Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for those dealing with the loss of a loved one. The emphasis on family and good memories can often make the festive season difficult to navigate for those grieving. For more than a decade, William Barrett and Sons has provided a free holiday service for those needing community and a place to discuss grief during the holiday season. The annual holiday service is run by the funeral home and St Augustine’s church. The service includes photo tributes, lighting of candles, musical performances and a supper. Those in attendance are also gifted ornaments. Event organiser Taryn Barrett said the service aimed to normalise intense feelings that may often be pushed aside during what is meant to be a time of celebration. “Grief can be amplified at Christmas time and that is normal,” she said. “We want people to have a space to talk about their loved ones, cry, laugh and share.” Organiser Reverend Greg Ross said the service could be a powerful way of connecting people across cultures. “It’s open to all people, all faiths, that just need a place to grieve and feel safe,” he said. “We don’t want to bang the Bible down people’s throats or smack them around the head with it, we just want to keep this a safe space. “We do listen to the ancient Christian scriptures and say if there’s something in this that helps you, that’s OK, if not, it’s there to take as a gift.” It’s a particularly important service for John Campbell, who is mourning the death of his young granddaughter two years ago. “It’s obviously very difficult because all of a sudden she’s not there,” he said. “But you’re in a supportive place where people are all grieving for their recently lost loved ones, it helps.” The service has been running for close to 15 years and became particularly important during COVID-19 when gathering restrictions impacted the attendance allowed at funeral services. “There are people that never really got a chance to say goodbye when people couldn’t fly out to other countries to farewell loved ones, or even to attend funerals here,” Ms Barrett said. “We encourage them to come along if they’d find it helpful.” Those wanting to submit photos for the service are reminded to do so by December 11. The service will be held Wednesday, December 13 at St Augustine’s Uniting Church from 7.15pm.