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

8 Attainable Resolutions for the Bereaved

While we are already a few weeks into 2018, it’s never too late to adopt some new year’s resolutions. For those who have lost a loved one, new year’s resolutions come down to personal preference. For some, the idea of a resolution may seem too overwhelming at the time– similar to starting a new project or chore in the midst of extreme sorrow. For others, resolutions serve as an inspirational and motivational tool that helps them cope with grief and grow as a person. Whether or not you choose to take on a new year’s resolution is entirely up to you and where you are on your grief journey. However, if you are interested in taking on a new year’s resolution, keep reading for some ideas!

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  1. Recognize your strengths

Losing a loved one can install feelings of weakness or helplessness. Start the new year by making a list of your personal strengths, your blessings, and your dreams. Take action and leverage your strengths to accomplish new goals and cope with your grief.

  1. Slow down

Make sure that you aren’t using a busy schedule or work life to cope with your grief. Not only does that make for an unhealthy healing, but it can also be emotionally and physically exhausting. Make a promise in this new year to slow down and take more time for yourself.

  1. Attend a support group

Support groups are a great way to cope with your grief. Sharing experiences within a support group is a way for all involved to grieve in a healthy and constructive way. (Interested in joining a support group? Click here.)

  1. Try a new hobby

It’s never too late to learn something new. If you feel stagnant or if you feel stuck, pick up a new hobby and see where it takes you. Whether it’s photography, sewing, or hiking– find something new to learn and enjoy to bring some excitement in your life.

  1. Get 20 minutes of sunlight or fresh air each day

Fresh air and sunlight can do wonderful things for the mind, body, and spirit. While it may be tempting to stay indoors all day, try to get outside for at least 20 minutes each day. Even if it’s just in your backyard.

  1. Speak your loved one’s name

Keep the memory of your loved one alive in the new year by speaking their name often. The key to grieving is not to forget, but to remember with hope that you will one day be reunited.

  1. Start a journal

Journaling can be a great way to cope with grief and express your emotions. Think of journaling as a personal letter to God. What are you feeling? What are your hopes? Share these with him and see where the journey takes you. Try to make it a daily habit—God likes to hear from us every day.

  1. Be open to happiness

While there will always be a part of you that misses your loved one dearly, never forget to be open to happiness and new experiences. Pay attention to the blessings God has placed in your life, big and small.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Tips for Entering the New Year with Hope and Love

For many of those who are grieving, the concept of a new year may be daunting. Particularly if you have recently lost a loved one, this may be the first year you endure without them in your life. When a loved one passes away, everything changes. What was once familiar now seems foreign and the idea of tackling a new year full of unknowns and uncharted territory can be intimidating and even scary. This feeling is completely normal—even if it’s been years since your loved one passed away. Keep reading for some simple suggestions on how to embrace the New Year with a spirit of hope and love.

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Be kind to yourself

Some people may feel as if expressing grief or admitting that you are struggling emotionally is a sign of weakness. You may become frustrated with yourself and wonder why you can’t just “be happier.” Particularly when the new year approaches, you may be told to take advantage of this fresh start and forget the grief and pain from the past year. While the New Year can certainly be seen as this “fresh start” it is all dependent on where you are in your grief journey. Grief is not a process that can be rushed or skipped over—don’t become discouraged with yourself if you don’t feel a certain way at a certain time. Instead, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as you would a dear friend who recently lost a loved one. Give yourself time to heal. Grief doesn’t have a time limit.

Use a calendar

It’s common after losing a loved one to feel as if every day is the same, as if you’re just going through the motions instead of actually living your life. Another common problem some people face is the good-intentioned invitations from family and friends to go out to dinner, attend an event, etc. in an effort to uplift the griever’s mood, which can be overwhelming to someone who is grieving. To remedy both these issues, it’s a good idea to get a large calendar at the beginning of the year. Start your year by scheduling appointments with yourself. Maybe it’s a Friday night movie, or simply reserving a time for you to read a good book. Whatever the case may be, visualizing your life and scheduling time for you to do the activities that you enjoy will help make your days more meaningful. On a more practical note, scheduling these appointments ahead of time can serve as a polite way to decline an invitation. The best part? If you ever do want to spend time with family or friends, it’s very easy to cancel an appointment with yourself!

Energize your mind and body

Losing a loved one exhausts both your mind and body. This leads to an overall lack of motivation to be active. While it may be hard at first, a good resolution for grievers is to devote some time each day to be physically and emotionally active. Being physically active doesn’t need to be strenuous exercise. It can be as simple as taking a walk around the block, or a short bike ride. To exercise your mind, read a good book or listen to some music that you enjoy. The combination of both mind and body can help you regain a sense of presence and strengthen your resolve. (Hint: Use the calendar mentioned above to schedule these activities in advance!)

Focus on the journey and not the destination

As the old saying suggests, so many people in this world are too focused on reaching a certain destination that they forget to appreciate the journey they take along the way. This same principle can be applied to grief. Many people who are grieving want to skip ahead to a time where they can be completely happy again and obtain acceptance of their loved one’s death. While everyone certainly finds happiness, there will always be a part of their hearts dedicated to their loved one. Grief is not about reaching a level of happiness or acceptance, but rather growing as a person and learning a new way to live. Grief is not a test, but an experience. Entering into this New Year, focus more on what you can learn about yourself, life, or love. Focus less on societal and personal expectations for yourself.

Do some reflective journaling

Journaling can be a very therapeutic and constructive way to work through your grief. At the beginning of the year, write down a few things your loved one would want for you in the coming year. If you have a hard time brainstorming, think about if the roles were reversed—what would you wish for your loved one if you were the one to pass away? Try to think of different states of mind or attitudes you’d want your loved one to practice after your passing and write them down. As the year progresses, look at this list and try pursue those outcomes.

Choose to walk with God each day

Even after following every suggestion and doing your very best, there will still be days when you feel lonely or discouraged. Use these instances to grow closer to Christ. He is the one person who will never leave you or forsake you. He loves you more than you could ever imagine. When you have these bad days, take a step back and spend some time reflecting on God’s eternal love for you.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Emmanuel: God’s Eternal Presence

Emmanuel God's Eternal Presence

During the Christmas season, the word “Emmanuel” is certainly repeated often. Whether it’s during a Mass reading, written on a holiday card, or in the lyrics of a popular Christmas song, we are constantly reminded of Emmanuel. But what exactly does this word mean? To some, the word is synonymous with Jesus Christ, for others Emmanuel is the hope of Christ, or a feeling of anticipation. However, the actual meaning of Emmanuel stems much deeper than either of these theories. Emmanuel actually translates to “God is with us.”

You see, Emmanuel isn’t just a name or phrase: it is a promise. God is with us.

Many of us will be missing cherished loved ones this holiday season. It’s common for those who are grieving to experience an increased sense of loneliness during the holidays. Treasured memories of our loved ones will be vivid in our minds, and the traditions that once were so meaningful may be hard to bear. This is normal, but we must take heart and remember the promise of Emmanuel: God is with us. He is always with us. Even in our most lonely and desperate times, God is close to us. If you find yourself in a state of isolation, reach out to God and ask for His comfort and healing.

It is also important during this time of grief to attend Mass. While God is always with you, attending Mass is a unique opportunity to grow in physical closeness to Christ through the Eucharist. Receiving the blessed sacrament assures that God will live inside you, yet another reminder of His never ending love. Also, it is during the Mass that the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest. Certain portions of the Mass are even dedicated to the souls of those who have died and the saints currently in Heaven. By taking an active part in the Mass, you not only grow closer to Christ, but you have the chance to pray and reconnect with your dearly departed loved ones.

To anyone who is grieving the loss of a loved one this season, you are not alone. God is with you.

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Join us on December 17th for our Sunday Grief Support Group. This month’s topic will be “God’s Eternal Presence.”

In a warm, comfortable, and supportive environment, you’ll find a warm fellowship of people with similar grief experiences.
Come. Listen. Be in the presence of those who understand. Available at the following locations:

Holy Cross Cemetery, Akron
Holy Cross Cemetery, Brook Park
St. Joseph Cemetery, Avon

NO RESERVATIONS NECESSARY. Please join us.

More information available at https://www.clecem.org/Events/Calendar.aspx

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

I Cried All Day Yesterday

“I cried all day yesterday so that I could be strong for the family today.” If you should ever wonder what kind of people work at the Catholic Cemeteries Association, the quotation above says it all. We know that families need us to be strong when they are broken, to guide them with love and compassion. We give a piece of ourselves to that family as we help them through the most difficult of tragedies. Giving the family a piece of our heart is the only way we know how to do this ministry. I know that every single member of the Catholic Cemeteries Association staff willingly gives of themselves to serve when families need us most.

To all the families served by the Catholic Cemeteries Association staff, whether it is the CEO or the staff member preparing the final place of rest, know that we accept our responsibility with reverence and are devoted to the person loved by you and entrusted to our care.

 

– Andrej Lah, Director of the Catholic Cemeteries Association

 

Daylighting Project at Holy Cross Cemetery in Akron

The Catholic Cemeteries Association considers it a sacred duty and obligation to maintain, enhance, and otherwise improve your Catholic cemeteries. The CCA uses funds generated from the sale of our products and services to fund these improvement projects and to benefit the families who have entrusted the earthly remains of their loved ones to us. Lately, Holy Cross Cemetery in Akron has been in process of daylighting its streams. The daylighting of streams allows nature to become an integral part of the cemetery. Nature allows us to reflect and remember that we are surrounded by God’s creation. Further, water allowed to flow through the cemetery is a reminder of our baptism and of our belief in life everlasting. Check out some interesting pictures of the project below!

HCA Daylighting 1HCA Daylighting 2HCA Daylighting 3HCA Daylighting 4HCA Daylighting 5HCA Daylighting 6Newsletter picture

Handling the Holidays After Losing a Loved One

The air is getting colder, Halloween is over, and people are starting to flip their calendars to the ever-busy months of November and December. The approaching holiday season is enough to make anyone anxious: the plethora of social and financial obligations can be overwhelming, not to mention the emotional stress that the holidays may bring. This may be especially challenging for those who have lost a loved one. The holidays often are a reminder to people that their loved ones are gone. Therefore, this season can be saddening, or even painful for certain people. While there is no way to reverse or avoid these feelings, there are some things to keep in mind to make the holidays more bearable.

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Take care of yourself
The holiday season can be a time of obligation. It’s easy to get swept up in other people’s schedules. Not only that, but we are also prone to setting certain holiday obligations on ourselves. The holidays are also a time of heightened emotional stress, so it’s important that you take time for yourself and enter the season with realistic expectations of what you can and can’t accomplish. A good way to approach this is to prioritize your tasks and make a list of what you would most like to do. Anything that doesn’t make the list doesn’t need to be done, and you can spend more time to practice self-care.

Modify tradition
After losing a loved one, the idea of maintaining certain traditions or customs may seem too hard to handle. The idea may arouse feelings of sadness or loss that you want to avoid. However, the loss of a loved one should not prevent you from enjoying a holiday or your previous traditions– you may just need to modify them a bit. For example, if the idea of not buying a gift for your loved one this year saddens you, buy a gift that they would have liked and give it to someone who would otherwise not have a gift. If you still celebrate with other family members and opening gifts on Christmas is too hard on you, suggest exchanging gifts a few days after Christmas or on New Year’s. It’s all dependent on what is best for you and your family– don’t be afraid to change things up!

Accept the tears– both happy and sad
Of course, there is nothing you can do to completely erase the sadness that losing a loved one adds to the holidays. You may feel overwhelmed at random times, and tears may come more freely than you think. This is natural and completely okay. However, it’s important to also look past this sadness and remember the happy memories you have of your loved ones. Whether it’s a favorite gift they were given, their favorite holiday movie, or a silly story, try to remember the wonderful moments you shared with them. Instead of becoming downtrodden with grief, celebrate all the joy your loved one brought you during their life!

Focus on the real reason behind the season
Above all this, remember why we celebrate in the first place: Jesus Christ. Focusing on the spiritual element of the holidays can help us put into perspective whatever suffering or hardships we are going through and place them within the context of Christ. Spending some alone time with the Lord and praying for your departed loved one may help you feel more connected during the holiday season. If you’re comfortable, light a candle in honor of your loved one– not as a memorial, but rather as a reminder of the light and joy they brought you while they were on Earth; let that light remind you also of God’s eternal light and the promise of hope he leaves in all our hearts.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Information gathered from: Getting Through the Holidays When You’ve Lost a Loved One by Darcie D. Sims.

All Saints, All Souls, and Cemetery Sunday: What are the differences?

While many of us “cradle Catholics” have grown up with the expectation of attending Mass the day after Halloween in observance of All Saints Day, I’m sure that there are some of us, myself included, that never really stopped to ask why All Saints Day was a holy day of obligation. Even more so, I was never aware that there are two other major Catholic observances in the month of November: All Souls Day and Cemetery Sunday. While all related, these three days are actually quite different, and each offers its own special intention. Keep reading to learn more about these three holy days, how they’re different, and how you can celebrate them.

 

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All Saints Day (November 1st)

As I mentioned, All Saints Day (officially named Solemnity of All Saints) is the most well-known of the three November observances. All Saints Day is meant to be a celebration of the souls that are currently in Heaven. These souls include both known saints recognized by the church, and those that are unknown. Being a Holy Day of Obligation, All Saints Day is celebrated with a special Mass.

All Souls Day (November 2nd)

Not to be confused with All Saints Day, All Souls Day is a day dedicated to souls who are not in Heaven. This day is a chance for those of us here on Earth to offer prayers and intentions for those souls in purgatory– that they may find eternal peace and rest in the Kingdom of Heaven. While not a holy day of obligation, All Souls Day is an opportunity for all Catholics to pray for our departed brothers and sisters.

Cemetery Sunday (First Sunday in November)

Cemetery Sunday, while closely related to All Saints and All Souls Day, is rather unique. Proposed by the National Catholic Cemetery Conference in 1978, the day focuses on the physical location where souls are laid to rest: the cemetery. Catholic cemeteries are sacred ground, as they are blessed upon their founding, and they are treated as an extension of the Church itself. Therefore, Cemetery Sunday is a day dedicated to those buried in a Catholic cemetery. The day is normally celebrated with a special Mass on cemetery grounds. Cemetery Sunday is a spiritual way to honor family members who have passed, and provides families with a special opportunity to visit the graves of their dearly departed loved ones.

The Catholic Cemeteries Association will be celebrating Cemetery Sunday on November 5th, 2017.  Mass will be said at the following locations at 3pm:

Cemetery Mass Location Celebrant
All Saints, Northfield Nativity Mausoleum Rev. Luigi Miola
All Souls, Chardon Service Building Rev. Dave Woost
Calvary, Cleveland Main Office Rev. Thomas O’Donnell
Calvary, Lorain Our Lady of Guadalupe Mausoleum Rev. Robert J. Glepko
Holy Cross, Akron Sacred Heart of Jesus Mausoleum Rev. Thomas McCann
Holy Cross, Brook Park Service Building Rev. Michael Troha
St. Joseph, Avon St. Joseph Mausoleum Rev. Gerald Keller
St. Mary, Cuyahoga Hts. Service Building Rev. Andrew Panek

 

For more information, please email Rhonda Abrams at rabrams@clecem.org

Visit our event page on Facebook here.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Preplanning: What it is, Why it’s important, and how you can get started!

No one enjoys thinking about their own death. In fact, many people go to great lengths to avoid the subject entirely, choosing to ignore the matter of death altogether. While this may ease some worry in the short-term, in the long-term avoiding the topic of death, especially your own, can be unhealthy and lead to added stress, emotional turmoil, and financial struggles. As Catholics we realize that death is only the transition into a world that is much greater than we can even imagine. Instead of ignoring death or trying to outsmart it, embracing your mortality and planning ahead will actually bring you more peace of mind. The Catholic Cemeteries Association is here to provide our Catholic community with the knowledge and resources they need to preplan their final arrangements. Keep reading to learn more about preplanning: what it is, why it’s important, and how you can get started.

 

 What is it?

Preplanning is the process of planning your burial arrangements in advance. This process normally includes selecting your place of burial, what type of burial you prefer (traditional or cremation), memorials and monuments, and basic principles and guidelines regarding your burial to leave your loved ones following your death. Preplanning is all done with the help of a knowledgeable and compassionate Family Service Representative, who will assist you through each stage of the process.

 

Why is it important?

Preplanning is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones. Losing someone close to you is a traumatic experience, leaving family members distraught, confused, and unbelievably stressed. By planning your burial arrangements in advance, you save your loved ones the stress of making quick decisions regarding your final resting place. It is also a good way to save your family from the financial stress of burying a loved one. Another major advantage to preplanning is that it assures your final wishes will be carried out according to your own specific preferences. By starting early, you have time to research all of your options and come to the decision that best suits you and your specific situation.

How can you get started? 

Begin preplanning today by calling 855-85-2PLAN, or by visiting https://www.clecem.org/Information/BeginPrePlanning.aspx. One of our Family Service Representatives will be waiting for your call!