The holidays can be a poignant time for those grieving the loss of a loved one. But there is help for those who need the extra support that the memories of holidays past bring to the surface.
"Part of the United Hospice philosophy is to provide bereavement service for a year after someone passes," said the Rev. Thomas Smith, the chaplain and bereavement coordinator at United Hospice of Augusta. "Our annual service is open to everyone because we've found that the holidays are the most stressful time when you've lost a loved one."
For those mourning a loved one, the Sunday memorial service provides a time to remember the spirit of a lost relative or friend. The 3 p.m. event at The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at 4227 Columbia Road in Martinez will include a brief interdenominational service led by the Rev. Smith and a candle-lighting ceremony. The service will close with a prayer and attendees will be encouraged to visit the outdoor garden and labyrinth at the church to meditate and remember their loved ones.
"The holidays are difficult (when you lose a loved one)," said Dr. Ernestine Thompson, professor emeritus of sociology at Augusta State University. "There's no way around it. But the folk wisdom is that people need to go through a whole year of grieving because you have anniversaries, birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and these holidays bring memories of the loved one."
Thompson is emphatic that memories shared with a deceased loved one should not be avoided.
"The holidays are a wonderful time to share memories," she said. "It is the family memories that keeps the person present."
But Thompson said celebrating the holidays without a loved one also is an opportunity to create new traditions.
"It's an opportunity to build new patterns, and that's important," she said. "People get the idea that we always have to do the same thing and sometimes when there has been a loss, it might be a good time to start a new tradition.
"Memories should be cherished, and there will be a lot more laughter than tears, although both are acceptable," she added.
"But it is said that everyone needs roots and wings. I think roots are the memories and wings are the ability to try new things."
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