By Greg Price
The holiday season is fast approaching and it can be a trying time for some who have suffered significant loss.
In helping deal with that loss, a holiday season memorial service is being offered on Sunday, Dec. 9.
Michael Rose has been an associate chaplain with Alberta Health Services at the Taber Hospital for approximately seven years.
“We were looking at opportunities of how can we help provide tangible support for people, not just at the hospital, but for people out in the community as well,” said Rose. “Also, being a member of the spiritual care advisory committee which advises Alberta Health Services on spiritual care matters, I thought this would be a good fit.”
Lethbridge has been doing something similar to a holiday season memorial service for approximately a decade, and Rose wanted to offer something similar to Taber-area residents.
“With some of the other work I was involved with, I was becoming acutely aware of just how many folks are out there struggling with grief,” said Rose. “During the holiday season, grief, painful loss and just depression in general is pretty big time.”
Rose approached the Taber and District Health Foundation with the idea of hosting a memorial service for the entire community. Buy in was immediate, not only by the foundation, but also many different community partners.
“The foundation is supporting it very generously and I appreciate that. What was really great was in the context of that meeting, the clinic manager was there and the manager graciously offered the clinic’s waiting room for us to host the event which means we don’t have to go hire a space. This whole event is a collaboration between Taber and District Health Foundation, the generosity of the clinic and my capacity as a spiritual chaplain to get this event to Taber.”
Rose hopes the memorial service provides a safe and gentle event in context for people who are struggling and having a tough time during the holiday season dealing with any type of loss.
“They can experience some quiet and maybe give them a break from the storm. We hope it provides encouragement with different ideas, thoughts and music that is going to be part of the event,” said Rose. “We are tying up a few loose ends, but it will include a bunch of different voices and different traditions from people who live here in Taber. They can come and share scripture of God, or a song or music or what have you. They can even share their stories of loss with people who attend.”
Invites still have to be finalized, but along with a musician and cellist, spiritual and community leaders are being invited to the event along with a First Nations representative.
Also included will be specific acts of memorial where each person who comes in will get a card in which they can put the name of the person that they have lost or is heavy on their heart. During the service, each one of those names will be read out loud in an act of remembrance.
“Another activity that happens as part of that is a reflection using candle lighting,” said Rose. “We want to engage people on a bunch of different levels. We want to make it a safe, peaceful, gentle refuge.”
Significant loss can be found in many different forms which the memorial service can help with. While losing a loved one who has passed is the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of personal loss, there are many situations where the holidays can magnify the feeling of one’s grief.
“What happens if this is your first Christmas after a divorce, and having to navigate that relationship with your kids? What about losing your employment or a catastrophic health diagnosis?” asked Rose. “There are all kinds of losses that people experience that can be quite that this service can help deal with.”
Rose hopes the service shows people that they do not need to feel alone in what they are feeling in their grieving process.
“The feeling of loss is a natural, normal human response to loss of any kind. Unfortunately, what we have learned is the people who have experienced these types of losses tend to isolate,” said Rose. “If we can help folks come together in some sort of healthy community, even if for a brief period of time, in that context they can express themselves. It doesn’t mean everyone’s experiences are the same, but what it does mean is that we can be there and support one another simply by presence alone.”
The Holiday Memorial Service goes Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Taber Health Centre Clinic at 4326 50th Ave. For more information, you can call Michael at 403-332-0480 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Introspection in dealing with grief… things to consider:
Loss is not just the death of a loved one. There are 40-PLUS different kinds of loss which include loss through divorce or significant romantic relationship, loss of employment and economic standing, a loss of health, loss of a pet, a loss of faith etc.
Be kind to yourself — Grief is the normal, natural response to loss of any kind.
Resist the tendency to isolate — Staying away from other people, you emotionally isolate yourself by not being honest about how you are doing.
The call to “be strong for…” is a myth that doesn’t make any sense. Strong for what? It’s just another form of isolation.
Take care of yourself by eating healthy, getting regular exercise, getting regular sleep, regular prayer or meditation and limiting your exposure on social, media.
Watch for excessive compensating involving booze, drugs, shopping/spending, food or busyness in avoiding the pain.
Look for meaningful ways to remember your loved one be it ritual, story telling/reminiscing, or meaningful religious rituals.
Find the faithful forgiving friend who is safe, not a fixer, who understands grief is natural and normal. A friend who will be present and available.
Get support from agencies like FCSS and other qualified mental health providers, grief specialists, family physicians, recreation therapist or mental health nurses.
Oftentimes spiritual leaders, pastors, and clergy can be a valuable support.
Access Crisis Hotlines.