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

Grief’s Gentle Journey: One Foot in Front of the Other

After losing a loved one, grief may feel like something that needs to be conquered or overcome. However, grief is not an obstacle– it’s a journey that we embark on with the company of our Heavenly Father. Just like any journey, while grieving you will experience ups and downs, trials and successes. God offers us all the strength and guidance to continue moving forward—especially in times when it seems most difficult.

While grief is specific to everyone, here are some suggestions to progress forward in a healthy way. Keep reading to learn more.

Griefs Gentle Journey (Jan 19 Bereavement)

Have a growth-mindset

Losing a loved one can make the whole world seem finite and fixed. You may feel like your fate is set and that you will never feel truly happy again. Instead of diving deeper into this fixed perception—try to have a growth mindset. Grief is an opportunity to learn and grow as a person. You will not always feel hopeless and downtrodden. Rather, if you focus on small improvements and constant progress, you will find yourself more accepting and open to what God has planned for you in your life. God has lessons in store for us in each step of our grief. Try to learn as much as you can, and don’t rush through your feelings. Rushing means you are missing valuable lessons. Pace is not important for grief.

Celebrate small successes

Grief is an experience completely specialized to the individual and the situation. The way you and other members of your family mourn the loss of a loved one will be different. Similarly, the way you grieve will depend on your relationship with your departed loved one. The way you mourn for a parent will be different than how you mourn for a spouse or sibling. Therefore, you should never measure your grief progress to that of others or even your past self. Instead, you should focus on small successes and steps toward improvement for you personally. For some people, these steps can be as small as going outside for a few extra minutes each day. For others, steps can be as large as visiting your loved one’s grave for the first time. Whatever the case, find some steps you can personally take and celebrate yourself for these small improvements.

Spend time in prayer

The best step anyone can take in progressing along their grief journey is spending extra time in prayer. This prayer doesn’t need to be traditional prayer either. It can be starting a prayer journal or reading a devotional book. While these are just a couple of examples, find a form of prayer that works for you. Keeping close to God during your most difficult times will help you stay on track. Communicating with Him and listening to His gentle voice during prayer can help direct you to your next step and offer you comfort and peace throughout the journey. By truly listening to God and communicating with Him on a daily basis, you may come to better understand how your grief can lead you closer to Him and His eternal salvation. While hard to comprehend at times, death is part of God’s master plan.

Are you interested in joining a grief support group? Available at a variety of cemetery locations, our support groups meet once a month. Please come and join a warm fellowship of people with similar grief experiences, helping each other through prayer, shared stories, and grief recovery discussions. Click here to learn more.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

 

 

3 Ways You Can Help Children Grieve in a Healthy Way

Children provide an interesting perspective to essentially everything. Their fresh impressions and highly curious minds foster imagination and wonder. They are driven by pure emotion and instinct. These traits are part of what makes childhood such a formative time in our lives. Unfortunately, losing a loved one as a child is a harsh reality many people face. It can be hard to console children through grief, for their way of processing their emotions is much different than it is for adults. However, there are some key things you can do for the children in your life who may be grieving to help them grieve in a healthier way. Keep reading to learn more.

3 Ways You Can Help Children Grieve

Be Honest

The best thing you can do for a child who is grieving is to be honest—in all regards. First, it’s important to be honest about death itself. Describing those who have died as being “gone,” “asleep,” or “taken” do not accurately describe what happened. Children are familiar with these terms and assume that those who are gone can come back, those who are asleep will wake up, and what’s been taken can be returned. Death is a permanent force and one that should be explained and defined to children. It’s also important to be honest about how their loved one died. Telling children how their loved one died can help them form rational conclusions about how death works, and they can have an outlet for any negative feelings they have. Just make sure these negative feelings are aimed toward a thing (such as an illness) and not a person (such as a doctor). Helping them understand the actual concept of death and what it means is the first step to helping them along their grief journey.

Be Yourself

Next, it’s important that you are honest about how you feel. It’s a natural protective instinct to put on a brave face for children. This is okay. You want to be strong for children who are experiencing such a tragic loss. However, there is a way to be strong and brave while also being honest. Telling a child how you truly feel following the loss of a loved one can help them understand their own thoughts and feelings. Chances are you are likely feeling a combination of emotions—you may be sad, confused, or even angry. You can experience all of these emotions simultaneously while grieving, and it’s important that children realize they can experience several conflicting emotions as well. Instead of being a “rock” be a role model. Find ways to connect and communicate with the children in your life.

Be There for Them

Finally, continual conversation is crucial. Losing a loved one and journeying through the grief process is traumatic for anyone—let alone children who may not even fully be aware of what they’re feeling or how to express those feelings. Taking time to check on the children in your life and having conversations about their grief (in an age appropriate manner) can help them progress along their grief journey. Be ready to answer any questions they have and answer them honestly. It’s also important during these conversations to emphasize that you will be with them for help and encouragement. Many children will foster fears of abandonment and separation after losing a loved one. Reassuring children that they will be cared for can help soothe these fears, and will also ensure that their energy and thoughts are more appropriately dedicated toward healing and understanding their grief.

These tenants can be helpful guides to the grieving process, but also remember that grief is unique in every conceivable way. If you find yourself consoling a grieving child, make sure to keep this in mind and help them in whatever way is most appropriate—and don’t forget to take care of yourself as well! You can only help others work through grief if you yourself are also able to work through grief in a healthy way.

Children’s Grief Awareness Day is November 15th. The best way to show awareness on this day is to wear blue. More information can be found at https://www.childrensgriefawarenessday.org/cgad2/index.shtml.

Are you interested in joining a grief support group? Join us at one of our monthly meetings. Visit http://clecem.org/Information/Bereavement.aspx to learn more.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

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

 

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