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”
Live broadcastDiocese to Live Stream Ordination of Four New Priests on May 27 Bishop Daniel E. Flores will ordain four men to the holy priesthood at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 27 at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine. The Mass will be live streamed in this website or in our YouTube Channel for those who cannot attend. The faithful are encouraged to pray for these men as they begin their priestly ministry.
The ordinands will be:Deacon Joel Ramiro Flores, son of Robert and Diamantina V. Flores of MissionDeacon Leonel Rodriguez Bazan, son of Leonel Rodriguez Gonzalez and Araceli Bazan de Rodriguez of EdinburgDeacon Joshua Andrew Carlos, son of Cruz and Beatrice Carlos of BrownsvilleDeacon Ricardo Chavez Flores, son of the late Ricardo Chavez Frausto and Maria Elena Flores of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico
Bishop Daniel E. Flores to Lead Eucharistic Procession Hundreds are expected to join Bishop Daniel E. Flores as he leads a Eucharistic procession through the downtown streets of Brownsville on Sunday, May 29 for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
The procession will begin at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral following the 6 p.m. Mass and proceed to the missions – St. Thomas Church and Sacred Heart Church.
For more information, call the Cathedral office at (956) 546-3178.
En EspañolEstudio sobre el libro, ‘El Secreto del Rosario’ en Elsa Durante el mes de mayo, habrá un estudio de libro sobre, “El Secreto del Rosario" cada jueves a las 7 p.m. en el salón parroquial de la Iglesia Sagrado Corazón, 1100 Calle Broadway en Elsa. Este libro fue escrito por un gran devoto de la Virgen Maria, el santo Luis de Montfort. Narra historias de Santo Domingo, el propulsor inicial del Santo Rosario y los grandes esfuerzos que hizo este santo en el siglo XIII. Igualmente menciona a otros santos, santas y beatos que se han valido de tan poderosa arma para llevar a cabo conversión de personas, librarlas de posesiones demoníacas, y protegerlas del mal.
Para más información, llame al (956) 262-1406.
Coming soon...Summer SoftballThe Diocese of Brownsville Summer Softball season is quickly approaching. If your parish is interested in participating this year and you do not know where to start, contact Monica Benitez of the Office of Youth Ministry at (956) 784-5036 or email email@example.com.
Commitment Form was due May 13. Final Roster is due Friday, May 27.
Additional information and all downloadable forms are available online at http://www.cdobym.org/sports
Valley Awakening Retreat for Youth Adults Set for July 1-3Valley Awakening, a diocesan young adult retreat, will be held on July 1-3 at Holy Spirit Parish in McAllen.
Awakening is a Catholic retreat held at many colleges and universities across the country, as well as in a number of dioceses. It is a weekend retreat where young adults grow closer to God, make new friends, and experience spiritual renewal.
The retreat, though focused on Catholic teachings, is open to people of different denominations who wish to experience the Christian message of hope and love. Awakening invites young adults to experience God’s unconditional love through a variety of talks, prayers, songs, fellowship, and group discussion.
The Campus and Young Adult Office of the Diocese of Brownsville offers a retreat for young adults who aren't in college (whether you never attended or already graduated).
Early registration fee for Valley Awakening is $60 before June 17 and $80 after. Register online at www.cyam.net
Full Diocesan Calendar >>
CDOB Mobile App
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.