Handling Special Occasions: A Simple 3-Step Guide for the Bereaved

Grieving is a difficult process. It’s one of the hardest experiences we endure throughout our lifetime. While losing a loved one may be hard to comprehend even on a typical day, remembering this loss on days of special importance can take an even larger toll. Since events such as holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions are usually spent with those closest to us, after losing a loved one these days may be hard to bear, as they bring with them memories of our departed loved ones and serve as a reminder of their passing. Much like the seasons, these days will come each year. The key is not to run away or avoid them, but to embrace them for what they are. It may be hard at first, but with time you can come to appreciate these special days and the memories you shared with your loved one. To help handle the tough times, just remember to feel, react, and reconnect. Keep reading to learn more…

hanlding special occasions

  1. Feel

The most important part of grieving, whether it’s on a notable day or not, is to allow yourself to experience your emotions fully. Often, you may feel pressured to put on a brave face and act like everything is okay—even when it isn’t. This is especially common on holidays, as you may try to maintain some sense of normalcy. Sometimes, you may feel like expressing sadness is a sign of weakness, and prefer that others view you as your “usual self.” This isn’t just limited to feelings of sadness, either. It’s common to experience a plethora of emotions surrounding the death of a loved one. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a few days or a few years—there will be days when you feel confused, hurt, sad, and even angry. Don’t try to cover up these emotions. Instead, allow yourself to fully express how you feel.

  1. React

After expressing your emotions, the next step is to respond accordingly. If you’re too flustered or overwhelmed to have your usual 4th of July BBQ, then suggest that someone else host it this year. If the anniversary of your loved one’s death is coming up and you’re experiencing extreme loneliness or sadness, spend the day remembering them. Maybe make their favorite meal, or watch their favorite movie. Whatever the case may be, being in tune with your emotions can help you prepare for these special occasions, and help you plan ahead. Instead of planning the day according to other’s expectations, do what you feel most comfortable with and what will bring you the most peace. On certain days, it may be a good idea to treat yourself to something special, perhaps a relaxing massage or an extra piece of chocolate cake. An important part of the grieving process is being kind to yourself—something that many of us forget!

  1. Reconnect

Grieving can be a lonely process. Since the emotions you feel are so specific to you and your situation, you may feel like no one on earth can understand what you’re going through. Sometimes, this can cause you to push people away in an effort to handle your grief on your own. It’s true that others may not be able to empathize with your unique grief, but it’s important to stay connected with those closest to you. While holidays and special occasions may be hard to handle, they are still days to celebrate with family and friends. Making an effort to reconnect with those around you can help diminish those feelings of loneliness or sorrow, and remind you that life can still be filled with joy and celebration. Even more important than reconnecting with family and friends, however, is reconnecting with God. He is the only one who will know exactly what you’re feeling, and the only one who will never leave you. During the hardest days of grieving, turn to the Lord for strength and comfort, and never lose sight of the eternal hope He offers each of us.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Lost Their Lives In Service

 

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day dedicated to remembering the lives lost while serving in the military. First called Decoration Day, this holiday was established after the Civil War to decorate graves with flowers. The Catholic Cemeteries Association takes pride in honoring those who gave their lives in service, and we respect the contributions they made for our country. We are proud to have buried many Medal of Honor recipients here at our cemeteries; two of them even buried right next to each other at Calvary Cemetery. Follow the links to learn more about these respected individuals.

Frank J. Petrarca

William Foster

John R. Towle

Celebrate this day by praying for all those who lost their lives in service.

“O God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, look kindly on your departed veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country. Grant that through the passion, death, and resurrection of your Son they may share in the joy of your heavenly kingdom and rejoice in you with your saints forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Prayer gathered from: https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=1452 

Post written by Mike Freiberg

 

 

 

Saint Hannah: An Example of Faithful Trust and Prayer

Sometimes God places us in unpredictable and confusing situations. Blessed with the sacrament of marriage at young age, Hannah had no idea that she would experience trouble conceiving. As one of the select handful of saints featured in the Bible, Hannah’s story is one of true faith and devotion to God.

After being married to Elkanah, the couple soon learned that Hannah was unable to bear children. As result, Elkanah took a second wife named Peninnah. Peninnah and Elkanah had several children together. Despite his relations with Peninnah, Elkanah remained devoted to Hannah. One day, Hannah became so upset over her inability to conceive a child that she began to pray and weep openly, begging God to give her a child. She vowed that if God gifted her with a son that she would ensure her son dedicated his life to God’s work.

Sure enough, Hannah soon conceived a son whom she named Samuel, which literally translates to “God Heard.” Samuel would become the high priest who would crown both King Saul and Kind David, who contributed greatly to the narrative of Christianity.

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Saint Hannah with her son, Samuel

Saint Hannah continues to be the patron saint of married couples without children, and couples who struggle with infertility. While miracles like hers are rare, Hannah’s story reminds us yet again of the awesome and all-powerful will of God. His plan is far more than we can ever comprehend, and His timing is always perfect. If you find yourself in a similar situation as Hannah, or in an equally difficult situation, turn to her example of complete openness and dependence on God. Take a look at Hannah’s prayer below. Instead of praying it exactly, insert your own name, your own intentions, and your own desires. God may surprise you with His answer.

“O Lord of hosts, if you look with pity on the misery of your handmaid, if you remember me and do not forget me, if you give your handmaid a male child I will give him to the Lord …” (1 Samuel 1:11)

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Saint Gerard: A Life of Unexpected Lessons

Saints are interesting people to learn about. Not only are their stories quite inspirational in nature, but their patronages have their own interesting origins. A quick Google search will reveal that the patron saint of pregnant women is, in fact, a man. While some people may find this rather curious, a closer look at Saint Gerard’s story reveals much more about this unexpected pairing. Keep reading to learn more!

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Gerard was born on April 6, 1726 in a small Italian town near Naples. He was the youngest of five children, and his father was a tailor. Gerard was only 12 years old when his father died, and this obviously put the family in great financial stress. In an effort to help with the family expenses, Gerard took on an apprenticeship to learn about the tailoring trade. After four years of hard work, he began to work more fully. As he started to earn steady wages, he split his earnings– giving half to his family and half as a church offering for the souls in purgatory.

As Gerard started to mature, he tried to join a local Capuchin order but was denied entry due to his poor health. Instead, he joined the congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and carried on his mission as a lay person. Most of Gerard’s missionary work involved spreading God’s word to the poor. He was very close to those on the outskirts of society and was often seen with those otherwise rejected by the public. He gained a local reputation, as his dedication to God was quite clearly evidenced by his good works.

Despite his good works, Gerard was still subject to persecution. When he was in his mid-twenties, he was subject to an awful rumor. A woman claimed to have romantic relations with him in an effort to tarnish his reputation. Amidst this awful allegation, Gerard did not grow angry but remained silent and turned to God instead. His prayers were answered, as the woman soon rebuked her own accusations thereby restoring Gerard’s reputation. It’s for this reason that Gerard is the patron of those who are falsely accused.

This was not the only time Gerard was known to invoke divine intervention. Several miracles and divine acts are attributed to him including the gift of bilocation, the ability to read souls, walking on water, and even multiplying bread to give to the poor. However, one of his most notable miracles resulted in the patronage he holds for mothers, expecting mothers, and childbirth.

Gerard was said to carry a handkerchief that was of great sentimental value to him. No one knows exactly why Gerard was so attached to the handkerchief, but speculation is that it belonged to his father. Regardless, Gerard took this handkerchief with him everywhere. One night Gerard was visiting a friend who had several daughters. As he went to leave for the evening, he dropped his handkerchief without realizing. One daughter picked it up and went to return it to Gerard. However, instead of taking it, Gerard simply said “Keep it, you may need it one day.” Years later, that daughter was in the middle of giving birth when several complications occurred. She called for the handkerchief to be brought to her, and upon receiving it she was able to complete her delivery of a perfectly healthy child. Gerard is still called on by expectant mothers, and those who wish to become pregnant so that they may have a safe and healthy pregnancy.

Gerard spent his life serving others. Sadly, he passed away at the young age of 29 in October of 1755. He was beatified in 1893 and was canonized in 1904. Saint Gerard’s story is one of unexpected lessons. He showed us that sometimes being turned away from certain opportunities can lead to even greater ones; that the truth will always prevail over deception; that small acts of kindness can make a world of difference; and that no dire situation is beyond the divine power of Christ.

 

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.

Catherine_of_Siena_writing

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

Handling Mother’s Day: Comfort and Prayers for the Bereaved

 

handling mothers day prayers and comfort for the bereaved.jpgAs we approach Mother’s Day, many of us will be reminded of our mothers and the place they hold in our hearts. Whether our mother is still with us or has passed from this world, Mother’s Day is a special time to celebrate these women and the immense impact they have on our lives. It goes without saying that those who have lost their mother may experience added grief on this day. However, there are other groups of people who also experience additional pain or grief during this time: those who don’t have (or never had) a relationship with their mother, those who are unable to have children, couples who have suffered from miscarriage or stillborn children and all other special circumstances.

This Mother’s Day, be aware of your own emotions as well as those of others. If you find that Mother’s Day mass is too hard or painful to attend, spend the day worshiping from home. If you know someone is struggling with any of the situations listed above, or an equally difficult situation, make an effort to let them know you’re thinking about and praying for them. Wherever, however, and with whomever you celebrate this Mother’s Day, remember that Christ is with you and that His plan is far greater than the highs and the lows of our lives here on earth.

Take a look at the prayer below and share with others.

Dear God,
Thank you for the gift of motherhood. Thank you for the blessing it is to be called “Mom.” Thank you for the good plans you have in store for those who still wait to be a Mom. Thank you for the numerous spiritual children you have given to so many “spiritual moms” and mentors. We pray that you would fill this day with favor and grace as we honor Moms all around our nation.
We ask for comfort for those who are grieving loss and heartache, especially on this day. We ask for strength for those who wait for children to come back home. We ask for healing for those who have been hurt by relationships that were intended to be loving and nurturing. We ask for faith for those who will someday be Moms, who find themselves on a journey that seems so hard. We ask for great encouragement and grace to cover those who have made a brave and loving choice for adoption. We ask for incredible provision and care over every single parent mom who works so hard on behalf of her children. We ask that you would remind many of those who, though they do not have “physical” children, have the gift of being amazing hope-bringers to many spiritual children they’ve been blessed to nurture through these years.
God, thank you, for the gift of life. Thank you that your heart is for us, and that you are with us, in all our unique journeys and pathways. Thank you that you are Sovereign over every part of our lives.  Thank you that your ways are perfect and you make our footsteps secure.
Today we pray for refreshing, for joy, for grace, for wisdom, for great peace…for all moms, for moms to be, and for women who nurture and lead.
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen. (source) 
Post written by Katie Karpinski

St. Patrick: A Story of Conversion and Conviction

Saint Patrick is one of the few saints to have a widely accepted holiday held in their honor. As one of the patron saints of Ireland, this powerful missionary has become a symbol for the nation and the people who hail from it. Known by many names and titles such as the “Apostle of Ireland” and the “Enlightener of Ireland”, Saint Patrick’s influence on Irish culture has spanned centuries. This influence is so strong, that even those who are not ethnically Irish still choose to celebrate his feast day on March 17th. Keep reading to learn more about this notable saint.

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Saint Patrick holding a shamrock

While records regarding St. Patrick’s birth and death dates are unclear, it’s widely accepted that he lived during the 5th century. He was born in Roman, Britain. His family was rooted in a deep Catholic faith, with Patrick’s father being a deacon and his grandfather a priest. This trait was not immediately expressed by Patrick, however, as during his youth he denied the Catholic faith. When he was 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates. He was brought to the Irish country side as a slave and worked as a shepherd and animal care taker. He would remain a slave for six years. During this time, Patrick began to reconnect with his Catholic faith. He spent more and more time in prayer, and eventually was able to form a strong relationship with God. One day, Patrick received a message from God saying he would be traveling home soon. Sure enough, Patrick was soon able to escape captivity and made it home to his family in Britain. Now a man in his early 20’s, Patrick had changed. He decided to enter into religious life and pursue a life dedicated to serving Christ.

Patrick became a priest, and a Bishop after that. One day shortly after his ordination, a messenger angel came to him with a letter that read “The Voice of the Irish”. After receiving this message, Patrick knew that he was being called to minister to the people of Ireland. Upon his arrival, Saint Patrick was treated poorly due to his status as a foreigner. He was routinely beaten, robbed, and in some cases even imprisoned. However, this adversity did not prevent him from conducting thousands of baptisms and conversions. Christianity began to spread throughout Ireland, as well as the notoriety and fame of Saint Patrick. It was during this time that many of the legends surrounding Saint Patrick occurred.

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Saint Patrick performing a baptism

First, it’s said that Saint Patrick used a shamrock to explain the holy trinity. As a plant with three connected clovers, the metaphor became quite clear: three parts to one equal body. This metaphor is still one that is used today to explain the trinity. Another legend regarding Saint Patrick is his banishment of the snakes in Ireland. Legend states that during one of his 40 day fasts, St. Patrick was attacked by a group of snakes. As a result, Saint Patrick chased the snakes into the sea and thereby banished them from Ireland altogether. This is widely believed, as Ireland is still known as a country with no native snakes. These are just two examples of the countless legends, landmarks, and artifacts that are connected to the life of Saint Patrick.

As previously mentioned, Saint Patrick’s actual birth and death dates or not known, but many believe that he died at some point during the 5th century on March 17th, which would later become his feast day. By the 7th century, Patrick became known as a Catholic saint and is still celebrated to this day. Saint Patrick’s story is one of true inspiration. Sometimes the situations we find most discouraging or difficult are the ones most beneficial to our spiritual life. By trusting and listening to God, every situation can be made into an opportunity to spread the word of Christ to the world.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

Springing Forward: Where are you on your grief journey?

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Believe it or not, spring is just around the corner. While we may still have a few weeks of chilly weather, the grass is getting a little greener and the sun a little brighter. Soon we will be setting our clocks forward, which serves as yet another indicator that we are entering into a new season, a new time. Spring is a time of renewal and fresh starts. The earth itself seems to shake the snow from winter and instead welcome warm breezes and nourishing spring rain. For the bereaved, spring can be a challenging time. The cold weather of winter makes it easy for us to stay inside and ignore the outside world. In a way, winter weather mirrors our own feelings. It’s isolating and cold—it doesn’t allow for new growth or change. It’s stagnant.

It’s common during the grieving process to crave consistency. The death of a loved one is a traumatic change and makes some of us nervous about any type of change. We may hold onto the sadness and loneliness we feel immediately after the loss of loved one in an effort to maintain some sort of constant, no matter how negative or destructive this constant is. Many of us may even feel guilty for trying to move on, as we fall prey to the distorted belief that working past the sadness and grief would mean to forget our loved ones or imply that they are no longer important to us. This simply isn’t the case.

It is possible to remember and love your dearly departed loved ones without being in a state of constant grief. This can be a hard concept to grasp, and even harder to practice. However, it’s important to give yourself a chance for future happiness. Spring is a fitting time to reevaluate where you are on your grief journey and plan steps to make sure you are continually progressing. These steps can be as large or as small as you’d like them to be, as long as you are progressing and growing in the process.

If you’re still struggling in progressing through your grief journey, don’t forget that God calls us all to experience joy and happiness!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”- Romans 15:13

 “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”-Nehemiah 8:10

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”-John 16:22

You see, grief is a part of life. It’s something all of us will journey through. Keep in mind what a journey is—something that is full of change, unpredictability, and growth. This journey may have some setbacks and challenges, but don’t let them discourage you. Instead, focus on what you can learn from these setbacks. Take advantage of this spring season to learn more about yourself, your grief, and what you can do moving forward.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Meaningful Music: JUST BE HELD by Casting Crowns

Casting Crowns is a Grammy-winning contemporary Christian rock group. With dozens of chart-topping singles, the group has become known for their uplifting music powered by scripture, faith, and love.  One of the group’s most popular songs, “Just Be Held” addresses one of the honest facts of life which is that…

Life is stressful.

Life after losing a loved one is even more stressful. We feel hopeless and helpless, completely out of tune and out of sync with what used to be such a familiar world. We feel overwhelmed and can’t imagine how we can keep going with such a heavy load on our shoulders. “Just Be Held” powerfully addresses the need each and every one of us has for Christ. Let’s take a closer look at the lyrics and what they have to say about surrendering our stress and strife to the Lord.

The song starts by describing how so many of us feel each and every day:

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

We often feel as if we are responsible for everyone else’s happiness and well-being. We may be able to tolerate this responsibility most days, but there are some days when it just becomes too much to handle. Whether it’s a major tragedy that you weren’t expecting, or small inconvenience, there are days when we all feel beaten down and simply overwhelmed. The next verse tells us what we can do in these desperate situations:

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

As the song so beautifully describes, when we have times that break us and leave us too tired to carry on, when we have times that being in control is too much to handle—those are the times we must surrender everything to Christ. “Lay it down” in His hands and then “let it go.” This freedom of “letting go” is so powerful. A huge part of journeying through grief, and life in general, is realizing and addressing that you have limited control, as God is the only one to have complete control.

As we enter the chorus, we hear more about God’s peace:

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

You see, God doesn’t expect us to “have it together” all the time. We were built with an inherent need for Christ, and so many of us try to live our lives without addressing that need. God is always waiting for us with open arms when we feel overwhelmed or upset. He will be there to catch us when we fall.

Take some time to listen to the rest of the song. What areas of your life are you holding too tightly to? When was the last time you allowed yourself to be “held” in the presence of Christ?

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Coping with Valentine’s Day: A Guide for the Bereaved

coping with valentine's day

Valentine’s Day is tough. Even for those who haven’t lost a loved one, the day can be an emotional trigger or stressful obligation. For those who have lost a loved one, the day serves as a solemn reminder that we are missing someone on this earth. Keep reading for some guidance on how to handle this unique holiday.

  1. Set your own expectations
    1. Like all holidays, Valentine’s Day carries with it a certain set of expectations. Especially in the years immediately after the death of a loved one, the loss of tradition and custom can come as a major shock. This is completely normal. However, a great way to deal with this new reality is to set new and realistic expectations for the holidays, including Valentine’s Day. If you don’t want to go out, then don’t go out. If you don’t want to watch a romantic movie, then don’t. The day and how you handle it is entirely up to you and your personal preference.
  2. Celebrate yourself
    1. Valentine’s Day is about love—and this includes self-love. Spend the day doing your favorite things or treating yourself to a new experience. Whether it’s going to the movie theater for a double feature or finally taking that art class you’ve been wanting to start, spending the day to truly love yourself and who you are is a great way to combat feelings of loneliness. Learn to love who you are as an individual child of God. So often, we define ourselves by our relationship with other people, whether we’re a wife, husband, sister, son, etc. Because of this, when we lose the people we are so connected to, we can lose our sense of self. Valentine’s Day can be a great opportunity to discover what makes you happy—so don’t be afraid to explore!
  3. Honor your loved one
    1. Of course, despite celebrating yourself, Valentine’s Day is sure to remind you of dearly departed loved ones. A nice way to remember those who are no longer on this earth is to do something in their honor. If you and your spouse always had a specific meal on Valentine’s Day, prepare a portion of that meal for yourself. If you exchanged gifts, buy something you know you spouse would have enjoyed and donate it to a worthy cause. You can also honor them in other ways—whether it’s writing down your feelings in a letter or going through pictures of them, find what works for you.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski