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

Summer and the Grief Journey

The summer months can be difficult for those who are grieving. While the cool air of fall and winter lend themselves to quiet evenings in, spring and summer do just the opposite. The warm weather encourages social outings, outdoor activities, and special vacations. For those who are grieving, this heightened expectation of interaction can be rather intimidating. However, there are ways to cope with the summer months, and even leverage the warm weather (and maybe even a vacation or two!) to help you progress along your grief journey. Keep reading to learn more.

Summer and the Grief Journey

  1. Go outside

It’s amazing what a little vitamin D can do for the body and the soul. It’s been proven that just a few minutes of sunlight a day can drastically impact a person’s energy, outlook, and general health. Vitamin D has also been proven to lower stress levels. So while it may be tempting to stay indoors, try to soak up some sun for at least ten minutes a day, even if that means just sitting on your front stoop or walking around your backyard.

  1. Travel

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!

  1. Enjoy yourself

One of the hardest things many people struggle with while grieving is learning how to be joyful again. Some people may feel guilty for being happy or enjoying themselves following the death of a loved one. While these feelings may be hard to overcome, simply ask yourself “If our positions were reversed, wouldn’t I want my loved one to enjoy life again?” So let the warmer weather naturally uplift your mood and simply allow yourself to enjoy life. Take part in your favorite summer activities. If there are emotional memories attached to those activities, then try to explore and find new things that you can enjoy. Enjoying yourself also means you should take care of yourself. Take time to do the activities you enjoy, and turn away from those you don’t. Grief is an exhausting journey, so learn what your limits are and how much you can handle on a given day.

  1. Honor your loved one

Many people believe that the best way to conquer grief is to push memories and thoughts of their loved one to the wayside, but this simply isn’t true. Healthy grieving involves remembering and honoring your loved one, the life they lived, and the memories you shared together. Whether you’re traveling this summer or staying close to home, try to find a way to honor your loved one. Maybe it’s visiting their favorite vacation spot, or traveling to place they always wanted to visit. It may be as simple as preparing their favorite summer meal, or doing their favorite activity. Another simple way to honor your loved one is to thank God for the memories you shared and spend some time in quiet reflection in His presence. You’ll find that Christ will always bring wisdom and comfort.

If you’re in need of some extra support this summer, please join us for one of our Grief Support groups. Learn more at https://clecem.org/Information/Bereavement.aspx.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

A Statement on Dandelion Control from the Catholic Cemeteries Association

The Catholic Cemeteries Association has received some complaints recently regarding the upkeep of our Catholic cemeteries. The appearance of our cemeteries is something we hold in very high regard, as we strive to honor those who have passed before us by maintaining grave sites and providing families with a proper place for remembrance. It’s important to remember that there are several factors that tie into weed control, some of which we have no control over. We have an expansive weed control program that spans over 1500 acres of turf managed by the Catholic Cemeteries Association.

Our weed control program consists of 2 applications per year.

Crabgrass control

Crabgrass control is applied first and must be completed around April 15th depending on the temperature. The ground must be thawed and without snow. We had a late start on that application this year, as the long winter kept ground temperatures too cold to apply at the normal time (which would have been early March).

Broad leaf control

Normally, when temperatures rise gradually, the dandelion outbreak is not as severe or noticeable. However, this year we experienced below-average temperatures in April that led well into the beginning of May. Then, the temperature warmed significantly in a short period of time. There are also certain limitations to applying broad leaf weed control, as it can only be applied when it is not raining and when winds are below 15mph. These factors altogether hindered our ability to properly protect against dandelions. We are currently starting broad leaf weed control, albeit three weeks behind our typical seasonal schedule.

The Catholic Cemeteries Association works hard to ensure our cemeteries are places of prayerful remembrance, and we apologize if the recent weed situation has hindered that ability. We are not offering excuses for the weeds, but many factors have impeded us from achieving the quick results we all want. Our crews are out spraying and will have made the rounds at all 19 cemeteries soon.  If you have further questions or concerns, we encourage you to send them to email@clecem.org.

Handling Special Occasions: A Simple 3-Step Guide for the Bereaved

Grieving is a difficult process. It’s one of the hardest experiences we endure throughout our lifetime. While losing a loved one may be hard to comprehend even on a typical day, remembering this loss on days of special importance can take an even larger toll. Since events such as holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions are usually spent with those closest to us, after losing a loved one these days may be hard to bear, as they bring with them memories of our departed loved ones and serve as a reminder of their passing. Much like the seasons, these days will come each year. The key is not to run away or avoid them, but to embrace them for what they are. It may be hard at first, but with time you can come to appreciate these special days and the memories you shared with your loved one. To help handle the tough times, just remember to feel, react, and reconnect. Keep reading to learn more…

hanlding special occasions

  1. Feel

The most important part of grieving, whether it’s on a notable day or not, is to allow yourself to experience your emotions fully. Often, you may feel pressured to put on a brave face and act like everything is okay—even when it isn’t. This is especially common on holidays, as you may try to maintain some sense of normalcy. Sometimes, you may feel like expressing sadness is a sign of weakness, and prefer that others view you as your “usual self.” This isn’t just limited to feelings of sadness, either. It’s common to experience a plethora of emotions surrounding the death of a loved one. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a few days or a few years—there will be days when you feel confused, hurt, sad, and even angry. Don’t try to cover up these emotions. Instead, allow yourself to fully express how you feel.

  1. React

After expressing your emotions, the next step is to respond accordingly. If you’re too flustered or overwhelmed to have your usual 4th of July BBQ, then suggest that someone else host it this year. If the anniversary of your loved one’s death is coming up and you’re experiencing extreme loneliness or sadness, spend the day remembering them. Maybe make their favorite meal, or watch their favorite movie. Whatever the case may be, being in tune with your emotions can help you prepare for these special occasions, and help you plan ahead. Instead of planning the day according to other’s expectations, do what you feel most comfortable with and what will bring you the most peace. On certain days, it may be a good idea to treat yourself to something special, perhaps a relaxing massage or an extra piece of chocolate cake. An important part of the grieving process is being kind to yourself—something that many of us forget!

  1. Reconnect

Grieving can be a lonely process. Since the emotions you feel are so specific to you and your situation, you may feel like no one on earth can understand what you’re going through. Sometimes, this can cause you to push people away in an effort to handle your grief on your own. It’s true that others may not be able to empathize with your unique grief, but it’s important to stay connected with those closest to you. While holidays and special occasions may be hard to handle, they are still days to celebrate with family and friends. Making an effort to reconnect with those around you can help diminish those feelings of loneliness or sorrow, and remind you that life can still be filled with joy and celebration. Even more important than reconnecting with family and friends, however, is reconnecting with God. He is the only one who will know exactly what you’re feeling, and the only one who will never leave you. During the hardest days of grieving, turn to the Lord for strength and comfort, and never lose sight of the eternal hope He offers each of us.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Lost Their Lives In Service

 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day dedicated to remembering the lives lost while serving in the military. First called Decoration Day, this holiday was established after the Civil War to decorate graves with flowers. The Catholic Cemeteries Association takes pride in honoring those who gave their lives in service, and we respect the contributions they made for our country. We are proud to have buried many Medal of Honor recipients here at our cemeteries; two of them even buried right next to each other at Calvary Cemetery. Follow the links to learn more about these respected individuals.

Frank J. Petrarca

William Foster

John R. Towle

Celebrate this day by praying for all those who lost their lives in service.

“O God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Prayer gathered from: https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1452 

Post written by Mike Freiberg

 

 

 

Handling Mother’s Day: Comfort and Prayers for the Bereaved

 

handling mothers day prayers and comfort for the bereaved.jpgAs we approach Mother’s Day, many of us will be reminded of our mothers and the place they hold in our hearts. Whether our mother is still with us or has passed from this world, Mother’s Day is a special time to celebrate these women and the immense impact they have on our lives. It goes without saying that those who have lost their mother may experience added grief on this day. However, there are other groups of people who also experience additional pain or grief during this time: those who don’t have (or never had) a relationship with their mother, those who are unable to have children, couples who have suffered from miscarriage or stillborn children and all other special circumstances.

This Mother’s Day, be aware of your own emotions as well as those of others. If you find that Mother’s Day mass is too hard or painful to attend, spend the day worshiping from home. If you know someone is struggling with any of the situations listed above, or an equally difficult situation, make an effort to let them know you’re thinking about and praying for them. Wherever, however, and with whomever you celebrate this Mother’s Day, remember that Christ is with you and that His plan is far greater than the highs and the lows of our lives here on earth.

Take a look at the prayer below and share with others.

Dear God,
Thank you for the gift of motherhood. Thank you for the blessing it is to be called “Mom.” Thank you for the good plans you have in store for those who still wait to be a Mom. Thank you for the numerous spiritual children you have given to so many “spiritual moms” and mentors. We pray that you would fill this day with favor and grace as we honor Moms all around our nation.
We ask for comfort for those who are grieving loss and heartache, especially on this day. We ask for strength for those who wait for children to come back home. We ask for healing for those who have been hurt by relationships that were intended to be loving and nurturing. We ask for faith for those who will someday be Moms, who find themselves on a journey that seems so hard. We ask for great encouragement and grace to cover those who have made a brave and loving choice for adoption. We ask for incredible provision and care over every single parent mom who works so hard on behalf of her children. We ask that you would remind many of those who, though they do not have “physical” children, have the gift of being amazing hope-bringers to many spiritual children they’ve been blessed to nurture through these years.
God, thank you, for the gift of life. Thank you that your heart is for us, and that you are with us, in all our unique journeys and pathways. Thank you that you are Sovereign over every part of our lives.  Thank you that your ways are perfect and you make our footsteps secure.
Today we pray for refreshing, for joy, for grace, for wisdom, for great peace…for all moms, for moms to be, and for women who nurture and lead.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen. (source) 
Post written by Katie Karpinski

Embracing God’s Plan: An Easter Lesson

April bereavement blog photo

Lonely, desperate, sorrowful, confused, hurt, overwhelmed…
One can only imagine what the first disciples of Jesus must have felt following His crucifixion. He was their world, and their source of happiness and hope. They spent years following Him, and devoted their lives to His teaching. He fulfilled them in a way no earthly person could. Then, they were forced to stand and watch as He died in the cruelest of ways. The man who had filled them with such courage and faith was gone.
In many ways, those who have lost a loved one can empathize with the first followers of Christ. When we lose someone, the world around us seems to tilt. Reality is permanently changed. Just as Jesus was a center of hope and security for those who followed Him, the people we hold close to us in our lives also provide us with an element of security and love. The earthly separation of death may feel like an end to that cherished relationship.

However, as the followers of Christ discovered, and as we now know, death is not the end.

On Good Friday when Mary, the Apostles, and the rest of Jesus’ disciples were in their deepest and most sorrowful mourning, God was already executing His master plan. In just three short days they would all realize that Christ was not dead, but alive. Death was not the final destination, but rather a stop along the way to greater salvation. Viewing death as a journey, not an endpoint, can help us who are grieving understand God’s intentions. This doesn’t mean that the separation isn’t painful, but we can all take comfort in knowing that God calls us all to be reunited in His eternal kingdom.
In the meantime, it’s important for those of us here on earth to move forward with our lives. When Christ ascended into Heaven, it would have been easy for the Apostles to simply pack up and go home to their wives and children. It would have been easy for those early followers of Christ to go back to their former ways and push away those memories and teachings of Christ. Luckily for us, they didn’t. Instead, the Apostles and disciples of Christ embraced their new reality. They found new ways to spread God’s good news, and found strength within themselves and the Holy Spirit to continue with their lives.

During this Easter season, reflect on your own grief journey. Are you embracing this new chapter?

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Springing Forward: Where are you on your grief journey?

Springing Forward.jpg

Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner. While we may still have a few weeks of chilly weather, the grass is getting a little greener and the sun a little brighter. Soon we will be setting our clocks forward, which serves as yet another indicator that we are entering into a new season, a new time. Spring is a time of renewal and fresh starts. The earth itself seems to shake the snow from winter and instead welcome warm breezes and nourishing spring rain. For the bereaved, spring can be a challenging time. The cold weather of winter makes it easy for us to stay inside and ignore the outside world. In a way, winter weather mirrors our own feelings. It’s isolating and cold—it doesn’t allow for new growth or change. It’s stagnant.

It’s common during the grieving process to crave consistency. The death of a loved one is a traumatic change and makes some of us nervous about any type of change. We may hold onto the sadness and loneliness we feel immediately after the loss of loved one in an effort to maintain some sort of constant, no matter how negative or destructive this constant is. Many of us may even feel guilty for trying to move on, as we fall prey to the distorted belief that working past the sadness and grief would mean to forget our loved ones or imply that they are no longer important to us. This simply isn’t the case.

It is possible to remember and love your dearly departed loved ones without being in a state of constant grief. This can be a hard concept to grasp, and even harder to practice. However, it’s important to give yourself a chance for future happiness. Spring is a fitting time to reevaluate where you are on your grief journey and plan steps to make sure you are continually progressing. These steps can be as large or as small as you’d like them to be, as long as you are progressing and growing in the process.

If you’re still struggling in progressing through your grief journey, don’t forget that God calls us all to experience joy and happiness!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”- Romans 15:13

 “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”-Nehemiah 8:10

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”-John 16:22

You see, grief is a part of life. It’s something all of us will journey through. Keep in mind what a journey is—something that is full of change, unpredictability, and growth. This journey may have some setbacks and challenges, but don’t let them discourage you. Instead, focus on what you can learn from these setbacks. Take advantage of this spring season to learn more about yourself, your grief, and what you can do moving forward.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Coping with Valentine’s Day: A Guide for the Bereaved

coping with valentine's day

Valentine’s Day is tough. Even for those who haven’t lost a loved one, the day can be an emotional trigger or stressful obligation. For those who have lost a loved one, the day serves as a solemn reminder that we are missing someone on this earth. Keep reading for some guidance on how to handle this unique holiday.

  1. Set your own expectations
    1. Like all holidays, Valentine’s Day carries with it a certain set of expectations. Especially in the years immediately after the death of a loved one, the loss of tradition and custom can come as a major shock. This is completely normal. However, a great way to deal with this new reality is to set new and realistic expectations for the holidays, including Valentine’s Day. If you don’t want to go out, then don’t go out. If you don’t want to watch a romantic movie, then don’t. The day and how you handle it is entirely up to you and your personal preference.
  2. Celebrate yourself
    1. Valentine’s Day is about love—and this includes self-love. Spend the day doing your favorite things or treating yourself to a new experience. Whether it’s going to the movie theater for a double feature or finally taking that art class you’ve been wanting to start, spending the day to truly love yourself and who you are is a great way to combat feelings of loneliness. Learn to love who you are as an individual child of God. So often, we define ourselves by our relationship with other people, whether we’re a wife, husband, sister, son, etc. Because of this, when we lose the people we are so connected to, we can lose our sense of self. Valentine’s Day can be a great opportunity to discover what makes you happy—so don’t be afraid to explore!
  3. Honor your loved one
    1. Of course, despite celebrating yourself, Valentine’s Day is sure to remind you of dearly departed loved ones. A nice way to remember those who are no longer on this earth is to do something in their honor. If you and your spouse always had a specific meal on Valentine’s Day, prepare a portion of that meal for yourself. If you exchanged gifts, buy something you know you spouse would have enjoyed and donate it to a worthy cause. You can also honor them in other ways—whether it’s writing down your feelings in a letter or going through pictures of them, find what works for you.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Lent and the Gift of Eternal Love

lent and eternal love

You might notice something interesting about Valentine’s Day. This year, Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday. Now, say what you will about calendar cycles, leap years, etc. but this correlation is actually rather significant. While one event may imply a period of fasting, personal sacrifice, and repentance, the other emphasizes love, happiness, and giving. The juxtaposition and complementary nature of these events is worth mentioning, especially through a bereavement perspective.

Starting with the season of Lent, we are reminded of the intense and painful journey that Christ underwent. The 40 days He spent in the desert were ones of pure temptation and a harsh reminder of His humanity. Christ’s journey was one that turned away from the sin and death of the world and instead walked toward the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. Of course, we honor this journey still today, as many people choose to enter into a personal spiritual journey for the 40 days of Lent by fasting and otherwise making a sacrifice to Christ. This Lenten journey is similar to the journey that is grief. When a loved one dies, so does a part of our heart. Similar to Christ’s journey, grief is the process of turning away from suffering and pain and growing closer to new life. For those who have lost a loved one, this new life is their new reality: life without their loved one. This journey is not an easy one. Just as Jesus was tempted in the desert, those who grieve will have set backs and will struggle at times. But, by looking to Christ as an example, and by remembering the promise of life that lies at the end of the journey, you may find the extra strength you need to carry on.

It’s also important to mention that just as Christ was strengthened by God’s love, so are we strengthened by both God’s love and by the love of our dearly departed loved ones. Love is something that extends beyond death. It cannot be broken by realms. No matter where you are on your grief journey, no matter what you might be feeling on Valentine’s Day, the love you feel for your loved one, and them for you, still exists. We know this because of God’s own eternal love for us, which we hear in scripture time and time again:

Psalm 136:26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 86:15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.

Grief is a journey. There are highs and lows. But an important thing to keep in mind as we enter into the season of Lent is that love is on our side. And that is something to celebrate.

Post written by Katie Karpinski