IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE SADNESS
When we summon memories, often holidays come to the forefront of our minds. Imagine (or remember) spending many decades with a beloved companion and then, suddenly, that person is gone from your holiday scenarios. A joyful season becomes a time of accentuated sorrow. A feeling of detached isolation is apt to ensue. Loneliness may signal continued or reactivated immersion in the grieving zone.
Published in a current edition of First Local Toledo, an article (“Getting through the holidays when you’ve lost a loved one,”) written by Megan Coyle-Stamos of Coyle Funeral Home begins with a poignant quotation expressed by someone who has experienced holiday heartsickness triggered by absence: “The holidays are approaching, and I am not ready. I don’t think I will ever have that Christmas cheer. It’s winter and I feel frozen inside as it is outside. As I set the table for our special meal, I am acutely aware of the empty place at the family table. I am trying to find the magic spirit of the season, but when the family circle has been broken by death, the only things that sparkle this season are my tears.”
Funeral homes around the country have addressed the season’s exacerbation of loss by offering client families opportunities to come together in a spirit of reflection to recognize cherished cohorts no longer present. Though critics interpret such initiatives as opportunistic marketing strategies for community visibility, the folks who attend the affairs appreciate a chance to be around others in similar circumstances at this time of the year. As noted by Mike Castoral of the South Plainfield Funeral Home in New Jersey, “It’s a way to include your loved one in the holiday season.”
Characteristically, a standard event entails conduct of a service of remembrance highlighted by a Christmas tree bearing ornaments representing individuals who died within the past year. Often angel ornaments are presented to each family in attendance. They may have names and dates on them. Or families may be asked to bring an ornament of special significance relative to their loved one. Candlelight ceremonies are common. Videos similar to those shown during funeral services may be featured, but in this case there’s apt to be a streaming of multiple decedents’ images accompanied by tranquil Christmas tunes. If guests are from out of town, a funeral home’s website may direct them to a list of lodging options and other nearby facilities.
Incidentally, certain funeral home personnel offer alternative practices that aren’t necessarily designed specifically for mourners. A wreath lighting occasion, a sing-a-long of spiritual or Christmas songs, or a breakfast with Santa for children may be offered to the community at large. They may join in endeavors of goodwill toward men (and women) by participating in food or clothing and toy drives for needy families or by engaging in other worthy causes that mark the season.
So don’t assume that funeral home functions beyond the usual exigencies come to a grinding halt when the holiday season arrives. The widespread remembrance services have increasingly attracted large numbers of participants. Though the original meaning of Christmas relates to birth, it is also an occasion that heralds the impact of death.