Grieving process at Christmas

ALPENA — Stringing lights, erecting the tree, baking cookies –the holiday season has arrived.

For many, exchanging gifts and sharing stories sets the mood for celebrating, but for some the festivities are a reminder of those who have died.

“This is the shortest light of the year and the longest night of year; the winter solstice,” Rev. Paul Lance of First United Congregational Church of Christ. “It’s the coldest and darkest time. People are like barometers, we feel the weight of the cold and the darkness … Some people party and make a point of sending greetings, to bring the light of life to what physically is the darkest and coldest season of the year.”

To keep heavy minds off the absence, Madeleine McConnell LLPC, NCC, suggested reaching out to loved ones who lost the same person, calling a friend, or attending one of many programs within the community.

“What we have done in the past is we had a lunch for those who are grieving someone just as a simple way to draw people together,” Pastor Scott Joy of Word of Life Baptist Church said. “Remember them, share stories. It just so happens that this year we are not.”

St. Paul Lutheran Church hosts a Blue Christmas service to discuss and support feelings of depression and loss where participants light candles in memory of the deseaced.

“I think finding ways to honor those lost loved ones is important,” McConnell said. “Finding ways to give back to others. And depending how recent the loss is, writing letters and going through pictures tend to save the positive experiences had with that person.”

McConnell said that in society people tend to hide their feelings in fear of judgement. Lance and Joy said people will not generally ask for help.

“I approach with grief support, validation, that it is normal and OK to grieve,” McConnell said. “A lot of times I think socially we’ve gotten to the point where people try to hide that they are upset and grieving. It’s OK to feel angry and to grieve. Dealing with emotions is an important part of that process.”

Resources are availiable to anyone in need of comfort through local churches, therapists or community events.

“We are open to anyone at any time,” Lance said.

Beth Gohs can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5693.