St. Alban’s offering services to help those grieving over loss
For many, the seasonal transition from fall to winter is a time of celebration and joy as families and friends gather to enjoy the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But for those who have lost a loved one, the holiday period can be difficult as they try to grieve and recover from their loss. St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Bovina is offering special services and a grief program to help those looking for support beginning with its All Souls Eve service on Nov. 1.
“This year takes on special meaning because so many people have not been able to mourn and grieve for their loved ones in the usual ways because of the coronavirus,” said the Rev. Elisabeth Malphurs, priest-in-charge at St. Albans. “We started thinking about that and offering that (All Souls Eve) in conjunction with our Longest Night Service and another service we offer right after Christmas for people who are grieving or have any kind of feeling of loss during the holiday season.”
All Souls Eve, like the Longest Night service, Malphurs said, are traditional services in the Episcopal Church. All Souls Day is Nov.2 and is a time, she said, “To remember those who have died in our lives.”
The All Souls Eve service, she said, will be held outside at the church cemetery.
“There will be an evening prayer and during that service, we read something called the necrology; a list of everyone who has died,” she said. “We ask members of the congregation to let us know who died in their families, friends anyone they loved in years past. We also read the names of those in our cemetery remembering everyone who has passed away.”
Held Dec. 21 at the winter solstice, the Longest Night Service has traditionally been a communion service, Malphurs said and will be held in the church.
“Typically, it has been a quiet service with readings and a homily some very quiet meditative music and communion,” she said. “We know that the holiday season can be a really difficult time sometimes, especially because the days are getting shorter and the light is growing less, so that is a service we have at the winter solstice to honor the feeling of loss and grief.”
When people are grieving or in a seasonal depression, Malphurs said, sometimes December and the holidays are a difficult time, and sometimes it helps to make room for that (grieving) while people are busy getting ready for Christmas.
Starting in January, St. Alban’s will host “Walking the Mourner’s Path,” an eight-week Bible-based program to provide support for people who have lost a loved one.
It starts the first week in January and is held one day each week for eight weeks. Two parishioners participate as facilitators and Malphurs participates as clergy.
“It’s designed to help people learn more about the grief process and help get support while grieving,” she said.
She said the program is being held in January because people typically have too many commitments during the holiday period.
“A lot of time people who are grieving put on a pleasant face and try to get by the holidays, but sometimes there’s a letdown once you get through Christmas,” she said. “We found that January can be a good time to offer some extra support to people. People need to know there’s support out there.”
Betsy Selby, one of the program facilitators, said usually five to six people participate in the program.
“We always begin with prayer and end with prayer and refer to scripture as we go through each session,” she said. “There’s discussion, there’s a workbook that goes along with it; the group has assignments and questions to answer reflections on how their feeling and what they’ve been doing.”
Selby said the participants become very close during the program and feel free to confide in each other “knowing none of the discussion will go outside the group.”
The program, Selby said, helps, adding, “I don’t know of anybody who’s gone through these sessions and who has ever expressed doubts about it or who has problems with anything about it.
“It’s really a beautiful program and I’m glad we’re doing it.”