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Anything but Merry sessions help those coping with grief during the holidays

Sad lonely older woman behind the glass

The holiday season is generally a time for celebrating and spending time with family, but for some it might be the hardest time of the year, especially those dealing with the loss of loved ones. To help those struggling with the painful reminder, the Bereaved Families of Ontario – Midwestern Region (BFO-MR) is offering educational sessions called Anything But Merry in Elmira and surrounding communities.

During the holiday season, many people struggle with grieving and oftentimes they aren’t sure how to deal with it – that’s why these sessions help to provide different strategies and coping methods that can help, say organizers.

“If you’re missing someone it can be an especially difficult time of the year so the goal with the sessions is to educate people and give them some ideas to make it a little bit easier for them,” said executive director Jamie Bickerton.

There is a constant, growing need for the sessions in different communities, adds Bickerton, and this year the sessions will be offered through the month of November and December instead of just once or twice a year like it has been in the past.

The sessions are led by volunteers from BFO-MR who try to create an understanding of the feelings felt by those who are grieving with a loss but it also allows people to be in a space where others are going through the same thing, Bickerton suggests.

“We think it’s really important to be able to offer these  sessions so that people do have strategies and ways to cope during a time of year that can be difficult.”

Each session runs 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the amount of people that are in the room because there is an opportunity to ask questions and have a conversation at the end. Although there is a chance to talk to others in the group, Bickerton notes that the sessions are meant to be educational rather than peer-support groups.

For some five years, BFO-MR has been facilitating these sessions in various places in the region and since its inception it has been able to expand to new locations this year including Breslau, New Hamburg and Mount Forest. Among those locations people can also find sessions happening in Elmira, Kitchener, Waterloo, Fergus, Cambridge and even Guelph.

“We’re trying to reach as many people as we can with them,” she said.

Often times people who attend these gatherings find themselves interested in the other programs that are offered by BFO-MR which includes a living with loss program or other support groups that can further help with any struggles. The Anything But Merry sessions bring in people that are nervous or hesitant to reach out to peer support groups,

“It kind of gives them a chance to be with other people without necessarily having to share.”

As a volunteer-led initiative the event is free to the community and will be taking place on Nov. 28 at the Woolwich Community Services office at 7 p.m. Those interested are asked to register online at or by emailing support@bfomidwest.org. To find where the nearest session is in your community more information can be found online through their website.

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