The Christmas holidays are generally thought of as a cheery time to celebrate family and exchange presents or sentiments. But for some, these months can be a painful reminder of loved ones they have lost. That’s where the educational session Anything But Merry comes in.
The session will be hosted this month for the first time in Elmira by the Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region (BFO-MR) in conjunction with Woolwich Community Services. The group’s executive director, Jaime Bickerton, said this time of year can be incredibly tough for those who are grieving.
“The loss can feel more pronounced,” said Bickerton. “It can be an overwhelming time of emotions and unrealistic expectations that can make this time of year extremely difficult to manage.”
The hour-long session gives tips that attendees can take home with them to make dealing with the loss a little bit easier to manage. The advice includes setting boundaries for oneself so that they are not taking on more than is manageable. For example, setting up an escape plan for family gatherings or holiday events they are attending just in case the event starts to feel overwhelming.
“A big one is just being okay with letting go of some of the traditions that you may have participated in, in the past,” explained Bickerton. “Recognizing that – especially if it’s the first Christmas after a death – that it’s going to be a little bit different, and that’s okay. And another one is around creating new traditions too, specifically around remembering your loved one who has died.”
Bickerton noted that the purpose of the sessions is more education-based, rather than specifically a support group. That said, attendees are welcome to share their stories and challenges.
Anything But Merry is not only new for the Elmira location but to a variety of other areas this year as well. The group expanded the reach of this event in response to demand.
“We usually would see anywhere between 10 and 20 people attend in previous years,” said Bickerton. “So for us, that really demonstrates that it’s a need. It’s something that people are looking for. So we were happy to be able to host it in more communities.”
There will also be sessions hosted in Cambridge, Waterloo, Guelph and Fergus, with volunteers delivering the presentations.
Woolwich Community Services partners with other mental health associations to offer up their meeting rooms when needed.
“We certainly do open our space up to offer programs in our community so people can access them,” said WCS’ Leigh-Anne Quinn. “We also partner with various agencies like the Canadian Mental Health Association, Bereaved Families of Midwestern Region to bring the program into our area and offer them. We’re just happy that these programs are available in Elmira.”
Anything But Merry will take place on November 29 at 7 p.m. at the WCS building at Church Street and Memorial Avenue. The event is free of charge, although BRO-MR requests that anyone who is attending to register beforehand. For more information or to register, visit their website, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call directly at 519-603-0196.