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

Fourth Sunday of Advent (2018)

Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-45  

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” 

Fourth Sunday of Advent

This week’s gospel is one many of us are familiar with. Mary travels to visit with her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. The joy and faith shared between these two women is truly remarkable, as they both possess unwavering faith in Christ. Whether it’s Elizabeth’s faith that God would grant her a son in her old age, or Mary’s trust that God will guide her throughout the very controversial and unconventional nature of her pregnancy, both woman understand that God has a specific plan for each of them. Neither question His reasoning or methods. Rather, they rejoice together in the fact that they are playing active parts in the coming of Christ.

Sometimes on this earth we are placed in confusing and disheartening situations. It can be hard to look past these trials to understand that God has a wonderful plan in store for each and every one of us. As we celebrate Christmas and enter the New Year, let us all look to Elizabeth and Mary as role models of faith. Like them, we may not always know why or how God’s plan will work out, but we must trust in God and find moments of joy along the way.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Second Sunday of Advent (2018)

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First Scripture Reading: Baruch 5:1-9

Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God. Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God;
put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.
For God will give you evermore the name,
“Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.”
Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;
look toward the east,
and see your children gathered from west and east
at the word of the Holy One,
rejoicing that God has remembered them.
For they went out from you on foot,
led away by their enemies;
but God will bring them back to you,
carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low
and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,
so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.
The woods and every fragrant tree
have shaded Israel at God’s command.
For God will lead Israel with joy,
in the light of his glory,
with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

In this week’s first reading God is readying the arrival of Christ on earth. Instead of reserving this encounter for only the most worthy, wealthy, or remarkable, God is ensuring that all of mankind (Israel) “may walk safely in the glory of God.” God’s path is a joyful one – one of “Righteousness Peace.”
God’s path towards Christ is one we are all invited to embark upon. No matter how lost, alone, or unworthy you may feel, God is inviting each and every one of us to have a personal encounter with Christ. As we near the midway point of Advent, evaluate where you are in regard to your personal relationship or journey with Christ. Are you avoiding His gaze or running toward Him with open arms? Perhaps you don’t know how you feel. That’s okay too. Regardless of how you may be feeling, take some time to reflect on this week’s readings. Reflect on the love, salvation, and peace that God promises all of us.

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

Losing a Loved One to Suicide

Suicide is undoubtedly one of the most devastating tragedies. It knows no limits—happening to even the most faithful of people and families, leaving behind hurt, confused, and mournful family and friends. Losing someone to suicide differs from other losses, and therefore grieving the loss of a loved one to suicide also differs. If you have lost someone to suicide, please take some time to read these words of comfort.

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Some questions will go unanswered

Often the first question asked after hearing someone died by suicide is “why?” While we do know some psychological and physiological reasons why people take their own lives, such as loss, failure, or mental illness, the loss of a loved one can still be emotionally confusing. As with any death, confusion is a normal part of the grieving process. However, in the case of suicide this confusion may be more severe. Often when people die by suicide they leave without supplying answers. There are questions that will never be answered, and you must learn to accept this mystery. Instead of focusing on why someone did what they did, focus on mourning in a healthy way.

Anger and bad memories are normal

Feelings of anger are common even in the mildest cases of grief. Following a suicide, however, these feelings of anger and abandonment may be heightened even more. Also, due to the circumstances of a suicide, those grieving may experience the negative memories surrounding the suicide and forget the more positive memories and experiences of the person who passed away. The most important step you can take when experiencing these feelings is too fully experience You must comprehend and accept your negative feelings before moving on to more positive memories.

Invest in yourself and be patient

It’s natural to feel guilty after a friend or loved one dies by suicide. You may feel like you missed a warning sign, or that you could have done something different that would have changed the outcome. It’s important to understand that you were not the only influence on the person’s life, and there are limits to your power and responsibility. Learn to forgive yourself and be patient with the process.

Learn to rely on others

Just as any other cycle of grief, the pain you experience after losing someone to suicide may cause you to put your life on hold. It may force you to change your routines, behaviors, and may just disrupt your life in general. It’s natural to feel flustered by new responsibilities, or even isolated by your grief. One way to help with both of these feelings is by learning to rely on others. Whether it’s a family member or close friend, reaching out to others for help and guidance during your time of need is a healthy and proactive way to work through your grief.

The tragedy of suicide is one that can be prevented in certain cases. If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please know that there is help available. Please call the hotline number listed below, or share how you’re feeling with a trusted family member or friend. You are not alone.

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

Post written by Katie Karpinski 

Information gathered from Bearing the Special Grief of Suicide by Arnaldo Pangrazzi