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

What You Should Know About Survivor’s Guilt

Survivor’s guilt is a very special form of grief. It can be displayed in a variety of ways, and in some cases people may not be able to identify it in themselves. Like all forms of grief, it’s important to work through it in a healthy and constructive way. Keep reading to learn more about survivor’s guilt- what it is, what common symptoms are, and some helpful coping techniques.

What you should know about survivor's guilt

Who is susceptible to survivor’s guilt?

Survivor’s guilt is often seen in people who survive a very significant trauma. Often, this trauma involves the death of other people. Some common victims of survivor’s guilt include veterans, first responders, and survivors of acts of terrorism. However, there are other sources of survivor’s guilt such as transplant recipients, children in families affected by miscarriage, those with loved ones who died by suicide, and many other possible causes. Survivor’s guilt, though often experienced by those directly involved with the trauma, can also impact those who were nowhere near the situation or circumstance. As is the case with any type of grief, it is also very specific to the individual and situation. People may experience survivor’s guilt even when they did not know the victim or situation personally.

What are some signs of survivor’s guilt?

While the effects of survivor’s guilt vary from person to person, there are a few common symptoms in people who experience this unique form of grief:

  • Sense of depression or anxiety
  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Numbness/ feeling unattached to reality
  • Questioning of one’s own mortality
  • Feelings of deep regret or “unworthiness”
  • Feelings of being restless or helpless
  • Irritability and insomnia

These feelings are certainly normal after such a tragedy, and are important to acknowledge as part of the healing process. However, if you notice that your symptoms persist for several months with no good days it may be a good idea to seek professional counseling. Always seek professional help if you have thoughts about harming yourself or others.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

What are some ways to cope with survivor’s guilt?

Remember that openly accepting your grief is the first step toward long term healing. Since grief is unique to each person, finding a coping mechanism that works for you may take some time. With that in mind, here are a few good places to start:

  1. Self-care

It’s very important that you take care of your body. Grief takes a strong emotional toll, yes—but it also takes a physical one. Getting plenty of rest and eating healthy foods is a good way to take care of your body during such a stressful time. You should also be doing activities that support your mental well-being. While it may be hard at first, doing activities you enjoy and taking time to mentally rest are important. Remember that you deserve to be happy – regardless of the tragedy you went through.

  1. Seeking support

While support groups are a good idea for all types of grief, they can be especially helpful for those struggling with survivor’s guilt. Hearing about the experiences of others and realizing you’re not alone can be incredibly insightful. It can help you work past feelings of personal guilt and shame and remind you that what you’re experiencing is incredibly human and normal. If you’re interested in joining a support group, please click here.

  1. Remembering those you’ve lost

Many people find that creating some type of memorial, volunteering for a charity, or otherwise spending time remembering those who have passed away is a good way to work through their grief. It keeps the memory of the deceased alive, which is important to survivors who find comfort in staying connected to the past. It can also be a good outlet for extra energy or restlessness one may experience while grieving.

Survivor’s guilt is something that many people live with every day. You will have good days and bad days, but hopefully by identifying your grief and finding a coping technique that works for you, you can find a way to live a fulfilling and happy life after experiencing a tragedy.

The Catholic Cemeteries Association has several bereavement resources available to the community. Please click here to learn more.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

NDCL Students Serve Those in Need at Calvary Cemetery

This past week, the Catholic Cemeteries Association welcomed two Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School (NDCL) students, Brendan Boland and Nathan Lah, to Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland to participate in a rather unique service opportunity. Boland and Lah both volunteered their time to be pallbearers as part of the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Society at NDCL. In short, the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Society is a program that connects students with local Catholic cemeteries. Cemeteries can call upon students to serve as pallbearers for those who pass away without family members or friends to do so themselves. As part of their service, Boland and Lah assisted in carrying a community member to their final resting place, and also took part in a prayer service at the grave site.

Participating in the Saint Joseph of Arimathea Society is a remarkable way for young people to live their faith by performing the Corporal Work of Mercy of burying the dead, and the Spiritual Work of Mercy of praying for the dead. The CCA is continually grateful to partner with schools such as NDCL as part of our ongoing mission bury the dead with dignity and grace.

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Nathan Lah (left) and Brendan Boland (right) acting as pallbearers during a recent burial at Calvary Cemetery in Cleveland.
Post written by Katie Karpinski

Saint Felicitas of Rome: Patron of Grieving Parents

Saint Felicitas (otherwise known as Felicity) doesn’t have the same wide awareness or acknowledgment as other Catholic saints. Born around 101 AD in Rome, there is no clear documentation on the life of Saint Felicity. However, those who witnessed her death continually recollected the story to others, thereby ensuring that Felicitas’ story can be shared by those of us still alive today.

Saint Felicitas
Photo Credit: Orthochristian.com

As previously stated, Felicitas was born relatively soon after the death of Christ. She was married to a wealthy merchant, and the pair had seven sons together. After the birth of their seventh son, her husband passed away leaving Felicitas to care for seven children on her own. However, through this hardship, she remained incredibly faithful. She lived a life completely dedicated to Christ and could often be found performing acts of charity (such as feeding and clothing the poor). As she continued to minister to the people of her community, she also fostered countless conversions to Christianity—putting her in the spotlight of several pagan leaders of the time.

Her outward display of faith was so troubling to the pagan leaders that they reported her to the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, under the guise of heresy. Aurelius ordered that Felicitas and her sons worship the pagan gods and abandon their devotion to Christ. Felicitas refused them time and time again, her sons following her example. In response, Aurelius ordered that Felicitas and all seven of her sons be executed. Felicitas did not waver in her faith or show signs of weakness– her only request was that she should be the last to die so that she could be with each of her sons during their time of suffering.

After the death of each of her sons, Felicitas was given the opportunity to denounce her faith. Each time she refused and instead looked to God for comfort and strength. She (along with her sons Alexander, Vitalis, Martial, Januarius, Felix, Philip, and Sylvanus) died in 165 as a martyr of the Church. It’s said that she died eight times—once for each of her sons and then for her own final death.

As sorrowing as her story may be, there is some comfort to be found in the life of Saint Felicitas. She, along with Mary our Mother and many other saints, know the personal pain and suffering that comes with losing a child. It is for this reason that she has become one of the patron saints of those parents who have lost a child or struggle with infertility. Her story reminds us that sometimes God’s plan doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair or right. However, Saint Felicitas kept a strong focus on the Lord, even when it meant losing her own children. Felicitas knew that those who are innocent, pure, and devoted to God will be rewarded greatly in Heaven.

If you are a grieving parent, know someone who is grieving a child, or are someone who struggles with infertility, say a quick prayer to Saint Felicitas for strength and comfort. Look to her as an example of remaining true to Christ even in times of great personal sacrifice and hardship. Remember that His plan may not always make sense, but it will always lead you toward greater salvation.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

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