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Support Offered for Those Grieving During the Holidays


From left are Glenn Frutiger, an elder at the United Church of Friendship; Anita Baird Jones, an Allegany Hope presenter; Pastor Kirk Kirch; and Casey Jones of Allegany Hope, who also will be a presenter of the sessions with his wife.

     A Friendship church and an Allegany County nonprofit Christian organization are joining together for the upcoming holidays season to help those struggling, including children, with the death of a loved one, or separation or divorce.

     The United Church of Friendship and Allegany Hope will be presenting single session GriefShare Surviving the Holidays, DivorceCare Surviving the Holidays and How to Help Grieving Children seminars support during November and December at the Carter House, a ministry center of the church located at 37 East Main Street.

     The first single sessions for GriefShare Surviving the Holidays are being offered from 6:30PM to 8PM Monday, November 21, and from 1:30PM to 3PM Tuesday, November 22, with DivorceCare Surviving the Holidays from 6:30PM to 8PM Tuesday, November 22.  Helping Grieving Children for adults will be from 6:30PM to 8PM Wednesday, November 30.

     Additional presentations of all three sessions are being planned for December.

     Pastor Kirk Kirch said there are many individuals who have experienced traumatic events, including the death of a loved one, or separation or divorce, and struggle with the upcoming Thanksgiving to Christmas holidays season, with it also impacting children and their caregivers.

     The video/discussion sessions are designed to help those who are grieving recognize they aren’t alone, that many others face the same struggles they are encountering during the holidays, and to obtain tips on how to cope during this festive period celebrated by others, along with different times throughout the year.  The presentations also are open to those who want to understand and know more about how to help family members and friends who may be struggling.

     Casey Jones, executive director of Allegany Hope, and his wife, Anita Baird Jones, will be facilitating the gatherings, having presented the sessions in the past in various Allegany County churches and other settings.

     Jones, who has developed and led full GriefShare and DivorceCare ministries in several communities in New York and Southeastern Pennsylvania, said that most participants experience a sense of relief from attending the sessions and learning they aren’t alone in what they are feeling, and sometimes bring others who are grieving to future sessions.

     He noted the pandemic created significant disruption in the grief process, particularly as it relates to the death of a loved one, due to normal funeral arrangements and related family gatherings being interrupted.

     Many individuals also suppress their pain and “move on” with life, but never process the grief, having it re-surface at unexpected times in the future, which can be years later, he said.

     Another circumstance that occurs, Jones noted, is individuals having a more difficult time the second or third year after a death, separation or divorce, depending on what time of year the original trauma occurs and other events which are or have happened during those time frames.

     Pain being experienced by children, meanwhile, often goes unrecognized because they grieve differently and differently at different age levels, the facilitator noted.  Therefore, they may appear to be coping with the trauma and then start to change or act out at different times or in the future.

     How to Help Grieving Children is for parents, caregivers, extended family members, teachers and others who work with children, helping to identify different grief factors and how to be a support for why the child is doing what they are doing, rather than reacting negatively to how he or she may be acting.

     Pre-registration for the lay ministry sessions is required at, providing name, community of residence, email and telephone number for each individual participant, or at (484) 435-0503.

     There is a workbook cost of $5 for each Surviving the Holidays registrant.  Materials for How to Help Grieving Children are free.

     If sufficient interest is received, the church is considering offering the full 13-week GriefShare and DivorceCare sessions, which have broader applications for those experiencing trauma, after the first of the year.

     Pastor Kirch said this new Surviving the Holidays outreach, being offered to residents of Friendship and other communities through the Carter House ministry center, also is being made available for presentation at other churches and partnering organizations.  The presenters been provided them in the past at senior centers, libraries and other venues.

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