Coping with the Holidays after Loss

The Christmas season is typically a time of joy, family and tradition.

Death often disrupts all these things and grief can be harder in this time. Here are some suggestions to help you cope as you anticipate the upcoming celebrations:

  1. Have Conversations: Realize that this year will be different. Have conversations with family and friends about what this means for you. If necessary, give others permission to talk about your loss.
  2. Traditions: Decide what traditions you want to discontinue or continue and what festivities you want to participate in or not. If it feels right, start a new tradition. If you have children at home and you feel it is appropriate, be honest with them and include them in conversations. If they want to, allow them to help in planning.
  3. Volunteer: Give back to your community by volunteering or participating in donations.
  4. In Memory Of: Finds ways of incorporating the presence of your loved one. For instance, you can give a toast to their memory or display a symbol that represents them, like a candle.
  5. Share Memories: Share stories and memories. It’s ok to laugh, it’s ok to cry. You might experience a range of emotions in this time. It’s normal to feel multiple things at once, some of which may seem to be in opposition.
  6. Identify Your Needs: Identify the people in your life who are helpful and note their gifts. Not everyone is a good listener, and not everyone is good with tasks. Be open about your needs in that moment and how they can help.
  7. Find Support: Consider attending a support group in your area.
  8. Grace: Accept grace from God, others and most importantly, yourself. Grieving is hard. Be patient with yourself.

Ministers – you can also be great resources for those struggling during the Christmas season and throughout the year. Here are some ways you can be supportive:

  1. Acknowledge this is not a joyous season for some.
  2. Consider hosting a healing service or services. Partner with other congregations or agencies if this makes doing so more feasible.
  3. Talk to or send a card to those who are grieving during the holiday season. Don’t be afraid to say their loved one’s name. Remember that your presence and support might be the most important or memorable Gospel message they hear this season.
  4. Get to know what services, groups and providers are available in your area. Funeral homes and healthcare providers are a great place to start. Consider inviting local professionals to speak, lead a class and/or, if applicable, preach.
  5. Recognize your own gifts and the gifts in others. We are not meant to be all things to all people. It takes all of us to be the body of Christ.

Heidi Larson is a bereavement coordinator with UnityPoint Hospice. Larson primarily serves the Greater Des Moines area and routinely connects people to grief support in their own communities. She is available to support people individually or through support groups in the Des Moines area. All of UnityPoint Hospice’s services are free and open to the community, and partner with area congregations to introduce their services, offer education workshops and let people know of resources that can be accessed to support people in their own congregations. For further information please contact Heidi at heidi.larson@unitypoint.org or 515-557-3204.

How to Build an Online Presence

Social media might seem a little overwhelming. How do I post? How can I get my message out in 140 characters? I don’t have time to monitor every social media channel but how else am I going to connect? Is it really that important to use social media?

Take a deep breath. It’s not as overwhelming as it seems. Start small, there is no need to rush into having multiple social media platforms and accounts.

I will give you a breakdown of the top three social media sites being utilized by all age groups today (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

Facebook: A good place to start building an online presence for your congregation is through Facebook. According to a Pew Research study done on 2016 social media trends, 79% of online adults use Facebook.

Using Facebook is a great way to connect with all ages. On each Facebook post, users can like, react, comment and share making it easy to connect on a more personal level with people within your community.

One good piece of advice is to use pictures or videos on your Facebook posts to capture the attention of your audience. Often, simple word posts are easily missed due to being mixed in with media driven posts.

Twitter: This is a great platform for getting a message out in short, concise postings (tweets). Twitter only allows 140 characters to be used within each post, making it a great tool for doing quick announcements or to get your point across quicker than Facebook.

A neat way to integrate Twitter into your church service is to ask your congregation members to tweet out sermon snippets. This allows people to share the Gospel broadly and quickly. Better yet, take confirmation online and have your confirmation students tweet their sermon notes! It creates an easy way to develop your students into digital ministers and allows you to get on their level of communication (they may even find you hip).

Instagram: Instagram is a visual-based social media site. Utilizing photos and short videos, Instagram is popular with the younger generations. Six in ten adults (18-29 year olds) who are online use Instagram.

Using Instagram allows you to show your congregation what is happening throughout your community. During Advent and Lent, a lot of times people will use Instagram as a platform for their photo-a-day challenges.

No matter what platform your congregation is using to share the Gospel and the work your church is doing, be sure to connect with the Southeastern Iowa Synod on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use the hashtag #inthistogether on your posts so others may follow along and connect with you in shared ministry.

*before posting minor’s images to any online source (website included) be sure to have a signed release form from a parent/guardian*

(for the full Pew Research Social Media Update 2016 click here.)