Social Wellness Month: Reconnecting with Friends and Family After COVID-19

As we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to recognize July as Social Wellness Month. During this month, focus on nurturing yourself and your relationships. Social wellness and keeping a strong social network play a role in almost every aspect of your health. There are many forms of social support that affect the strength and security of your relationships. As we begin to reconnect with loved ones following the pandemic, there are a few things you should focus on regarding social wellness.

What is social wellness?

Social wellness involves giving and receiving social support. It’s about nurturing yourself and your relationships to have a strong, fulfilling, and uplifting social network. The three main forms of social support are emotional, instrumental, and informational. Giving and receiving emotional support helps you feel cared for and balanced. Instrumental support refers to physical support such as money, helping around the house, or providing care during sickness. To give informational support, you would provide information or advice to help someone. These forms of support are all important for social health, especially as the world is opening up after the pandemic.  

Why is social wellness important?

Social wellness has many benefits on your mental, social, and even physical health. Having strong relationships and feeling supported by the people you’re surrounded with correlates to a positive self-image. Your confidence and personal wellness will carry over into your relationships and make you want to be a better friend, parent, child, sibling, etc. Social wellness is also important because it affects your physical health. Your body and mind work together, and it’s important to focus on taking care of both. People with healthy relationships literally have a healthier heart. They respond better to stress, and they even tend to live longer than people with weaker social networks.

Reconnecting with friends and family after COVID-19

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been deprived of social contact the past year. Being alone has become part of our lifestyle, and it can be hard for some people to go back to social situations after adapting to isolation. One way that may make it easier to reconnect with people after the pandemic is making commitments that won’t overwhelm you. It’s okay to ease back into social situations at your own speed and comfort level, but only make commitments you can stand by. Being honest about your availability and staying connected and committed is a very important part of nurturing friendships and relationships. It may be difficult to step out of your comfort zone after the pandemic, but there are steps you can take to get yourself out of isolation mode. Exercise with a group, go out for a meal, or take up a new hobby with a friend. You can even join a club that interests you, which may lead to making new friends. Reach out to your family and friends to see if they want to connect. If you aren’t comfortable connecting in person due to COVID-19, you could go on a relaxing walk, engage in a new individual hobby, and video chat with friends and family.

Being present

In this day and age, it may be difficult to be present in your relationships due to the existence of social media. Social media can be a blessing and a curse: it can help you stay connected with people online, but it also distracts you from what really matters. During the pandemic, it was easy to get addicted to social media. Throughout this month and going forward, focus on what matters and start each day with a new attitude. While spending time with friends or family, be present in your conversations. Keep an open mind and appreciate the time you have with the people you love. Showing love and appreciation keeps relationships healthy and open. As the pandemic settles, focus on nurturing your relationships and remember to love often.

Post written by Jill Bosela

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

Grieving in the Age of Social Media

Mourning the loss of a loved one is already a very difficult and sensitive time. Today’s age of social media makes grieving even more complicated, as social media has transformed the way we interact with each other. On one hand, social media can be a very helpful resource when you are experiencing grief, as it introduces new ways to connect and reach out for help; on the other hand, social media can negatively influence your grief journey, as it may provoke unhealthy feelings of isolation or comparison. For some people, it may be best to take a break from social media during the first stages of grief to avoid these conflicting effects entirely. However, if you decide to continue using social media while grieving, it’s important to make yourself aware of how it may impact your grief journey. Please continue reading to learn more. 

The Positives

Connection

Social media can provide an accessible and broad network of people to connect with while mourning the loss of a loved one. It can also be helpful since it provides a virtual way of speaking with people. It’s common to prefer more alone time after losing someone close to you. Social media is a great way to reach out when you want, while still having the ability to turn off your device and seek personal solace whenever necessary.  

Online Support Groups

Social media offers a platform for you to connect with other people who are currently mourning. Online support groups can be helpful, as they allow you to talk with people who have gone through similar losses and experiences. Searching for groups online opens up even more opportunities, as you may be able to find specific types of support that fit your situation. Support groups can be a wonderful way to receive the compassion and understanding you need to help you heal. Even more so, it can be very comforting to know that you aren’t the only one experiencing certain feelings or types of grief.

 Unique Ways to Memorialize Your Loved One

Social platforms offer unique ways to remember our loved ones. Acknowledging your loss directly allows room for healing and growth along your grief journey. Posting a picture, video, scripture passage, or a simple post about your loved one may not only help you work through your grief, but it also opens the opportunity for others in your network to do the same.

The Negatives

Loneliness

While social media does offer an alternative way to communicate with people, it’s important to remember that nothing can truly replace the comfort felt when talking to someone face to face. In some cases, spending too much time online can make you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world. Be sure to watch the amount of time you spend online, and try to seek in-person forms of support when possible.

Public Responses

It’s no secret that, while social media may offer positivity and encouragement at times, it can serve some negative, hurtful, or disparaging posts as well. It’s best to stay away from any toxic support groups or pages that bring you more turmoil than peace. In regard to your personal posts, it’s important to realize certain friends or relatives may not be sensitive to your loss. You may find that some people will leave hurtful comments. Maybe you expected more people to write a message, while only a few chose to do so. While on social media, you should look out for yourself and be ready to remove yourself from the platform if negativity begins to overwhelm you.

Unhealthy Comparison

Another drawback to using social media is our human nature to compare ourselves to others. You may find that your family and friends are posting about your loved one online. If it appears a family member is mourning the loss more deeply than you, this may elicit feelings of guilt. Alternatively, if you feel someone is not taking the loss seriously enough, this could spark feelings of anger or hurt. It’s important to remember that every loss is extremely unique to the individual, so comparing yourself to others is not healthy. Instead of looking at others, focus on your personal grief journey.

Final Thoughts

Above all, if you use social media while grieving you should be honest with yourself and ask: What do I hope to gain from this experience? Why am I writing this post and what do I expect once it’s published? Is this platform helping me along my grief journey or hindering me from moving forward? Taking time to reflect on these questions will help ensure you’re using social media in a healthy way.

If you’re in need of grief resources or support, please click here.

Post written by Katie Karpinski and Nicole Krantz

Guilt & Grief: Feeling Okay after Losing a Loved One

Losing someone close to you presents a variety of emotions. Sadness, anger, or simply feeling numb are some responses; but the possible reactions are endless. Since each person has a very unique relationship with the deceased, it makes sense that their reactions will be equally unique.  It’s important to realize that you are not obligated to feel one way just because family or friends are expressing a certain emotion. It’s necessary that you know you are allowed to be doing well after the loss of a loved one. God does not judge you, nor compare you to others. He accepts you for all that you are and however you feel. Even knowing all this, it may be difficult if you find yourself moving forward while others continue to mourn. Continue reading for guidance and support on how to navigate these differences.

Everyone Reacts Differently

After the passing of a loved one, you may feel as if there is a hole in your life. It may seem that there is a missing piece that you are not sure how to fill or fix. People cope with the loss of a loved one in a variety of ways. Some people are extremely emotional during these times, you may see them crying or lashing out in anger. On the other hand, some people do nothing of the sort. Some feel no need to cry or be emotional. A sense of guilt may come over you for not expressing sadness as much as other family or friends. You may feel as if it looks like you do not take this situation as seriously as the rest of the bereaved, which is not true. This lack of emotion and compelling sense of guilt is not unusual. If you have felt this way, you are not alone. It does not mean you care less than others or even that you are not as sad as the rest of your family or friends. Everyone responds differently to heartache and if your reaction is more stoic, more subdued, or less emotional, it is both a valid and acceptable way to react.

Healing Takes on Various Forms

There are many ways and instances that show how a person’s healing process is different from others. Some people who are actively mourning may not want to talk about the deceased. Whereas, you may have no issue bringing up their name or telling stories about them. For some it may be too hard to see items that belonged to their loved one, but for you this may not be a big deal. Further, it may not be difficult for you to visit the grave of the deceased while it may be incredibly difficult for other mourning friends or family. You may feel connected to your loved one again or comforted by going to their grave, while others may not be able to. You should not feel ashamed of these differences. Instead, embrace them and learn how to heal within your own comfort levels.

God Understands

God is all knowing and loving. If your healing process includes you not showing your emotions, God understands. If you do not want to talk about your loss and keep to yourself, God accepts that as well. He knows how you truly feel and why you heal the way you do because He created you that way. He made you unique. We can take comfort in knowing that He will never compare you to others. He understands that you need to mourn in the way that is best for you. He alone knows what will bring you true comfort and healing. He accepts you for all that you are and how you feel, so lean on Him in times when you aren’t sure how to process your emotions. God will guide you.

Post written by Nicole Krantz