Gessner suggests ways to deal with grief during Christmastime

Rev. Mary Jo Gessner frequently counsels with people experiencing grief. She serves as Minister of Pastoral Care at First Baptist Church of Madison. (CONTRIBUTED)
Rev. Mary Jo Gessner frequently counsels with people experiencing grief. She serves as Minister of Pastoral Care at First Baptist Church of Madison. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Christmastime’s sparkling lights and festive parties bring good cheer but can adversely affect individuals dealing with loss.

Rev. Mary Jo Gessner frequently counsels with people experiencing grief in many forms — a relative’s death, life-threatening illness or even unemployment. Gessner serves as Minister of Pastoral Care at First Baptist Church of Madison, where she has been on staff for 27 years.

“A possible mistake that people might make after a loss is assuming they have to grieve in a particular way and a particular amount of time. Grief is as different as are people,” Gessner said.

Gessner views grief as natural and a part of anyone’s life “Whenever there’s a change in our lives, there is a natural loss that accompanies it,” she said, “Whenever there’s a loss, there is grief. So grief is neither good or bad — it’s normal and unavoidable.”

People can grieve from a natural, good change. When an adult child lands a dream job out of state, a parent is happy for the success but deals with the child moving away. “Thus grief. It’s important to recognize our grief,” Gessner said.

Some people choose to verbalize their grief while others chose to paint, write, travel or invest in others, she said. “If people have lost a loved one in a violent or unexpected way, their grieving process will differ from someone who has had months to prepare for their loved one’s death … some grieving had already begun.”

“It’s still a shock. A child’s death is most difficult. It doesn’t follow the natural life (and cultural) cycle or expectation that children will bury their parents,” Gessner said.

Suicide and homicide involve a different kind of grieving and support. These emotions are “tremendously difficult and can involve additional feelings to the grieving itself,” she said.

Gessner and Laura Elrod lead the conversation-based Loss and Grief Support Group monthly on the second Tuesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at First Baptist, 4247 Sullivan St. To attend, call 256-772-9712 or email to secretary@fbcmadison.net.

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