Cherishing Our Loved Ones

Today I attended the burial of a woman I’ve known for years. As solemn as it was to bear witness to her burial, I found myself smiling. I thought back to the moments we shared, and the true privilege it was to know her. The whole event reminded me that every person placed in our life is sent by God. Whether the relationship was good or bad, long or short – every encounter we have is intentional and serves a specific purpose in our path to growing closer to God.

Now more than ever, our world is aware of our mortality. While we cannot control what happens next, we can control our outlook, our actions, and our priorities moving forward. We are all facing degrees of separation right now, whether you’ve recently lost a loved one or are currently social distancing. It is easy to give in to feelings of loss or loneliness. However, as valid as those feelings are, try to balance them with feelings of happiness and peace. Think of the wonderful time you shared with your loved one. Thank God for that time together. That time is a true gift – a reason to smile.

Above all, we must remember that our God calls us to live by faith, not fear. I pray that, despite our circumstances, we may all find a way to connect with those we love and cherish the relationships God has placed in our lives.

God bless,

Andrej Lah

May 2020

Finding Hope This Easter Season

It goes without saying that these are difficult times –the sacrifices we’ve had to make over the past several weeks are unlike any other we’ve experienced. For those who have recently lost a loved one, this time is filled with even more confusion and despair. It may feel like there is no end in sight.

As overwhelming as these feelings may be, as Catholics we have a powerful source of hope. In many ways, it’s appropriate that this time of isolation and anxiety would overlap with the Easter season. If we think about how Jesus felt in the garden on Holy Thursday – realizing that He would need to handle this impossible task alone, begging the Father to take this responsibility away from Him, we come to understand that these feelings, though valid, are temporary.

The confusion, isolation, and pain that Jesus felt were followed by His ultimate triumph. The Easter season is a reminder to all of us that, while we may never understand God’s plan, His way always leads to greater life, greater glory, and greater hope.

While no one can predict where God’s path may lead, we know that we will get through this. We must trust in God, and remember that no matter how bad things may appear, Christ will always shine through to light our way. May God bless you and your families during this Easter season.

Sincerely,

Andrej Lah

April 2020

Messages from Heaven

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my office at home when a cardinal started to tap on the window. I watched, as it would tap the window, fly to a nearby tree, and then back to the window. It was almost as if it were trying to get in the house. Having lived in the same home for almost 20 years, I couldn’t remember seeing a bird behave this way. I thought it was strange and simply carried on with my work.

The next day, my wife called me to say a cardinal was tapping on the window. She reminded me that cardinals represent a loved one you’ve lost. She said to me it has to be “Ata” and I immediately thought of my father, who I lost this past December. I was overwhelmed with emotion, as I understood that my father had sent me a message to let me know he was okay.

During my time as Director, I have encountered families with very similar stories: parents who had a butterfly land on their daughter’s casket and she loved butterflies; a mother who noticed a hummingbird tapping on her kitchen window soon after the death of her son; and a man who, having recently lost his brother, had butterflies flying around him and his bride during their wedding ceremony.

Some may say that these are just coincidences. However, with God, there are no coincidences. It is only with open hearts that we can see and hear the messages that God and our loved ones send us each day. These messages are a reminder of the hope we have of reuniting with them in Heaven.
As we approach the resurrection of our Lord next month, we should look joyfully upon our earthly journey. We must remember that death is a renewing step that brings us toward greater communion with Christ and our departed loved ones.

Until then, let us all help each other as we walk this earthly journey together.

God bless,

Andrej Lah

March 2020

3 Steps to Renewal: Reconnecting with Friends After Losing a Loved one

Grief is an experience unlike any other. It changes the very foundation of who you are and how you interact with others. Especially during the early stages of grief, it’s hard to find a new normal, and the comfortable habits and relationships that you once knew may be completely different. During this time, it’s common to lose touch with certain friends. This can be hurtful, as just when you need your best friends most, they may seem more distant than ever. Try to remember that this distance usually isn’t any one person’s fault, but rather a combination of circumstance and misunderstanding.

Restarting these relationships can be an incredibly healing experience, and one that can help you work through your grief and towards a “new normal.” Keep reading for some guidance on how to approach this delicate subject.

Acknowledge the Awkwardness

Remember that grief changes you. Things that used to be familiar may seem strange and different. There will likely be some awkwardness when talking to your friend for the first time in a while. There might even be some tension if either of you feels hurt by the lack of communication. In fact, chances are that you are both experiencing similar feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and hurt. As hard as it may be, try to push through these feelings and remember why you love your friend so much. If this is a relationship you truly value and cherish, then it is one worth your commitment and energy. Along the way, just accept the awkwardness for what it is. You can’t expect to immediately start back to where you were before losing your loved one, so simply understanding that you’re on the first step toward rebuilding your friendship is enough.  

Be Honest and Self-Aware

Once you begin talking with your friend, it’s important to come from an honest and compassionate place. Instead of trying to place blame or incite feelings of guilt, having an open discussion about how you are handling your grief is much healthier – it will give your friend a glimpse into what you’ve been struggling with, and how this dramatic life change may have impacted your relationship with them. You should also give your friend time to talk about what they’ve been experiencing. While you have lost a loved one, they may be grieving the loss of what your friendship used to be. The key is not to point fingers or make each other feel guilty, but rather to reach a place of common understanding, compassion, and trust. Sometimes simply talking through your experience can help provide the needed perspective to help your friendship move forward.

Focus on Moving Forward

While it’s important to understand what happened in the past, try not to linger on it for too long. Don’t hold on to grudges or bring up past mistakes. Instead, focus your energy on moving forward. What will you both commit to do to keep your friendship moving forward? Maybe it’s scheduling a weekly coffee date or phone call. Maybe you decide to restart a shared hobby – or start a new activity altogether! With time your friendship will grow and continue to develop. In many cases, this new stage of your friendship will be even stronger than before.

On a final note, keep in mind that every friendship and situation is different. In some cases, it may be healthier for you to let a friendship fade, or in some cases you may establish a new form of friendship. It’s important to do what’s best for you. If a friendship is preventing you from moving forward in a healthy way, it may be best to step back and allow the Lord to guide you toward other people in your life. This can be a hard decision to make, and losing your friend may add to your existing grief. If you find yourself in this position, joining a support group or finding a counselor may be a good idea to ensure you’re receiving the support you need.

Post written by Katie Karpinski 

A Different Summer

2020 will indeed bring a different kind of summer for everyone! A summer unlike any we’ve ever experienced. Each day of the pandemic brings new information and guidelines altering the delicate balance of our safety and security. Prior to this pandemic, our pre-summer agendas were all about filling our calendars with social gatherings: graduations, weddings, sporting events, vacations, reunions, festivals, concerts, and the like. We’ve waited all winter and spring for longer days, more daylight, and pleasant weather just to get outdoors and enjoy the fellowship of time with family and friends.

Social Distancing May Not Be Your Ally

But for those who are grieving, you simply may not want to be in the company of other people, most of whom don’t know what to say to you, may either avoid you or alternatively say all the wrong things to you, and yourself likewise. The social distancing called upon by this pandemic may actually be a welcomed respite for you to not have to deal with people, questions, and difficult emotions. Even so, it is critical to your well-being to not allow yourself to fall prey to despair or “self-imposed” social isolation. Even under the orders for physical distancing in this pandemic, we must find ways to maintain even a small amount of social connection through alternative ways. It is important to remember that distancing and isolation have two distinct roles: Distancing provides protection from the harmful virus, while isolation closes the door to healthy grieving. Keeping the doors of communication open, even in an altered mode, will allow emotional healing and growth to occur along your grief journey.

Secondary Loss

With the pandemic alone, our lives have more than a fair share of uncertainties and struggles due to loss of stability with our futures. We may have had changes to or loss of job structure/income, limited access to needed resources, social isolation from physical distancing, and fears about contracting or spreading the virus to our loved ones. Everyone is grieving some kind of loss. Add to these very real situations, having to deal with finding our way through grieving the death of someone dear, makes the coming summer season, anything but welcomed.

There’s Hope

But there’s hope for you. By refocusing our vision and our mindset, we can maneuver our way through these confusing days. First, it’s important to focus on what you know, despite what you can’t see ahead of you. Here’s a few truths to hang onto in the midst of the turmoil.

  • God is always in control; All knowing, all seeing, and all powerful, and is working things out for your favor. There is nothing impossible for God and His grace and mercy will carry you through any circumstance.
  • God is always with you, leading you step by step, even when you cannot feel Him.
  • You are loved and you ARE love.

With these truths as your anchor, you should be better able to redirect your view of the world to one of safety under God’s provision and find hope that brighter days are ahead. You will still experience some rough days along with the good ones, but just knowing that you are carried by the almighty hand of God will help you to know that the difficult seasons shall pass. God loves you and has great things still planned for your life, in His perfect timing, and in your season of blossoming.

Make a Plan

Here are a few ideas for experiencing a good summer, but the possibilities are endless:

  • Plant a beautiful garden (or even a single flower) in honor of your departed loved one.
  • Donate your time/skills to help someone in need.
  • Write a blog (or a book) about your grief journey.
  • Play a musical instrument outdoors for others to hear.
  • Write letters or send greeting cards to health care workers, first-responders, or those in the military.
  • Bake cookies or desserts and share or gift them.
  • Make phone calls to shut-ins just to say hello and ask how they are doing or if they have need of anything.
  • Order door dash to be delivered to a friend (or a few friends) and schedule a virtual lunch or dinner.
  • Host a socially distant event with your neighbors: cookout, music festival, yoga or line-dancing.
  • Pay it forward for someone in line behind you at the drive-through.
  • Go for a day drive and sight see (take pictures like a tourist); Try a park, a lake, or a local botanical garden
  • like Stan Hywet (Akron), Brandywine (Sagamore Hills), Holden Arboretum (Kirtland). (Note: Call ahead for
  • information about restricted visiting hours, closed walking paths, and restricted restroom facilities)
  • Treat yourself to a meal at a top of the line local restaurant that you’ve always wondered about.
  • Have a movie night at home complete with popcorn and snacks.
  • Visit loved ones at the cemetery. Bring a chair or a blanket and have a picnic lunch there.
  • Give someone a SMILE, even if you don’t feel like it.

In order to better navigate this pandemic summer, it is always best to have a plan. A flexible plan, and even an alternate plan, but still a plan. Give to this summer, what you would like it to be. If you would like a summer of healing, peace, and tranquility, then plan for it. If you would like a summer of exploration, start with an internal exploration and let it spill over to your external world. There are many creative ways to discover and enjoy the giftedness of our world even while being physically distant and protective. We have the opportunity to see new ways of being alive to God’s plans for us. It may involve reaching outside of your normal box and learning a new
skill or stepping beyond the pain of grief, but there can be joy in the midst of the storms of our lives. Be that gift to someone else. Reach out and make one person’s life a little brighter by sharing your gift to the world. Share the
gifts of your departed loved ones too. That keeps their legacy alive and flourishing.

Just remember, this is but a “season”. Each season presents us with an opportunity for growing closer to God’s loving embrace and finding your new purpose even in the midst of the storms.

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Post was written by Rhonda Abrams, CCA Bereavement Coordinator