First-time support group helps those coping with life’s strugglesPublished 1:54pm Friday, December 14, 2012
Pastor Shari Mason of First Congregational Church knows that people are more affected by grief during the holidays than any other time of the year.
Now she is doing something about it. The new pastor at First Congregational is offering support through a program she calls Holiday Joy and Holiday Grief.
“I think holidays are difficult for all people,” Mason said. “A lot of expectations are put on us during the month of December.”
Mason started the four-session class at the end of November and will hold her final class at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, at the church. Anyone is welcome to attend.
Though many people may want to bury their frustrations, Mason offers a setting where they can share the same feelings with others. Whatever is said within the group stays confidential.
“That was one of the ground rules from the very beginning, the sense of confidentiality in a safe space,” Mason said.
Yet Mason offered some basics of what they cover.
“We talk about inviting grief to our holiday table,” she said. “Along with the sense of joy, there can also be a sense of loss.”
Whether attending the support group or simply finding a trusted friend, Mason encourages people to share their burdens, as burying them can make the situation worse.
“Find someone to tell your story to,” Mason said. “And tell the story as much as you need to. Telling the story that we carry deep inside of us helps to bring some light to the darkness, helps lighten the burden.”
Mason often thinks back to a statement she once heard, which she says sums up buried emotions: “When we have a burden or a grief, and we do not tell our story, it gives the burden and grief permission to go to the basement and lift weights.”
That means burden and grief grow heavier and harder to deal with the longer one hides them deep inside, Mason said. Because those feelings can also compound with holiday stress, Mason also talks about the “sacred no.” In other words, don’t expect perfection during the holidays. People can’t always meet the pressures of buying the perfect gifts, making the best holiday dinners or catering to others’ needs. So it is OK to say “no,” she says.
Though Mason is holding the final class for this year on Monday, anyone may still attend. Furthermore, she plans to run the class next year during the same time, and perhaps for years to come, as more people will inevitably feel stuck in the same spot.