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ND Campus Ministry to host ‘Home for the Holidays’ support group

| Thursday, November 29, 2018

For many in the Notre Dame community, the holiday season is a joyful time of year and something to look forward to during the stress of finals. However, for those suffering from the recent loss of a loved one, Christmas, and all that comes with it, can sometimes bring more pain than cheer.

To help those experiencing loss during the holiday season, Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry is holding a grief support group called “Home For the Holidays,” Associate director of pastoral care Tami Schmitz said.

The holidays can be particularly tough, especially if it’s the first time [someone is] celebrating without one of their family members,” she said in an email. “The purpose of the session is to remind students they are not alone and to offer some practical suggestions for facing the holidays.”

Schmitz said though Campus Ministry offers a variety of grief groups throughout the year, they have never offered this specific session.

“We sensed that it was something needed this year,” she said.

Though this is the first year “Home for the Holidays” is being offered, Schmitz said Campus Ministry has been helping bereaved students heal for over a decade.

“Our grief ministry began about 15 years ago when there was an incoming first-year student whose father was tragically killed a few days before bringing her to Notre Dame,” Schmitz said. “Jerry and Dorene Hammes, who were avid Notre Dame supporters, were friends with this family and reached out to the [Vice President] for Student Affairs at the time and generously offered to provide support for a grief support initiative. That was the catalyst that has allowed us to serve so many students over the years.”

Schmitz said she hopes the session will lead to people gaining tools to make it through holiday traditions during this difficult time.

“We hope those who participate will gain some ideas of how to face the holiday season without their loved one,” she said. “We know nothing we say can heal all the wounds and brokenness that death leaves behind. But we can at least be present, listen and offer support as needed.”

Despite the fact that every person coping with the death of a loved one experiences grief differently, Schmitz said she hopes that those who participate can find some comfort in solidarity with the rest of the group.

“The purpose of the session is to remind students they are not alone and to offer some practical suggestions for facing the holidays,” she said. “We will also have a student who lost her brother about a year ago share about the challenges and the support she has experienced these past months.  I am hoping those who come know that even though it’s an extremely difficult time, [they] will feel supported and know that they can get through it.”

Though nothing can bring back the people who have died, Schmitz said there are some things that may help students to honor their loved ones who have died and cope with the loss.

“Each person’s experience of grief is different so there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer,” she said. “But there are some things that may be helpful: find a way to honor your loved one at the holiday meal with a prayer, give a gift in the name of the person who died, give yourself permission to slip away and do something for you, prepare the favorite foods of your loved one and share a favorite story or memory are a few ideas.”

The “Home for the Holidays” grief support group will be meeting Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. in 301 of the Coleman-Morse Center. All students — undergraduate and graduate — are welcome to attend.

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About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

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