The Southern Co-operative is holding Christmas tree blessings in all of its funeral homes throughout Hampshire during December. Clients from the past year have been invited to attend and write personal message cards, known as memory stars, to add to the tree in memory of their loved ones.
Claire Towle, whose father passed away earlier this year, joined the Christmas tree blessing at The Co-operative Funeralcare home at Leigh Park which was led by Revd Canon Karina Green (10 December). Claire said: “The star that we were given represents to all of us that the special somebody we’ve lost is a star themselves. We could place it on the tree with our own personal message to signify that our loved ones lost are still fully in our minds and that we will never forget them.”
Pete Breedon’s younger brother passed away this summer, and Pete was invited to join the Christmas tree blessing at Co-operative’ Funeralcare in Fratton (5 December). Pete has worked in the funeral profession for The Southern Co-operative for the past 13 years, conducting numerous funerals. However, as Pete explained; “This time I was conducting the funeral of my own brother, which was hard, but the support of the funeral team at Fratton has really helped. At the Christmas tree blessing, we’re all in a similar situation so we all understood how each other was feeling. Grieving takes a long time, and this was another way that we’ve been given support for our grief.”
Canon Bob White of St Mary’s Church in Portsmouth, who led the blessing at Co-operative Funeralcare in Fratton, advised: “It is important at Christmas to give those who are bereaved space to have their thoughts and to acknowledge their sadness and emptiness, as well as sharing in the celebrations of families and friends. It is good to have time to remember past Christmas’s and memories shared, as well as to be allowed to express our true feelings when we are under pressure from society to ‘be jolly’ and have the ‘perfect Christmas”.
Funeral Co-ordinator Jean Higgins at Co-operative Funeralcare in Paulsgrove, which held a Christmas tree blessing on 4 December, said: “Paulsgrove is such a lovely community; we have memory stars sent in and brought in daily. Our blessing was led by Father Ian Newton, from St Michael & All Angels church opposite, and was attended by 18 family members who have lost someone close this year. We sang ‘Silent Night’ and there were a few tears, but everyone said how lovely the evening was. Guests chatted to Father Ian and those around them, and tucked into mince pies and coffee.”
The Christmas trees will remain within the reception area of each Co-operative funeral home until the end of the Christmas season so that friends and family can visit to read the messages and add their own if desired.