5 ways to comfort someone who is grieving

Grieving is an extremely painful and difficult process. The death of a loved one can turn the world upside down, leaving people emotionally upset, confused, and exhausted. As Catholics, we are called to comfort the grieving, which is no simple task. Comforting people can be a challenging experience, and calls for much strength and divine grace. There are some guidelines that can help you through the consoling process. Keep reading to learn about 5 ways to comfort someone who is grieving.

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1. Be perceptive

We have all experienced grief in some form. It’s easy, when comforting someone who is grieving, to compare or draw on our own experiences in an effort to empathize. However, it’s important that you remember each person is different in the way they grieve, for how long, etc. People feel grief in different ways. Coping methods that worked for you may not work for others—do not get upset or impatient if someone doesn’t grieve the same way you do. Meet them where they are and try to understand them the best you can.

2. Be genuine (avoid vague assurances and common clichés)

It’s a natural tendency to try and comfort someone who’s grieving by saying “I’m sure they are in a better place now” or “everything happens for a reason.” While these statements may be true, they aren’t very helpful to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one. Instead, speak the facts. Let them know that yes– grieving is a painful experience, but you will be with them every step of the way. Also, be as specific as possible when talking about someone who has passed away. Instead of saying “We will all miss Jane” or “Bob touched so many lives” talk about a specific memory you had with the person, or elaborate on how they impacted your life specifically.

3. Be present

After the loss of a loved one, life can become overwhelming. There are so many final arrangements to take care of, not to mention managing family, work, and other personal obligations. People who experience the loss of a loved one may need help and not even realize it, or might not know how to ask. Some common areas that people need additional help with include meal preparation, shopping for toiletries and other necessities, financial advice (perhaps a referral to a trusted financial advisor), yard work, transportation, etc. Instead of asking someone if they “need help”, offer to do one of these tasks specifically. It’s important to remember, however, the fine line between helping someone and being in the way. Some people may prefer to handle things on their own, or they might just want to keep their home private. In this case, dropping off a care package on their front door is a nice gesture, letting the person know you care without imposing on their grieving process. Also- never forget the power behind a quick phone call or handwritten note to let the person know they are in your thoughts and prayers.

 

4. Be a good listener

The truth is, most people are in the habit of ignoring or hiding sadness and other unhappy emotions. However, it’s important that people express their grief and sadness in order to move on in a healthy way. Therefore, do not try to “fix” someone, or distract them from their grief. Instead, listen. Listen to their favorite story about their loved one, even if they tell the same story over and over again. Encourage them to talk about their loved one, including saying the loved one’s name out loud. This can help keep the memory of the deceased alive, and lets the person grieving know that you are comfortable talking about the death. Acknowledging the deceased and the life they lived is much healthier than trying to distract the person and forcing them to move on too quickly.

 

5. Be smart

It’s important to be understanding and patient with someone who is grieving. They may do or say confusing or even hurtful things. It’s important to remember the different stages of grief, and that people handle those stages differently. However, if you notice that the individual is turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as excessive medication, self-harm, uncontrolled rage or depression, or complete denial of the death— it’s time to reach out for professional help (listed below). In less severe cases, you can also reach out to close family or your local clergy for additional help. There is no shame or failure in turning for more help, it simply means you are wise enough to understand what you are able to handle and what should be brought to someone else’s attention.

 

Emergency numbers and organizations
United Way: dial 211
Catholic Charities: 216-334-2978
Suicide Prevention: 1-800-273-8255
Addiction Services: 877-896-5143

FOR ALL IMMEDIATE EMERGENCIES DIAL 911  

 

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

 

Am I Strong Enough to Handle This?

After the death of a loved one, life can seem so overwhelming.  We may want to scream, “Why is everyone acting as if nothing happened? I am experiencing the greatest pain of my life! My world has been turned upside down!” We then realize that life does go on and we must continue to function. We are tired, we can’t sleep, we have no appetite, or we are forgetful.  We may be angry, impatient and may burst into tears at the drop of a hat. We then ask ourselves, “How am I going to get through this? I don’t think I am strong enough.”

Do you remember when you were younger and you could not reach something? You would ask your mom or dad for help.  Even now when I can’t open that pickle jar, I have to ask my husband for help.  As we all know, it is easy to get lost in an unfamiliar area and eventually we have to ask for directions.  In order for many of us to get through our grief, we have to ask for help.  It is very difficult to get through this journey alone.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

Through the assistance from loved ones, friends, support groups and other bereavement services, you can gain the strength necessary to work through your grief.  Our Lord is our greatest source of that strength.  The Lord is waiting with open arms to comfort you and sit with you.

              The next time you feel overwhelmed, afraid, lonely or sad, find a quiet place in your home or yard; close your eyes and take a deep breath.  Ask that the Lord come sit with you or walk with you and pour out your concerns and troubles to Him. Imagine the Lord with his arms around you, holding you or maybe evening carrying you.  He wants nothing more than to do that for you during this difficult time.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:1

Nancy Romaine

Bereavement Coordinator

Catholic Cemetery Association

Tending To Our Gardens

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This time of year, I marvel at the talents bestowed upon gardeners and farmers by God.  The sowing season entails so much planning, preparation and hard work.  After the crops or gardens are planted, there is an immense amount of care needed to insure a fruitful harvest; the watering, weeding, fertilizing and pruning. But after months of rigorous labor and meticulous care, the farmer and gardener reap the benefits of their hard work; Fresh fruits and vegetables that will be enjoyed by so many!

After the harvest, the land is turned and fertilized with the garden leftovers to prepare for the next growing season.  I can’t help but see similarities between our gardens and our human existence.

The Lord, our Master Gardener, meticulously planned and planted us exactly where He wanted us to be.   He feeds us spiritually with the Sacred Scriptures and the blessed Sacraments.  He weeds away anxiety, temptation, and human weakness through Divine Intervention of the Holy Spirit.  I compare hardship in our lives to the Lord pruning us to insure that we grow to our fullest potential and put our trust in Him.  That pruning sometimes hurts.  During this time, we may question our faith, our God, and our worth.  Gardeners know however, that after pruning a plant, new growth occurs.  Greener and fuller branches appear and the plant is healthier and bears more fruit.

May this summer bring you sunshine, soft rains and quiet times so that you may reflect on what a wonderful creation you are. Blessings.

Nancy Romaine

Bereavement Coordinator

Catholic Cemeteries Association

What’s In a Name?

In this beautiful month of June, everything is in full bloom, kids are finishing up with school, vacations are being planned, gardens are being planted and we look forward to celebrating Father’s Day.  There are so many different terms of endearment we use to refer to our fathers: dad, daddy, pops, papa, father or yes, even sir.  Each name evokes different emotions: endearment, respect, love, and possibly fear.  We all can remember hearing or saying, “Just wait until your father gets home!”

When my father died, it had a tremendous impact on my life.  We had lost our patriarch, the provider, the leader of our large family.  I had lost my confidant, my supporter and my sounding board. I felt less secure, more vulnerable and less care free.  Our family was not complete anymore; my mother was now a widow and living on her own.  I felt lost.  Through prayer and time, I have worked through that grief, but on Father’s Day, I still miss Papa.

We also call upon our heavenly Father in so many ways: Abba, God, Lord, Father, Christ and I AM.  These, too, may evoke different emotions. Since my father has died, I find myself approaching our Lord, as I would have my dad.  I confide in Him about my fears, my hopes, my sadness, and my regrets. Jesus is my greatest supporter and a wonderful listener.  He is also a perfect disciplinarian so gentle and so abundant in his mercy.  It is such a comfort to me to know that I have two fathers in Heaven!

Nancy Romaine

Bereavement Coordinator

Catholic Cemeteries Association

Diocese of Cleveland

Mary, Our Mother

It is May, the month of Mary, Our Blessed Mother. May Crownings, First Communions and Mother’s Day are celebrated. Flowers and trees are in full bloom and winter is a distant memory.

I have had a strong devotion to Mary since I was a little girl. Having a gentle, loving earthly mother, I imagined Mary to be similar in a spiritual way; that was of great comfort to me. As I matured and had children of my own, I looked to Mary for guidance and intercession with her Son, Jesus. As a mother, you are cognizant of your short comings and your need to improve, but you also realize the beautiful bond you have with your children.

Just recently, I experienced Mary in a new way. My son was diagnosed with testicular cancer and had to go through 9 weeks of chemo therapy. The pain I felt in my heart was indescribable, I felt helpless and afraid. As fate would have it, his chemo sessions occurred during Lent. I prayed the Rosary daily, and asked Mary for strength and guidance, she knew the pain in my heart; she understood my fear; and could relate with my feelings of helplessness. She had experienced all these emotions during the Passion of her Son, Jesus Christ. I was broken, and I sought comfort from Our Lady and she provided me with peace. The chemo sessions have ended, my son is growing stronger day by day, and is cancer-free. God is good.

During times of grief or sadness, rely on Our Mother Mary, to bring you comfort and peace.

Nancy Romaine

April Showers……Makes Me Sad

The Easter season is upon us.  It is a time for renewed hope, a time of rebirth, and a time for rejoicing.  The celebration of the Resurrection of Christ gives us great reason to shout a resounding “Alleluia!”. Jesus has conquered sin and death so that we all might have eternal life – pretty awesome.

Then why does our grief continue or even escalate? During the cold, dreary, short days of winter, it is quite understandable that we may feel sad, reclusive and less energetic…non-grieving people experience this as well.  But when the weather becomes warmer, the days longer and the trees and flowers begin to bloom, we think we should feel less sad, more sociable and have increased energy, but we may not. I notice that during this time of year, the number of bereavement calls I receive escalates. More likely than not the phone conversations start out the same, “Nancy, I know I SHOULD be feeling better now that it is springtime, but…..” There are so many “shoulds” we put on ourselves…. “I should go through my husband’s belongings, I should stop crying so much, I should move on, the list can go on forever. As we travel through our grief journey, these “shoulds” can become stumbling blocks and unnecessary obstacles.

Springtime holds many reminders of our loved ones, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, wedding anniversaries and so on.  So this season may evoke sadness and longing and that’s ok.  Allow yourself to freely feel these things, without thinking about how you “SHOULD” feel. Our God has created each of us uniquely, so each of our grief experiences will be different.  But one thing is constant, and that is the love and comfort of our Risen Lord.

How Long Will the Pain Last?

When will I be over my grief?  When will I feel like myself again?  When will I start to enjoy the things that I used to enjoy?  I have been asked these questions so many times.  Wouldn’t it be so helpful to have a grief planner, a calendar, a to-do list in order to move through your sadness in a predetermined amount of time?  We who are grieving wish it was that simple.  Unfortunately, there is no timeline, no grief manual, and no set plan to get us through our heart break.

There is really no way around grief.  We can busy ourselves and redirect our attention to other things or other people, but grief always finds a way of coming to the surface.  No matter where we are on our grief journey we can still experience the pain “as if it happened only yesterday”.  In our task-oriented society, we attempt to attach a start time and finish time to everything we do.  God has created us, He is quite aware of our need to control feelings and situations; He is the Master Planner!

Each of us is unique.  Our relationship with our deceased loved one is unique.  Our support system is unique, as are our coping skills.  There is one thing that we all share and that is the love and compassion of our Lord.  HE knows our pain; HE knows the relationship we shared with our deceased loved one; HE knows what kind of support and coping skills we have.  HE is in control.  Rely on God’s comfort and goodness.  Believe that this pain will pass….all in God’s time.

Nancy Romaine,

Bereavement Coordinator

Catholic Cemeteries Association

How Long Will The Pain Last?

All the rest of your life. But the thing to remember is that not only the pain will last, but the blessed memories as well. Tears are proof of life. The more love, the more tears. If this be true, then how could we ever ask that the pain cease altogether? For then the memory of love would go with it. The pain of grief is the price we pay for love.

 

Author Unknown

Those “Take Your Breath Away” Moments

We have all experienced those moments that “take our breath away” Some people find those moments in nature, a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the first blooms of spring, the magnificent colors of autumn, the pristine blanket of the first snowfall. For others it’s in people, the moment you say “I do”, seeing your child walk for the first time, seeing a family member that has been away for a long time. Still others experience these moments with God, in a prayer answered or a special blessing. These short snippets of time are etched in our minds forever, we continue to find joy in just remembering them. No one can take those memories away.

On our grief journey, we will experience these “take your breath away” moments. Unfortunately, these moments may not evoke the joy and comfort of our other experiences. How many of us have picked up the phone to share something special or funny with our deceased loved one, and realize that they are not there? Or we hear the knock on the door and for a brief moment we think they have come to visit. We have to catch our breath when reality sets in.   These are painful, sad moments, but they will not last forever! With the assistance of the Holy Spirit and support from our loved ones we will get through these difficult times.

As the Bereavement Coordinator, I have learned so many creative ways to cope with this sadness:

  • Give yourself time to grieve.
  • Visit the cemetery, look at photos; remember your loved one.
  • Journaling: jot down your feelings, your sadness, and your progress.
  • Be with God and allow him to comfort you.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Nancy Romaine, Bereavement Coordinator, Catholic Cemeteries Association

Grief Is Like a Roller Coaster

When I was a child, I couldn’t wait to be tall enough to ride on the rollercoasters at Euclid Beach, Geauga Lake and Cedar Point.  After years of anticipation, I finally reached that 48″ mark and stood in line to ride the infamous Blue Streak.  Turns out I hated it, not much of a rollercoaster fan.

Have you ever said “I feel like I am on an emotional rollercoaster” in dealing with your grief?  What a perfect parallel.  At the beginning of our grief journey, we can experience disbelief and shock, we may feel numb and disconnected from others.  The details of the funeral and burial consume all of our attention and energy, we may not have the time or will to even think about how or when we will grieve.

A month or so following the burial, meals may stop coming, phone calls from friends and family lessen, the thank you notes have been sent and we have a moment to catch our breath, to feel, to think. The months following may be filled with profound sadness, isolation; it may be setting in that your loved one has died. The first hill on the rollercoaster, it always seems to be the biggest, and we seldom know what to expect.

During the first year of grief we have to get through all the firsts: birthday, anniversary, and major holidays. Ah…the part of the rollercoaster ride that has constant ups and downs with very little time to prepare for the next hill.  The drops may not be as extreme as that first hill but they are still difficult to get through.

Many bereavement/grief specialists are now finding that the most difficult period of grief is from 12-16 months.  There is a finality to the death of your loved one.  Many rollercoasters have a loop or corkscrew near the end of the ride.  Your world has been turned upside down and you have to learn to deal and live with it.

Now if you could imagine for a moment that Jesus is buckled in beside you on this crazy ride.  He has his arms around you, embracing you, protecting you.  He is taking this rollercoaster ride with you.  He never leaves your side.  He is the one constant during an unpredictable time.  Hold onto him.

Nancy Romaine, LSW, MPA

Bereavement Coordinator

Catholic Cemeteries Association

“From Where Two or Three Have Gathered In My Name, I Am In Their Midst”

As the bereavement coordinator for the Catholic Cemeteries Association, I am blessed to be involved in many facets of the services our organization provides. One of the responsibilities that I covet the most is reciting the final prayers at a graveside. At times people are not able to secure a priest or deacon; they may be from out of town or they held services in another place and are bringing their loved one to their final resting place privately. There are also some occasions that our organization is instructed to “bury at cemetery convenience”. For whatever reason, family and friends are not able to attend the interment at the cemetery.

Being a Catholic organization, we are committed to the respect for all life from conception until death. The final commendation of the body is a very important part of the funeral rite and I take it very seriously. I am contacted when any cemetery office receives a request for such a burial, “Nancy, we need some prayers said.”

When I am standing by the graveside reciting our beautiful Catholic prayers, I am in awe of the gifts that our Creator has given us. I look around and I see the rolling hills of the cemetery and all of the saints that have been buried there. I see the care of the grounds and the personal memorials and decorations that have been placed so lovingly on the graves. I think of all the contributions that the faithfully departed have made to our world and that is pretty awesome!

There was one burial that will remain forever in my mind. The interment took place at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland. It was a cold, rainy day (imagine that!). There was no family present at this burial. I began to say the prayers and bless the grave, a little quicker than usual because of the weather. I began to recite the Lord’s Prayer and very quietly behind me there were two voices joining me. I turned around and there, with their heads bowed and their hands folded, were two of our field staff. Even though they were covered from head to toe in mud from their day’s work, they looked beautiful. I didn’t even notice the rain or cold anymore. It was a reaffirmation of our Mission. Faith, Hope and Remembrance.

Nancy Romaine