Not So Happy Holidays? Ministering to the Grieving in a Season of Joy

With generous support from the Good Shepherd Initiative, North Park Theological Seminary has inaugurated a series of webinars to provide resources for students and pastoral practitioners alike.

Elizabeth Pierre

Elizabeth Pierre

On November 16, Elizabeth Pierre offered a workshop titled, “Not So Happy Holidays? Depression, Grief and Hope in the Festive Season.” Pierre is an experienced pastor and clinical counselor who teaches in pastoral care and counseling at the seminary. 

Professor Pierre discussed how the expectation of joy during holiday seasons can be particularly difficult for those enduring grief, loss, and significant illness. Moreover, the focus on family can exacerbate new or existing feelings of anxiety, depression, and trauma. In light of this, she offered practical suggestions for supporting parishioners, lay leaders, and clergy during these busy, and often stressful, seasons.

According to Pierre, acknowledging these emotions is the first step towards healing. Professor Pierre recommended careseekers and caregivers to practice self care and spiritual disciplines that encourage holistic health. Additionally, she advised pastors and church leaders to connect with local support networks such as shelters, hotlines, and other social services to ensure that care is as comprehensive as possible.

Professor Pierre recommended several excellent resources for providing pastoral care to those grieving during holiday seasons.

  • “Blue Christmas” services provide a safe space for acknowledging losses and receiving prayer and pastoral care. Models are available for liturgy, prayers, and meditations for those who are grieving. See, for example, resources provided by the United Methodist Church and the Clergy Leadership Institute.
  • All Our Losses, All Our Griefs by Kenneth R. Mitchell and Herbert Anderson is an essential tool for engaging sorrow and pain and providing care and safe spaces for ministry. Mitchell and Anderson’s text is required reading for Professor Pierre’s pastoral care and counseling class and is suited to all types of grief and loss.

Nearly fifty people joined the students and faculty in attendance via livestream, participating actively in Q&A and discussion. In reflecting on the event, Pierre says,

“One question I was asked was, ‘Where’s the hope?’ Good question. The hope is ultimately in our Immanuel, Christ who journeys with us. And we offer this hope when we journey with others, right where they are.”

A spring webinar is planned through a continued partnership between North Park Seminary and the Good Shepherd Initiative.

View Pierre’s webinar, “Not So Happy Holidays?here, through the ECC‘s YouTube channel.


 

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Meghan Dowling

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