Looking Forward to 2019

The beginning of a new year brings with it so many different emotions when you find yourself in the position of a cemetery steward. Preparations must be made for the projects that will begin when the warm weather returns. With the first warm days of spring, teams of cemetery workers begin the process of clearing decorations, filling settled graves (and seeding them when the time is right), and a myriad of other projects to prepare for the families that will be visiting over the next several months. It is amazing to watch as the cemetery staff, along with performing our corporal work of mercy of burying the dead, are able to prepare 19 cemeteries for those who will travel to visit their deceased loved ones.

When the day of cleanup arrives, our field crews will remove hundreds of thousands of decorations and begin the process of cleaning up the damage left behind as winter releases its grip and spring pushes aside the snow and ice. Thousands of graves have settled under the snow and now must be re-leveled. The rush to set several thousand headstones before Memorial Day puts enormous pressure on our field staff as they try to meet the needs of all our grieving families. Know that while we look at the thousands of graves and hundreds of thousands of decorations, our staff understands that each family is focused on the place where their loved ones are interred.

As we begin the New Year and a plethora of projects commence, I ask that you take a look at all that is done to ensure that the places where your loved ones are interred are cared for with dignity and respect. I ask that as the warmth of spring returns that you have patience with our staff as they work very hard to ensure that our cemeteries are among the most beautiful places of final rest.

God Bless

-Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association
January 2019

A Christmas Message

Offices and homes are decorated with bright lights. Cards arrive with wishes of joy and good cheer. Many look forward to their children coming home from wherever they may be. Beautifully wrapped gifts appear under a tree decorated with ornaments collected over the years. Some of these ornaments are hung in memory of someone we miss.

For many of us, Christmas is the hardest time of the year. We can no longer add to beautiful holiday memories spent with our loved ones. Instead, our earthly plans and dreams for the future are forever changed. Though we may smile as family and friends gather to celebrate, behind each smile is the need to stay strong and hold back tears. We try desperately to enjoy the family still with us, but we want to scream because everyone isn’t there.

It is because we are human and created by God that the love we feel for another human being is so intense. It is our humanity that causes us to grieve so completely and it is only in God that we find the comfort we seek. God is filled with so much love for us that He sent down His only son to be born human, in the humblest of circumstances, so we may have the promise of life beyond that which we experience on earth.

This holiday season, allow yourself a beautiful memory of your loved one to warm your heart. Be thankful for the gift of time you were given with them on earth. Most importantly, take comfort in the hope and love that Jesus Christ provides each of us.

God Bless

-Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association
December 2018

National Children’s Grief Awareness Month

November is a busy month as Catholics acknowledge All Saints, All Souls, and Cemetery Sunday — as well as national observances such as Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. As such, this month is a time for our church to come together and remember those who have gone before us. Some of us may be feeling grief a bit more intensely than usual . It’s important that we remain compassionate and supportive to one another,  and perhaps dedicate prayers to members of our church who may need special attention.

With that in mind, November is National Children’s Grief Awareness Month. Children experience grief differently than adults do. It’s impossible to know exactly what’s going through their minds, but they are bound to have countless questions. Why isn’t my loved one coming back? Are they in heaven? Is there a heaven? Will I lose other people too? Who will take care of me?

As faith leaders, it’ sour duty to answer these questions by reinforcing the ideals of our Catholic faith. The Catholic faith is real. It’s alive. Christ and the promise of the resurrection are real. Losing a loved one can be a personal invitation to grow closer to Christ—at any age. We must remind them that God provides us with joy in times of sorrow, and hope in times of despair. This can be hard for children to understand, but with the help of strong spiritual leaders I believe it’s possible. Help them find the joy in life. Remind them of the happy memories they shared with their loved ones and remind them how lucky they are to have had that time together. Remind them that they can still spend time with their loved one—be it through prayer or visiting the loved one’s gravesite.

With Thanksgiving approaching, perhaps we can remind ourselves and those younger members of the Catholic church that while grief may be an inescapable part of life, God also gives us so much to be thankful for. Be thankful for the time you had with departed loved ones. Be thankful for those you still hold close here on this earth. But most of all, be thankful for our faith that provides a very real and joyful hope in the promise of Jesus Christ.

-Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association
November 2018

Remember Them with a Smile

When autumn arrives we experience so many different aspects of nature. It is a time of harvest and vibrant colors, but also a time of preparation for winter. If you’re grieving, it can be easy to slip into a negative mindset at this time of year.

The person you lost would not want you to be consumed with grief. Instead, they would want you to remember the joyful moments you shared– those times when you couldn’t stop laughing.

They would want a smile to peak through the suffering.

They would want you to live y our life as fully and as joy fully as you can before seeing them again in God’s kingdom. Christ promised us this reunion and our faith in Him gives us hope to carry us through the tough days. Until this promise is fulfilled, please offer them a smile, let them know how much you miss them and let the beauty of changing colors on a bright fall day break through your sadness.
-Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association
October 2018

What to Expect When Grieving the Loss of Your Father

Losing your father (or a father figure) can be one of life’s most traumatic events. As people who are known for being your biggest cheerleader, friend, fixer, and life coach—losing them will change your life as you know it. Each person has a very unique relationship with their father. This means that no grief experience will ever be exactly the same. However, there are some common emotions most people feel after losing their dad. Grief reactions may also depend on your stage in life. A younger person who still lives at home and depends on their father for daily support may feel a stronger sense of abandonment, whereas someone in their 60’s who remained close to their father may feel a stronger loss in regard to the decades of friendship established between them and their father. No matter your age, keep reading for some specific emotions you may feel after losing your father, as well as ways to work through these emotions.

What to Expect When Grieving the Loss of Your Father

Shock

The time immediately following the death of a loved one can be hectic. There’s much that must be done to make arrangements, and these arrangements can take away a majority of your time and energy. Because of this flurry of activity, the full emotional impact of your loss may not hit you right away. You may still be in a state of shock or disbelief during the first few months following the passing of your father. Realize that being numb to the pain doesn’t make it any less real. It’s perfectly normal to not fully feel the loss right away. Don’t grow frustrated if you aren’t experiencing the emotional reaction you expected.

 

Sadness

Another common emotion many people feel is intense sadness or depression. As it is with the loss of any loved one, realizing that someone who you loved and cared for very much is gone from this world is a somber experience. While managing this sadness is specific to each person, it’s important that you allow yourself to acknowledge and respect the emotions you feel. Trying to hide your sadness is not healthy for your grief journey, and may prevent you from full healing in the future. As hard as it may be, depression is a natural part of the bereavement process, so it’s better to accept these emotions than to fight them.

Please note: While depression is a normal part of grief, it’s important to reflect on the severity of your depression over time. If you find that your depression persists without any good days, impairs your function of daily activities, or prompts thoughts of self-harm, professional help may be required.

 

Abandonment

Since fathers are often recognized for their protective and providing nature, losing your father may stir feelings of abandonment. The man who was once known as your “fixer” and guardian is no longer around to support you. You may feel as if a level of security is gone from your life. Coming to terms with this change will be hard, but don’t lose hope. Learn to rely on other people in your life. Reach out to trusted friends and family. Lean on your local parish community. Most of all, take this opportunity to remind yourself how much you are personally capable of – losing your father is undoubtedly difficult, but God will give you the strength and support you need to move forward in life.

 

Anger

While no one is ever ready to lose their dad, those who lose their father earlier in life may feel angry. You may feel as if time was stolen from you, or that you’ve been cheated from monumental occasions. Even for those who lose their father later in life, anger is a natural part of the grief process. God’s plan isn’t always easy to understand or accept. If you find yourself experiencing anger, know that it is natural. Like any other emotion you may be feeling, don’t back away from these feelings. Instead, acknowledge them and try to focus your energy on working through this anger to reach some level of peace and healing. Similar to symptoms of depression, you may want to seek assistance of a professional if anger starts impacting your daily living.

 

Peace

As unbelievable as it may seem at first, eventually you will achieve some level of peace and comfort in regard to your father’s passing. Full understanding can only come with time and much self-reflection. As Catholics, we can also find immense hope and peace in the promise of salvation. It is our hope that one day we will be reunited with our loved ones in the presence of Christ. As you work through your grief, try to shift your mindset from saying goodbye to your loved one toward saying “I’ll see you again.” Also consider that your loved ones are likely lifting you in their (now divine) prayers and cheering you on to find new courage and peace.

A healing way to work through your grief, and the various emotions you may feel along the way, is to find ways to honor your father. Watching his favorite movie, making his favorite meal, or ordering his favorite cocktail are all ways you can feel closer to him. Keep his memory alive by looking at pictures of him often, and telling your favorite stories about his life to other close family members and friends. There is no reason why you can’t keep a strong relationship with your father even after his passing.

 

If you’re interested in further grief support, please consider attending one of our monthly Grief Support Groups. These informal and all-inclusive groups meet once a month for 1-hour. Come be in the presence of those who understand. For grief support dates and locations, please visit clecem.org.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski