Staying Connected During a Pandemic Christmas Season

The 2020 holiday season is looking far different than any other we’ve experienced. While Thanksgiving presented its own challenges in terms of gathering together, the Advent season is special in that festivities tend to be scheduled through the entire month of December. This year, as we are called to stay home and remain physically distant, we may all be grieving the loss of our “normal holiday.” For those who have lost a loved one, this holiday season may seem even more daunting, as the friends and family you could normally rely on for support and companionship during the holidays may not feel comfortable expanding their quarantine bubble. As we all continue to navigate this unprecedented time, there are some creative ways to stay connected to those you love while also staying safe.

Explore Virtual Options

We are lucky to live in a very modern world. While nothing can replace being together in person, video chat is a very close second! Being able to see and talk with your family in real time can help you feel connected and grounded in the present. It can also be a gentle reminder to expand your perspective beyond the scope of your own home. Try to find a video chat service that works for your family, and let them know you’d like to make video calls a priority this holiday season.

Stay Outdoors and Separated

If technology isn’t your strong suit and you desperately need to see your loved ones over the holidays, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends gathering outdoors, maintaining a 6ft distance between households, and wearing masks. While staying outdoors may not be very comfortable on cold winter days, it’s much safer than an indoor visit. You can make things cozier by bundling up with plenty of blankets and grabbing a thermos of coffee or hot cocoa to stay warm. Taking a winter walk is also a nice way to spend time with loved ones while remaining socially distant. If the weather is just too cold to be outside but you’d still like to see your loved ones in person, try parking your cars near each other with the windows rolled up while using cellphones to talk!

Get Creative

There are countless other ways to stay connected with loved ones while staying safe. For instance, you could start a dish exchange, where you take turns dropping off special holiday dishes to your loved one’s doorstep. You could also host a virtual family gift exchange, where each family member mails their gifts to each other to open together over video chat. You can take pictures of your Christmas trees and decorations to share when you’re able to gather again – or maybe even print the photos and send in an “old fashioned” Christmas card. You can watch a favorite Christmas movie at the same time and talk after… the possibilities go on!

Rely on Your Faith

This time of isolation can be a good opportunity to deepen your relationship with the Lord. Make sure to watch Mass livestreams, read scripture, and find time to pray. Not only will the Lord grant you peace and comfort, but staying connected to your faith and to the Church will help you establish a sense of community that goes beyond the physical sense of the word. God is always with you and, as His beloved child, you are called into a community that spans the entire universe. You are never truly alone, as God is always with you.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Drawing Strength from Our Faith

November is a special time in our Catholic faith when we the faithful take time to remember and honor those who have passed away. In fact, the church has acknowledged All Saints Day and All Souls Day for centuries. As we celebrate those who have entered Heaven on All Saints Day and pray for the souls in purgatory on All Souls Day, we are reminded of what it means to live and die by our faith. Reflecting on the times in history when these holy days were established (609 AD for All Saints Day and 993 AD for All Souls Day) I can only imagine the challenges posed in daily living.  

While some challenges have been eradicated over the years by evolvements in technology and medicine, times are no different now than they were back then. Emotional and physical suffering, political contention, grief, and violence are challenges our ancestors knew all too well. I reflect on their lives and am reminded that we are connected to our ancestors in our Catholic faith. It is our faith that has withstood so many trials and much tribulation throughout the centuries. Today, we are called to connect with those who came before us, as we look to our faith to guide us through these modern-day storms. We are called to turn our eyes toward God in hope of what can be and what is to come. We are called to ground ourselves in faith when the world around us seems chaotic.

It’s very curious that All Saints and All Souls Day fall so close to Thanksgiving. As we acknowledge death, we are also called to be thankful for the blessings God has placed in our lives. Even more so, we are called to be thankful for Christ’s sacrifice, as He opened the door for us all to enter into communion with Him in Heaven, further assuring us that the trials of this life will not follow us into the next.

As we continue to navigate the final months of this turbulent year, let us look to those who have gone before us. May we embody the same strength and faithfulness they did to find glimpses of hope in even the most uncertain of times.

God bless,

Andrej Lah 

November 2020

Reflecting on our Blessed Mother

In this the month of the Most Holy Rosary, I’ve taken some time to reflect on our Blessed Mother and her journey here on Earth. I imagine a young woman quietly enduring the judgment of others as she carries a miracle in her womb. I envision her giving birth in humble manger, only to be rushed away in the night, in fear of Herod’s soldiers. I see a mother’s smile as Jesus grows from a toddler, a mother’s anguish through His teenage years, and her pride as He becomes a young man. I can imagine the grief she felt upon losing her husband, Joseph, and the anxiety she must have felt when Jesus left home to begin His ministry. We often forget that this very human mother watched as her son went out into a world where humanity faced the same sins and temptations we endure today. While Jesus went about sharing messages of kindness, hope, and mercy, those in power at the time chose to reject those ideals. Mary knew that Jesus was there to change the world forever, but she must also have known that His ministry would lead to His death. I can only imagine the torment of knowing her son must honor the purpose for which He was born, while also experiencing real anxiety and grief for what was to come for her son.


When we mourn the death of someone we love, we are connected to our Blessed Mother through her humanity. Just as all of us today, Mary had to put her full faith in God during times of hardship. Faith is a critical part of our ability to traverse the path toward acceptance, whether we’re accepting a deep loss or just a change in our life. Keeping the faith can be hard at times, but God sends us our Blessed Mother as a source of strength and love to help us. Whether at Fatima, Lourdes, La Vang, Guadalupe, or Medjugorje – Mary comes to us in difficult times to remind us that we are called to an eternal life beyond our imagination. She reminds us that God is the map to paradise, and we must follow wherever His map takes us.


During this month of the Holy Rosary, let us call on our Blessed Mother. May she bring the comfort, hope, and peace that this world needs during such hard times. 


God bless,

Andrej Lah 

October 2020

Childhood Grief: How to Help Throughout the Years

Grief is an incredibly unique experience. It depends entirely on the person, the loved one they lost, and countless other elements in their life. One of the most impactful elements is their age. Each year brings new awareness, skills, and developmental milestones. Therefore, it stands to reason that age plays a large factor in how we grieve, as the coping mechanisms that might have helped us at infants surely will not be as helpful as we reach adulthood! While there will never be set “rules” when it comes to grief, there are some guidelines you can follow when trying to help the children in your life who are grieving. Keep reading to learn more.

Babies

While many people may feel that babies aren’t aware enough to experience grief, the opposite is true. While they may not be able to express or fully comprehend their emotions, they can sense if someone they’re close to is no longer present. Some commons signs of grief among babies include crying (more than usual), separation anxiety, being jumpy or irritable, or becoming extremely passive.

How to help…

The best thing you can do for babies is keep to your routine. The comfort and stability helps enable feelings of safety and security. Remember that children so young rely heavily on their senses, so surrounding them with cozy blankets, giving lots of hugs, speaking in soothing tones, and smiling are all helpful. Babies are also able to pick up on the tone and mood of their parents, so keeping a calm and loving attitude is important.

Toddlers

Toddlers may exhibit similar signs of grief to babies, but as they grow older their responses may develop to be more complex as well. Older toddlers may grow aggressive or anxious and throw tantrums more often. They may also complain of being ill (having a stomachache or headache). Finally, toddlers may revert to younger behaviors, such as having trouble with toilet training, beginning to crawl again, or asking for bottle.

How to help…

Toddlers are still very driven by their senses, so the coping techniques used for infants could also be used for toddlers. However, at this age it’s also a good idea to help them express how they’re feeling. Simply saying “I am feeling sad” and asking them to identify that emotion is incredibly healthy for them. Verbal reassurances can also help, such as reminding them they are safe and protected. Children this age are just starting to grasp the idea of life and death. If you feel your toddler is ready, you may explain how death works as part of nature, such as leaves falling from the trees. This can introduce them to the idea of death in a gentle way. The key to having these conversations is letting the child lead. Let them ask the questions. Your job is to answer their questions honestly, while providing an age-appropriate explanation.

Elementary Years  

When children reach school-age, they start to gain a better understanding of what death is. They may revert to signs of grief seen in younger age groups, though they may also exhibit more developed grief reactions. Common reactions at this age include being very preoccupied with the safety of others, or with the situation surrounding their loved one’s death. At this point, they are able to sense new feelings of guilt and embarrassment, which may cause them to act out in angry or depressed bursts. Finally, you may notice that they desperately aim to please adults in their life, and seek constant reassurance.

How to help…

The best thing you can do for children this age is spend time with them. Touch base as often as possible and encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling. What they need most is consistent reminders that they are being cared for and that they are safe. While they may feel the need to overcompensate for their age, encouraging them to act their age and participate in age-appropriate activities can help them cope as well. Finally, as children grow closer to their teenage years, being open and honest about your feelings can help them identify and address their own feelings as well. Remember, always let the child lead your conversations. It is up to you to decide how much information they are ready to hear. Whatever you decide to tell them, just remember that honesty is key.

Teenagers

The teen years may be some of the most challenging we experience, whether we experience a loss or otherwise. Teenagers are right between childhood and adulthood – which already comes with a plethora of emotions. Their bodies and minds seem to change every day, so losing a loved one during this time only adds to this stress. Teenagers may express grief in any variety of ways, but some commons signs include extreme emotions of any kind, ignoring their grief by hiding behind jokes, changes to their sleeping or eating patterns, reversion to bedwetting or night terrors, and growing numb or disinterested. In severe cases, teenagers may experience clinical depression or suicidal thoughts.

How to help…

It’s very important that teenagers have the proper support needed to work through their grief. At this age, they have a grounded understanding of what death is and, while they may understand death, this concept may still overwhelm them. Similar to other ages, teenagers need to be reminded that they are being taken care of and are protected. Assuring them that it’s okay to embrace their age and not assume adult roles is helpful, as is encouraging them to spend time with friends and finding creative outlets for their grief, such as journaling, painting, or listening to soothing music. It’s important to check on grieving teenagers often, as their age group holds the highest risk for severe depression, anxiety, or even suicidal thoughts. Because of this risk, many people may seek professional help to assist their teenager through the grief process.

Final Thoughts

Again, always remember that grief is incredibly specific and unique. The signs and coping techniques we’ve listed here are common, but they are not the only way to grieve. The most important thing you can do for the children in your life, no matter what age they are, is to love them fully. Spend time with them, talk with them openly, and remind them that they are loved. If you find yourself in a particularly tough situation, do not be ashamed to seek additional sources of help. Sometimes children may respond best to a different adult. Talking to your priest, a trusted friend, a teacher, or professional counselor may be helpful. Just be patient with them and with yourself as you navigate this challenging time.

Are you interested in learning more about our grief support resources? Click here.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

What You Should Know About the Unique Types of Grief

Every person who loses a loved one is going to experience a unique form of grief. The pain and loss you experience depends completely on your relationship to the deceased, the circumstances surrounding their death, your stage in life, and countless other factors. This is also why your personal approach to grief often changes depending on what loss you’re experiencing at a given time.

All that being said, no matter how or who you are grieving, there is a “typical” process that one travels through to adapt to their loss. Sometimes called the “Stages of Grief” the grief process includes denial, anger, anxiety, bargaining, and depression in the early stages, with acceptance, hope, and healing marking the readjustment to your new way of living. However, some losses warrant a more unique or complicated response. These complicated forms of grief may require more effort to work through, which is why it’s important to be able to properly identify them – whether for your own grief journey or to help others in your life. Keep reading to learn more.

Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is very common among people who have chronically ill or terminally ill loved ones. This grief is unique, in that it begins before your loved one passes away. It is the expectation of the loss that can be very consuming and provoke early feelings of grief. If you’re struggling with anticipatory grief, you may hear phrases such as “enjoy the time you have left” or “take things one day at a time” from loved ones trying to comfort you, while in reality these phrases can be very hurtful. It’s important to know that experiencing grief before the loss is completely normal. It is not preemptive and does not mean you’re not grateful for the time you have left with your loved one. Anticipatory grief is just another element of the very complicated experience that comes with caring for and loving someone who is nearing their final days.

Complicated Grief

Complicated grief can manifest in a few different ways. However, the two most common forms of complicated grief are chronic and delayed. As their names imply, chronic grief is defined as intense grief that lasts for an extended period time – long beyond the scope of a typical grief experience. Delayed grief also entails a longer grief experience, as sufferers experience minor grief effects at first, only to have very intense and consuming grief later on. Both chronic and delayed grief are considered complicated because they’re characterized by a complete inability to carry on with your daily tasks and can prevent you from moving forward to the final stages of healing. If you are suffering from complicated grief, it’s often advised that you seek professional assistance in moving forward through your grief journey.

Cumulative & Secondary Grief

Cumulative grief occurs when you lose several loved ones within a short period of time. Similarly, secondary loss also involves working through multiple losses at once, though in the form of ideas attached to your loved one, such as financial security, celebrating anniversaries, etc. For more information on these forms of grief, please click here.

Disenfranchised & Distorted Grief

Disenfranchised grief can occur if your family, society, or your culture tell you that your grief is not valid or warranted. Distorted grief can be similar, as it can occur when you experience an extremely tragic or sudden loss that elicits a wide variety of intense emotions. Disenfranchised and/or distorted grief occur often among those who lose a loved one to suicide, overdose, or other sensitive situations. Feelings of guilt, unworthiness, and isolation are common among those suffering from these forms of grief. It is often helpful for those experiencing disenfranchised and distorted grief to seek professional assistance in progressing along their grief journey in a healthy way.  

Above all, remember that there is no right way to grieve, and there is no such thing as a “normal” grief journey. The types listed here are a few of the most common, but there are countless different reactions and feelings you may experience. Some people may experience multiple forms of grief, and yet some people may experience no grief at all (read more about Absent Grief here). Whatever you’re going through, just remember to be patient with yourself and know that we are here to help you however we can.

Learn more about the Catholic Cemeteries Association’s grief support resources (including support groups) here.

Post written by Katie Karpinski