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”
Pope Francis to Address Rio Grande Valley Youth Via Personal Video Message Bishop Daniel E. Flores announced at a news conference on July 19 that the pope will address the youth in our diocese via a personal video message at a local World Youth Day celebration.
The video message will be presented on Tuesday, July 26 during the first World Youth Encounter/Encuentro Mundial de los Jóvenes at St. Anne Parish in Peñitas, as millions of youth from around the globe are gathering for World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland.
“It will be his way of being two places at the same time because he will be in Poland, in Krakow for the world celebration where millions will be gathered with him, but in a certain way, giving a special sign that he’s always mindful of those who can’t make a trip,” Bishop Flores said. “He has taken the time to really prepare a local message for the youth of this diocese.
“It’s also a sign of his awareness and his love for the people of the Rio Grande Valley because he makes the effort to offer a word of encouragement and a word of consolation.”
Our condolences Our condolences go out to Sister Norma Pimentel and her family on the passing of her brother, Alberto Pimentel. Funeral arrangements are as follows:
Funeraria Del Angel Buena Vista125 McDavitt Blvd.BrownsvilleWednesday, July 20Viewing 3:30 p.m.Rosary 7 p.m.
Mass service at 11 a.m.Our Lady of Guadalupe Church1200 Lincoln St.Brownsville Thursday, July 21
Please keep Sister Norma and her family in your prayers.
Youth Invited to World Youth Encounter in PeñitasInspired by the call of Pope Francis to create "a culture of encounter," and in light of the upcoming World Youth Day in Poland, we unite to celebrate the First World Youth Encounter.
St. Anne Parish in Peñitas and the Office of Youth Ministry invite the youth of our diocese to participate in the World Youth Encounter, set for Tuesday, July 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. To register, contact your parish or call the Office of Youth Ministry at (956) 784-5037.
Not everyone can travel to Poland for the World Youth Day but we believe that even in our area, a profound and meaningful encounter with the world's youth can be organized.
The event will feature four levels of Encounter:• Encounter of young people in our diocese• Encounter of our young people with the world's youth• Encounter of our young people with the saints (history and tradition)• Encounter of our young people with our Lord Jesus Christ
Summer Food Program Volunteers NeededCatholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley is in need of volunteers for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) 2016. The SFSP was established to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Free meals are provided to all children at approved sites in areas of the Rio Grande Valley.
We are in search of responsible and committed volunteers for the months of June through August to help maintain the program running smoothly. Volunteers will work out of our San Juan or Brownsville offices. Hours are flexible. All volunteers will receive training detailing their responsibilities. Volunteers should have an available form of transportation as well as a driver’s license and automobile insurance.
For questions or referrals of interested individuals please contact Tracey Perez, Food Program Coordinator, at email@example.com or (956)702-4088.
Tables Available For Sacred Heart Parish Garage SaleSacred Heart Parish, located at 306 S. 15th St. in McAllen is hosting a garage sale from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, July 29 and Saturday, July 30 in the CCD playground area.
Tables are available for rent at a cost of $15 for one day or $25 for both days. For information, please come by the parish office or call Irma at (956) 686-7711.
Prayers, Volunteers Needed for Jail/Prison Ministry The Jail Prison/Ministry of the Diocese of Brownsville will be hosting a Kolbe Prison Retreat on July 21-23 at the Lopez State Jail in Edinburg.
Please keep the team leaders and retreatants in your prayers.
The Kolbe Prison Retreats, similar to the ACTS Retreats undertaken in Catholic parishes, has had tremendous impact on the lives of men behind bars across the State of Texas. Begun by a group of men in the Austin Diocese, the Kolbe Prison Retreats have brought new hope to men who are cut off from their families and loved ones - who are in pain - who are suffering - who are forgotten. Trained volunteers provide a life-changing experience coupled with follow-up ministry to men desperately in need of faith, hope and love.
After the retreat, the Kolbe Team Members continue visiting their brothers behind bars weekly to share their faith and provide faith formation.
Do you feel called to join this ministry? Call the Jail/Prison Ministry Office at (956) 784-5046 for more information.
KAUSSA Catholic Young ProfessionalsKAUSSA Catholic Young Professionals invites young adults ages 21-39 to join for an evening of fellowship, networking, and personal growth based on a common Catholic identity. For more information about KAUSSA Catholic Young Professionals, please contact Raul Cabrera at (956) 784-5045 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The next gatherings include:
Aug. 2Film Night: Patch Adams6:30 – 8:30 pmAlfredo Gonzalez Texas State Veterans Home 301 East Yuma Avenue, McAllen Sept. 6Featured Speakers:Mr. & Mrs. Jesus Saenz, Saenz Pharmacy6:30 – 8:30 pmOur Lady of Sorrows Conference Room1108 W. Hackberry Ave., McAllen
Oct. 4Theology on Tap7:00 – 9:00 pmTBAHarlingen Nov. 8Election Night Party Mixer6:30 – 8:30 pmBJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse3200 W. Expressway 83, McAllen Dec. 10Service: Hospice VisitAll dayComfort House617 Dallas Ave., McAllen
Young Adult Ambassadors NeededAre you passionate about young adult ministry? The office of Campus & Young Adult Ministry encourages you to apply for Bishop’s Young Adult Ambassadors. Applicants must either live, work, study, and/or worship in the boundaries of the Diocese of Brownsville and be between the ages of 18 and 39. They must also demonstrate an ability to speak and advocate on behalf of their peers, work collaboratively with other young adults, and be open to using their spiritual gifts, talents, and leadership abilities in the service of the Catholic Church. The deadline to apply is Aug. 12. All applicants will be contacted with the final decision the third week of August. Download the application at www.cyam.net. For more information about Bishop’s Young Adult Ambassadors, please contact Raul Cabrera at (956) 784-5045 or email email@example.com.
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