While the holiday season is often full of joyous times with family and friends, it can also be very difficult for those struggling with loss.
On December 21., Pastor Dave Hammer of St. Marks Lutheran Church and Pastor Kara Carter of Wellesley Mennonite Church will host a “Longest Night” service of “Hope and Comfort,” for members of the community dealing with grief.
“Many people feel their losses much more deeply amidst the Christmas festivities,” Carter said. “For many people, the Christmas season is not all merry and bright. So we feel our losses more deeply, as well as our despair, our own brokenness and regrets and this is a service where we can acknowledge those things within ourselves; our brokenness and our yearning for hope in the midst of our darkness.”
For the third year, the two Wellesley Village churches have decided to join together for the service, which will be held from 7-8 p.m. at St. Marks.
This year they have added Chris Franklin of the Futher-Franklin Funeral Home to the service.
“My message is basically some simple ideas on how to go through the holiday season after suffering a loss because it is the first time for a lot of people,” Franklin said. “For someone who has lost a husband or a wife, this may be the first major holiday that they could be alone for, especially if the children are grown up and have moved out. So it is just to give them some helpful suggestions to get through the holidays.”
He added, “I think for most people this is the biggest family time of the year and even if you live at a distance from your family, this is the time of year that most people tend to get together. And so I think there are more emotions and traditions around the Christmas holiday than any other. … There is generally more joy and happiness this time of year and so if you are grieving because you have lost a loved one it is harder to get over that.”
Everybody grieves in their own way, but there are a number of strategies that have proven to be effective, Franklin said.
“Some counselors recommend continuing to set a plate at the table to remember and to continue with some of your traditions and just make modest alterations to them. You don’t want to make big changes because you have had a big change by losing a spouse. You still should put up the Christmas tree, and there is nothing wrong with playing Christmas music as well. And then you remember the good times that you’ve had and reminisce about the person you have lost.”
Carter says Sunday’s gathering will be a “quiet service of prayer and reflection with music and ritual.
“We will light candles with our prayer for light to shine in the midst of our darkness and because we hold this service on the longest night of the year, the light outside is turning. So it is going to be brighter again, and it is also that hope that is ignited in us as well…. When we name the pain that we are feeling, there is healing in that.”