By Jason A. Smith
The holiday season is considered by many to be a joyous occasion, filled with laughter and good memories. However, a local church is seeking to minister to the needs of those, for whom this time of year is among the most painful.
McDonough Christian Church, at 2000 Jonesboro Rd., is gearing up for a pair of events in the coming weeks, which are being sponsored by its GriefShare ministry.
The first is a seminar scheduled for Dec. 11, from 6:45-8:45 p.m., titled "Surviving the Holidays." According to ministry coordinator, Marjo Anliker, the session will include "practical tips" to help attendees cope with the loss of a loved one.
"Participants will watch 40-minute video containing experts in the grief field, as well as ordinary people who may have lost a loved one and been through holiday seasons."
Anliker, 63, of Hampton, said part of her motivation for being active in the GriefShare ministry comes from her own sense of loss. Anliker's daughter, Margaret, died 11 years ago at the age of 25.
"I know what it is to have lost somebody very close to me," she added. "I just wanted to reach out and help others who are going down the grieving road."
She said although most people see the holidays as a time to be with family, such an occasion can be difficult when someone is missing from the equation. "The loss of that person is just magnified by the empty chair at the table, or the fact you're not exchanging Christmas presents with them," she continued. "Plus, there are so many triggers that can just ambush us during the holidays. You'll be riding down the street and hear a song that [carries] a special connection you might have had with your loved one."
Other scheduled aspects of the seminar include group discussions with others who have experienced a loss, and a workbook containing various coping techniques.
GriefShare's second event, which is to be held Dec. 14 at 6 p.m., is its third annual Christmas memorial program honoring people who have passed away. The purpose is to allow grieving family members a chance step away from the hectic nature of the holiday season for a time of healing.
"There's just a lot of clang and clatter and noise with Christmas going on," said Anliker. "Some of that can be fun, but for someone who's grieving, it can be so painful. We wanted to have a quiet, simple program of candlelight, music, a message of hope ..."
McDonough Christian is preparing for the service by placing a memorial tree at the front of the church's worship center. People will have an opportunity to place an ornament on the tree in honor of a friend or family member.
Anliker said the tree, which has been a featured component of holiday memorial services in previous years, has proven to be "therapeutic" for those who are mourning. "When I envisioned this, I thought one person from each family could go up [to put the ornament on the tree]," she added. "But what happened was, whole families would go up."
The deadline to submit pictures for the tree is Dec. 8. Anyone interested in participating in the seminar or the memorial service, is asked to call the church to register in advance, at (770) 954-9332.