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

 

My Internship at the Catholic Cemeteries Association: Marketing the Word of God

During my 9 weeks at the Catholic Cemeteries Association I have learned a great deal regarding marketing in terms of data driven decision making, advertising, brand promotion, customer engagement strategies and much more. I have frequently been asked by friends and family what I am doing this summer and I always respond “I am an intern at the Catholic Cemeteries Association.” The first response tends to be, “doing… what?” Which is honestly the first question I asked in my interview with the CCA. I always respond, “I help the marketing team with tasks to help build awareness.”

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Antonio Vuyancih was selected to participate in the Catholic Community Connection 2018 Summer Fellowship Program. He was placed at the Catholic Cemeteries Association to assist in marketing and outreach activities. 

To start, I have learned more about marketing than I have in any other setting. The CCA has provided for me real tasks which are of high importance to the association. We are a small association, which means every minor detail can have a large impact. The margin for error is low and the opportunity for impact is high. Katie Karpinski is my supervisor and an extremely talented one at that. Katie, only a year older than I has helped spearhead marketing at the CCA and her work here is certainly not going unnoticed. She has provided me with work and responsibilities which I know I will utilize in my future endeavors.

Every day, I am greeted by people such as Rhonda Abrams, our Bereavement coordinator, who is filled with nothing but inspiration, or Chad, one of our Family Service Representatives who interacts with grief-stricken families, parents, and individuals every day, yet always has the energy and light to make them and his colleagues smile. There is also Barb Palumbo, who noted in our initial phone interview that I went to St. Edward High School and her two sons both attended St. Ignatius High School. I laughed and replied jokingly, “Hmm… I’m probably not getting this job, am I?” Barb always finds time in her busy schedule to make her way over to the small corner office I share with Katie to see how I am doing and it is always appreciated. There’s much more I could write about those who work at Calvary Cemetery who consistently amaze me with their diligence and joy. I think it goes without saying, working at a cemetery can be tough. Many opinions of cemeteries are skewed to think that a cemetery is a place of sorrow. However, here at the Catholic Cemeteries Association we know that our cemeteries are a place of faith, hope, and remembrance!

Recently, I have had the pleasure of spending more time around our CEO, Andrej Lah. Andrej is truly an interesting man. He’s serious, direct, and exceptionally inspiring. I can recall a handful of times when Andrej was speaking and I was trying to take notes, but simply set down my pen and notebook and took in all he had to say. His will to speak of tragic stories and still manifest the grace of God in these situations can only be described as captivating. His knowledge of the Catholic faith and the church’s teachings provide him the ability to profoundly express the strength he has in his faith.

When my coworkers walk through the door they do so because of a calling they respond to every morning. I never thought I could enjoy driving into a cemetery every morning and working 8:30AM-4:30PM, but I truly do. Lately, as I awake to my alarm clock early in the day I have felt something that makes me want to clock in at work and give my best effort in building awareness of the Catholic Cemeteries, an extension of the church, to the best of my ability.

I have come to realize in my time at the Catholic Cemeteries Association that the work conducted here is more than helping families find the perfect place to enshrine the memories of their beloved or offer bereavement seminars to help anguished families. The marketing, sales, and IT departments do more than draw attention to or market for the CCA. Every day this team of extraordinary people help each other and the church in building awareness for the WORD of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

“A Prayer For Fishers Of Men”

Father, it is during times of discouragement, bewilderment, or delay that we find ourselves more attentive to godly instruction.  It seems our hearts are more yielded and our minds more absorbing of the truths You want to convey when we’re no longer trying to take charge.  Like the disciples who were fishing in the usual way expecting the usual results we also relate to such efforts.  But You are extraordinary and You do extraordinary work in our lives as we yield our will to Yours and heed Your instruction. Shape us into the most useful and enduring vessel that brings glory to You while we cast our nets for the great catch of men and women, boys and girls for the kingdom.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Prayer by: A Daily Prayer: The daily prayer from Daily Encouragement Net 
Post written by Antonio Vuyancih

 

Meaningful Music: OVERCOMER by Mandisa

Sometimes life can just be overwhelming. While God constantly graces us with blessings, He also exposes us to challenges and times of struggle to help us grow and develop as faithful followers. We know that God does everything in our best interest but everyone can use a little extra support and encouragement when these hard times come our way. Mandisa, an award-winning Christian artist, provides such comfort through her music. Her song “Overcomer” has been on the top of Christian charts for over five years and it’s no question why! Her words of encouragement and truth for those undergoing hardship is enough to lighten anyone’s mood.

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Photo Credit 

The song’s verses speak to the universal feeling of being worn down and distraught by the challenges God places in our path:

Everybody’s been down

Hit the bottom, hit the ground

However, Mandisa reminds us that we are not called to overcome these challenges alone. God has promised each of us His help and intervention. He will never put us in a situation that we cannot handle:

Ooh, you’re not alone

Just take a breath, don’t forget

Hang on to his promises

He wants you to know

Whatever it is you may be going through

I know he’s not gonna let it get the best of you

Knowing that God is constantly on our side, our struggles, conflicts, and problems seem to shrink. God is gracious enough to give us the strength, power, and courage we need to accomplish anything. Mandisa sings of this power as she dubs us all “Overcomers”:

You’re an overcomer

Stay in the fight ’til the final round

You’re not going under

‘Cause God is holding you right now

You might be down for a moment

Feeling like it’s hopeless

That’s when he reminds you

That you’re an overcomer

You’re an overcomer

Next time you find yourself in a situation beyond your control, take a moment and re-center your focus on Christ. With His help you can do anything!

Listen to the full song here:

Want to hear more from Mandisa? Make sure to attend the FEST (a free and family-friendly event!) on August 5, 2018 to see Mandisa live! And don’t forget while you’re there to visit the Catholic Cemeteries Association booth to receive a free snow cone and complimentary family photo!

Post written by Katie Karpinski

A Self-Care Guide for the Bereaved

When a death occurs, priorities shift. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with your emotions and the impeding tasks that follow the loss of a loved one. During this painful time, taking care of yourself may be the last thing on your mind. You may feel as if there are too many things to do, too many people to care for, and too little time to complete it all. Even after the initial flurry of activities following the death of your loved one, and into the subsequent years, you may still feel the heaviness and weight of grief albeit less frequently but just as draining upon your emotional and physical self. However, taking care of yourself during a time of grief is critical to truly healing and overcoming the obstacles associated with losing a loved one. Keep reading to learn about 3 steps you can take toward better self-care today.

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1. Take care of your body

The body and mind are very closely related. This is why, while grief may traditionally be known as an emotional pain, there is also an element of physical pain or unbalance that is experienced following the death of a loved one. Therefore, taking steps to improve your physical health can be beneficial not only for general wellness, but also in terms of working through your grief. Getting a full night’s sleep, eating healthy foods, and moderate exercise are all great steps toward physical wellness. In some cases, a visit to your doctor for a checkup may be good idea. It all depends on you and your body’s unique reaction to grief.

2. Be kind to yourself

While grieving, it’s important to treat yourself like your own best friend. It’s so easy to get caught up in everything that needs to be done, and you may even blame yourself if things aren’t being completed on time or don’t go as planned. Instead of discouraging yourself, remember that you are only human. Take some time to do things you enjoy. Give yourself breaks and learn to say no to events or obligations you simply don’t have time for. Learn how to pamper yourself, and find something to do that makes you happy. Maybe it’s reading a good book or watching your favorite movie. Perhaps taking a nice bath with aroma therapy soaps or mediation can help. Whatever the case may be, find what works for you. It’s important to mention that many people turn to being busy as a way to cope with their grief. However, all that does is push your grief to the side and distract you from the pain you need to work through. By taking breaks and avoiding the “busy trap”, you can actually learn to work through your grief instead of ignoring it, all while practicing better self-care along the way!

3. Reflect and connect

While slightly contradictory, one of the best ways to practice self-care involves turning your attention to others. First, while it may be tempting to push the painful feelings of loss to the side and try to go about a normal day, it’s important that you accept these feelings associated with loss. Reflecting on the life of your loved one is a great thing that can bring about healing and acceptance. Some common reflection exercises include writing down ten things you miss about them, or your favorite memories with them. Maybe it’s simply talking about your loved one with others, or creating some type of memorial for them. Whatever the case may be, allow yourself to enter into whatever it is you may be feeling. Finally, use this opportunity to connect with others, and to connect with Christ. Grief is not a journey that needs to be done alone. Reaching out to a trusted friend, family-member, church leader, or local support group are great ways to reconnect and provide yourself with a support system to assist you through your grief journey. Of course, constant prayer and communication with God is the best way to take care of yourself and your grief. God is a source of never-ending and never-failing love. He alone can truly heal you.

Interested in joining a grief support group? Visit our website for more information.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Saint Catherine of Siena: A Story of Devotion and Bravery

Saint Catherine of Siena is one of the most well-known Catholic saints. This is largely due to the amount she accomplished during her short time on earth, as well as her contributions to the Catholic faith that are still being recognized to this day. Her story is one of true sacrifice, devotion, and bravery. Keep reading to learn more about Saint Catherine and her powerful faith.

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Catherine was born on March 25, 1347 in Siena, Italy. The Black Death was sweeping through Italy, creating very dangerous conditions for newborn children. Catherine had a twin sister, but sadly the newborn died shortly after being born. Catherine was raised by her mother and father, who earned a living dying cloth. Growing up, Catherine was a happy child. So happy, in fact, that her family nicknamed her Euphrosyne, which is Greek for “joy.” While living a relatively care-free life in her early years, at the age of five Catherine received her first vision from God. Her writings indicate that she saw Christ, Mary and the Apostles gathered around a banquet table. It was at that moment that Catherine decided to devote her life to Christ.

Catherine spent the next few years at home, where she was extremely devoted to serving her family. When asked how she served them so fully, she explained that she considered her father to be Christ, her mother to be Mary, and her siblings to be the apostles. She also practiced asceticism, or the act of denying earthly desire to enter into deeper spiritual enlightenment. Catherine lived like this for years, until her parents tried to arrange her marriage when she was 16 years old. Completely opposed to the marriage, Catherine did everything she could to dissuade her parents. This included entering into a heavy fast and even cutting her hair to make herself less attractive. Eventually her parents gave in and allowed Catherine to join the Third Order of Saint Dominic as a tertiary. Taking simple vows, Catherine stayed at home with her family, where she lived in silence and isolation. In the rare instances when she would visit the public, she was known for giving away her clothing and food, often at the cost of her own well-being.

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When Catherine was 21, she entered into what she described as a “mystical marriage” with Christ. This was a turning point for Catherine, for after her spiritual marriage to Christ, she devoted her life to serving the public and broke her pattern of isolation. Catherine began to gather a following due to her good works and eventually she found herself called to intercede in the rocky political climate in Siena. She was a strong advocate for reform within the clergy and peace within the Church. She worked closely with Pope Gregory XI to make changes that would better the church as a whole. Pope Gregory and Catherine worked closely together for several years. (It was during this time, at the age of 23, that Catherine received her first stigmata.) Pope Gregory even called on her to help negotiate peace between Florence and Rome in 1378. That same year, Pope Gregory died during riots associated with the conflict. Catherine herself was almost killed, but this didn’t stop her from pursuing peace. Eventually peace was established and she was able to return home to Siena.

When Pope Urban VI was elected to the papacy, Catherine served on his court and continued to take an active stance in local politics. However, the remaining years of Catherine’s life were ones of great hardship. While she was known for fasting throughout her life, she began to fast even more extremely, even against the advice of her family and spiritual adviser. It became so severe, that by 1380 she could not swallow food or water. In the same year, she also suffered from a major stroke and was unable to use her legs. On April 29, 1380 at the young age of 33, Catherine passed away. In 1461 Catherine was declared a Saint. In 1970 and 1999 respectively, Catherine was named a Doctor of the Church and a patron Saint of Europe and Italy.

Today Saint Catherine holds several patronages including nursing, illness, fire prevention, still born children, and miscarriages. While Saint Catherine never had the experience of carrying or birthing a child during her short life, she was no stranger to the pain that losing a child can bring. Her own twin died shortly after being born, and she lost another sister due to complications during child birth. Today, many men and women pray to Catherine of Siena for a healthy pregnancy and the avoidance of a miscarriage. Take a look at the prayer below, and say it for you or someone you know that is going through similar struggles.

Humble Virgin and Doctor of the Church, in thirty-three years you achieved great perfection and became the counselor of Popes. You know the temptations of mothers today as well as the dangers that await unborn infants. Intercede for me that I may avoid miscarriage and bring forth a healthy baby who will become a true child of God.   

Amen.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski