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Memorial service held in Fort Macleod for people dealing with loss

candles of remembrance

People attending the memorial service at Christ Church Anglican lit candles of remembrance.

darren kronlund

Darren Kronlund provided musical accompaniment during the memorial service at Christ Church Anglican.

People mourning the death of a loved one can experience a range of emotions during the Christmas season.
And that’s just fine, people were told last week during a memorial service at Christ Church Anglican.
“I encourage you to be easy on yourself this Christmas,” Rev. Pilar Gateman said. “Sadness and tears are normal and they will not ruin your holiday.”
“At the same time I ask that you consider not feeling guilty if you find yourself enjoying a little of the festivities.”
Christ Church Anglican and Eden’s Funeral Home joined forces Dec. 9 for a memorial service at the church.
Twenty-seven people turned out for the service led by Rev. Gateman and which included messages from Sebastian David and Brian Magee.
“Your loss and remembrance of your loved one is probably deep and very possibly painful,” Rev. Gateman said. “This remembrance service and your brave step of coming here is significant, especially at the time and season that we are in.”
At the start of the service, Ruth McLenahan read an aboriginal prayer, with the people at the service responding after each message, “Creator, come to us.”
“Our grief at times like this, especially the first Christmas, is often the most difficult times for us who have suffered a loss,” Rev. Gateman said.
Rev. Gateman said friends and acquaintances don’t know what to say to someone whose loved one has died.
Those friends and acquaintances are often reluctant to even speak the name of the deceased in the presence of a survivor.
“It’s my experience for most families who have suffered loss, important to hear our loved one’s name,” Rev. Gateman said.
People were encouraged to write the names of a loved one on slips of paper that were collected.
Later in the service about 50 names were read aloud and people were encouraged to move to the front of the church to light candles in their memory.
Sebastian David gave a reading in conjunction with the lighting of candles of remembrance.
David said it is important to remember that the moment of a loved one’s death does not erase their lives.
“We believe that their touch on our life continues,” David said. “That their spirits continue to be in our lives, and that their stories need to be told again and again as we continue on living.”
People often find they are affected in mysterious ways following the death of someone close to them.
“Whether they died days or weeks or months ago, their memories are close at hand,” David said. “We still cry at certain moments, we still remember what they would say or do, we still in some cases expect them to come through the door as if their death had never happened.”
People are expected to be full of joy during the Christmas season, but that can be difficult for someone who is mourning a loved one.
“We may even wonder how we will ever make it through the holiday season intact, and it feels like Christmas will never be the same,” David said.
David said it is important to take a few moments to remember loved ones during the Christmas season, whether at a memorial service or at other occasions.
“We proclaim that even though they are no longer with us their spirit still lives on, their presence and influence is still felt, and they made a difference to the world,” David said.
Brian Magee, a grief recovery specialist, said grief from loss can feel like living exile in a foreign land.
“Everything stable, predictable and cherished has either been taken away or changed,” Magee said. “The holidays call for songs and activities and joy, but how can we possibly join in?”
Magee said the holidays bring so many reminders of a person’s loss and the many new empty places in the survivor’s life.
Magee provided the following tips to get through the Christmas season:
• Listen cautiously to comments and suggestions from well-meaning friends.
Subtle messages include it’s not right to be happy, or it’s wrong to be sad.
“We all know that both happiness and sadness are healthy human expressions and so they should be seen as welcome and normal during holiday events,” Magee said. “Let both happy and sad be okay.”
• Resist the impulse to grieve alone.
Magee urged people to accept invitations and opportunities that will be most meaningful and safe.
• Reject a sense of obligation to be strong for others.
“People don’t need us to be strong,” Magee said. “They need us to be honest. Others don’t benefit from us keeping it together, they benefit from us keeping it real.”
• Include deceased loved ones in activities and celebrations.
Talking about what happened and the relationship with the one who died is important.
“In doing so we celebrate their lives and recognize the sorrow of loss,” Magee said.
Carole Cressman provided musical accompaniment during the service as the people gathered sang hymns and carols.
Refreshments were served, and people were available to offer pastoral care at the conclusion of the service.

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