June, the beginning of summer, vacations, graduations, weddings, and other events that bring family and friends together. As we celebrate all these events, it seems almost contradictory that this month falls within the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. There is nothing ordinary about Ordinary Time when it comes to our Catholic faith.
Ordinary Time is when we celebrate Christ’s life and death and June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In this time of the liturgical year the Church is donned in the color green as a symbol of hope of the resurrection. We celebrate Christ’s life and death and through the image of the Sacred Heart, His love for each of us. These symbols of new life and love inform us of Christ’s conquering death giving to each of us the gift of salvation and the hope of eternal life with Him in paradise.
Many find it difficult to celebrate the events that are a part of the beginning of each summer. Loss makes any celebration difficult. In this month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, find comfort in knowing that God’s love for each of us is boundless. Seek refuge in His pierced heart of Christ as it is in His suffering that He understands your pain and it is in His sacrifice that we find the gift of paradise.
June 2021 will be remembered as a special time in our lives. Over a year has passed since our world was besieged by the Covid-19 Global Pandemic and the resulting lockdown and isolation that ensued.
June is also a time of new beginnings and renewed life. Spring has sprung and flowers are in bloom. The world and our communities are re-opening. Returning to a sense of normalcy with the opening of restaurants, venues and most importantly, a return to our Church’s in-person liturgical celebrations, brings a renewed sense of hope. June brings me, full circle, back to my Catholic roots. I am honored to be the newly appointed Marketing and Communications Manager at Catholic Cemeteries Association.
I am excited to begin my new marketing role at Catholic Cemeteries Association. Pulling into the entrance of the corporate offices gave me a sense of coming full circle. My grandparents, Frank and Mildred Gallagher, along with other relatives, are buried here, at Calvary Cemetery. Up until two years ago, I had only been here as a young girl when my grandparents were buried. In the summer of 2019, I was at a burial of my friend’s father. I knew my grandparents were buried here and I had just discovered the CCA app for locating burial plots at any of the 19 CCA cemeteries. Unbelievable as it might seem, I put in their names and their burial location was on the same hillside as the burial site of my friend’s father. Using the GPS feature, I found their headstones and felt so happy to be able to say a prayer at their graveside. Little did I know that two years later, I would be working here, looking out on the grounds of Calvary where they are resting.
June is also a significant month for a few other reasons. On June 11th and throughout the month, we focus on The Sacred Heart of Jesus. One of my first social media posts for CCA included the painting that I have had in our home throughout our marriage and raising our family. This is significant to me personally, because my grandfather was a leader and active member of Cleveland’s Sacred Heart of Jesus organization. His devotion to The Sacred Heart of Jesus influenced his 10 children and eventually, their children (all 50+ cousins of mine) to keep our faith alive and to “live” our faith. Displaying the Picture of The Sacred Heart of Jesus in our homes, throughout my life, to this day, is a daily reminder to try to dedicate our day to His work and serving others.
This Sunday, June 20th, we celebrate Father’s Day. It is a bittersweet time for those of us who have lost our own fathers. My father passed away on June 24th, 18 years ago, this year. He passed two years after, to the day, as my maternal grandmother. This past weekend, I traveled to Pennsylvania and visited the gravesite of my maternal grandparents, John and Julia Sheredy. It was on my grandfather’s birthday, June 12th. You can see that June has been a time of remembrance for me and it has also brought me full circle, as I start this new role at CCA. To remember our loved ones is bittersweet, yes. It is also hopeful. The legacy of faith that our loved ones have shared is a gift. In living their faith, they have instilled within us, the hope that keeping the love of Christ alive within us brings. The beautiful part of our faith is the hope of eternal life to come. I am grateful for our fathers and for the time in June where we are called to remember their legacy of hope and faith. I am grateful for coming full circle and look forward to serving here at Catholic Cemeteries Association.
Grief is an incredibly unique experience. It depends entirely on the person, the loved one they lost, and countless other elements in their life. One of the most impactful elements is their age. Each year brings new awareness, skills, and developmental milestones. Therefore, it stands to reason that age plays a large factor in how we grieve, as the coping mechanisms that might have helped us at infants surely will not be as helpful as we reach adulthood! While there will never be set “rules” when it comes to grief, there are some guidelines you can follow when trying to help the children in your life who are grieving. Keep reading to learn more.
While many people may feel that babies aren’t aware enough to experience grief, the opposite is true. While they may not be able to express or fully comprehend their emotions, they can sense if someone they’re close to is no longer present. Some commons signs of grief among babies include crying (more than usual), separation anxiety, being jumpy or irritable, or becoming extremely passive.
How to help…
The best thing you can do for babies is keep to your routine. The comfort and stability helps enable feelings of safety and security. Remember that children so young rely heavily on their senses, so surrounding them with cozy blankets, giving lots of hugs, speaking in soothing tones, and smiling are all helpful. Babies are also able to pick up on the tone and mood of their parents, so keeping a calm and loving attitude is important.
Toddlers may exhibit similar signs of grief to babies, but as they grow older their responses may develop to be more complex as well. Older toddlers may grow aggressive or anxious and throw tantrums more often. They may also complain of being ill (having a stomachache or headache). Finally, toddlers may revert to younger behaviors, such as having trouble with toilet training, beginning to crawl again, or asking for bottle.
How to help…
Toddlers are still very driven by their senses, so the coping techniques used for infants could also be used for toddlers. However, at this age it’s also a good idea to help them express how they’re feeling. Simply saying “I am feeling sad” and asking them to identify that emotion is incredibly healthy for them. Verbal reassurances can also help, such as reminding them they are safe and protected. Children this age are just starting to grasp the idea of life and death. If you feel your toddler is ready, you may explain how death works as part of nature, such as leaves falling from the trees. This can introduce them to the idea of death in a gentle way. The key to having these conversations is letting the child lead. Let them ask the questions. Your job is to answer their questions honestly, while providing an age-appropriate explanation.
When children reach school-age, they start to gain a better understanding of what death is. They may revert to signs of grief seen in younger age groups, though they may also exhibit more developed grief reactions. Common reactions at this age include being very preoccupied with the safety of others, or with the situation surrounding their loved one’s death. At this point, they are able to sense new feelings of guilt and embarrassment, which may cause them to act out in angry or depressed bursts. Finally, you may notice that they desperately aim to please adults in their life, and seek constant reassurance.
How to help…
The best thing you can do for children this age is spend time with them. Touch base as often as possible and encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling. What they need most is consistent reminders that they are being cared for and that they are safe. While they may feel the need to overcompensate for their age, encouraging them to act their age and participate in age-appropriate activities can help them cope as well. Finally, as children grow closer to their teenage years, being open and honest about your feelings can help them identify and address their own feelings as well. Remember, always let the child lead your conversations. It is up to you to decide how much information they are ready to hear. Whatever you decide to tell them, just remember that honesty is key.
The teen years may be some of the most challenging we experience, whether we experience a loss or otherwise. Teenagers are right between childhood and adulthood – which already comes with a plethora of emotions. Their bodies and minds seem to change every day, so losing a loved one during this time only adds to this stress. Teenagers may express grief in any variety of ways, but some commons signs include extreme emotions of any kind, ignoring their grief by hiding behind jokes, changes to their sleeping or eating patterns, reversion to bedwetting or night terrors, and growing numb or disinterested. In severe cases, teenagers may experience clinical depression or suicidal thoughts.
How to help…
It’s very important that teenagers have the proper support needed to work through their grief. At this age, they have a grounded understanding of what death is and, while they may understand death, this concept may still overwhelm them. Similar to other ages, teenagers need to be reminded that they are being taken care of and are protected. Assuring them that it’s okay to embrace their age and not assume adult roles is helpful, as is encouraging them to spend time with friends and finding creative outlets for their grief, such as journaling, painting, or listening to soothing music. It’s important to check on grieving teenagers often, as their age group holds the highest risk for severe depression, anxiety, or even suicidal thoughts. Because of this risk, many people may seek professional help to assist their teenager through the grief process.
Again, always remember that grief is incredibly specific and unique. The signs and coping techniques we’ve listed here are common, but they are not the only way to grieve. The most important thing you can do for the children in your life, no matter what age they are, is to love them fully. Spend time with them, talk with them openly, and remind them that they are loved. If you find yourself in a particularly tough situation, do not be ashamed to seek additional sources of help. Sometimes children may respond best to a different adult. Talking to your priest, a trusted friend, a teacher, or professional counselor may be helpful. Just be patient with them and with yourself as you navigate this challenging time.
Are you interested in learning more about our grief support resources? Click here.
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 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 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.
Mourning the loss of a loved one is already a very difficult and sensitive time. Today’s age of social media makes grieving even more complicated, as social media has transformed the way we interact with each other. On one hand, social media can be a very helpful resource when you are experiencing grief, as it introduces new ways to connect and reach out for help; on the other hand, social media can negatively influence your grief journey, as it may provoke unhealthy feelings of isolation or comparison. For some people, it may be best to take a break from social media during the first stages of grief to avoid these conflicting effects entirely. However, if you decide to continue using social media while grieving, it’s important to make yourself aware of how it may impact your grief journey. Please continue reading to learn more.
Social media can provide an accessible and broad network of people to connect with while mourning the loss of a loved one. It can also be helpful since it provides a virtual way of speaking with people. It’s common to prefer more alone time after losing someone close to you. Social media is a great way to reach out when you want, while still having the ability to turn off your device and seek personal solace whenever necessary.
Online Support Groups
Social media offers a platform for you to connect with other people who are currently mourning. Online support groups can be helpful, as they allow you to talk with people who have gone through similar losses and experiences. Searching for groups online opens up even more opportunities, as you may be able to find specific types of support that fit your situation. Support groups can be a wonderful way to receive the compassion and understanding you need to help you heal. Even more so, it can be very comforting to know that you aren’t the only one experiencing certain feelings or types of grief.
Unique Ways to Memorialize Your Loved One
Social platforms offer unique ways to remember our loved ones. Acknowledging your loss directly allows room for healing and growth along your grief journey. Posting a picture, video, scripture passage, or a simple post about your loved one may not only help you work through your grief, but it also opens the opportunity for others in your network to do the same.
While social media does offer an alternative way to communicate with people, it’s important to remember that nothing can truly replace the comfort felt when talking to someone face to face. In some cases, spending too much time online can make you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world. Be sure to watch the amount of time you spend online, and try to seek in-person forms of support when possible.
It’s no secret that, while social media may offer positivity and encouragement at times, it can serve some negative, hurtful, or disparaging posts as well. It’s best to stay away from any toxic support groups or pages that bring you more turmoil than peace. In regard to your personal posts, it’s important to realize certain friends or relatives may not be sensitive to your loss. You may find that some people will leave hurtful comments. Maybe you expected more people to write a message, while only a few chose to do so. While on social media, you should look out for yourself and be ready to remove yourself from the platform if negativity begins to overwhelm you.
Another drawback to using social media is our human nature to compare ourselves to others. You may find that your family and friends are posting about your loved one online. If it appears a family member is mourning the loss more deeply than you, this may elicit feelings of guilt. Alternatively, if you feel someone is not taking the loss seriously enough, this could spark feelings of anger or hurt. It’s important to remember that every loss is extremely unique to the individual, so comparing yourself to others is not healthy. Instead of looking at others, focus on your personal grief journey.
Above all, if you use social media while grieving you should be honest with yourself and ask: What do I hope to gain from this experience? Why am I writing this post and what do I expect once it’s published? Is this platform helping me along my grief journey or hindering me from moving forward? Taking time to reflect on these questions will help ensure you’re using social media in a healthy way.