Experiencing Grief as a Family

Family dynamics are complex. They are made even more complex when families share the loss of a loved one. Being in such a fragile state, it can be easy to grow frustrated with yourself and each other. While grief will never be an easy journey, there are some things to keep in mind while grieving as a family that can make the journey a little smoother…

Experiencing Grief as a Family

It’s always important to remember that people grieve differently. There are several factors that contribute to how someone grieves, including their age, emotional temperament, and their relationship to the person who passed away. For instance, the way a woman mourns the loss of her spouse is much different than the way a child would mourn for their father. Whereas a spouse may be concerned about how to assume household responsibilities and may mourn the loss of romantic love, a child may be more concerned with the entire idea of death and the loss of parental love. Even those who hold the same role in family, such as two parents who tragically lose a child, may mourn differently due to their personal traits and experiences. It’s important that you remember the fundamental differences that exist from person to person, and be sensitive to these differences. While you may be grieving the same person, this person holds a unique place in each of your hearts.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to avoid comparisons. It’s one thing to support each other by understanding and tolerating differences, but you must also be careful to not benchmark or compare grief experiences. Comparison only leads to more emotional turmoil, and is never healthy. Just remember:

No one grieves in the same way

While one family member may express their grief more physically by crying, other family members may feel more comfortable keeping those feelings reserved. Likewise, some people enjoy being around others while grieving, whereas others prefer to be left alone. There are countless other examples, all of which can vary from person to person.

There is no universal timeline for grief

Family members will work through their grief at their own pace. It all depends on the person and the unique situation.

While members of a family may have completely different grief experiences, there are ways you can help and support each other. Communicating often and openly is always a healthy exercise. Sharing with your family how you’re feeling, and listening to their own thoughts and feelings, can help you sympathize with each other. Another activity family can do together is find time to pray. While everyone may have different experiences, feelings, and personalities everyone has common ground in Christ.

Interested in joining a grief support group? Our groups meet the 3rd Sunday of every month. For more information, please visit https://clecem.org/Information/Bereavement.aspx

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Losing a Loved One to Suicide

Suicide is undoubtedly one of the most devastating tragedies. It knows no limits—happening to even the most faithful of people and families, leaving behind hurt, confused, and mournful family and friends. Losing someone to suicide differs from other losses, and therefore grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide also differs. If you have lost someone to suicide, please take some time to read these words of comfort.

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Some questions will go unanswered

Often the first question asked after hearing someone died by suicide is “why?” While we do know some psychological and physiological reasons why people take their own lives, such as loss, failure, or mental illness, the loss of a loved one can still be emotionally confusing. As with any death, confusion is a normal part of the grieving process. However, in the case of suicide this confusion may be more severe. Often when people die by suicide they leave without supplying answers. There are questions that will never be answered, and you must learn to accept this mystery. Instead of focusing on why someone did what they did, focus on mourning in a healthy way.

Anger and bad memories are normal

Feelings of anger are common even in the mildest cases of grief. Following a suicide, however, these feelings of anger and abandonment may be heightened even more. Also, due to the circumstances of a suicide, those grieving may experience the negative memories surrounding the suicide and forget the more positive memories and experiences of the person who passed away. The most important step you can take when experiencing these feelings is too fully experience You must comprehend and accept your negative feelings before moving on to more positive memories.

Invest in yourself and be patient

It’s natural to feel guilty after a friend or loved one dies by suicide. You may feel like you missed a warning sign, or that you could have done something different that would have changed the outcome. It’s important to understand that you were not the only influence on the person’s life, and there are limits to your power and responsibility. Learn to forgive yourself and be patient with the process.

Learn to rely on others

Just as any other cycle of grief, the pain you experience after losing someone to suicide may cause you to put your life on hold. It may force you to change your routines, behaviors, and may just disrupt your life in general. It’s natural to feel flustered by new responsibilities, or even isolated by your grief. One way to help with both of these feelings is by learning to rely on others. Whether it’s a family member or close friend, reaching out to others for help and guidance during your time of need is a healthy and proactive way to work through your grief.

The tragedy of suicide is one that can be prevented in certain cases. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please know that there is help available. Please call the hotline number listed below, or share how you’re feeling with a trusted family member or friend. You are not alone.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Post written by Katie Karpinski 

Information gathered from Bearing the Special Grief of Suicide by Arnaldo Pangrazzi

Understanding the Attributes of God During Times of Grief

Everyone views God in a different light. For some, God the Father provides the most comfort and guidance with His all-knowing wisdom and never-ending power. For others, Jesus Christ and His deep compassion and connection to humanity make Him most approachable. And even still there are those who prefer speaking with the calm and gentle voice of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic faith is beautiful in that, while we only worship one true God, there are these three Persons we can interact with, and each may speak to us in different ways. These three parts all have unique attributes and it’s from these attributes of God that we can derive comfort, support and guidance. Keep reading to learn more about how understanding God’s attributes can help you progress along your grief journey.

Understanding the Attributes of God during times of Grief

God is Omnipresent and Omniscient

While grieving, it’s common to feel isolated and alone. Grief is particular and specific to the individual, which makes the pain hard to talk about with others. Despite how alone you may feel at times, remember that God is always with you. He is all-present and all-knowing. He knows the thoughts, sorrows, and desires of your heart intimately. When you feel most alone, take heart in knowing the Heavenly Father knows exactly how you feel, and will never leave you or forsake you.

You will seek me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13

God is Kind

Losing a loved one can feel like a betrayal. God places family and friends in our lives and then takes them away just as easily. It’s easy to become upset and angry with God but, as scripture proves to us, God is not of ill-intent. He treats all of His children with kindness and everything He does is within our best interests. Remembering this in times of great hardship is key to discovering blessings within the depths of deep despair. God does nothing to cause us pain. Rather, He places challenges in our lives to make us stronger and help us grow closer to Him.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. – Psalm 103:8  

God is Merciful

Part of the struggle of grieving is not knowing the fate of loved ones. There’s no way we can know exactly what follows death. While scripture and Catholic teaching can give us some idea, this uncertainty can augment our grief even more. While this may be frustrating, one thing we know for certain is that God is merciful. He brings each and every one of us into this world and He is there to guide us into His heavenly kingdom. He owes us nothing, but through His never-ending mercy we are all saved. Recognize that, no matter how spiritual or devoted your loved one was or wasn’t, they are resting in God’s eternal and merciful care.

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing and rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit. – Titus 3:5  

God is Loving

The people we hold closest to us are often the same ones who provide us with the most love and support in our life.  Therefore, when a loved one passes from this world, it’s common to feel an absence of love and comfort in your life. While it may be true that earthly love may diminish, heavenly love is eternal. The love you share with your departed family members and friends is never-ending. Even through death, you can share that special connection with them. Even more so, God holds unique and passionate love with each and every one of us. His love is unlike anything else in this world. In times when you feel most lonely, remember that God loves you always.

His love and faithfulness will last forever. – Psalm 100:5

God is perfect

Death does not discriminate. It does not follow any rules. It often isn’t fair and comes at inopportune times. Death is a confusing and unpredictable occurrence here on Earth, which makes it not only scary, but extremely frustrating and disheartening. While we may never fully understand death, we do understand that God and His plan are perfect. We will never be able to predict death or comprehend when or why it happens. We’re not supposed to. Instead, we should be focused on trusting in God’s plan for us. Calling to mind the traits He possesses—being all present, kind, merciful, loving, and perfect —it’s clear His plan is what’s best for us and our eternal salvation.

The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without justice, Righteous and upright is He. – Deuteronomy 32:4

Are you interested in attending a support group? Click here for more information.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

A Self-Care Guide for the Bereaved

When a death occurs, priorities shift. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with your emotions and the impeding tasks that follow the loss of a loved one. During this painful time, taking care of yourself may be the last thing on your mind. You may feel as if there are too many things to do, too many people to care for, and too little time to complete it all. Even after the initial flurry of activities following the death of your loved one, and into the subsequent years, you may still feel the heaviness and weight of grief albeit less frequently but just as draining upon your emotional and physical self. However, taking care of yourself during a time of grief is critical to truly healing and overcoming the obstacles associated with losing a loved one. Keep reading to learn about 3 steps you can take toward better self-care today.

self care for the bereaved

1. Take care of your body

The body and mind are very closely related. This is why, while grief may traditionally be known as an emotional pain, there is also an element of physical pain or unbalance that is experienced following the death of a loved one. Therefore, taking steps to improve your physical health can be beneficial not only for general wellness, but also in terms of working through your grief. Getting a full night’s sleep, eating healthy foods, and moderate exercise are all great steps toward physical wellness. In some cases, a visit to your doctor for a checkup may be good idea. It all depends on you and your body’s unique reaction to grief.

2. Be kind to yourself

While grieving, it’s important to treat yourself like your own best friend. It’s so easy to get caught up in everything that needs to be done, and you may even blame yourself if things aren’t being completed on time or don’t go as planned. Instead of discouraging yourself, remember that you are only human. Take some time to do things you enjoy. Give yourself breaks and learn to say no to events or obligations you simply don’t have time for. Learn how to pamper yourself, and find something to do that makes you happy. Maybe it’s reading a good book or watching your favorite movie. Perhaps taking a nice bath with aroma therapy soaps or mediation can help. Whatever the case may be, find what works for you. It’s important to mention that many people turn to being busy as a way to cope with their grief. However, all that does is push your grief to the side and distract you from the pain you need to work through. By taking breaks and avoiding the “busy trap”, you can actually learn to work through your grief instead of ignoring it, all while practicing better self-care along the way!

3. Reflect and connect

While slightly contradictory, one of the best ways to practice self-care involves turning your attention to others. First, while it may be tempting to push the painful feelings of loss to the side and try to go about a normal day, it’s important that you accept these feelings associated with loss. Reflecting on the life of your loved one is a great thing that can bring about healing and acceptance. Some common reflection exercises include writing down ten things you miss about them, or your favorite memories with them. Maybe it’s simply talking about your loved one with others, or creating some type of memorial for them. Whatever the case may be, allow yourself to enter into whatever it is you may be feeling. Finally, use this opportunity to connect with others, and to connect with Christ. Grief is not a journey that needs to be done alone. Reaching out to a trusted friend, family-member, church leader, or local support group are great ways to reconnect and provide yourself with a support system to assist you through your grief journey. Of course, constant prayer and communication with God is the best way to take care of yourself and your grief. God is a source of never-ending and never-failing love. He alone can truly heal you.

Interested in joining a grief support group? Visit our website for more information.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Planning a Vacation While Grieving

For some, the idea of planning a trip may be incredibly overwhelming following the death of a loved one. However, taking a vacation, regardless of how grandiose or modest it may be, can be extremely beneficial for those struggling with grief. Traveling to new places provides a fresh perspective, and seeing the world on a larger scale can help fight feelings of isolation one may feel while grieving. It shows you that there is a world outside of your grief—one that is still full of new opportunities and joys! This is easier said than done, so keep reading to learn more about how you can make your vacations and travels a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable.

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Set realistic expectations

It’s easy to get carried away when planning a vacation. Brochures and commercials are filled with perfect images of smiling people and sunny weather. While vacations are certainly intended to be fun and exciting, after losing a loved one it’s important that you set realistic expectations. Don’t expect too much from yourself. Grief can drain a lot of your energy, so make sure you don’t plan too many energy-dependent activities. In most cases, a more relaxing vacation is most appropriate after a recent loss, such as a spa day, camping trip, or a quiet weekend at a bed and breakfast.

Be flexible

Grieving is a dynamic and unpredictable journey. No matter where you are on your personal journey, your emotions, mood, and energy can all change dramatically without warning. That’s why, when planning a vacation, it’s important to be patient and flexible with yourself. Don’t plan anything that can’t be easily cancelled or rescheduled, and it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. In some cases, it may be good idea to plan a few different vacations, then see which fits best as the date gets closer. Having options takes some of the pressure off vacationing, and provides a more relaxed perspective on the whole process.

Communicate

Communication is undoubtedly one of the most important elements of journeying through grief, regardless of whether or not you choose to travel. However, if you do decide to vacation, communication becomes even more important. For those traveling with family, it’s important to be open and honest with each other. Everyone grieves differently. Certain activities or memories that may not be painful to you may be painful to someone else and vice versa. Therefore, talk about what you have planned for the trip and make sure everyone is comfortable. It may be helpful to plan activities specific to each family member to make sure everyone’s voice is heard. It’s always a good idea to communicate with God as well. Share your feelings, fears, and joys. He will be accompanying you on whatever journey you choose to go on.

The first vacation following the death of a loved will be the most difficult as the absence of the deceased person will be felt at its highest level. This pain will lessen with time, and just knowing this and anticipating the challenge will ease the current pain you feel and hopefully make it more tolerable. The pain is actually the love you feel for the absent person.  The stronger the love, the stronger the pain.  And everywhere love goes, grief goes too. So know that you will feel the absence even in another place, and be prepared to greet it and welcome it as part of the healing process.

Post written by Katie Karpinski