The holiday season is known as a season of great joy.
In reality, however, that isn’t everyone’s experience.
“Holidays are hard for people, especially for people when they’re grieving,” said Rev. Lisa Talbott of Homer United Methodist Church.
As the holiday season begins its rise over the horizon and summer’s long hours of daylight give way to winter’s darkness, Talbott and Rev. Judith Lethin of St. Augustines’ Episcopal Church have teamed up to sponsor “When the heart weaves a home — the shape and sound of mourning,” a two-day workshop on grief.
“We wanted to start helping people come up with a plan for a more happy, healthy holiday, to share strategies for better coping skills for winter when darkness effects people,” said Talbott, recognizing that holidays can magnify feelings of loss of loved ones.
The workshop also offers space and time to acknowledge what day-to-day lives sometimes block out.
“So often in our busy lives we don’t take the time to truly mourn,” said Lethin who lives in Seldovia and also serves in Homer. “So, grief can become layered and complicated and it’s important to pull away for at least a period of time when you can begin to understand the need the heart has to truly mourn.”
Lethin and Talbott have family connections dating back several years. After Talbott moved to Homer earlier this year and the women’s paths again crossed, “we started thinking about ways to have an ecumenical outreach,” said Talbott.
The importance of a grief workshop was underscored for Talbott when Homer’s United Methodist congregation celebrated All Saints’ Day, Nov. 3.
“Normally, we remember people who have died in the past year,” said Talbott. “This time, we opened it up for anyone influential in a person’s faith journey and there were names of people that had died generations ago.”
That, she said, is indicative of the unpredictability of grief.
Grief also has made its presence known within the Episcopalian community.
“Our congregation has had some really important deaths over the last several years. It’s a tiny congregation so each loss has been an incredible journey,” said Lethin of the congregation realizing “it has a ministry to the dying and to the living.”
Rather than distancing oneself from feelings of loss, Talbott suggested those feelings be welcomed as “healthy, a part of life. … It is difficult, but there are healthy ways of growing and coping through it.”
Modern research’s focus on grief’s cyclical nature — rather than the five stages that include denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance —helps individuals reconstruct their lives.
“Grief is about the loss of a life, but not the loss of a relationship,” said Talbott. “One of our jobs when it comes to grief is learning how to love in death as much as we loved in life.”
That perspective offers a reshaping of the holidays.
“How do we remember that person at Thanksgiving? At Christmas? Remember, they’re still part of our family even though they’re not physically with us. We can grow and develop new relationships,” said Talbott.
The workshop uses weaving to illustrate the integration of grief into daily life.
“That’s why I chose the title I did, using yarn to actually begin to talk about our feelings by having different colors of yarn and weaving them into a tapestry together as a group,” said Lethin.
Sound incorporated into the two-day program draws from the contemplative format of the ecumenical Taize community in France.
“It’s very calming, soothing and really helps people feel a strong connection to God and also to one another,” said Talbott. “It’s Christian in origin, but people in all faith traditions participate.”
Designed to be ecumenical, Talbott said the workshop will not have “overtly Christian rituals, but there will be talk about rituals that will help us remember loved ones.”
The importance of self-care will be addressed, including encouragement to eat healthy, be physically active, spend time out of doors and be mindful of spiritual health.
Grief associated with loss of a loved one is only one of its many manifestations.
“There is loss of a house, loss of jobs. Loss comes in so many forms that we’re not putting any boundaries on it,” said Talbott of the workshop’s broad-reaching focus.
A list of local resources, including a grief support group, also will be provided. The Friday evening meal will be provided by St. Augustines’ Episcopal Church, with Homer United Methodist Church providing lunch on Saturday.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at email@example.com.
When the heart weaves a home — the shape and sound of mourning
• Exploring losses
• Practicing compassionate listening
• Unraveling myths of grief, loss
• Discovering universal aspects of grieving
• Understanding effects of stress
• Planning and self-care
• Weaving a deeper understanding of
the place of grief in our lives
6-9 p.m. Nov. 22, includes dinner
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 23, includes lunch
St. Augustines’ Episcopal Church
Rev. Lisa Talbott, Homer United Methodist Church
Rev. Judith Lethin, St. Augustines’ Episcopal Church
Free-will offering to the gardens at St. Augustines’ and the United Methodist Church