to enable grieving individuals to not only survive the coming holidays, but also to face them with a measure of peace and assurance.

Christ Chapel is located at 1185 Durham Road (Route 79), five miles north of I-95, and ½ mile south of the Route 80 traffic circle. For more information about this program, call 860-304-5695.