3 Steps to Renewal: Reconnecting with Friends After Losing a Loved one

Grief is an experience unlike any other. It changes the very foundation of who you are and how you interact with others. Especially during the early stages of grief, it’s hard to find a new normal, and the comfortable habits and relationships that you once knew may be completely different. During this time, it’s common to lose touch with certain friends. This can be hurtful, as just when you need your best friends most, they may seem more distant than ever. Try to remember that this distance usually isn’t any one person’s fault, but rather a combination of circumstance and misunderstanding.

Restarting these relationships can be an incredibly healing experience, and one that can help you work through your grief and towards a “new normal.” Keep reading for some guidance on how to approach this delicate subject.

Acknowledge the Awkwardness

Remember that grief changes you. Things that used to be familiar may seem strange and different. There will likely be some awkwardness when talking to your friend for the first time in a while. There might even be some tension if either of you feels hurt by the lack of communication. In fact, chances are that you are both experiencing similar feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and hurt. As hard as it may be, try to push through these feelings and remember why you love your friend so much. If this is a relationship you truly value and cherish, then it is one worth your commitment and energy. Along the way, just accept the awkwardness for what it is. You can’t expect to immediately start back to where you were before losing your loved one, so simply understanding that you’re on the first step toward rebuilding your friendship is enough.  

Be Honest and Self-Aware

Once you begin talking with your friend, it’s important to come from an honest and compassionate place. Instead of trying to place blame or incite feelings of guilt, having an open discussion about how you are handling your grief is much healthier – it will give your friend a glimpse into what you’ve been struggling with, and how this dramatic life change may have impacted your relationship with them. You should also give your friend time to talk about what they’ve been experiencing. While you have lost a loved one, they may be grieving the loss of what your friendship used to be. The key is not to point fingers or make each other feel guilty, but rather to reach a place of common understanding, compassion, and trust. Sometimes simply talking through your experience can help provide the needed perspective to help your friendship move forward.

Focus on Moving Forward

While it’s important to understand what happened in the past, try not to linger on it for too long. Don’t hold on to grudges or bring up past mistakes. Instead, focus your energy on moving forward. What will you both commit to do to keep your friendship moving forward? Maybe it’s scheduling a weekly coffee date or phone call. Maybe you decide to restart a shared hobby – or start a new activity altogether! With time your friendship will grow and continue to develop. In many cases, this new stage of your friendship will be even stronger than before.

On a final note, keep in mind that every friendship and situation is different. In some cases, it may be healthier for you to let a friendship fade, or in some cases you may establish a new form of friendship. It’s important to do what’s best for you. If a friendship is preventing you from moving forward in a healthy way, it may be best to step back and allow the Lord to guide you toward other people in your life. This can be a hard decision to make, and losing your friend may add to your existing grief. If you find yourself in this position, joining a support group or finding a counselor may be a good idea to ensure you’re receiving the support you need.

Post written by Katie Karpinski 

A Different Summer

2020 will indeed bring a different kind of summer for everyone! A summer unlike any we’ve ever experienced. Each day of the pandemic brings new information and guidelines altering the delicate balance of our safety and security. Prior to this pandemic, our pre-summer agendas were all about filling our calendars with social gatherings: graduations, weddings, sporting events, vacations, reunions, festivals, concerts, and the like. We’ve waited all winter and spring for longer days, more daylight, and pleasant weather just to get outdoors and enjoy the fellowship of time with family and friends.

Social Distancing May Not Be Your Ally

But for those who are grieving, you simply may not want to be in the company of other people, most of whom don’t know what to say to you, may either avoid you or alternatively say all the wrong things to you, and yourself likewise. The social distancing called upon by this pandemic may actually be a welcomed respite for you to not have to deal with people, questions, and difficult emotions. Even so, it is critical to your well-being to not allow yourself to fall prey to despair or “self-imposed” social isolation. Even under the orders for physical distancing in this pandemic, we must find ways to maintain even a small amount of social connection through alternative ways. It is important to remember that distancing and isolation have two distinct roles: Distancing provides protection from the harmful virus, while isolation closes the door to healthy grieving. Keeping the doors of communication open, even in an altered mode, will allow emotional healing and growth to occur along your grief journey.

Secondary Loss

With the pandemic alone, our lives have more than a fair share of uncertainties and struggles due to loss of stability with our futures. We may have had changes to or loss of job structure/income, limited access to needed resources, social isolation from physical distancing, and fears about contracting or spreading the virus to our loved ones. Everyone is grieving some kind of loss. Add to these very real situations, having to deal with finding our way through grieving the death of someone dear, makes the coming summer season, anything but welcomed.

There’s Hope

But there’s hope for you. By refocusing our vision and our mindset, we can maneuver our way through these confusing days. First, it’s important to focus on what you know, despite what you can’t see ahead of you. Here’s a few truths to hang onto in the midst of the turmoil.

  • God is always in control; All knowing, all seeing, and all powerful, and is working things out for your favor. There is nothing impossible for God and His grace and mercy will carry you through any circumstance.
  • God is always with you, leading you step by step, even when you cannot feel Him.
  • You are loved and you ARE love.

With these truths as your anchor, you should be better able to redirect your view of the world to one of safety under God’s provision and find hope that brighter days are ahead. You will still experience some rough days along with the good ones, but just knowing that you are carried by the almighty hand of God will help you to know that the difficult seasons shall pass. God loves you and has great things still planned for your life, in His perfect timing, and in your season of blossoming.

Make a Plan

Here are a few ideas for experiencing a good summer, but the possibilities are endless:

  • Plant a beautiful garden (or even a single flower) in honor of your departed loved one.
  • Donate your time/skills to help someone in need.
  • Write a blog (or a book) about your grief journey.
  • Play a musical instrument outdoors for others to hear.
  • Write letters or send greeting cards to health care workers, first-responders, or those in the military.
  • Bake cookies or desserts and share or gift them.
  • Make phone calls to shut-ins just to say hello and ask how they are doing or if they have need of anything.
  • Order door dash to be delivered to a friend (or a few friends) and schedule a virtual lunch or dinner.
  • Host a socially distant event with your neighbors: cookout, music festival, yoga or line-dancing.
  • Pay it forward for someone in line behind you at the drive-through.
  • Go for a day drive and sight see (take pictures like a tourist); Try a park, a lake, or a local botanical garden
  • like Stan Hywet (Akron), Brandywine (Sagamore Hills), Holden Arboretum (Kirtland). (Note: Call ahead for
  • information about restricted visiting hours, closed walking paths, and restricted restroom facilities)
  • Treat yourself to a meal at a top of the line local restaurant that you’ve always wondered about.
  • Have a movie night at home complete with popcorn and snacks.
  • Visit loved ones at the cemetery. Bring a chair or a blanket and have a picnic lunch there.
  • Give someone a SMILE, even if you don’t feel like it.

In order to better navigate this pandemic summer, it is always best to have a plan. A flexible plan, and even an alternate plan, but still a plan. Give to this summer, what you would like it to be. If you would like a summer of healing, peace, and tranquility, then plan for it. If you would like a summer of exploration, start with an internal exploration and let it spill over to your external world. There are many creative ways to discover and enjoy the giftedness of our world even while being physically distant and protective. We have the opportunity to see new ways of being alive to God’s plans for us. It may involve reaching outside of your normal box and learning a new
skill or stepping beyond the pain of grief, but there can be joy in the midst of the storms of our lives. Be that gift to someone else. Reach out and make one person’s life a little brighter by sharing your gift to the world. Share the
gifts of your departed loved ones too. That keeps their legacy alive and flourishing.

Just remember, this is but a “season”. Each season presents us with an opportunity for growing closer to God’s loving embrace and finding your new purpose even in the midst of the storms.

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Post was written by Rhonda Abrams, CCA Bereavement Coordinator

Tips for Handling the COVID-19 Pandemic

Each day, the world seems to wake up to more headlines regarding the spread of COVID-19. As cities limit travel, business hours, and even enact stay-at-home procedures, many people are experiencing extreme stress, confusion, and grief.

One doesn’t need to lose a loved one to experience grief during this time. There are so many other losses attached to living through a pandemic; some include: losing your job, a drastic decrease in 401K savings, the loss of privacy (since most of your family will be home), the inability to go to church, and the feeling of no longer being fully safe and secure.

This can be overwhelming, especially if you are dealing with several types of grief all at once. We’ve compiled some healthy tips and suggestions on how you can navigate this challenging time. We hope that these suggestions may bring you some comfort and peace.

Do Not Panic

Whenever we feel out of control, it can be very easy to panic. This is a normal human response to something so jarring and unusual. However, panicking is not necessary. It is good to be aware and alert to what is happening around you, but you must also remember that nothing in this world is permanent. If you find yourself slipping into a panic or anxiety attack try repeating the phrase “this too shall pass.” Try to think past what is happening now, and envision your life once this situation has resolved.

Limit Your News Intake

The 24 hour news cycle, while helpful in some ways, can really hinder your mental health. It is easy to read headline after headline about what’s happening in the world, and envision all the possible worst-case scenarios that may arise. While being informed is a good thing, try to limit your media exposure. Give yourself a limit each day on the amount of news you intake. When you do seek information, only check with trusted sources such as the CDC, WHO, and your local state government.

REMEMBER: There are many unreliable resources circling throughout the web. Only trust information from verified sources.

Connect with Family and Friends

It’s important during times of crisis to reach out to family and friends. Keeping in mind guidelines set by the CDC and your local government, perhaps a phone call or video chat would be best, especially if you’re reaching out to older friends or relatives. Talking frequently can help combat feelings of isolation or loneliness you may feel. This is also the time to care for others who may be included in at-risk groups. In many cases, caring for others is a wonderful way to channel extra energy you may have from anxiety or fear.

Explore Technology and New Hobbies

We are very lucky that we live in a modern age of technology. Not only does technology help us connect with others through video chatting and text, but it also opens the door to new hobbies and experiences. If you find yourself stuck at home, perhaps taking an online class on something you’re passionate about is a good idea. Maybe now is the time to do some genealogy research on your family. Maybe a favorite artist or talk show host of yours is sharing special videos on YouTube – you just need to take the time to explore! Technology aside, this time can be a chance to complete other tasks, such as preparing your garden, reading a good book, or doing a deep clean of your home. 

Spend Time with God  

While the world may feel out of control, there is one thing in our lives that we can always depend on – prayer. Prayer requires no supplies, no specific location, and no expectations. God is always waiting to be with us, and He will never waiver in supporting and comforting us during times of hardship. As the coronavirus continues on during our season of Lent, perhaps this is a time to enter deeply into Christ’s own journey through the desert. God is here to walk us through each step of every day. Place your trust in Him. Grow in your dependence on Him. The more you give to God, the less anxiety, fear, and grief you will feel.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr, American Theologian.
Post written by Katie Karpinski 

He Makes All Things New

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’”

– Revelations 21:3-4

Many of us are familiar with Revelations 21:3-4. The phrases used and the imagery depicted have brought comfort to those who are grieving, as the passage tells of a time when suffering will be no more and the concept of death no longer has a hold on us. But there is something more to this passage that doesn’t often make it to greeting cards and memorial services…

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” Revelations 21:1-5

Revelations 21:1-5

Looking at the passage as a whole, we are told about God’s loving promise of renewal. God doesn’t simply erase pain from the world, He actually transforms the world and makes it new. This transformative change is a necessary part in God’s plan to bring us all into communion with Him.

We are called to embrace this idea in our everyday lives. Change is often seen as something to be afraid of, and sometimes new starts are more frightening than they are comforting. This is normal and part of the human experience. However, in times when a change in our life may seem overwhelming or too much to bear (such as losing a loved one) reminding yourself that change isn’t inherently destructive can expand your outlook. Change, while painful, can also lead to greater comfort and healing moving forward.

Whether we’re entering a new year, new season, or even a new day – we are called to embrace the newness and change that God places in our lives. Change is the catalyst to something new. No day is ever the same as the last. As we embrace this concept, we can learn to appreciate each new day as it comes to us, and embrace those bad days that are bound to happen. Just like everything in life, even our worst days will end, and a new day will begin.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

What to Expect When Attending a Grief Support Group

The Catholic Cemetery Association offers a safe and welcoming environment where the bereaved can come to be present with others who understand. The hardest parts of processing grief are best dealt with by talking about what you are feeling and realizing that most of what you experience is normal and eases over time.

Here are a few of the most common things to expect when attending one of our Grief Support Groups:

Relief/Clarity

You’ll find a sense of relief or freedom in being able to be open with your feelings.  Sometimes with family or friends, we tend to want to protect others from our hurt and pain and we don’t allow ourselves to fully experience the grief. We feel we have to be strong for them or we feel that we should be further along in our grieving. This is true especially if others in your family don’t “seem” to be grieving as much as you. Attending a support group can illustrate how everyone’s grief is personal and unique, and that everyone processes grief differently. In some cases, you may find new coping skills for common grief experiences.

Companionship

Our number one goal is for you to know that you do not have to be alone in your grief. Our support groups are designed to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for you to share your grief story and share experiences with other participants. While each grief experience is different, there is strength and comfort to be found in knowing you are not alone.

Diverse grief needs

There will be other participants in the group with varying degrees of grief. Some may have recently lost their loved one, and others may be working through a loss they experienced years ago. You may encounter others in the group who handle life in general differently from you. In our groups, we respect each person’s unique way of processing grief, without judgement. There are no wrong questions or feelings because your feelings are unique to your life experiences. In fact, these differences can provide you with a greater perspective in regard to grief and the healing process.

What NOT to expect:

Professional Counseling or Therapy

Our Group Facilitators are not psychologists or therapists, but rather trained specifically to help people understand what grief is and to encourage effective group discussions. We are able to help direct people in need of deeper grief work, to local resources for obtaining one-on-one or a specific type of grief counseling (widows, infant/child loss, accidental, traumatic/violence, suicide, substance abuse death, and other types of intense grief experiences).

A Quick Fix

Processing your grief is not a quick fix. It is not reasonable to expect to be back to “normal” in six months, or even a year. It takes time and patience as you work through painful emotions and life-altering changes.  But with a good support network at your side, you will find hope to take that next courageous step toward your new normal.

Grief will never be an easy journey, especially if you are attempting to journey it alone. Come and join a warm fellowship of people with similar grief experiences, helping each other through prayer, shared stories, and grief recovery discussions.

Post written by Kaleigh Rice

Content derived from interview with CCA Bereavement Coordinator, Rhonda Abrams.