A Conversation Could Save A Life

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

Although autumn officially begins on Wednesday, September 22, it is safe to say that fall, defined as the season between summer and winter, has arrived. September has brought us the splendor of fall leaves, bountiful harvests, cooler weather, students returning to school, Friday Night lights, and … plenty of Pumpkin Spiced Lattes! 

If we are talking about the many reasons why September is so great, we need to add one more reason to the mix. My hope is that by the time you finish reading this blog, and after you have clicked a few links and read the information, you will feel empowered and more confident about starting a conversation with a friend, co-worker, or acquaintance. And this isn’t just any conversation. No, it’s a conversation regarding a topic that was once considered too taboo to mention, and usually involved people whispering. Now, there is a worldwide effort to bring awareness, action and support services to affect change and save lives. September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Organizations in the US and around the world are raising awareness on suicide prevention. This worldwide initiative is one that will de-stigmatize the topic of suicide and challenge all of us to make a difference in someone’s life, simply by having the compassion to ask, to listen, to give support and to stay connected.

The current year is a time where many of us are feeling extra anxious or troubled. Undoubtedly, the anxiety is exacerbated by following 24/7 news or social media outlets. With all the craziness in our world right now, it is even more important for mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies, and community members to unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. We need to spread the word that if someone is in crisis, there are many options available to help them cope. Just starting the conversation and asking “Are you OK? Are you really, OK?” is a small, but compassionate effort that could save a life. Reach out to organizations such as Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is available confidentially and 24/7 for everyone in the United States at 1-800-273-8255. To know the risk factors and to learn more about the warning signs, visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Healing, hope and help can happen. Suicide is preventable for everyone. By starting the conversation, listening without judgement, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicide and save lives.

Catholic Cemeteries Association provides services to those who are struggling with grief due to the loss of a loved one. This month, our September 2021 Bereavement Bulletin highlights the topic of Suicide Prevention and Awareness and can be accessed on the website www.clecem.org under the Information tab- Bereavement-Grief Support Newsletter, or by clicking here:

Also- to learn more about the signs of depression and how to help a loved one dealing with depression, read our blog:

“3 Things to Keep In Mind if You or A Loved one may be Battling Depression”- Click Here.

For more information or ideas on how to take action to help prevent suicide- Click Here.

Thank you for doing your part to start the conversation, and to help bring awareness to suicide prevention and ultimately, to save lives. 

Post written by Kathleen Gallagher McKiernan, Marketing and Communications Manager

What You Should Know About the Unique Types of Grief

Every person who loses a loved one is going to experience a unique form of grief. The pain and loss you experience depends completely on your relationship to the deceased, the circumstances surrounding their death, your stage in life, and countless other factors. This is also why your personal approach to grief often changes depending on what loss you’re experiencing at a given time.

All that being said, no matter how or who you are grieving, there is a “typical” process that one travels through to adapt to their loss. Sometimes called the “Stages of Grief” the grief process includes denial, anger, anxiety, bargaining, and depression in the early stages, with acceptance, hope, and healing marking the readjustment to your new way of living. However, some losses warrant a more unique or complicated response. These complicated forms of grief may require more effort to work through, which is why it’s important to be able to properly identify them – whether for your own grief journey or to help others in your life. Keep reading to learn more.

Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is very common among people who have chronically ill or terminally ill loved ones. This grief is unique, in that it begins before your loved one passes away. It is the expectation of the loss that can be very consuming and provoke early feelings of grief. If you’re struggling with anticipatory grief, you may hear phrases such as “enjoy the time you have left” or “take things one day at a time” from loved ones trying to comfort you, while in reality these phrases can be very hurtful. It’s important to know that experiencing grief before the loss is completely normal. It is not preemptive and does not mean you’re not grateful for the time you have left with your loved one. Anticipatory grief is just another element of the very complicated experience that comes with caring for and loving someone who is nearing their final days.

Complicated Grief

Complicated grief can manifest in a few different ways. However, the two most common forms of complicated grief are chronic and delayed. As their names imply, chronic grief is defined as intense grief that lasts for an extended period time – long beyond the scope of a typical grief experience. Delayed grief also entails a longer grief experience, as sufferers experience minor grief effects at first, only to have very intense and consuming grief later on. Both chronic and delayed grief are considered complicated because they’re characterized by a complete inability to carry on with your daily tasks and can prevent you from moving forward to the final stages of healing. If you are suffering from complicated grief, it’s often advised that you seek professional assistance in moving forward through your grief journey.

Cumulative & Secondary Grief

Cumulative grief occurs when you lose several loved ones within a short period of time. Similarly, secondary loss also involves working through multiple losses at once, though in the form of ideas attached to your loved one, such as financial security, celebrating anniversaries, etc. For more information on these forms of grief, please click here.

Disenfranchised & Distorted Grief

Disenfranchised grief can occur if your family, society, or your culture tell you that your grief is not valid or warranted. Distorted grief can be similar, as it can occur when you experience an extremely tragic or sudden loss that elicits a wide variety of intense emotions. Disenfranchised and/or distorted grief occur often among those who lose a loved one to suicide, overdose, or other sensitive situations. Feelings of guilt, unworthiness, and isolation are common among those suffering from these forms of grief. It is often helpful for those experiencing disenfranchised and distorted grief to seek professional assistance in progressing along their grief journey in a healthy way.  

Above all, remember that there is no right way to grieve, and there is no such thing as a “normal” grief journey. The types listed here are a few of the most common, but there are countless different reactions and feelings you may experience. Some people may experience multiple forms of grief, and yet some people may experience no grief at all (read more about Absent Grief here). Whatever you’re going through, just remember to be patient with yourself and know that we are here to help you however we can.

Learn more about the Catholic Cemeteries Association’s grief support resources (including support groups) here.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Happy Birthday

I first met Dave when he lost his wife. She was buried at All Souls Cemetery, and after her burial Dave approached me to ask if he could assist the cemetery in caring for its ponds. Since then, we’ve kept in touch. This past week, he called to ask permission to see if there were any spotted turtles within the cemetery. Before we said our goodbyes, Dave asked if I had a few more minutes to talk.

He started to tell me about his 70th birthday that happened a few weeks prior. Dave went to visit his wife at the cemetery. As he sat by her gravesite, he knew the only person who would have made his day special was gone from this world. Loneliness washed over him. The couple never had children, and he felt that no one else seemed to care enough to even wish him a happy birthday.

Dave is someone with an extremely kind soul. It broke my heart as I listened to this story. However, he continued.

He said he spent a few more minutes visiting his wife, telling her how much he loved and missed her, then went home still saddened by the day.

One week later, Dave was back at All Souls Cemetery to visit his wife. This time, he decided to spend some time at the pond to check on the fish he had recently placed there.  As he sat, he could see something in the distance being carried by the wind.  It looked like a balloon decoration from somewhere in the cemetery.  The balloon kept coming closer until it landed by his feet. 

When he looked down at the balloon, he couldn’t believe what he saw.  A balloon had travelled across the cemetery at the very moment that he was sitting at the edge of the cemetery pond and on it was written “Happy Birthday”.

With tears in his eyes, Dave looked up and said a silent thank you to his wife who undoubtedly had sent him a “Happy Birthday” from Heaven.

Dave’s story reminds me of the connection that continually exists between us, our loved ones, and God. I hope his story can provide some hope to anyone missing someone they love.

– Andrej Lah

Director, The Catholic Cemeteries Association

A Valentine’s Day Message

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this week, much of the world is focused on chocolates, Valentine’s cards, and spending time with their significant other. However, there are also those for whom Valentine’s Day is a reminder of the absence of their loved one. Instead of celebrating love, they are reminded of their broken heart. I see this pain in the eyes of the widows and widowers that I’ve come to know.


Yet, in the midst of this suffering, I believe there is hope to be found.
Upon losing a loved one, it may feel as if their absence is permanent. As followers of Christ, however, we have hope that this separation is only temporary. Having hope doesn’t make the loss any less painful, but hope can make your burden a bit lighter to bear. We must accept that God calls us all home on His time, not ours. We will never know the reasoning behind God’s timing. All we can do is place our trust and hope in the Lord, and reflect on the love He calls us all to embody throughout our time here on earth.


As hard as it may be, I encourage you to celebrate love this Valentine’s Day. Remember the love you shared with your dearly departed. Reflect on the love that you still have for them. Tell the people in your life how much they mean to you.


In a world where everything seems to move too quickly, we can find comfort in knowing love is eternal.


God bless,
Andrej Lah

February 2020

What to Expect When Attending a Grief Support Group

The Catholic Cemetery Association offers a safe and welcoming environment where the bereaved can come to be present with others who understand. The hardest parts of processing grief are best dealt with by talking about what you are feeling and realizing that most of what you experience is normal and eases over time.

Here are a few of the most common things to expect when attending one of our Grief Support Groups:

Relief/Clarity

You’ll find a sense of relief or freedom in being able to be open with your feelings.  Sometimes with family or friends, we tend to want to protect others from our hurt and pain and we don’t allow ourselves to fully experience the grief. We feel we have to be strong for them or we feel that we should be further along in our grieving. This is true especially if others in your family don’t “seem” to be grieving as much as you. Attending a support group can illustrate how everyone’s grief is personal and unique, and that everyone processes grief differently. In some cases, you may find new coping skills for common grief experiences.

Companionship

Our number one goal is for you to know that you do not have to be alone in your grief. Our support groups are designed to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for you to share your grief story and share experiences with other participants. While each grief experience is different, there is strength and comfort to be found in knowing you are not alone.

Diverse grief needs

There will be other participants in the group with varying degrees of grief. Some may have recently lost their loved one, and others may be working through a loss they experienced years ago. You may encounter others in the group who handle life in general differently from you. In our groups, we respect each person’s unique way of processing grief, without judgement. There are no wrong questions or feelings because your feelings are unique to your life experiences. In fact, these differences can provide you with a greater perspective in regard to grief and the healing process.

What NOT to expect:

Professional Counseling or Therapy

Our Group Facilitators are not psychologists or therapists, but rather trained specifically to help people understand what grief is and to encourage effective group discussions. We are able to help direct people in need of deeper grief work, to local resources for obtaining one-on-one or a specific type of grief counseling (widows, infant/child loss, accidental, traumatic/violence, suicide, substance abuse death, and other types of intense grief experiences).

A Quick Fix

Processing your grief is not a quick fix. It is not reasonable to expect to be back to “normal” in six months, or even a year. It takes time and patience as you work through painful emotions and life-altering changes.  But with a good support network at your side, you will find hope to take that next courageous step toward your new normal.

Grief will never be an easy journey, especially if you are attempting to journey it alone. Come and join a warm fellowship of people with similar grief experiences, helping each other through prayer, shared stories, and grief recovery discussions.

Post written by Kaleigh Rice

Content derived from interview with CCA Bereavement Coordinator, Rhonda Abrams.