Grace Lutheran to help community cope with loss

While Christmas time brings holiday cheer, gifts, bright lights and decorations for many, it brings more loneliness for others.

Anybody who has lost a loved one during the holidays or is alone for Christmas knows the feeling. That’s why many churches have blue Christmas services — or remembrance services — like Grace Lutheran Church will have in Austin at 2 p.m. this Saturday. It’s a time and place for those to remember their lost spouses, relatives or friends.

“Around the holidays, especially Christmas, if you’ve lost a loved one — and to see everybody’s happy — it’s really hard to deal with the pain inside,” said Pastor Jeff Forbes of Grace Lutheran.

Lavona Johnson, 60-year member of Grace Lutheran, knows what that’s like. Her husband died in October 2007, and her brother just passed away on Thanksgiving.

“Your soul feels heavy when you think about it, and your heart feels heavy,” she said. “And coming to that service, it lightens the load a little bit.”

At Grace Lutheran’s remembrance service, those grieving can come together in the community room, in an informal setting where anyone can talk, while others going through the same hardships can listen and share feelings.

“It’s a time of sharing, and sharing helps build fellowship,” Johnson said.

Johnson recalls receiving some crocheted angels at one of the remembrance services several years ago, and now when she sees them she remembers her loved ones and the friendships she has built with others.

During the service, Forbes will read some poems and possibly a few scriptures, but it’s really a time for people to take what’s bothering them and get it off their chests.

“There are tears sometimes, and that’s OK,” Johnson said. “Tears are healing.”

Anyone grieving, regardless of being a Grace Lutheran member, can attend the service. Four candles will be lit to signify the four weeks of Advent, as well as the four stages of grieving. And attendants can perhaps leave with a little better sense of direction.

“When they can come and talk and be with other people, when they walk out, maybe they can smile a little more and enjoy the holidays for what they are meant to be,” Forbes said.

Johnson has used that service as a comforting time, as well as a reminder.

“As a result of that service, we look beyond our own self sorrow, and we realize that our savior was born in this season and that he is with us always,” she said. “All we have to do is ask.”

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