Tioga parishes focus on holiday bereavement - Catholic Courier

Tioga parishes focus on holiday bereavement

It’s fairly common for recently bereaved folks to encounter others who sidestep the subject of their loss, according to Ellen Keough.

"People want to avoid talking about the person who died because they don’t want to make (the bereaved) sad," said Keough, who serves as pastoral associate in the Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes of Tioga County.

No matter how well-meaning this subject avoidance may be, Keough emphasized that people who are grieving often need and desire an outlet to discuss their feelings. One opportunity will be provided via the annual "Honoring Grief During the Holidays" program on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Open to all, it will begin at 7 p.m. in the St. Patrick Church hall and is one of several recent efforts by Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick to connect with the bereaved.

The program is designed for people who are struggling with either recent or long-term losses, taking into account the potentially heightened emotions and memories brought on by the holidays. Irene Manfredo, a staff therapist and clinical social worker from Samaritan Counseling Center, will be on hand to assist.

Keough, who also coordinated a liturgy at St. James Church in Waverly in August 2010 for widows and widowers, observed that people coping with loss may feel forced to celebrate at the holidays when they really don’t want to.

"They’re going to see people, be out with people. It’s not like during the holiday season you can shut yourself in. People are going to say Merry Christmas, send cards and expect you to do the same," Keough said.

Currently, Keough also is overseeing the six-week "Seasons of Hope" programs at St. James and St. Patrick.

"Most have lost a spouse, some a parent," she said of participants, adding that several losses have occurred within the past year.

These faith-sharing sessions offer consolation for the bereaved by invoking Scripture passages. Keough noted a particularly touching Seasons of Hope session that concerned Mary Magdalene, who failed to recognize the resurrected Jesus at his tomb.

"In her grief, she didn’t really know who Jesus was," Keough remarked, pointing out that a devastating loss — particularly of a spouse — can leave the same kind of numbness.

She also cited Jeremiah 18:6, when the Lord says, "Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel."

"God is going to mold us into something different. We’re no longer a wife or husband — we’re something different, and that’s OK," Keough said.

She acknowledged that the term "that’s OK" arises often with Seasons of Hope attendees, especially when it comes to displaying emotion.

"This (deceased) person’s been a part of their lives, you can’t overlook that," Keough said. "Sometimes that brings up memories for me. I’ve lost my father, my nephew and my mother-in-law,and you know, tears come to my eyes. The tears are fine — if someone gets choked up, let them regain their composure and continue."

However, Keough said one recent Seasons of Hope get-together produced mirthful moments — a hopeful reminder that people’s grief can subside over time.

"There actually was laughter, finding some joy in their day. Then they realized, ‘Hey we’re laughing,’" she said.

Copyright © 2023 Rochester Catholic Press Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Linking is encouraged, but republishing or redistributing, including by framing or similar means, without the publisher's prior written permission is prohibited.

Choose from news (Monday), leisure (Thursday) or worship (Saturday) — or get all three!

No, Thanks

Catholic Courier Newsletters