By Kristen Hochmuth
The holidays are fast approaching. We begin to look forward to cooking, decorating, shopping, baking and gathering. We look forward to family and friends around a table for a special meal, seeing loved ones at parties, searching for the perfect gift for everyone on our list, listening to favorite carols, attending a Christmas Eve worship service, and experiencing the feelings of joy and peace that come with holiday anticipation.
At least that is what we think we should feel and what we believe we should do.
But what if, this year, you are not looking forward to the holidays? What if, instead of joyful anticipation, November brings dread, frustration, loneliness, pain, or numbness? What if the holidays feel difficult as they surround you with memories that can often be avoided the rest of the year? What if this is the first time, or the tenth time, you are looking at this wondrous season with a hole in your heart because someone you love has passed away? Now how do you feel, and what do you do to just “get through” the holidays, because you do not always feel like “celebrating” the holidays?
First, remind yourself that it is okay to feel whatever you are experiencing. Second, remind yourself you are allowed to choose the way you want to celebrate or not. And third, remember you are not alone.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (NIV)
And because you are not alone, but part of God’s family, you can lean on the love of Jesus and your Christian brothers and sisters. Maybe the best way to experience the unconditional love of Jesus is to attend a GriefShare group.
On Sunday, December 8, from 4:00-6:00pm, at Beautiful Savior, you can attend a one-time GriefShare session called “Surviving the Holidays.” The class comes with a book you can keep and consists of a 40-minute instructional DVD and then small group time with experienced volunteers to review the materials. Anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one is welcome to attend.
One of the goals of this meeting is to help you decide what you do and do not want your holiday season to look like this year. It will give you tools to help you let other family and friends know what you want and need to feel comfortable during the season. You will be reminded that you are not alone, and even if you do not have the words to say or pray, Jesus knows how you feel, hears your cry and is holding you.
Kay Christoffersen, Care Minister, is the facilitator and began offering GriefShare sessions at Beautiful Savior in September 2013. She also relies on dedicated volunteers to help with the small group discussions.
Kay wants everyone to know that:
GriefShare can help even if you do not feel like you are in a great depression.
It is not the stereotypical “just sit in a circle and share” support group. There is a planned Christian curriculum.
You don’t have to be a member of Beautiful Savior to attend.
You don’t have to talk when you attend; you are welcome to watch the DVD and listen to the discussion.
Everyone is ready to attend at different times; sometimes weeks after a loss and sometimes years, and some attend more than once.
It is true that time heals all wounds, but it is not just the passing of time, but time spent with Jesus that heals.
Kay has seen the miraculous work God can do through His people and with His people as they experience the journey of grief. Past participants were asked: What have you liked the most about GriefShare? Here are some of their answers:
The safety and security knowing everyone understands how I feel
Sharing with others about our losses and supporting each other
The friendships and sharing stories
The different viewpoints shared
The reminder to tell others how I am feeling and what I need
Hearing others and sharing with others
Having someone else to talk to
Validating honest feelings
It was helpful defining the grief journey and how to get through it
Maybe this December, instead of just dreading the holidays, you can find a way to feel the unconditional love you are searching for in Jesus and the tools you need to make this season what you need, not just what you survive.
Please contact Kay Christoffersen at Beautiful Savior firstname.lastname@example.org or 763.235.7623 if you are interested in attending the GriefShare “Surviving the Holidays” session on December 8.
Kay also facilitates an ongoing 13-week GriefShare support group, twice a year, at Beautiful Savior. The format of the meetings is the same as the holiday session, with each week focusing on a different topic. The great thing about the GriefShare curriculum is that each class stands alone, so anyone can participate in any session at any time. There is no required attendance at all 13 sessions. Participants receive a workbook for the 13 sessions in which to take notes and to use on their own at home. Please contact Kay if you have any questions or are interested in GriefShare for you, a friend, or a family member who has lost a loved one.
God put us in community because we were not meant to do this life alone. GriefShare and other support groups at Beautiful Savior provide another way to experience Jesus’ love and compassion during those difficult times.