Experts offer advice, support groups for the bereaved
By ROSE YBARRA The Valley Catholic
The holidays, particularly the first ones after the death of a loved one, are especially difficult for a person who is grieving. Facing that first Thanksgiving and Christmas with an empty place at the table evokes excruciating sadness and many other emotions, said Fina Suarez, whose son, Eddie, died in 2001 at the age of 20.
“I remember the first Thanksgiving without our son,” said Suarez, who serves as director of pastoral care at San Juan Nursing Home, which operates under the guidance of the diocese. “We were sad because we don’t have what we had before – our son is missing. That day, my husband said, ‘how can I tell God, thank you for taking my son? How can I say, thank you, Lord, when my son is not with us anymore?’”
Suarez continued, “But at the same time, we were truly grateful. That day, we also said thank you to the Lord for those wonderful 20 years that He gave us with our son. I’m still very grateful that He gave me this gift, a very precious gift that I enjoyed to the fullest for those 20 years. Instead of focusing on our son’s death, we’d rather focus on the memories, and the joy, and happiness that he brought into our lives.”
Talking about her son at Thanksgiving, as it turned out, was good for everyone, Suarez said, adding that it is vital to give people permission to talk about the deceased friend or family member.
“And that really helped, not just me, but my other family members, to open the conversation and talk about him,” she said. “Many times, when the grieving people are not talking about it, your friends and other family members don’t want to mention anything, because they think they are hurting you by saying something.”
Talking about your loved one is an important part of grieving, especially at holiday gatherings, said Joseph F. Perez, vice president of pastoral service with Valley Baptist Health System in Harlingen.
Perez said some grieving families even choose to share stories about their loved one.
“Of course it’s going to be sad,” he said. “Some of the stories about that loved one will be sad and make people cry. Other stories will be happy and make people laugh, but at least everyone will be honest about it and that’s when healing can take place.”
And being honest about the situation is healthy for those who are grieving, Perez said.
“When you lose a loved one, nothing can ever be like it used to be, because that person is no longer in your life, physically,” he said. “The process of grief is to learn to carry their memory in your heart, but during the holidays, one has to prepare. This loss will affect your holidays and it is normal for it to affect your holidays. It’s ok.”
Suarez, who assists individuals and families with grief on a regular basis through her ministry at the nursing home, said that she and her family have Masses celebrated in her son’s memory. The family also honors him by collecting toys for needy children at Christmas, a cause that was dear to her son.
“Losing my son will always be sad,” said Suarez, who has served at San Juan Nursing Home for more than 20 years. “There is no way to not remember but you can arrive at a place of hope.”
The grieving process is full of ups and downs, highs and lows, Perez said. One moment, the grieving person may be at peace, the next moment, they may be distraught, especially during the first year.
“Grief comes and goes like waves,” he said. “I think of it like you’re on the beach and you have your back to the waves. You feel the constant push, but every once in a while, you get a real big one and it can knock you down. You just don’t know when those strong emotions might come. It could be at the grocery store when you see a certain food, it could be in the car when you hear a song on the radio, just something that hits and touches that tender spot in your heart.”
When it comes to grief, many people say, “this too shall pass,” or “it will heal with time,” but Perez said the notion that time heals all wounds is a myth.
“Time is not the healing agent,” he said. “The healing agent is attention to the wound, over time, heals. Attention to the wound, over time, brings about healing.”
The best way to tend to grief is to face it rather than ignore it, Perez said. Having support, from family, friends or a bereavement support group, is key.
Both San Juan Nursing Home and Valley Baptist Health Systems offer free support groups for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
For more information on support groups at San Juan Nursing Home, call (956) 787-1771. For support groups at Valley Baptist Health System, call (956) 389-1194.
Tips for coping during the holidays without your loved one1. Normalize your feelings. Know that the sadness, the anger, the helplessness, or whatever you are feeling is normal. Give yourself permission to grieve. When people ask you, “How are you doing?” you have the right to answer them honestly if you choose to do so.2. Ask yourself, “What do I want to do this year?” You may find it helpful to try to keep things as “normal” as possible for the sake of continuity. What are your traditions around the special seasons? Or, if it this is too great a burden this year, give yourself permission to do something different or start a new tradition.3. If at all possible, surround yourself with family and people who care. Probably, the hardest thing to do is to be alone.4. Get plenty of rest and eat appropriately. Grief can be tiring work, especially during the holidays. Exercising can also help.5. Seek out the professional support from a pastor / priest or other counselor if necessary.
Source: Valley Baptist Health System
“VERBUM MITTITUR SPIRANS AMOREM”
Latest priests’ appointments:Effective September 1, 2016 Rev. William Stout, OFM, Associate Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in McAllen and Holy Family Parish in Edinburg, Texas
Effective September 5, 2016 Rev. Cesar Uriel Partida, appointed Spiritual Director of Apostolado Para La Nueva Evangelización (ANE)
Effective September 14, 2016 Rev. Jesus G. Garza, appointed Parish Administrator of Our Lady, Queen of Angels Parish in La Joya and its missions St. Anthony in Peñitas and St. Mary Magdalene in Mission, relieved of his responsibilities at Immaculate Conception Parish in Rio Grande City, Texas
Effective September 19, 2016 Rev. Ricardo Chavez, appointed Parochial Vicar of Immaculate Conception Parish in Rio Grande City and its mission Sacred Heart in Los Garcias, relieved of his responsibilities at San Cristobal Magallanes and Companions Parish
Basilica to Offer Blessing Today in Honor of Feast of St. Michael, Archangel All military, emergency responders and law enforcement are invited to the 5:30 p.m. Mass today, Sept. 29 at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine in honor of the Feast of St. Michael, Archangel. St. Michael is the protector of those who strive to preserve security, safety and peace.
For more information, call the Basilica at (956) 787-0033.
Religious Brothers Invite Faithful to St. Therese Talk In observance of the Feast Day of St. Therese, the Missionary Servants of the Cross will be presenting a talk on the life of St. Therese of Lisieux "The Little Flower” at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1 at St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus Church, 200 North P. Salazar in Edcouch. For additional information contact the office for this and all other activities planned for their Patron Saint at (956) 262-1347
Mass of Innocents Honors Lost Children, Extends Healing to FamiliesA Mass of Innocents will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3 at Mary, Mother of the Church Parish in Brownsville.
This Mass is for all who have lost a child before or shortly after birth. Parents, siblings, grandparents and friends are invited to commemorate and celebrate the lives of their children.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Please share this information with your loved ones who might be interested in attending the Mass.
Join Bishop Flores for Theology on Tap on Oct. 4 in Harlingen Join Campus and Young Adult Ministry at the corner of faith and politics for Theology on Tap with the Most Rev. Daniel E. Flores, Tuesday, Oct. 4 from 7 to 9 p.m. Young adults ages 21-39 are invited to attend Carlito’s Wine House, 204 W Jackson Street, Harlingen. For more information on Theology on Tap or the Campus and Young Adult Ministry, call (956) 784-5045.
White Mass for Health Care Professionals Scheduled for Oct. 6The Diocese of Brownsville’s Health Ministries Department invites all health care professionals to the Annual White Mass celebration. This event is scheduled to take place on Thursday, Oct. 6 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in McAllen. It begins with the celebration of the Mass at 6:30 p.m. and followed immediately by a conference and dinner.
All Valley residents working/serving in the health care field are invited to attend and receive a special blessing by our bishop, the Most Reverend Daniel E. Flores. The conference keynote address will be delivered by Dr. James W. Castillo II, MD FACP. Dr. Castillo is Board Certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. He established the Palliative Care Consultation Service at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen.
The conference topic will be “Hospice and Palliative Care and the Corporal Works of Mercy”. The doctor will share his experiences and what he has witnessed tending to the people of God in his profession.
This event is free, a reservation is encouraged. CMEs are available for doctors. To RSVP or for more information, call (956) 784-5007 or email@example.com
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