Catholic Cemeteries: Grieving At Christmastime…Communally and Personally

Catholic Cemeteries: Grieving At Christmastime…Communally and Personally

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Catholic Cemeteries’ tree at Christmas in the Park displays ornaments with handwritten messages to deceased loved ones. Look for tree number 833 on Market Street near Natasha’s Attic.

By Kathy Fanger and Candee Lucas

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted: and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” Psalm 34:19

Communal Grief

How do we reach out to one another in a communal time of need?

Devastating fires, gun violence, persistent racism, military conflicts, xenophobia, political strife and climate change weigh heavily on us. Many experience deep loss and grief. How may we assist?

God walks with us in our suffering. God calls us to do the same for others. How? With compassion and generosity. With the recent disastrous fires, thousands of first responders and caring individuals continue to respond with monetary donations, serving food, offering shelter, clothing, conversation and prayer. Think of small ways you may offer hope as God’s instruments of healing.

Personal Grief

If your loved one(s) died recently or in years past, the holidays can be an emotional roller coaster. While others enjoy festive preparations, you may be overwhelmed with feelings of sadness and emptiness.

Emotional moments may catch you by surprise. A Christmas song or movie, a long-time holiday tradition, can trigger grief. How do you cope? “Could anyone possibly understand how much I miss my parent, spouse, partner, child, baby or friend?

God Understands

Jesus experienced the depth of love, suffering and death. Emmanuel means ‘God is with us.’ God knows us intimately and gives us peace.

Helpful Suggestions:

Plan ahead. Give yourself permission to let go of certain traditions, yet don’t say, “I am doing nothing.” Instead, do something, even if it’s hanging a wreath on the door. Allow someone else to host the holiday, or you may choose to travel. Discuss ideas with your family, including the children, so that everyone has input.

Connect with loved ones. A visit, meal, or phone conversation can help during this holiday time. Remember that each person grieves differently.

Find someone who will truly listen. Express how you are feeling. If you feel like crying, cry. It helps you physically and emotionally, reducing stress and anxiety. Allow your loved ones to see you grieve, even children.

Take time for you…to rest, reflect, pray. Watch a movie or curl up with a good book. It’s okay to decline a social invitation.

It’s also okay to enjoy an outing, laugh and have fun.

Ask for support from relatives, friends and neighbors. People often want to help.

Cherish memories and pictures. Write a letter to your loved one expressing what is in your heart-happy or sad. Be honest.

Light a candle near treasured photographs.

Offer a special grace or toast at your holiday table. Invite those gathered to share a memory. Tears and laughter can be blessings and very healing.

Reach out to others. It takes the focus off you. Make a phone call; visit or invite a neighbor or friend to your home. Volunteer at church, a soup kitchen or charitable organization. Make a donation in your loved one’s honor.

Visit the cemetery, if nearby. Speak and pray to your loved one.

Attend church services. The community, Word of God, music and Eucharist bring strength. The Sacrament of Reconciliation offers enormous healing and peace.

Be grateful to God for the many blessings you have received, not for what you lack. Give thanks for your loved one(s). They were chosen specifically for you, to change your life forever. Jesus promised to come back for you and take you home. You will be reunited with God and your loved ones in heaven…forever.