What to Expect When Grieving the Loss of Your Father

Losing your father (or a father figure) can be one of life’s most traumatic events. As people who are known for being your biggest cheerleader, friend, fixer, and life coach—losing them will change your life as you know it. Each person has a very unique relationship with their father. This means that no grief experience will ever be exactly the same. However, there are some common emotions most people feel after losing their dad. Grief reactions may also depend on your stage in life. A younger person who still lives at home and depends on their father for daily support may feel a stronger sense of abandonment, whereas someone in their 60’s who remained close to their father may feel a stronger loss in regard to the decades of friendship established between them and their father. No matter your age, keep reading for some specific emotions you may feel after losing your father, as well as ways to work through these emotions.

What to Expect When Grieving the Loss of Your Father

Shock

The time immediately following the death of a loved one can be hectic. There’s much that must be done to make arrangements, and these arrangements can take away a majority of your time and energy. Because of this flurry of activity, the full emotional impact of your loss may not hit you right away. You may still be in a state of shock or disbelief during the first few months following the passing of your father. Realize that being numb to the pain doesn’t make it any less real. It’s perfectly normal to not fully feel the loss right away. Don’t grow frustrated if you aren’t experiencing the emotional reaction you expected.

 

Sadness

Another common emotion many people feel is intense sadness or depression. As it is with the loss of any loved one, realizing that someone who you loved and cared for very much is gone from this world is a somber experience. While managing this sadness is specific to each person, it’s important that you allow yourself to acknowledge and respect the emotions you feel. Trying to hide your sadness is not healthy for your grief journey, and may prevent you from full healing in the future. As hard as it may be, depression is a natural part of the bereavement process, so it’s better to accept these emotions than to fight them.

Please note: While depression is a normal part of grief, it’s important to reflect on the severity of your depression over time. If you find that your depression persists without any good days, impairs your function of daily activities, or prompts thoughts of self-harm, professional help may be required.

 

Abandonment

Since fathers are often recognized for their protective and providing nature, losing your father may stir feelings of abandonment. The man who was once known as your “fixer” and guardian is no longer around to support you. You may feel as if a level of security is gone from your life. Coming to terms with this change will be hard, but don’t lose hope. Learn to rely on other people in your life. Reach out to trusted friends and family. Lean on your local parish community. Most of all, take this opportunity to remind yourself how much you are personally capable of – losing your father is undoubtedly difficult, but God will give you the strength and support you need to move forward in life.

 

Anger

While no one is ever ready to lose their dad, those who lose their father earlier in life may feel angry. You may feel as if time was stolen from you, or that you’ve been cheated from monumental occasions. Even for those who lose their father later in life, anger is a natural part of the grief process. God’s plan isn’t always easy to understand or accept. If you find yourself experiencing anger, know that it is natural. Like any other emotion you may be feeling, don’t back away from these feelings. Instead, acknowledge them and try to focus your energy on working through this anger to reach some level of peace and healing. Similar to symptoms of depression, you may want to seek assistance of a professional if anger starts impacting your daily living.

 

Peace

As unbelievable as it may seem at first, eventually you will achieve some level of peace and comfort in regard to your father’s passing. Full understanding can only come with time and much self-reflection. As Catholics, we can also find immense hope and peace in the promise of salvation. It is our hope that one day we will be reunited with our loved ones in the presence of Christ. As you work through your grief, try to shift your mindset from saying goodbye to your loved one toward saying “I’ll see you again.” Also consider that your loved ones are likely lifting you in their (now divine) prayers and cheering you on to find new courage and peace.

A healing way to work through your grief, and the various emotions you may feel along the way, is to find ways to honor your father. Watching his favorite movie, making his favorite meal, or ordering his favorite cocktail are all ways you can feel closer to him. Keep his memory alive by looking at pictures of him often, and telling your favorite stories about his life to other close family members and friends. There is no reason why you can’t keep a strong relationship with your father even after his passing.

 

If you’re interested in further grief support, please consider attending one of our monthly Grief Support Groups. These informal and all-inclusive groups meet once a month for 1-hour. Come be in the presence of those who understand. For grief support dates and locations, please visit clecem.org.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

He Knows: Turning to God for Understanding and Peace

The pain we experience on this earth is entirely unique. While situations such as the loss of a loved one affect everyone, each person experiences grief and pain in different ways. It’s common to feel as if no one knows how much pain you’re in, or the confusion and anger you may feel. You may imagine that you are completely alone in this world, with no one to turn to for understanding and peace. While these thoughts may be overwhelming, remember that God always knows. He knows every thought, every desire, and every feeling that flows through your mind. There isn’t a thing that goes unnoticed by God. We may not always feel His strong presence, but God is always working to make sure our lives go according to plan.

March 2019 Bereavement

God reaffirms His love and knowledge of us time and time again in scripture…

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” – Romans 8:27-28

“Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” –Psalm 139:4-5

This holy message is also depicted in Jeremy Camp’s song: “He Knows.”

Camp’s moving song proves that everyone feels bogged down and isolated at times. It’s also a powerful reminder that God is not only constantly with us, but is also constantly aware of how we’re feeling and what we need in a given moment. Take a few minutes to listen to the song. Listen or read along to the lyrics. Think about the trials and struggles you are experiencing and remember that God knows you – and He is the only one that can provide you true peace and comfort.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsccUg4TDd8

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Stop and Smell the Roses: Three Simple and Nourishing Activities for the Bereaved

After losing a loved one, it’s common to feel disconnected and unattached to reality. Your life may appear to be blurry, as the sights, smells, and noises that were once so familiar now seem very foreign. Since losing a loved one is a traumatic and life changing experience, this type of emotional reaction is completely normal. Your world has shifted, so it makes sense that the way you interact with the world would also change.

However, as normal as these emotions may be, allowing yourself to sink fully into numbness can prevent you from having a healthy grief journey. It’s very important that you reconnect with your senses. Don’t just wander through each day, but embrace every part of it. Use your senses to ground yourself in reality. You’ll find that doing so can bring you great peace and comfort.

This type of lifestyle is easier said than done; however, there are some things you can do to help encourage the full appreciation and acknowledgement of your senses. Keep reading to learn more.

Stop to Smell the Roses - blog

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing has long been known as a soothing exercise. Something about feeling the air enter and escape your body in controlled breaths is a reminder that God is always surrounding you—literally giving you what you need to survive. Feeling your chest move up and down reconnects you with your body and proves how complex and intricate God designed you to be. Breathing also engages your sense of smell. Whether you’re breathing in the familiar scent of your home living room or taking in the fresh outdoor air, taking time to stop and actually notice the smells around you can help place you in a given location and envelope you in comfort and familiarity.

 

Finding Color

While grieving, the world can seem like it’s painted in black and white, both literally and figuratively. When you have a quiet moment, look around you and try to find five different colors. Doing so can remind you of the variety and excitement God has granted you here on earth. Maybe it’s the green leaves on the tree in your front yard, or the deep brown oak of the door in your bedroom. Whatever the case, finding different and exciting colors around you is not only a fun and interesting exercise, but a nurturing way to tap into your sense of sight.

 

Taking Pauses

The best way to truly connect with your senses and reconnect with Christ is to simply take time to pause. When you see something beautiful, stop what you’re doing and really experience it. God gives us precious moments—don’t ignore them! It might be a beautiful morning sunset, the smell of your favorite homemade meal, or the sound of rain against your bedroom window at night. These moments will vary person to person, day to day. It’s up to each and every one of us to find these soft and gentle messages from God and spend time in His presence.

While these are just three simple activities, there are countless ways to fully experience life and live through your senses. Find something that works for you. Find something that can serve as a reminder of God’s presence and love. While there may be trials and times of sorrow in our lives, God is always asking us to stop for a moment, acknowledge His presence, and smell the roses.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

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