Coping with Valentine’s Day: A Guide for the Bereaved

coping with valentine's day

Valentine’s Day is tough. Even for those who haven’t lost a loved one, the day can be an emotional trigger or stressful obligation. For those who have lost a loved one, the day serves as a solemn reminder that we are missing someone on this earth. Keep reading for some guidance on how to handle this unique holiday.

  1. Set your own expectations
    1. Like all holidays, Valentine’s Day carries with it a certain set of expectations. Especially in the years immediately after the death of a loved one, the loss of tradition and custom can come as a major shock. This is completely normal. However, a great way to deal with this new reality is to set new and realistic expectations for the holidays, including Valentine’s Day. If you don’t want to go out, then don’t go out. If you don’t want to watch a romantic movie, then don’t. The day and how you handle it is entirely up to you and your personal preference.
  2. Celebrate yourself
    1. Valentine’s Day is about love—and this includes self-love. Spend the day doing your favorite things or treating yourself to a new experience. Whether it’s going to the movie theater for a double feature or finally taking that art class you’ve been wanting to start, spending the day to truly love yourself and who you are is a great way to combat feelings of loneliness. Learn to love who you are as an individual child of God. So often, we define ourselves by our relationship with other people, whether we’re a wife, husband, sister, son, etc. Because of this, when we lose the people we are so connected to, we can lose our sense of self. Valentine’s Day can be a great opportunity to discover what makes you happy—so don’t be afraid to explore!
  3. Honor your loved one
    1. Of course, despite celebrating yourself, Valentine’s Day is sure to remind you of dearly departed loved ones. A nice way to remember those who are no longer on this earth is to do something in their honor. If you and your spouse always had a specific meal on Valentine’s Day, prepare a portion of that meal for yourself. If you exchanged gifts, buy something you know you spouse would have enjoyed and donate it to a worthy cause. You can also honor them in other ways—whether it’s writing down your feelings in a letter or going through pictures of them, find what works for you.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Lent and the Gift of Eternal Love

lent and eternal love

You might notice something interesting about Valentine’s Day. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday. Now, say what you will about calendar cycles, leap years, etc. but this correlation is actually rather significant. While one event may imply a period of fasting, personal sacrifice, and repentance, the other emphasizes love, happiness, and giving. The juxtaposition and complementary nature of these events is worth mentioning, especially through a bereavement perspective.

Starting with the season of Lent, we are reminded of the intense and painful journey that Christ underwent. The 40 days He spent in the desert were ones of pure temptation and a harsh reminder of His humanity. Christ’s journey was one that turned away from the sin and death of the world and instead walked toward the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. Of course, we honor this journey still today, as many people choose to enter into a personal spiritual journey for the 40 days of Lent by fasting and otherwise making a sacrifice to Christ. This Lenten journey is similar to the journey that is grief. When a loved one dies, so does a part of our heart. Similar to Christ’s journey, grief is the process of turning away from suffering and pain and growing closer to new life. For those who have lost a loved one, this new life is their new reality: life without their loved one. This journey is not an easy one. Just as Jesus was tempted in the desert, those who grieve will have set backs and will struggle at times. But, by looking to Christ as an example, and by remembering the promise of life that lies at the end of the journey, you may find the extra strength you need to carry on.

It’s also important to mention that just as Christ was strengthened by God’s love, so are we strengthened by both God’s love and by the love of our dearly departed loved ones. Love is something that extends beyond death. It cannot be broken by realms. No matter where you are on your grief journey, no matter what you might be feeling on Valentine’s Day, the love you feel for your loved one, and them for you, still exists. We know this because of God’s own eternal love for us, which we hear in scripture time and time again:

Psalm 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.

Grief is a journey. There are highs and lows. But an important thing to keep in mind as we enter into the season of Lent is that love is on our side. And that is something to celebrate.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Frank J Petrarca: A Story of Sacrifice and Bravery

The Catholic Cemeteries Association is very proud to have buried several Medal of Honor recipients. These brave men and women signify and illustrate someone of true heroic and self-sacrificing integrity. Frank Petrarca is no exception. This Cleveland native is now the namesake of Navy ships, National Guard training areas, and more. Keep reading to learn more about this remarkable man and his sacrifice to help others.

Frank_J_Petrarca.jpg

Petrarca was born on July 31, 1918 to Dominic and Bettina Petrarca in Cleveland, OH. Their family was very large, as Frank was one of the couple’s ten children. Growing up in Cleveland, Frank Petrarca attended St. Marian’s parochial school and would later go on to graduate from East High School in 1938. Following a brief period of doing carpentry work for his father, Frank decided to join the 145th Ohio National Guard Regiment in 1939, and a year later in 1940 he enlisted in the United States Army.

In 1943 Petrarca was serving in the Medical Detachment, 145th Infantry Regiment, 37th Infantry Division. His unit was on active duty at Horseshoe Hill on New Georgia (part of the Solomon Islands). His first act of heroism occurred on July 27th of that year, when he aided three wounded soldiers, despite the imminent threat of enemy fire. Again, on July 29th, he braved enemy fire to assist a fallen sergeant. Petrarca would repeat this pattern until July 31st, 1943, his 25th birthday. It was on this day that Petrarca, venturing to aid a wounded solider, would be struck and killed by mortar fire.

On December 23, 1943 Frank Petrarca was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was buried in his hometown of Cleveland, OH at Calvary Cemetery (Section 110, Lot 2168, Grave 3). Petrarca’s story is one of true sacrifice and bravery, and is someone we should all strive to emulate and honor.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Information gathered from http://case.edu/ech/articles/p/petrarca-frank-j/

A Prayer for Inner Strength

Losing a loved one leaves you emotionally and physically exhausted. Your body and soul are weakened, making what used to be routine tasks hard to accomplish. The small things that you used to laugh at now become major obstacles to overcome, leaving you incredibly overwhelmed. The important thing to remember is that feelings like this are normal, and their intensity will pass with time. However, whether you’ve lost someone five days ago or fifteen year ago, you are bound to have days when you need a little extra encouragement and strength. These are the days when you must rely on God. We are told in scripture that “God is our refuge and our strength” (Psalm 46:1). When you find yourself in need of extra strength or support call on God to assist you throughout your day. Use the prayer below to start an ongoing dialogue with the Lord. He is always there waiting to be called upon.

a-prayer-for-inner-strength-e1516388010694.png

PRAYER FOR INNER STRENGTH

Lord Jesus Christ,
I’m upset and disturbed,
and I pray that You will grant me
the grace of inner Peace.
As You commanded the storm winds at sea to be calm,
command the storms in my life to be calmed.
Give me the patience I need
to cope with the burdens and anxieties of my life.
Grant me the strength to better deal with my problems,
and the understanding to be more tolerant
and kind to others.
Teach me to seek after Your will
which alone brings peace of mind
and peace of heart.

Amen.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski
Prayer Source: Catholicdoors.com

Ben Stefanski: Business, Family, and Faith

We are taught as Catholics to find a passion and use that passion to serve God and others. This certainly is no easy fete, but there are a few people who have seemed to accomplish this goal exactly. Ben Stefanski, a well-known business man and devout Catholic was able to turn his business into an opportunity to serve those in his local community, helping them accomplish their own dreams. Read more to learn about this influential Cleveland figure.

Ben Stefanski was born in January 1902 in the Broadway neighborhood in Cleveland. This neighborhood was well known for its strong Polish-American culture, making it the perfect place for Stefanski’s parents, William and Anna, to settle down. Staying in the Cleveland area throughout his life, Stefanski attended Fullerton School as well as South and East Technical high schools growing up. Stefanski then decided to pursue higher education and attended Cleveland Business college and even participated in extra course work from the American Savings and Loan Institute. Little did Stefanski know that this education would result in the founding of one of the most successful saving institutions in Cleveland’s history.

In 1937, Stefanski married Gerome Rita Rutkowski. While honeymooning in Washington, D.C. the newlyweds applied for a federal charter. This charter was designated to found a new savings and loan company. Within the following year, the Third Federal Savings and Loan Association of Cleveland was established. With Stefanski as its leader, the association flourished. It’s stated that the core mission of the association was (and still is!) “helping the working man attain a home of his own.” This mission, which led to the association’s great success, led to some criticism in the 1980’s as some suggested that the association was too “old fashioned.” However, Third Federal proceeded to grow throughout the decade. By 1995 the association boasted 21 offices and an estimated $4.6 billion in assets. Stefanski remained leader of the association until his retirement in 1987.

ben stefanski 1
Photo Credit

While Stefanski is certainly known for his success in the field of business, he was also known for his devotion to family, community, and faith. He and his wife had five children: Ben, Hermine, Abigail, Floyd, and Marc. Marc would take his father’s place as Chairman of Third Federal upon his retirement. As a proud Polish-American citizen, Ben Stefanski was honored by both the Polish American Congress and the Polish Legion. As a devout Catholic, Stefanski donated one million dollars in 1965 to the Catholic High School Building fund. Stefanski passed away in October of 1991 and is buried at Calvary Cemetery (Sec#8, Lot#95, Grave#4). His name and legacy live on in the association he built, as well as the people who he served throughout his lifetime.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

8 Attainable Resolutions for the Bereaved

While we are already a few weeks into 2018, it’s never too late to adopt some new year’s resolutions. For those who have lost a loved one, new year’s resolutions come down to personal preference. For some, the idea of a resolution may seem too overwhelming at the time– similar to starting a new project or chore in the midst of extreme sorrow. For others, resolutions serve as an inspirational and motivational tool that helps them cope with grief and grow as a person. Whether or not you choose to take on a new year’s resolution is entirely up to you and where you are on your grief journey. However, if you are interested in taking on a new year’s resolution, keep reading for some ideas!

8 Attainable Resoulutions for the Bereaved.jpg

 

  1. Recognize your strengths

Losing a loved one can install feelings of weakness or helplessness. Start the new year by making a list of your personal strengths, your blessings, and your dreams. Take action and leverage your strengths to accomplish new goals and cope with your grief.

  1. Slow down

Make sure that you aren’t using a busy schedule or work life to cope with your grief. Not only does that make for an unhealthy healing, but it can also be emotionally and physically exhausting. Make a promise in this new year to slow down and take more time for yourself.

  1. Attend a support group

Support groups are a great way to cope with your grief. Sharing experiences within a support group is a way for all involved to grieve in a healthy and constructive way. (Interested in joining a support group? Click here.)

  1. Try a new hobby

It’s never too late to learn something new. If you feel stagnant or if you feel stuck, pick up a new hobby and see where it takes you. Whether it’s photography, sewing, or hiking– find something new to learn and enjoy to bring some excitement in your life.

  1. Get 20 minutes of sunlight or fresh air each day

Fresh air and sunlight can do wonderful things for the mind, body, and spirit. While it may be tempting to stay indoors all day, try to get outside for at least 20 minutes each day. Even if it’s just in your backyard.

  1. Speak your loved one’s name

Keep the memory of your loved one alive in the new year by speaking their name often. The key to grieving is not to forget, but to remember with hope that you will one day be reunited.

  1. Start a journal

Journaling can be a great way to cope with grief and express your emotions. Think of journaling as a personal letter to God. What are you feeling? What are your hopes? Share these with him and see where the journey takes you. Try to make it a daily habit—God likes to hear from us every day.

  1. Be open to happiness

While there will always be a part of you that misses your loved one dearly, never forget to be open to happiness and new experiences. Pay attention to the blessings God has placed in your life, big and small.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Tips for Entering the New Year with Hope and Love

For many of those who are grieving, the concept of a new year may be daunting. Particularly if you have recently lost a loved one, this may be the first year you endure without them in your life. When a loved one passes away, everything changes. What was once familiar now seems foreign and the idea of tackling a new year full of unknowns and uncharted territory can be intimidating and even scary. This feeling is completely normal—even if it’s been years since your loved one passed away. Keep reading for some simple suggestions on how to embrace the New Year with a spirit of hope and love.

Entering the New Year with hope and Love.jpg

Be kind to yourself

Some people may feel as if expressing grief or admitting that you are struggling emotionally is a sign of weakness. You may become frustrated with yourself and wonder why you can’t just “be happier.” Particularly when the new year approaches, you may be told to take advantage of this fresh start and forget the grief and pain from the past year. While the New Year can certainly be seen as this “fresh start” it is all dependent on where you are in your grief journey. Grief is not a process that can be rushed or skipped over—don’t become discouraged with yourself if you don’t feel a certain way at a certain time. Instead, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as you would a dear friend who recently lost a loved one. Give yourself time to heal. Grief doesn’t have a time limit.

Use a calendar

It’s common after losing a loved one to feel as if every day is the same, as if you’re just going through the motions instead of actually living your life. Another common problem some people face is the good-intentioned invitations from family and friends to go out to dinner, attend an event, etc. in an effort to uplift the griever’s mood, which can be overwhelming to someone who is grieving. To remedy both these issues, it’s a good idea to get a large calendar at the beginning of the year. Start your year by scheduling appointments with yourself. Maybe it’s a Friday night movie, or simply reserving a time for you to read a good book. Whatever the case may be, visualizing your life and scheduling time for you to do the activities that you enjoy will help make your days more meaningful. On a more practical note, scheduling these appointments ahead of time can serve as a polite way to decline an invitation. The best part? If you ever do want to spend time with family or friends, it’s very easy to cancel an appointment with yourself!

Energize your mind and body

Losing a loved one exhausts both your mind and body. This leads to an overall lack of motivation to be active. While it may be hard at first, a good resolution for grievers is to devote some time each day to be physically and emotionally active. Being physically active doesn’t need to be strenuous exercise. It can be as simple as taking a walk around the block, or a short bike ride. To exercise your mind, read a good book or listen to some music that you enjoy. The combination of both mind and body can help you regain a sense of presence and strengthen your resolve. (Hint: Use the calendar mentioned above to schedule these activities in advance!)

Focus on the journey and not the destination

As the old saying suggests, so many people in this world are too focused on reaching a certain destination that they forget to appreciate the journey they take along the way. This same principle can be applied to grief. Many people who are grieving want to skip ahead to a time where they can be completely happy again and obtain acceptance of their loved one’s death. While everyone certainly finds happiness, there will always be a part of their hearts dedicated to their loved one. Grief is not about reaching a level of happiness or acceptance, but rather growing as a person and learning a new way to live. Grief is not a test, but an experience. Entering into this New Year, focus more on what you can learn about yourself, life, or love. Focus less on societal and personal expectations for yourself.

Do some reflective journaling

Journaling can be a very therapeutic and constructive way to work through your grief. At the beginning of the year, write down a few things your loved one would want for you in the coming year. If you have a hard time brainstorming, think about if the roles were reversed—what would you wish for your loved one if you were the one to pass away? Try to think of different states of mind or attitudes you’d want your loved one to practice after your passing and write them down. As the year progresses, look at this list and try pursue those outcomes.

Choose to walk with God each day

Even after following every suggestion and doing your very best, there will still be days when you feel lonely or discouraged. Use these instances to grow closer to Christ. He is the one person who will never leave you or forsake you. He loves you more than you could ever imagine. When you have these bad days, take a step back and spend some time reflecting on God’s eternal love for you.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

The Fourth Sunday of Advent- CELEBRATION

fourth sunday of advent

Well, it’s finally here. Christmas is only a few short days away and we will soon be trading in our purple and pink Advent wreath for the white Christmas candle. As we celebrate this last week of Advent, we celebrate the arrival of Christ—he’s finally here! Sometimes, the last candle of the advent wreath is referred to as the candle of love—the love of God in the form of His son Jesus, the love that Jesus spread throughout the world, and the love that we all share for each other. As we end this Advent season, let us remember what the Christmas holiday is truly about, Christ and His love for mankind. If you have some extra time today, say the prayer below and reflect on His never ending love of you.

PRAYER FOR LOVING OTHERS

Lord, make me an instrument of your love.

May I see each circumstance in my life

as an opportunity to grow in your love.

May I see my environment

as a place to grow in your love.

May I then take this love to other people…

When I am tempted to become impatient,

help me to be patient.

When I am tempted to become unkind,

help me to be kind.

When I am tempted to become jealous,

help me to be tolerant.

When I am tempted to become boastful or proud,

help me give you the glory.

When I am tempted to be rude or selfish,

give me the gift of gentleness.

When I am tempted to take offense,

help me to let go.

When I am tempted to become angry with someone,

give me the gift of forgiveness.

When I am tempted to become resentful,

give me your power to love.

Lord, grant that I may take no pleasure in criticizing others,

but that I may see good in them, as you do.

When I begin to concentrate on the faults and failures of others,

give me courage to praise their accomplishments.

Help me be loyal to those you give me to love.

Help me to believe in them,

even when they do not believe in themselves.

To expect the best from them,

but accept the best they can give.

May I always defend them,

as you always defend me.

All gifts and powers come from you.

All will come to an end.

With one important exception, the gift of love!!!

Lord, when I was a child,

I thought like a child,

I acted like a child,

and I reasoned like a child.

Now that I have become an adult,

I release my childish ways.

Amen.

 

Prayer gathered from catholicdoors.com 
Post written by Katie Karpinski

The Origins of Saint Nicholas

The story of St. Nicholas has been discussed and passed down for many years. He is arguably the most famous saint throughout Christian churches worldwide. He is most commonly known for his anonymous gifts to children late at night, which is how the story of Santa Claus originally was conceived. However, there is a deep history regarding this ancient saint. Although St. Nicholas is regarded as being a generous and loving figure in the Catholic Church, little is known about his personal life and where he originally came from.

saint nick one

With that being said, there are many legends and stories attributed to St. Nick. It is believed that Nicholas was born in 280 AD in Patara, an early city in Asia Minor. Passed down stories tell us that Nicholas was from a very rich family and inherited a large sum of money when his parents died. He did not keep any of the money and instead gave it away to the less fortunate, especially children. Nicholas became a priest and continued his charitable efforts throughout his life.

One of the most popular stories of St. Nicholas is about a father who had no dowry money for his three daughters on their wedding days. It is believed that the girls would have been killed if there was no money for their husbands. The girls left out stockings to dry by the fire and Nicholas took it upon himself to drop bags of gold into them. Ever since, children have been putting their stockings up by the fire on Christmas Eve in hopes of St. Nick leaving them special gifts.

saint nick two

Nicholas, who was still very young at the time, had earned a prominent reputation of sympathy and compassion. In 303 AD, the Roman Emperor Diocletian ordered all Roman citizens to worship him as a God. This became problematic throughout the area because Christians were to only believe in one God. Diocletian ordered that all Christians who do not follow the order be imprisoned. Nicholas was one who resisted, and as a result, he was imprisoned for more than five years. Throughout this hardship, he still held to his beliefs. Nicholas was later released and became Bishop of Myra. He continued his charitable acts up until his death on December 6, 343.

Since his passing, Nicholas has become a famous Christian figure all around the globe. By 800, he was officially named a saint by the Eastern Catholic Church. By the 1400’s more than 200 chapels and monasteries were named in his honor. Every year on December 6th, St. Nick’s feast day, churches around the world dedicate services in his name and pass down the stories surrounding his fame.

Post written by Mike Freiberg

 

O Come All Ye Faithful- A Modern Call to Action

Well underway into the 2017 Christmas season, I’m sure we’ve all heard our favorite carols being sung. While some of our favorites might be silly— does anyone actually want a hippopotamus for Christmas? Imagine the mess! There are some Christmas songs that actually have a deeper meaning and help us as Catholics enter more deeply into this joyful season. Last week we featured “Silent Night”, and how its humble origins provide a reminder to us all that God calls us each to greatness. This week we are looking at another classic carol: “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

Written in 1841 by Frederick Oakeley, the song has stood the test of time and is still a very popular tune. Aside from the catchy melody, the lyrics of “O Come All Ye Faithful” are, perhaps, what has led to the song’s success. The clear call to action to come praise and worship the Lord is made clear in the first few lines:

O come, all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant
O come ye, o come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold Him
Born the King of Angels!

O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
O come, let us adore Him
Christ the Lord

Whereas secular Christmas music may revolve around gifts and the material elements of the season, this song reminds us all of what we’re truly celebrating: Christ coming down to Earth. May this song serve as a reminder to us all to spend this season praising God and thanking Him for the greatest gift of all: His son Jesus Christ. Listen to the full song below and reflect on the coming of Christ this season.

 

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski