What to Expect When Attending a Grief Support Group

The Catholic Cemetery Association offers a safe and welcoming environment where the bereaved can come to be present with others who understand. The hardest parts of processing grief are best dealt with by talking about what you are feeling and realizing that most of what you experience is normal and eases over time.

Here are a few of the most common things to expect when attending one of our Grief Support Groups:

Relief/Clarity

You’ll find a sense of relief or freedom in being able to be open with your feelings.  Sometimes with family or friends, we tend to want to protect others from our hurt and pain and we don’t allow ourselves to fully experience the grief. We feel we have to be strong for them or we feel that we should be further along in our grieving. This is true especially if others in your family don’t “seem” to be grieving as much as you. Attending a support group can illustrate how everyone’s grief is personal and unique, and that everyone processes grief differently. In some cases, you may find new coping skills for common grief experiences.

Companionship

Our number one goal is for you to know that you do not have to be alone in your grief. Our support groups are designed to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for you to share your grief story and share experiences with other participants. While each grief experience is different, there is strength and comfort to be found in knowing you are not alone.

Diverse grief needs

There will be other participants in the group with varying degrees of grief. Some may have recently lost their loved one, and others may be working through a loss they experienced years ago. You may encounter others in the group who handle life in general differently from you. In our groups, we respect each person’s unique way of processing grief, without judgement. There are no wrong questions or feelings because your feelings are unique to your life experiences. In fact, these differences can provide you with a greater perspective in regard to grief and the healing process.

What NOT to expect:

Professional Counseling or Therapy

Our Group Facilitators are not psychologists or therapists, but rather trained specifically to help people understand what grief is and to encourage effective group discussions. We are able to help direct people in need of deeper grief work, to local resources for obtaining one-on-one or a specific type of grief counseling (widows, infant/child loss, accidental, traumatic/violence, suicide, substance abuse death, and other types of intense grief experiences).

A Quick Fix

Processing your grief is not a quick fix. It is not reasonable to expect to be back to “normal” in six months, or even a year. It takes time and patience as you work through painful emotions and life-altering changes.  But with a good support network at your side, you will find hope to take that next courageous step toward your new normal.

Grief will never be an easy journey, especially if you are attempting to journey it alone. Come and join a warm fellowship of people with similar grief experiences, helping each other through prayer, shared stories, and grief recovery discussions.

Post written by Kaleigh Rice

Content derived from interview with CCA Bereavement Coordinator, Rhonda Abrams.

Thanks-Giving: 3 Tips for Finding Gratitude through Grief

It goes without saying that the holiday season can be the most stressful time of the year. With countless obligations and expectations, everyone feels some elevated stress during the months of November and December. This stress can be even more severe if you’ve recently lost a loved one. In a time when we’re supposed to be counting blessings, you may feel that you have nothing to be thankful for. These feelings are valid and a normal part of the grieving process. However, there are ways to work through these feelings and find glimpses of gratitude through your grief this holiday season. Keep reading to learn more.

ThanksGiving

Tip One: Embrace Your Feelings

It’s important that you truly embrace what you’re feeling. Trying to bury your emotions for the sake of others is unhealthy and may even deepen your feelings of loss, since you can’t express them. Don’t feel like you need to behave in a certain way over the holidays. Even if everyone else in your life is in full holiday swing, it’s okay to tell them you’re not feeling up to a certain party or activity this year. It’s okay to not feel in the “holiday spirit”. It’s okay to want more alone time. Try not to get swallowed up in the expectation of others. Without your loved one, the holidays will be forever different. Trying to fit into your traditional mold may not work. Recognize that you will need to make changes based on how you’re feeling at a given time. We can open ourselves to wonderful new and healing experiences when we decide to let go of previous expectations and obligations.

Tip Two: Embrace Your Outlook

While it may be hard to find things to be thankful for, try to find some glimpses of hope in your life. Blessings can be as simple as having food on the table, a roof over your head, or a meaningful friend in your life. Taking time to appreciate the wonderful parts of your life doesn’t mean you don’t miss your loved one. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten about them, and it won’t erase the pain you feel. However, noticing blessings in your life will help you balance the good with the bad, and give you greater perspective. There are countless mental health benefits to listing blessings, and this in turn can help your physical health as well. Remember that your outlook is the one thing in this world that you have complete control over. Peacefully remembering your loved one while having a joyful outlook is a balance we all have the potential to achieve.

Tip Three: Embrace Your Faith

It’s important to remember that, while God allows difficult times to enter our lives, He wants to help us find happiness again through the grace of His comfort and strength. He wants us to experience peace and to truly enjoy the life we’re given. Losing a loved one will change your life forever, and the sorrow associated with grief is unlike anything else on this earth. But we are all called to find meaning beyond the suffering. Our faith gives us hope and calls us to greater things. God has plans for each and every one of us—plans for hope and a future. While we may not always see the logic or reasoning behind the path God leads us on, we must trust that He alone knows what is best for us. He is leading us on the path to everlasting life—to a place where we will be reunited with our loved ones forever.

Are you interested in joining a grief support group? Please click here:  https://clecem.org/Information/Bereavement.aspx 

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s hard to believe, but the winter months are fast approaching! As the sun starts to rise late and set early, many individuals start to experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD can affect nearly anyone, but those who are grieving may be especially vulnerable to this unique type of depression. In short, SAD is characterized by an increased feeling of depression during the winter months. Experts believe this is mainly due to the changes in natural sunlight we receive during the winter months. While experiencing SAD during the winter months is most common, it’s also possible to experience SAD during the summer or spring. It all depends on the individual and their physical and emotional chemistry. Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms of SAD, as well as common coping techniques.

SAD blog

Signs of SAD

Just like any other form of depression or anxiety, SAD can manifest in variety of ways. There are, however, some more common symptoms including:

  • Severe depression for several weeks with no good days
  • General tiredness and sluggishness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns
  • Being easily agitated
  • Feelings of guilt or self-loathing
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide (Seek help if you are experiencing these thoughts. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline by calling 1-800-273-8255 to talk to someone immediately).

Ways to Treat SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder should be taken seriously. If you find yourself identifying with the symptoms outlined above, it may be wise to meet with a healthcare provider to discuss your options. There are many treatment options available. Below are 5 coping mechanisms commonly used to combat symptoms of SAD.

  1. Light Therapy

As previously mentioned, it’s believed that one of the main causes of SAD is the change in natural sunlight. Therefore, many people find that light therapy is an effective tool in coping with SAD. There are many light boxes you can buy that mimic natural light. Exposing yourself to a cool-white florescent light for just a few minutes each day has been proven to improve overall mood. Further, even if it’s a bit cloudy out, spending some extra time outdoors in the fresh air can help your mood. It will also make sure you do get exposure to whatever natural light is able to escape through the clouds!

  1. Eat Well and Exercise

It’s important to remember the strong connection between physical health and mental health. That’s why it’s also important to eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise. Make sure you nourish your body by giving it the vitamins and minerals it needs to thrive. Moving your body can also help, as exercise releases endorphins, which are proven to naturally improve your mood. While it may be tempting to stay cuddled in bed with a big serving of comfort food, try to eat as healthy and exercise as much as possible.

  1. Find a Favorite Activity

It’s important to practice plenty of self-care during depressive periods. It can be helpful to find an activity you enjoy during the winter months. Certain activities can become a helpful and constructive outlet, and they can also give you something to look forward to when winter starts approaching. Maybe it’s a creative hobby like painting or knitting. Maybe it’s baking. Maybe it’s saving a book you’ve been wanting to read until the winter months. Whatever it is, find something that you can do during the winter months to keep your brain stimulated and your mood elevated!

While these techniques have been proven to help most people struggling with SAD, please remember that each person and situation is unique. It may take some time and self-reflection to find coping techniques that work for you. However, the tools outlined above are great places to start.

Are you interested in joining a grief support group? Click here to learn more.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

What You Should Know About Survivor’s Guilt

Survivor’s guilt is a very special form of grief. It can be displayed in a variety of ways, and in some cases people may not be able to identify it in themselves. Like all forms of grief, it’s important to work through it in a healthy and constructive way. Keep reading to learn more about survivor’s guilt- what it is, what common symptoms are, and some helpful coping techniques.

What you should know about survivor's guilt

Who is susceptible to survivor’s guilt?

Survivor’s guilt is often seen in people who survive a very significant trauma. Often, this trauma involves the death of other people. Some common victims of survivor’s guilt include veterans, first responders, and survivors of acts of terrorism. However, there are other sources of survivor’s guilt such as transplant recipients, children in families affected by miscarriage, those with loved ones who died by suicide, and many other possible causes. Survivor’s guilt, though often experienced by those directly involved with the trauma, can also impact those who were nowhere near the situation or circumstance. As is the case with any type of grief, it is also very specific to the individual and situation. People may experience survivor’s guilt even when they did not know the victim or situation personally.

What are some signs of survivor’s guilt?

While the effects of survivor’s guilt vary from person to person, there are a few common symptoms in people who experience this unique form of grief:

  • Sense of depression or anxiety
  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Numbness/ feeling unattached to reality
  • Questioning of one’s own mortality
  • Feelings of deep regret or “unworthiness”
  • Feelings of being restless or helpless
  • Irritability and insomnia

These feelings are certainly normal after such a tragedy, and are important to acknowledge as part of the healing process. However, if you notice that your symptoms persist for several months with no good days it may be a good idea to seek professional counseling. Always seek professional help if you have thoughts about harming yourself or others.

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

What are some ways to cope with survivor’s guilt?

Remember that openly accepting your grief is the first step toward long term healing. Since grief is unique to each person, finding a coping mechanism that works for you may take some time. With that in mind, here are a few good places to start:

  1. Self-care

It’s very important that you take care of your body. Grief takes a strong emotional toll, yes—but it also takes a physical one. Getting plenty of rest and eating healthy foods is a good way to take care of your body during such a stressful time. You should also be doing activities that support your mental well-being. While it may be hard at first, doing activities you enjoy and taking time to mentally rest are important. Remember that you deserve to be happy – regardless of the tragedy you went through.

  1. Seeking support

While support groups are a good idea for all types of grief, they can be especially helpful for those struggling with survivor’s guilt. Hearing about the experiences of others and realizing you’re not alone can be incredibly insightful. It can help you work past feelings of personal guilt and shame and remind you that what you’re experiencing is incredibly human and normal. If you’re interested in joining a support group, please click here.

  1. Remembering those you’ve lost

Many people find that creating some type of memorial, volunteering for a charity, or otherwise spending time remembering those who have passed away is a good way to work through their grief. It keeps the memory of the deceased alive, which is important to survivors who find comfort in staying connected to the past. It can also be a good outlet for extra energy or restlessness one may experience while grieving.

Survivor’s guilt is something that many people live with every day. You will have good days and bad days, but hopefully by identifying your grief and finding a coping technique that works for you, you can find a way to live a fulfilling and happy life after experiencing a tragedy.

The Catholic Cemeteries Association has several bereavement resources available to the community. Please click here to learn more.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

Saint Felicitas of Rome: Patron of Grieving Parents

Saint Felicitas (otherwise known as Felicity) doesn’t have the same wide awareness or acknowledgment as other Catholic saints. Born around 101 AD in Rome, there is no clear documentation on the life of Saint Felicity. However, those who witnessed her death continually recollected the story to others, thereby ensuring that Felicitas’ story can be shared by those of us still alive today.

Saint Felicitas
Photo Credit: Orthochristian.com

As previously stated, Felicitas was born relatively soon after the death of Christ. She was married to a wealthy merchant, and the pair had seven sons together. After the birth of their seventh son, her husband passed away leaving Felicitas to care for seven children on her own. However, through this hardship, she remained incredibly faithful. She lived a life completely dedicated to Christ and could often be found performing acts of charity (such as feeding and clothing the poor). As she continued to minister to the people of her community, she also fostered countless conversions to Christianity—putting her in the spotlight of several pagan leaders of the time.

Her outward display of faith was so troubling to the pagan leaders that they reported her to the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, under the guise of heresy. Aurelius ordered that Felicitas and her sons worship the pagan gods and abandon their devotion to Christ. Felicitas refused them time and time again, her sons following her example. In response, Aurelius ordered that Felicitas and all seven of her sons be executed. Felicitas did not waver in her faith or show signs of weakness– her only request was that she should be the last to die so that she could be with each of her sons during their time of suffering.

After the death of each of her sons, Felicitas was given the opportunity to denounce her faith. Each time she refused and instead looked to God for comfort and strength. She (along with her sons Alexander, Vitalis, Martial, Januarius, Felix, Philip, and Sylvanus) died in 165 as a martyr of the Church. It’s said that she died eight times—once for each of her sons and then for her own final death.

As sorrowing as her story may be, there is some comfort to be found in the life of Saint Felicitas. She, along with Mary our Mother and many other saints, know the personal pain and suffering that comes with losing a child. It is for this reason that she has become one of the patron saints of those parents who have lost a child or struggle with infertility. Her story reminds us that sometimes God’s plan doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it doesn’t seem fair or right. However, Saint Felicitas kept a strong focus on the Lord, even when it meant losing her own children. Felicitas knew that those who are innocent, pure, and devoted to God will be rewarded greatly in Heaven.

If you are a grieving parent, know someone who is grieving a child, or are someone who struggles with infertility, say a quick prayer to Saint Felicitas for strength and comfort. Look to her as an example of remaining true to Christ even in times of great personal sacrifice and hardship. Remember that His plan may not always make sense, but it will always lead you toward greater salvation.

 

Post written by Katie Karpinski