5 Ways to Make Lasting Memories This Holiday Season

Family is one of God’s greatest gifts to us here on Earth. The time we spend with them is something we should never take for granted.  The memories we make during the holidays can become even more important, as children grow up, cherished friends move away, or loved ones leave this world. Memories can remind us of happy times and the joy the Lord brings to our lives, providing hope during life’s must difficult times.

While simply being with your family can certainly spark some lasting memories, there are some meaningful activities you can do together that you will remember for years to come. Keep reading to learn more.

5 Ways to Make Lasting Memories

Cook or bake something together

Food is a great way to build bonds and share special moments. It appeals to all of your senses – touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. With so many senses involved, the memories made while cooking can be some of the most vibrant ones you make. Whether it’s creating a new recipe or fine-tuning a traditional one, spending time in the kitchen together is always time well-spent.

Decorate an ornament

If your family enjoys putting the Christmas tree up every year, consider creating a family ornament (or a few!) each year. Creating ornaments together gives each family member a chance to express their personal creativity. In the end, your ornaments will display a piece of each of your family members, and will be something you cherish year after year as you put your tree up.

Take photos/video

This might seem obvious, but making an effort to take pictures and video during the holidays is one of the best ways to preserve memories. Pictures provide literal snapshots of cherished family moments. It can also be fun to capture seemingly boring family rituals, such as snapping a few photos at a family dinner or getting a picture of the stockings hung on the fireplace. Whatever the case, photos are something you can physically hold on to as the years go by… just make sure the photos don’t overshadow the actual quality time you’re spending with your family!

Go somewhere new

Sometimes the best way to create a new memory is to go somewhere new! Experiencing something new as a family is exciting and will surely be something you remember for years to come. Maybe it’s seeing a new Christmas light show, visiting a special sledding hill, or even taking a winter walk through your local park. In any case, stepping outside your comfort zone is a great way to grow as a family, and maybe even create a new tradition!

Celebrate traditions

Speaking of new traditions, celebrating family traditions year after year is a great way to remember our loved ones and create lasting memories. Since traditions span decades and generations, participating in a special family custom each year can help your family feel more connected, both to those still on this earth and those who are no longer with us. While traditions may change and evolve with time, don’t underestimate the impact they can make on you and your family.

What are some ways you and your family create memories? Let us know in the comments below!

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Prayer and Thanksgiving

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When I got the call that we lost our baby, I did not see an opportunity for prayer. I was angry. All the plans and hopes and dreams my wife and I had for our child were ruined. I saw nothing to be thankful for.

However, after we were given some time to process our loss, I found the strength to pray. My wife and I prayed together that we would survive the unbearable pain that we felt. While prayer didn’t take away the pain, it did provide us moments of peace and comfort.

Today, as I reflect on the scripture passage above, I’m reminded of the call we all have to be in constant prayer and communication with God. He has blessed us with the ability to contemplate both the beauty and the tragedy in our lives, and to understand that everything we experience is intended to lead us to something incredible. The gift of joy remains despite hardship. The gift of laughter remains despite the trials and tribulations we face. Experiencing true pain and sorrow is only part of the greater journey of life. Once we understand that this journey is God’s gift to us, we can acknowledge that prayer is His way of guiding us home, where He is always waiting with open arms.

As we approach this busy holiday season, I encourage you to accept both the challenges and the blessings in your life. As the scripture states, bring it all to God. He alone can guide you safely home. 

God bless,

Andrej Lah – Director, Catholic Cemeteries Association

November 2019

Thanks-Giving: 3 Tips for Finding Gratitude through Grief

It goes without saying that the holiday season can be the most stressful time of the year. With countless obligations and expectations, everyone feels some elevated stress during the months of November and December. This stress can be even more severe if you’ve recently lost a loved one. In a time when we’re supposed to be counting blessings, you may feel that you have nothing to be thankful for. These feelings are valid and a normal part of the grieving process. However, there are ways to work through these feelings and find glimpses of gratitude through your grief this holiday season. Keep reading to learn more.


Tip One: Embrace Your Feelings

It’s important that you truly embrace what you’re feeling. Trying to bury your emotions for the sake of others is unhealthy and may even deepen your feelings of loss, since you can’t express them. Don’t feel like you need to behave in a certain way over the holidays. Even if everyone else in your life is in full holiday swing, it’s okay to tell them you’re not feeling up to a certain party or activity this year. It’s okay to not feel in the “holiday spirit”. It’s okay to want more alone time. Try not to get swallowed up in the expectation of others. Without your loved one, the holidays will be forever different. Trying to fit into your traditional mold may not work. Recognize that you will need to make changes based on how you’re feeling at a given time. We can open ourselves to wonderful new and healing experiences when we decide to let go of previous expectations and obligations.

Tip Two: Embrace Your Outlook

While it may be hard to find things to be thankful for, try to find some glimpses of hope in your life. Blessings can be as simple as having food on the table, a roof over your head, or a meaningful friend in your life. Taking time to appreciate the wonderful parts of your life doesn’t mean you don’t miss your loved one. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten about them, and it won’t erase the pain you feel. However, noticing blessings in your life will help you balance the good with the bad, and give you greater perspective. There are countless mental health benefits to listing blessings, and this in turn can help your physical health as well. Remember that your outlook is the one thing in this world that you have complete control over. Peacefully remembering your loved one while having a joyful outlook is a balance we all have the potential to achieve.

Tip Three: Embrace Your Faith

It’s important to remember that, while God allows difficult times to enter our lives, He wants to help us find happiness again through the grace of His comfort and strength. He wants us to experience peace and to truly enjoy the life we’re given. Losing a loved one will change your life forever, and the sorrow associated with grief is unlike anything else on this earth. But we are all called to find meaning beyond the suffering. Our faith gives us hope and calls us to greater things. God has plans for each and every one of us—plans for hope and a future. While we may not always see the logic or reasoning behind the path God leads us on, we must trust that He alone knows what is best for us. He is leading us on the path to everlasting life—to a place where we will be reunited with our loved ones forever.

Are you interested in joining a grief support group? Please click here:  https://clecem.org/Information/Bereavement.aspx 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

5 Things to Remember When Visiting a Cemetery

Visiting a cemetery can be an uncomfortable experience for some. Confronting the concept of death and grieving the loss of dearly departed loved ones brings a plethora of complex emotions. As hard as this can be, working through these complex emotions is the key to greater spiritual and emotional healing. While comfort levels will depend on each individual and their situation, there are some things to keep in mind when visiting a cemetery that can help make the experience more peaceful. Keep reading to learn more.

Visitation Blog
Photo Credit: Kim Giamo

There are no expectations

While movies, TV shows, and even those closest to us may talk about the emotional experience of visiting a cemetery, remember that how you handle the experience is entirely up to you. While some people may feel comfortable crying at the grave site, you may not– and that’s okay. Displaying (or not displaying) emotion is not an indication of how you felt for your loved one. For some, decorating the grave site might derive the most comfort. For others, simply sitting in silence is what’s best. It’s important to find what works for you. Don’t feel like you must act a certain way or do a certain activity when visiting. Just like your relationship with your loved one, each person will have a unique connection and way of communicating love and loss.

You are on sacred ground

Remember that cemeteries are sacred places. Catholic cemeteries are specifically blessed and are considered to be an extension of the church itself. While there’s no need to dress a certain way or say a specific prayer, use the sacredness of the grounds to enter into a meditative and spiritual mindset. While you’re loved ones may not be here physically to connect with, you can still maintain relationships with them through prayer.

You are in an open space

One important thing to remember when visiting a cemetery is that you’re likely not the only one visiting their loved ones. While it’s good to express yourself in a way that you feel comfortable, it’s also courteous to remember those around you. Playing loud music, shouting, or otherwise being disruptive may make visitation hard for others.

You will (most likely) be outdoors

Most burial choices (aside from those who choose to be interred in a mausoleum) will be outside. Plan ahead to make sure you’re wearing weather appropriate clothing. Also, due to the forces of nature and other outdoor elements, make sure to read safety signs. If you feel a path is dangerous for you to attempt, don’t. Check to see if the cemetery office provides escorts- they will be able to guide you to the burial site safely.

Take it all in

Sometimes visits can seem more like a chore than a genuine experience. It’s important when visiting to take a few moments to truly meditate and spend spiritual time with your loved one. Think about their life and the lasting impact they left on yours. Treasure the quiet time together and brief separation from the rest of the world.

Some people find consolation in praying near the grave site. A common prayer is:

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

However, prayer doesn’t need to be formal or rehearsed. Simply spending time in meditation can be healing on its own.

What do you find most helpful and comforting when visiting your loved ones? Let us know in the comments below.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s hard to believe, but the winter months are fast approaching! As the sun starts to rise late and set early, many individuals start to experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD can affect nearly anyone, but those who are grieving may be especially vulnerable to this unique type of depression. In short, SAD is characterized by an increased feeling of depression during the winter months. Experts believe this is mainly due to the changes in natural sunlight we receive during the winter months. While experiencing SAD during the winter months is most common, it’s also possible to experience SAD during the summer or spring. It all depends on the individual and their physical and emotional chemistry. Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms of SAD, as well as common coping techniques.

SAD blog

Signs of SAD

Just like any other form of depression or anxiety, SAD can manifest in variety of ways. There are, however, some more common symptoms including:

  • Severe depression for several weeks with no good days
  • General tiredness and sluggishness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns
  • Being easily agitated
  • Feelings of guilt or self-loathing
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide (Seek help if you are experiencing these thoughts. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by calling 1-800-273-8255 to talk to someone immediately).

Ways to Treat SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder should be taken seriously. If you find yourself identifying with the symptoms outlined above, it may be wise to meet with a healthcare provider to discuss your options. There are many treatment options available. Below are 5 coping mechanisms commonly used to combat symptoms of SAD.

  1. Light Therapy

As previously mentioned, it’s believed that one of the main causes of SAD is the change in natural sunlight. Therefore, many people find that light therapy is an effective tool in coping with SAD. There are many light boxes you can buy that mimic natural light. Exposing yourself to a cool-white florescent light for just a few minutes each day has been proven to improve overall mood. Further, even if it’s a bit cloudy out, spending some extra time outdoors in the fresh air can help your mood. It will also make sure you do get exposure to whatever natural light is able to escape through the clouds!

  1. Eat Well and Exercise

It’s important to remember the strong connection between physical health and mental health. That’s why it’s also important to eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise. Make sure you nourish your body by giving it the vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive. Moving your body can also help, as exercise releases endorphins, which are proven to naturally improve your mood. While it may be tempting to stay cuddled in bed with a big serving of comfort food, try to eat as healthy and exercise as much as possible.

  1. Find a Favorite Activity

It’s important to practice plenty of self-care during depressive periods. It can be helpful to find an activity you enjoy during the winter months. Certain activities can become a helpful and constructive outlet, and they can also give you something to look forward to when winter starts approaching. Maybe it’s a creative hobby like painting or knitting. Maybe it’s baking. Maybe it’s saving a book you’ve been wanting to read until the winter months. Whatever it is, find something that you can do during the winter months to keep your brain stimulated and your mood elevated!

While these techniques have been proven to help most people struggling with SAD, please remember that each person and situation is unique. It may take some time and self-reflection to find coping techniques that work for you. However, the tools outlined above are great places to start.

Are you interested in joining a grief support group? Click here to learn more.

Post written by Katie Karpinski