The holidays can be a painful season for those grieving the death of a spouse or family member.

To lighten the load, GriefShare will host a candlelight service Thursday evening at Cameron Baptist Church, in honor and memory of those who have passed away.

According to local GriefShare facilitator Linda Purdue, GriefShare is a Christian-based support group that reaches out to people who have lost loved ones and helps them deal with their grief.

This is the first year the Cameron Baptist GriefShare will host a candlelight service, which Purdue said she hopes provides encouragement and support for those who might feel alone after a spouse dies.

“The holidays are a tough time,” she said. “There’s always a chair that’s empty around the table, it’s just not the same. Traditions can be hard, too — maybe that person always brought the pumpkin pie or things like that.”

Families are welcome to join for the evening, during which participants will watch a 40-minute video about surviving the holidays after the death of a loved one, followed by small group discussions and the candlelight service. Light refreshments will be served.

Purdue said it’s important for those who’ve lost loved ones to allow themselves the space and time to grieve, even during the holidays. It’s common for many to feel pulled in different directions with family and community obligations, but it’s key to not overextend and ensure mental, physical and emotional health.

“The most important thing is to not be alone,” Purdue said. “For those who don’t have family in town, we can be your family.”

Purdue, a member of Cameron Baptist since 1980, started the GriefShare program at the church in 2017. Not six months later, she came face to face with the kind of grief she sought to help others process: her daughter died last year of a massive heart attack, leaving behind a 13-year-old son, who Purdue is helping to raise.

Purdue certainly knows what it’s like to get through the holidays after such a painful experience.

“For me, I have to remember what I have left, and not dwell on what I’ve lost,” said Purdue, who plans to stay close to home this year for a traditional Christmas season rather than travel out of state, like she’s done in past years.

“It’s a tough time, but being around people who understand where you’re at can be helpful,” she said. “There are maybe some people who have walked this journey a little longer, people who can see that there is hope, there is a brighter side, and we can help each other get to the other side.”

During one 13-week session, GriefShare participants meet weekly to watch videos, engage in discussion and go through a workbook that involves personal reflection and home study. On Dec. 8, GriefShare will conclude its current session, and the next session will start in late February. Participants can join at any point during the session and the only cost is $15 for the workbook.

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