Traditionally, Christmas is a time to be with family and friends, and the loss of someone special can be felt more acutely during this period. The remembrance services each of our hospices offer are a great way to show people in our local communities that we understand the feelings they are experiencing, and that even though their loved one has died, we’re still there to offer them support.
Like many other hospices, St Catherine’s remembrance services are well attended and much appreciated; our main non-religious event usually attracts around 800 people and other smaller services, hosted in partnership with local churches, are also valued by bereaved congregation members.
At St Catherine’s, we understand that grief is unique for each person, but by sharing a personal story, and readings which reflect experiences of grief as part of our Tree of Light service, we help reassure people listening that their feelings are normal. This is particularly beneficial for bereaved people living alone. By coming to a service like this, they’re reminded that they’re not alone and can gain comfort from being with others who understand.
For many people, coming to a remembrance service becomes a yearly tradition and a way of continuing their bond with a loved one. At the service, people see the staff who provided them and their loved one with care and support and have chance to thank them for their help at one of the most difficult times of their lives. For people who are recently bereaved and facing their first Christmas without someone, the service can bring much needed solace.
Although services are designed to allow people vital space to reflect on their loss, ultimately, they’re uplifting. Music, carols, mince pies, and mingling are important elements in these services and allow people to enter into the Christmas sprit without feeling guilty. In fact, many people have said after attending a service like this, they feel more able to appreciate and engage with the spirit of the season.
Services are also useful in helping each of us build awareness of our hospice within our communities, and in sharing the different ways we can offer people ongoing support like through public bereavement groups.
At St Catherine’s, it’s deliberate that our services are held in our community instead of at our hospice. So much of our care is given in the community, we care for eight in ten people in the comfort of their own homes, so it makes sense to hold services at the heart of communities in our catchment area. That’s not to say our hospice isn’t included at all. After our Tree of Light service is finished, we bring the dedication trees back to St Catherine’s for our current patients and visitors to enjoy. Each star hanging on the trees represents individual people and their relationships and in that way, our hospice Christmas trees are more than just decoration. They’re a representation of life coming full circle, something I find really special.