Tag Archives: death

 imagesbhwzg6k1Tidings of Comfort and Joy

When you’re grieving the death of a family member or friend, you may dread the holiday season. Thoughts of social gatherings, family traditions, and obligations leave you anxious and overwhelmed. Your sadness can seem unbearable. You may wish you could skip these next two months and go straight to the routine of the next year—but you can’t. What can you do to lessen your stress and loneliness?

Holidays trigger tough emotions :

You can start by learning what emotions are normal and to be expected when facing the holidays without your loved one. “If you’re feeling overwhelmed as this holiday season approaches, that’s very normal,” advised psychologist Dr. Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge, whose husband died. “You’re probably wondering how you’re going to handle this and are unsure of what course to take. I want to assure you that you can get through these holidays, and hopefully you can even find moments of joy.”

When you know what to expect, you won’t be rendered helpless as holiday events trigger unexpected emotions. Make a point to spend time talking with people who have experienced a past loss and have already been through a holiday season without their loved one. They can help you have an idea of typical emotions and emotional triggers to expect. These people can also provide much-needed comfort and support.

Creating a holiday plan will help:

Another important step in surviving the holidays is to create a healthy plan for the coming season. “Planning does help you to have a little control, even when you feel totally out of control,” said Dr. Zonnebelt-Smeenge. A healthy plan involves making decisions in advance about traditions, meals, time spent with others, holiday decorating, gift-giving, and commitments.

You will likely not have the energy or the interest in doing as much as you have in past years. Decide ahead of time which invitations you’ll accept, and let the host or family member know that you might leave early. Consider whether your decorating will be different this year: perhaps a smaller tree or simpler ornaments. If you cook or bake, cut back.

Make a list of every holiday tradition you can think of, from music to presents to outings. Then decide which traditions will be too difficult without your deceased loved one, which traditions you’d like to maintain, and what new traditions you can start this year.

Communicating with family and friends:

What’s also helpful in facing the holidays is to communicate your specific concerns and needs with your family and friends. People in grief are often tempted to put on a mask and pretend things are fine, especially over the holidays. “I didn’t want to put on a damper on anyone else’s joy,” shared Mardie. “So I put on a happy face and tried to be the sister, the daughter, the aunt, that everybody wanted to see. Putting on that happy face was a heavier burden than I was emotionally able to carry at the time.”

Your friends may want you to “cheer up” and “have fun,” when that’s the last thing you want. Others will avoid you because they don’t know what to say and don’t want to make you feel worse. Some family members will give you wrong advice in a misguided attempt to help. All of these people likely mean well, but will only end up hurting you if you don’t communicate what you truly need from them.

As difficult as this may be, it’s important to tell people what they can do to help and what they are doing that isn’t helping. And if you don’t have the energy or inclination to talk to people face-to-face, then write your thoughts, concerns, and needs in a letter or email. What’s important is that you are being honest and gracious in your communication.

In describing the first holiday dinner after she was widowed, Dr. Zonnebelt-Smeenge said, “It seemed like no one wanted to talk about my husband. I kept waiting for somebody to bring up [his name]. After a while I couldn’t stand it anymore. I excused myself and left and bawled all the way home. Later I decided maybe they were waiting for me to decide if it was okay to talk about him; maybe they were afraid if they said anything, they’d make me feel worse. From that time on when I went to an event, I found a way to let people know I wanted to talk about him and I wanted to hear their stories.”

So where can you find out what emotions to expect over the holidays, how to create a healthy plan and how to communicate with family and friends these coming weeks?

“Surviving the Holidays” seminar on November 13, 2016:

A GriefShare Surviving the Holidays seminar, to be held November 13, 2016  at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, 8th Avenue N, North Myrtle Beach, SC from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM, offers practical, actionable strategies for making it through the holiday season. At this two-hour seminar, you’ll view a video featuring advice from people in grief who’ve faced the holidays after their loss. You’ll hear insights from respected Christian counselors, pastors, and psychologists. You’ll receive a Holiday Survival Guide with practical strategies, encouraging words, helpful exercises, Q/As, and journaling ideas for daily survival through the holiday season.

At GriefShare Surviving the Holidays, you’ll meet with other grieving people who have an understanding of what you’re going through. They won’t judge you or force you to share, but will accept you where you are and will offer comfort and support. “When I went to GriefShare,” said Marion, “I realized there are different ways to grieve."  It is a confidential, compassionate and safe environment.

Your holiday season won’t be easy; your emotions may ambush you and suck you under at times. But you can choose to walk through this season in a way that honors your loved one and puts you on the path of health and healing.

To register or find out more about GriefShare Surviving the Holidays, call Fran @ 843-399-8196.

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7 Things That Help Me Cope with Grief After Losing a Cat

It's never easy letting go. These are things I've learned by paying attention to the grief process.

Catherine Holm  |  Apr 9th 2013

Grieving the loss of a cat is excruciating. In fact, I’m going through it as I write this. I think the grief process is one of the hardest, most intense experiences we have to get through.

It’s not easy to prepare for grief, as each end-of-life journey is different. That being said, I’ve been through this a few times and have discovered that I do certain things to help me cope. Hopefully, some of these suggestions can help you navigate the grief process.

1. I celebrate the cat’s (whole) life

At the end of life, whether it’s prolonged or sudden, it’s easy to get caught up in the sadness and intensity of that current moment. Sometimes, when I’ve found myself in this place, I realize I’m not honoring the rest of the cat’s life. What about the amazing years or months I had with the cat? What about the funny things my cat did? Or the loving bond we had? What about the wonderful memories and stories of the cat? I try to focus on the life I’ve shared with the cat, even though it’s very easy to want to focus totally on the end of life.

2. I find people who understand

Whether your cat has passed on or is likely to pass on soon, obviously you’ll want to be around people who understand. Now is not the time to take comments like “it’s only a cat” to heart. If you do run across someone who says something like this, try to breathe and let it go. You need your energy to get through grieving, not to get mad about ill-placed comments.

Instead, find people who understand and are respectful of your grief process, whether they love cats or not. A compassionate person and friend will give you the space and respect your need to grieve.

3. I take time to be alone, if I need it

Some of us like to share; others are intensely vulnerable when going through grief. I’m a little of both. Know yourself. If you need to be alone, honor that. It’s OK.

4. I understand that grief is a powerful process

Sometimes, grief reminds me of the waves of an ocean. You’re feeling fine and then WHAM, some piece of grief hits you and you’re down, or crying, or both. I’m not sure why it is, but just knowing that this happens has made me prepared for when it happens again. I try to flow with it. Everyone grieves differently. We all grieve in our own time, and in our own way. Let it happen the way it needs to happen for you.

5. I breathe (deeply)

This is a yoga tool, but it’s also a relaxation technique, which anyone can do. When you’re exhausted from stress or grieving, breathing deeply through your nose can really help relax you and restore your mind and body to a state of calmness. Even a minute or two of this has great benefits. I do this all the time during periods of stress, or if I’m grieiving the loss of a pet. From a physiological standpoint, this activates your parasympathetic nervous system (which induces relaxation) rather than your sympathetic nervous system (which is all about fight or flight). Try breathing deeply in any stressful situation or any time you find yourself holding your breath.

6. I’m good to myself and my body

I’m no good to my cats if I’m a mess. So even though it’s hard (grief is exhausting), I try to remember to be good to my body. I try to remember to eat good stuff (not junk), get outside, exercise, breathe — all good things for me. Find the good things for you and remember to do them.

7. I honor the immensity of grief

It’s a big deal, and we all get to go through it. The sadness in grief is huge, but strangely, so is the joy. Celebrate these wonderful creatures we love, whether we’re going through life with them or whether we’re letting them go.


Some of us have the gift or talent to express sympathy easily to others.  Gestures and words are expertly expressed and people are comforted.

Many others dread seeing the survivor(s) at a viewing or even for the first time after a death occurs.  They feel awkward, not knowing quite what to say in offering condolences. It is difficult and sometimes emotional  to see someone who is in grief and it can makes us feel uncomfortable especially when we are not sure of what to do or say.

I used to feel that way until I experienced grief myself and some time afterwards, joined a bereavement group at our church.  At these meetings, we would have a speaker's presentation on how to adjust to grief or sometimes have individuals express their personal experiences.  Comfort, presence and listening are key.

You may find yourself in a bereavement situationif you ever have to comfort someone who has a death in their family; and/or if you desire or are asked to help others work their way through grief. Here are ten ways to offer condolences or to help someone heal:

•    You might say, "I'm sorry"; or "I'm sorry for your loss", or say a kind word about the    deceased . . . .

When you don't know what to say, say 'nothing'. This was the number 1 rule in bereavement training.  There's not much you can say anyway to relieve their loss.   Let them talk and get their feelings and emotions expressed.  Your presence, your caring and your listening is balm to a griever.  If you are a hugger, this is a good time to give a hug or hold their hand or put your arm around their shoulder.   Touching is healing.   If they aren't touchers, you'll know;  back off and let them set the pace.

•    never say  'it's for the best' or 'they're in a better place' or 'they've lived a long life' . . . .

We learned that the bereaved are grieving for a lost loved one and they do not think it was for the best - even if the beloved was ill.  They want them back on earth and don't want to know they are in a better place.   If it is an elderly person who died, they don't want to hear 'he lived a long life' -- they want to keep a loved one as long as they can and it's never long enough.

•    never say it was God's will for them . . . .

We don't know what God's will was for them. God doesn't plan accidents or cause cancer. Death is a life event that will happen to everyone.  To say that God willed it, isn't going to comfort anyone.  It may even cause anger at God and faith is needed more than ever when someone you love dies. Don't say it was God's will to a couple who has lost a child either in stillbirth or a miscarriage.  A couple who may have finally gotten pregnant after trying a long time, and have it end in miscarriage or a stillbirth after nine months will feel the loss tremendously and it is not comforting to say it is God's will or it is for the best. It certainly is not for them.  It's a devastating loss.

•    encourage them to join a support group or or seek someone who has experienced a similar event . . . .

Perhaps you can suggest they join a support group.  There are many kinds of support groups available through churches or the newspapers.  Losing Someone, Living Alone, Widow/Widower's seminars offer multiple support groups. People gain strength when they know someone else went through what they did and survived.  Although 'misery loves company' is a cliche - it has truth to it.  You may even mail or drop off announcements of such groups.

•    encourage him or her to speak about their loss and emotions with someone . . . .

Sometimes a family or close friend may not be the best choice for grievers to talk to;  they may be experiencing grief themselves.  It is not uncommon for people to have purged their grief with a stranger they hardly knew.   If they have trouble verbally expressing themselves, you may suggest writing a letter to the deceased telling them things they might have said or didn't say; or any regrets they have.

•    visit or stop by occasionally even for a few minutes . . . .

It is uplifting for them if you visit bereaved persons, especially widows or widowers, who now spend time alone.  Bring a small gift, even a book of additional support  or a magazine on bereavement.   They will know they are not alone; others are going through similar losses.   And they will enjoy the break.

•    get them out of the house and go for a walk . . . .

The bereaved sometimes get motionless in their grief and stay at home.   Offer to go for a walk with her - walking is good for depression and releases endorphins, a group of chemicals produced in the brain that reduce pain and improve mood.  It might allow her to open up to release some pent up feelings while walking and feeling companionship.  Remember - caring, presence and espcially listening.

•    calendar and note the birthday and anniversary dates of the deceased . . . .

Their survivors feel the loss especially on these dates and may experience setbacks in their healing.    Remember to call them with an uplifting call those days.  You don't have to mention the date, but, if they do, give them reassurance or if in person, give them a hug. Holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukah, etc., are very hard for the survivors, especially if it was a person who lived with them.   Try to include them or their family  in some way, either by phone, mail or in person to let them know they are being thought of.  Love is always welcome.

•    suggest a physical with a physician and/or a visit to a therapist if the survivor is having difficulty adjusting and seems to be backsliding more than moving forward . . . .

Unresolved grief can cause depression or even suicidal tendencies.   If you notice during visiting that the survivor seems distracted, unkempt, depressed or not themselves, be a friend and tell a family member or gently suggest if you could take them to see a doctor.

•    offer to take them to church . . . .

Since death usually raises spiritual issues, and people are either strengthened in their faith or are turned off and angry at God, offer to join them in prayer services at your church or their place of worship.  You may offer to read Scripture or passages in the Bible together.   If you share faith with them, they may share their sorrow with God, the Great Comforter.   Let it be their choice.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.   Matthew 5:4

© Marie Coppola  Revised December 2012

 

Ron Quinlan, a writer and member of our church, wrote this poignant article on what is important at Christmas time.  

 

WHAT IF THIS WAS YOUR LAST CHRISTMAS?  

Last December I heard a song once that I couldn’t forget, One Last Christmas by Matthew West. The title really makes one think. What if you knew you only had one last Christmas? What would you do?

What if this Christmas was your last Christmas to come back to the Church?

What if this was your last opportunity to tell people you loved them?

What if it was your last Christmas to spend with your Mom or Dad, the last one with your siblings, spouse or children?

What if this Christmas was your last opportunity to go to Mass with your parents?

What if this Christmas was your last opportunity to tell people how much God loves them?

What if this Christmas was your last opportunity for reconciliation with one of your children, parents or siblings?

How would this Christmas be different? What would be your priorities? Who would you see or call? What would you do? What would you say?

So often at holidays we waste time fretting about unimportant things, high prices, long lines, a perfect house, the perfect meal, decorations, the electric bill, traffic.

We spend so much time preparing for Christmas Day that we’re exhausted. Rather than being the best we can be, the loving people we want to be, we are negative. We complain and sometimes criticize. That dress is horrible, what did you do to your hair, you really don’t need a second helping, you’re already too fat. Why did you buy that? The color is all wrong.

Often at Christmas our concern is directed to what we did or didn’t receive. We pay more attention to the gifts than we do to the giver and the love behind the gift.

We spend our day playing with the latest gizmo or watching sports.

Do we really want someone’s last memory of us to be our complaining, negativity or criticism?

Do we want to let this Christmas pass without trying one last time to model Christ’s love, to share God’s love with our family and friends?

Wouldn’t we prefer to leave behind memories of the way we loved others rather than our own anger, negativity or self-centeredness?

How can we be sure this isn’t our last Christmas or the last Christmas with our parents and loved ones? We can’t be sure who will be here next year. I was fortunate to be with my Mom at her last Christmas but I didn’t have a clue at the time.

We need to live this Christmas as if it is our last. We can’t count on next Christmas to return to the Church or to tell our loved ones how much we love them. We can’t put off to next year to tell our children and grandchildren how much God loves them, how much Jesus yearns for them to come back to Him. Now is the time God has given us. This Christmas is the time we have to do the things that are most important.

WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR..........................?

 

 

 

 

 

During our lifetime, we can experience many losses. Some losses are separations, like death, serious illnesses or divorce, wherein we lose a special or primary relationship. It is a critical time when a parent, husband or wife, child, or sibling passes. It is even equally sorrowful, if it is a divorce and there is loss of not only the person, but a way of life and perhaps the division of a family. It is sorrowful when we lose a lover, mate, good friend or any friend ~or a beloved pet ~ who is now no longer with us. Another big loss is a miscarriage. We are numb, shell-shocked, heavy-hearted and grief-stricken. Clear thinking and decision-making becomes blurred; we are clearly not ourselves

Similar feelings can be felt albeit, at a lesser degree, at the loss of a business, a job, a home lost in foreclosure or fire, or even relocating and losing the old neighborhood.  Loss of personal attributes, such as your yourth, good health, loss of hair or good looks, surgeries, cars totaled in accidents, academic standing, integrity or even your good name or reputation all take their toll. They are all losses.

We all experience loss and we all express it differently. Some of us keep a ’stiff upper lip’ and others become withdrawn or they could become weepy and forlorn. There are no set rules for us to follow when we have loss issues. But there are some things that can help us heal.

Whether you have parted with a loved one or a pet or a way of life, you  MUST  take time to grieve. Your sadness does not go away magically when you return to work after a few days. People, in their concern for you, may tell you to ’snap out of it’ or ‘get over it’, but the truth is that it will simply take as long as it takes. It will be different for everyone. There is no ‘expiration date’ here.

As painful as it is, the grief must go somewhere, and the best place for it to go is ‘out‘. Keeping a stiff upper lift may backfire on you, leaving you crippled from the burden of unreleased grief inside you. It’s better to cry --- yes, cry --- one of the best gifts we’ve been given.  Even Jesus cried.  Tears are healing. You can cry alone or with good friends, but absolutely, do cry. You’re entitled; you’re allowed; you’re human. Tears release grief and sadness. If you can’t cry, you may want to talk to a trusted friend or spiritual person or counselor to release that grief that is pent up and not released.

As an example, a lovely neighbor of mine died unexpectedly while I was away on a trip. I did love this woman; she was elderly, kind and caring; a sort of mother to me. It occurred at a really busy time for me and I was called and told about her while I was away. I felt the first stab of shock and sadness, but quickly extinguished it (or so I thought) and carried out my professional seminar and other things to be done at hand. When I arrived at home several days later, it was the night of my neighbor’s viewing, and I hurriedly dressed to go, still not having fully absorbed the reality of her death.   I have attended many wakes, funerals and viewings, and I felt no feelings of forbearance as I walked in the door. Her grown grandchildren were standing around her casket and I hugged them all and gave condolences, but when I walked over to the casket and viewed her for the first time, reality struck, grief surged and I totally dissolved in sobbing tears. Her grandkids encircled to console me. I had pent up the grief and it had to come out; I wish I had done so in private so that I didn’t cause that concern from them when they were grieving themselves. Grief has to be given expression.

In your grief, be careful with your nutrition; you need your strength. You may lose sleep, be uptight a lot or even be mad at God. He understands. It’s important to eat well & drink fluids which will help your muscles become more flexible during tension. Exercise. It’s hard to even think about exercising while your heart is so heavy, but it is important. Even walking around the block helps. When my parents died 6 months apart, my doctor told me to continue aerobic exercises every day during their illnesses. Blood pressure rises from stress and lack of sleep. I never felt like doing it, but forced myself and even took yoga exercises which relieves tension in your body. I t helped tremendously; and will help you sleep. Force yourself.

Lean on your spirituality and faith. God walked me through my rough times, helped me work out my aerobic exercises and was there to hug me in my tears. Let go and let God. He loves you and will help you if you only ask. He is our Refuge and our Strength. He is the Great Physician and Counselor and will never let you down. He did not cause your grief; life events happen to all of us.

If your loss feels like it is overcoming you and/or debilitates you and you can’t function, you need to see your doctor, counselor or spiritual advisor.  It will help you. After my parents died, especially my father, I found myself going the ‘weepy and forlorn’ route. After much praying, I felt directed (God nudges me) to the employee program at work that assists in employees’ problems. I didn’t really want to do that because I did not want to take my personal life to a work program, but it was affecting my performance and God was telling me  that if I didn’t go, I might be told to go. And so I went.

It was just what I needed (Thank You, Lord.) The clinical psychologist there actually sat through 3 lunchtime sessions with me where all I did was cry. And he let me. A half hour of crying for 3 days. Finally, he gently guided me to find out why I was so upset. We did this in 3 more sessions. What it came down to was this; and this is a good thing to keep in mind if you find yourself perplexed over unexplained depression.  In my case, I was simply overcome with grief.

He went over other loss issues in my life; for example, my mother had Alzheimer’s, so I had lost her before I really ‘lost’ her. We went over the personal losses in my life besides other than people losses. He uncovered losses I had never grieved for and losses that I did grieve over. I was surprised at how they overlapped and the intensity of them. And what he told me is this - and this explanation has carried over into unexplained feelings of loss in my life when there really weren’t concrete reasons.

"When you have loss issues, your body remembers how it felt when you lost them. When you have additional loss issues, although you think you recovered from the previous ones, your body and mind may remember them and ‘mingle them with the loss you currently have’. If you have had deaths, divorce, illnesses, etc., in the past, a significant "loss remembrance" may bring these previous losses back to the surface, and you will feel all of them and wonder why you are feeling so grieved."

I believe that is what happened when my father died. I had an overwhelming feeling of loss. But there were other life losses involved. The counselor showed me how to separate my loss issues individually and give each one its own expression of grief; and then put it away. And I did. Once I did that, and understood why, I was readily able to function without that overwhelming feeling of loss.

Marie Coppola © 2009