Emmanuel: God With Us, God For Us, God Within Us

O Come Emmanuel – it’s a song we’ve all heard on the radio, sung at Mass, or recognized in popular movies and television shows. While we may be familiar with this phrase, how many of us have actually paused to contemplate its meaning? A quick Google search of “Emmanuel” will tell you that it means “God is with us.” While this is very true, to truly understand the implications of this word we must look a bit deeper. You see, being “with us” implies that God is also for us and within us. Keep reading to learn more about each aspect of God’s eternal presence.

December Bereavement 2018

With us

The first dimension of God’s presence is the easiest for most people to understand. Just like our friends and family, God is a close companion we have throughout our time here on Earth. He is someone we can go to in times of trial and tribulation. He is someone we can celebrate our joys and successes with. He is someone we can go to when we are confused and don’t know which way to turn. He is always there to help us navigate life. While God may be similar to close friends and family, there is one significant and astounding difference. While friends and family may leave us, God never will. No matter how saddened, desperate, or lonely you feel, God will always be standing right beside you. God will never abandon you. For those who are grieving, this is extremely important to remember. Loneliness can be an awful, aching feeling. If you find yourself slipping into this mindset, simply take a moment to pause and seek out Christ. He is with you always.

For us

The second dimension of God’s presence is His advocacy. God is our greatest ally. He –more than anyone– assures that we are taken care of and that our needs are met. For some, we may feel that our needs are not being met at certain times. Whether it’s the loss of a family member, financial struggles, or health complications, there will be times that we feel God is taking from us instead of providing for us. As tempting as these thoughts might be—remember that God is all-knowing and all-powerful. He alone understands how certain events must occur to give us the greatest chance of salvation. While God may remove obstacles and clear our path, He may also put up caution tape and barriers as well to protect us. Next time you feel forgotten or forsaken, remember that the creator of the universe is actively preparing a path specifically constructed for you. Every road will have ups and downs. What’s important is that you keep moving closer and closer to Christ.

Within us

While God may be walking with us in support and watching over us in preparation, He also resides within us. The God within us (even in our unawareness of His presence) allows the existence of peace which surpasses all understanding, joy in the midst of grief, and love through our brokenness. The belief that God is in the very root of our being can help us understand the pure love God holds for each of us. He created us in His holy image, and we are all called to be faithful sons and daughters of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, we can experience the essence of Christmas despite the trials we face on this earth.  There is always joy to be found in realizing we are deeply and truly loved by the creator of the universe.

If you’re grieving this holiday season, remember that God is with you in so many ways. He is walking beside you, watching over you, and working within your heart to bring you joy and peace even in times of sorrow. Set aside some extra time this holiday season to spend with Christ. Maybe this means attending a daily mass or reading scripture each morning. It can even be as simple as starting your morning with a quick acknowledgment of God’s presence. Whatever the case may be, find a way to strengthen your connection with Christ this Christmas.

 

Are you interested in joining a grief support group? Available at a variety of cemetery locations, our support groups meet once a month. Please come and join a warm fellowship of people with similar grief experiences, helping each other through prayer, shared stories, and grief recovery discussions. Learn more by visiting https://www.clecem.org/Information/Bereavement.aspx.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

 

Preparing for the Holiday Season: A 3-Step Bereavement Guide

October is the last month we have before the crazy holiday rush. As if the approach of the holidays wasn’t stressful enough, this busy time is even more consuming for those who have recently lost a loved one. Taking some time this October to reflect on your grief and how the holidays might impact you is key to not only surviving through the holidays—but finding joy in them as well. The key is to plan ahead and be honest with yourself throughout the planning process. Keep reading to learn more about three simple steps you can take in preparation for the holiday season.

Oct 2018 Bereavement

Realize that the holidays will be different

First, it’s important to understand that the holidays will undoubtedly be different. Sure, the snow may still fall and the radio will still be playing Christmas carols, but after losing a loved one the holidays will never be as they once were. Simply realizing this can help you approach the holidays with a healthier attitude. It is okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be sad or angry. It’s okay to change tradition. Instead of placing pressure on yourself to maintain holiday cheer, be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling. The holidays will be different no matter what—instead of fighting this, lean into it and discover what you feel most comfortable with during this stage of your grief journey.

Have a (flexible) action plan

Once you’re honest with yourself about how you’re feeling about the holidays, it’s easier to create an action plan. Having a plan in place before the holiday rush begins can help you get organized and better prepare for the stressful season. Making decisions such as who you will be spending the holidays with, whether or not you will be purchasing gifts, baking cookies, etc. beforehand eliminate additional worry later on. Sometimes it’s a good idea to schedule “self-dates” ahead of time as well, providing yourself an easy excuse if attending a certain holiday party is too much to handle. It’s good to plan, but it’s also good to remain flexible as the season unfolds. You may feel better or worse depending on the day or the people you’re with. Just remember—do what you feel most comfortable with.

Celebrate the season and your loved ones

This last step is surely the hardest. For those who are grieving, the holidays are surely a time of remembrance and loss. However, the holidays are also a time of great joy and celebration. As Catholics, Christmas is a time for us to celebrate the birth of Christ and His coming to Earth so that we may be saved. If you’re still having a hard time finding joy in the season, imagine if you switched roles with your departed loved one. Wouldn’t you want them to be happy during the holidays? Finding joy in the season doesn’t mean you love or miss your loved one any less. Rather, it is an opportunity for you to include them in the eternal celebration of Christ. Making their favorite Christmas cookie, playing their favorite carol, or creating a remembrance ornament are all great ways to include your departed loved ones in the celebration of Christmas. Remember that no matter how dark or desperate your situation seems, there is always hope to be found in Christ our King.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Experiencing Grief as a Family

Family dynamics are complex. They are made even more complex when families share the loss of a loved one. Being in such a fragile state, it can be easy to grow frustrated with yourself and each other. While grief will never be an easy journey, there are some things to keep in mind while grieving as a family that can make the journey a little smoother…

Experiencing Grief as a Family

It’s always important to remember that people grieve differently. There are several factors that contribute to how someone grieves, including their age, emotional temperament, and their relationship to the person who passed away. For instance, the way a woman mourns the loss of her spouse is much different than the way a child would mourn for their father. Whereas a spouse may be concerned about how to assume household responsibilities and may mourn the loss of romantic love, a child may be more concerned with the entire idea of death and the loss of parental love. Even those who hold the same role in family, such as two parents who tragically lose a child, may mourn differently due to their personal traits and experiences. It’s important that you remember the fundamental differences that exist from person to person, and be sensitive to these differences. While you may be grieving the same person, this person holds a unique place in each of your hearts.

Another important thing to keep in mind is to avoid comparisons. It’s one thing to support each other by understanding and tolerating differences, but you must also be careful to not benchmark or compare grief experiences. Comparison only leads to more emotional turmoil, and is never healthy. Just remember:

No one grieves in the same way

While one family member may express their grief more physically by crying, other family members may feel more comfortable keeping those feelings reserved. Likewise, some people enjoy being around others while grieving, whereas others prefer to be left alone. There are countless other examples, all of which can vary from person to person.

There is no universal timeline for grief

Family members will work through their grief at their own pace. It all depends on the person and the unique situation.

While members of a family may have completely different grief experiences, there are ways you can help and support each other. Communicating often and openly is always a healthy exercise. Sharing with your family how you’re feeling, and listening to their own thoughts and feelings, can help you sympathize with each other. Another activity family can do together is find time to pray. While everyone may have different experiences, feelings, and personalities everyone has common ground in Christ.

Interested in joining a grief support group? Our groups meet the 3rd Sunday of every month. For more information, please visit https://clecem.org/Information/Bereavement.aspx

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Understanding the Attributes of God During Times of Grief

Everyone views God in a different light. For some, God the Father provides the most comfort and guidance with His all-knowing wisdom and never-ending power. For others, Jesus Christ and His deep compassion and connection to humanity make Him most approachable. And even still there are those who prefer speaking with the calm and gentle voice of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic faith is beautiful in that, while we only worship one true God, there are these three Persons we can interact with, and each may speak to us in different ways. These three parts all have unique attributes and it’s from these attributes of God that we can derive comfort, support and guidance. Keep reading to learn more about how understanding God’s attributes can help you progress along your grief journey.

Understanding the Attributes of God during times of Grief

God is Omnipresent and Omniscient

While grieving, it’s common to feel isolated and alone. Grief is particular and specific to the individual, which makes the pain hard to talk about with others. Despite how alone you may feel at times, remember that God is always with you. He is all-present and all-knowing. He knows the thoughts, sorrows, and desires of your heart intimately. When you feel most alone, take heart in knowing the Heavenly Father knows exactly how you feel, and will never leave you or forsake you.

You will seek me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13

God is Kind

Losing a loved one can feel like a betrayal. God places family and friends in our lives and then takes them away just as easily. It’s easy to become upset and angry with God but, as scripture proves to us, God is not of ill-intent. He treats all of His children with kindness and everything He does is within our best interests. Remembering this in times of great hardship is key to discovering blessings within the depths of deep despair. God does nothing to cause us pain. Rather, He places challenges in our lives to make us stronger and help us grow closer to Him.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness. – Psalm 103:8  

God is Merciful

Part of the struggle of grieving is not knowing the fate of loved ones. There’s no way we can know exactly what follows death. While scripture and Catholic teaching can give us some idea, this uncertainty can augment our grief even more. While this may be frustrating, one thing we know for certain is that God is merciful. He brings each and every one of us into this world and He is there to guide us into His heavenly kingdom. He owes us nothing, but through His never-ending mercy we are all saved. Recognize that, no matter how spiritual or devoted your loved one was or wasn’t, they are resting in God’s eternal and merciful care.

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing and rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit. – Titus 3:5  

God is Loving

The people we hold closest to us are often the same ones who provide us with the most love and support in our life.  Therefore, when a loved one passes from this world, it’s common to feel an absence of love and comfort in your life. While it may be true that earthly love may diminish, heavenly love is eternal. The love you share with your departed family members and friends is never-ending. Even through death, you can share that special connection with them. Even more so, God holds unique and passionate love with each and every one of us. His love is unlike anything else in this world. In times when you feel most lonely, remember that God loves you always.

His love and faithfulness will last forever. – Psalm 100:5

God is perfect

Death does not discriminate. It does not follow any rules. It often isn’t fair and comes at inopportune times. Death is a confusing and unpredictable occurrence here on Earth, which makes it not only scary, but extremely frustrating and disheartening. While we may never fully understand death, we do understand that God and His plan are perfect. We will never be able to predict death or comprehend when or why it happens. We’re not supposed to. Instead, we should be focused on trusting in God’s plan for us. Calling to mind the traits He possesses—being all present, kind, merciful, loving, and perfect —it’s clear His plan is what’s best for us and our eternal salvation.

The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without justice, Righteous and upright is He. – Deuteronomy 32:4

Are you interested in attending a support group? Click here for more information.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

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