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”
Spirit Awards Banquet Kicks Off Catholic Schools WeekThe 19th Annual Spirit Awards banquet is set for 6 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29 at Msgr. Ralph Hall at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in McAllen.
Sponsored by the Catholic Schools Office of the diocese, the event honors outstanding individuals whose dedication, generosity and service have made an impact in the 13 Catholic schools in the Rio Grande Valley. An honoree or honorees from each of the schools will be recognized at the event. Bishop Daniel E. Flores will be recognized as the diocesan honoree.
“Bishop Flores has certainly made his presence known in all our schools,” said Sister Cynthia Mello of the Sisters of St. Dorothy, superintendent of schools for the diocese. “He celebrates Mass with the students, is present to faculty and staff, attends school events where you can find him relaxing and interacting with the children.
“We honor him and thank him for his continued support to Catholic education.”
Proceeds from the event benefit the diocese’s tuition assistance program, which is dedicated to making Catholic education accessible to all families.
The Spirit Awards banquet kicks off the annual observance of Catholic Schools Week, which in 2016 is Jan. 31 – Feb. 6. The theme for the National Catholic Schools Week is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.”
For more information on the event or for sponsorship opportunities, contact the Catholic Schools Office at (956) 784-5051.
Latest priests’ appointments:Effective November 11, 2015▪ Rev. Jose M. Villalon, Jr., appointed Pastor of Saint Theresa Parish in San Benito, Texas
Effective December 15, 2015▪ Rev. Gustavo Obando, returned to the Diocese of Granada, Colombia
Effective December 28, 2015▪ Rev. Msgr. Patrick J. Doherty, appointed Confessor of the Capuchin Poor Clare Nuns of Saint Joseph and Saint Rita Monastery in Alamo, Texas
Effective January 15, 2016▪ Rev. Rigobert Poulang Mot, returned to the Archdiocese of Bertoua, Cameroon
Effective January 19, 2016▪ Rev. Andres E. Gutierrez, appointed Parish Administrator of Saint Helen Parish in Rio Hondo, Texas and its mission Saint Vincent de Paul in Lozano and Chaplain for the Texas State Technical College in Harlingen, Texas while continuing as Vice-Chancellor for the Diocese of Brownsville and Chaplain for the Serra Club in Brownsville, relieved of his responsibilities as Parochial Vicar at Saint Luke Parish in Brownsville
Mother-Daughter Program Celebrates God’s Special Gifts The Mother-Daughter Program, which explores God’s special gift of human fertility and the wonder of growing up and becoming a woman, is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 31.
The event begins at 2:30 p.m. at the Bishop Adolf Marx Conference Center, 700 N. Virgen de San Juan Blvd. in San Juan.
The program, which is designed for mothers and their daughters, ages 10-12, will encourage girls to appreciate their femininity, as well as their changing bodies and personalities. The presentations emphasize respect and appreciation for God’s gifts.
Topics include the physical and emotional changes in a young woman’s body in preparation for motherhood, the sacredness of human life and the virtue of chastity.
The presenters will also emphasize that each girl is precious and unique, and that every girl changes and develops at different times and in different ways.
For more information, call the Family Life Office at (956) 784-5012.
Medical Guild Sponsors Lenten RetreatThere will be a Lenten Retreat, sponsored by Our Lady of San Juan del Valle Medical Guild on Friday, Feb. 12 from 6:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 13 from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Bishop Adolf Marx Auditorium in San Juan. The retreat will be led by Father Ed Hauf of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, who will give a talk on Friday evening entitled:" Healing the Whole Person: The Physician and God's Mission to Heal His People." Saturday morning he will continue the retreat with a talk entitled:" Yielding Ourselves to the Merciful Healing of Jesus." There is no fee for the retreat, but donations are welcome to help cover the costs. For more information, please contact Dr. Stephen Robinson at (956) 970-9327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Programming Note: Diocese Insight to Air On Sunday mornings Diocese Insight, a half-hour interview program hosted by Brenda Nettles Riojas, Diocesan Relations Director and editor of The Valley Catholic, airs at 10:30 a.m. on Sundays on Channel 38.1 or Cable Channel 10. For more information, call (956) 784-5055.
Faithful Encouraged to be Witnesses for Life at March on Jan. 30The diocesan Respect Life Apostolate is organizing a peaceful and prayerful march on Saturday, Jan. 30 in McAllen to spread the message of life in our community.
The event will begin at 9 a.m. with opening prayers and remarks by Bishop Daniel E. Flores at St. Joseph the Worker Parish, 900 S. 23rd St. After the prayer service, a procession will depart the church and file into downtown. Throughout the procession, the Rosary will be prayed and hymns will be sung.
The procession will pass by the local abortion facility and end at Sacred Heart Parish, 306S. 15th St. with closing prayers. All are invited to give witness to life. Prayer groups, church groups, Catholic schools, families and individuals are welcomed and encouraged to attend.
The march is held in reparation for the more than 57 million babies who have been killed in the United States since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling on Jan. 22, 1973 that legalized abortion. Pro-life advocates across the nation are observing the anniversary with events of prayer and action.
Pasa “Una tarde con Jesús” La Movimiento de la Renovación Carismática de la Diócesis de Brownsville los invita a participar a la Asamblea Carismática – Kerygmatica “Una tarde con Jesús” a las 3 de la tarde, el 31 de enero el La Iglesia San José Obrero, 900 Calle 23 Sur en McAllen. Tema por Enrique de la Cruz, música por Roberto Mora de Edinbug. Para más información llame al (956) 371-3923 (Enrique De la Cruz); (956) 330-1419 (Diacono Alex Gamboa) o (956) 624-2728 (Joe López).
Open House, Entrance Exam Planned for Juan Diego AcademyJuan Diego Academy will be having its annual open house on Sunday, Jan. 31, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The entrance exam for prospective students will be administered on Saturday, February 6 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For more information, call (956) 583-2752.
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Catholic Diocese of Brownsville1910 University Boulevard • Brownsville, Texas 78520 • (956) 542-2501 • (956) 542-6751 Fax 700 North Virgen de San Juan Blvd • San Juan, Texas 78589 • (956) 781-5323 • (956) 784-5081 Fax Contact Us Copyright © 2014 Diocese of Brownsville. All Rights Reserved.