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”
Vatican’s Ambassador to the U.S. to Celebrate Mass today at Basilica Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, will celebrate Mass at 5:30 p.m. today at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine. The faithful are invited to attend.
Archbishop Pierre is visiting our diocese for the Texas-Mexico Border Bishops conference in San Juan, which began on Feb. 13 and ends on Feb. 15. About 20 bishops from both sides of the border are attending the conference.
A nuncio is a Vatican diplomat with the rank of ambassador. He is responsible for diplomatic relations with other national governments, but also serves as the pope’s representative to the church in a given country, which includes responsibility for coordinating the search for and vetting of candidates to become bishops.
Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Pierre to be the apostolic nuncio to the United States on April 12, 2016. He had been the papal representative in Mexico since 2007.
During his visit, the nuncio will also visit the humanitarian respite center in McAllen and the border wall.
“I think Archbishop Pierre will be pleased to see a vibrant Church here in the Rio Grande Valley,” Bishop Daniel E. Flores said.
A native of Rennes, France, Archbishop Pierre, 71, entered diplomatic service for the Vatican in 1977, with his first post in Wellington, New Zealand. He then served in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Brazil and at the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva.
In July 1995, St. John Paul II named him an archbishop and appointed him as apostolic nuncio to Haiti. He served there until 1999, and then was named nuncio to Uganda, where he stayed until 2007, when he was named nuncio to Mexico.
For years, the bishops of U.S. and Mexican dioceses along the border have met twice a year to discuss issues of mutual concern, such as immigration matters and border violence.
Training Sessions Scheduled in Preparation of V EncuentroTo prepare for the Fifth National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry, one date remains this month for training parish teams and lay ecclesial movements: Tuesday, Feb. 21 at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in McAllen. The session is from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and is bilingual. For more information about the training, please call Deacon Luis Zuniga at (956) 784-5059.
The main goal of the V Encuentro is to discern ways in which the Church in the United States can better respond to the Hispanic/Latino presence, and to strengthen the ways in which Hispanics/Latinos respond to the call to the New Evangelization as missionary disciples serving the entire Church.
For additional information regarding the V Encuentro process, please follow the link: http://vencuentro.org/
The parish manual (English and Spanish) is available at this link: http://vencuentro.org/v-encuentro-documents/
Weslaco Parishes Sponsor Marian Event St. Joan of Arc Parish, St. Pius X Parish and San Martin de Porres Parish have joined forces for a Marian Event from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 17 at the St. Joan of Arc Parish Hall, located on the corner of East 2nd Street and South Illinois Avenue in Weslaco. The featured speaker will be theologian and author Dr. Edward Sri, who will speak on the topic, “Mary & the Bible: What Catholics Really Believe.” The event is open to the public. The cost is $5. Register online at www.rgvcmf.org
Mobile Journalism Workshop, Challenge Feb. 18The Valley Catholic newspaper is partnering up with local media professionals and hosting a Mobile Journalism Workshop and Challenge on Saturday, Feb. 18.
Brenda Nettles Riojas, editor of The Valley Catholic and diocesan relations director for the diocese of Brownsville, said the MOJO workshop and challenge in the Rio Grande Valley was inspired by a MoJo Challenge in Budapest, which focused on using the smartphone to tell stories. “Our goal is to help build a team of citizen journalists who can share local stories,” she said.
After attending RTE MoJoCon, an international mobile journalism conference in Dublin, Ireland last year, Riojas said she is inspired to share with others what she learned.
The workshop begins at 9 a.m. in the St. Peter Classroom at the Diocese of Brownsville Pastoral Center in San Juan, 700 N. Virgen de San Juan Blvd. Participants must have a smart phone or tablet to benefit fully from the workshop.
Workshop sessions include the basics of photography, the art of storytelling, interview skills and an overview of editing apps and mobile journalism tools.
Participants will be challenged to produce a two-to-three-minute news report using only their smart phones or tablets. Registration is $25. For more information, call (956) 536-4866 or (956) 784-5055.
A Biblical Walk-Through the Mass: Understanding what we say and do in the liturgyConference Aims to Provide Deeper Understanding of the Holy MassDo you ever wish you could get more out of Mass? Discover how all the prayers, symbols, and rituals in the liturgy can come alive for us today once we understand their Biblical roots. From the Sign of the Cross and the Gloria to the Eucharistic prayers and Holy Communion, join us for a one-day Catholic conference for a Biblical tour of the Mass and learn the profound meaning of what we are really saying and doing each week as we participate in these sacred mysteries.
The conference is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., followed by Mass at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, 1108 W. Hackberry Ave., in McAllen. Featured speakers include Bishop Daniel E. Flores; Father Carlos Zuniga, pastor of St. Pius X Church in Weslaco; Deacon Luis Zuniga, director of the Office for Pastoral Planning & San Juan Diego Ministry Institute for the diocese; and Dr. Edward Sri, a theologian, author and Catholic speaker who appears regularly on EWTN. The conference, which is open to men, women and teenagers, will also feature an exhibit of Eucharistic miracles from around the world.
The cost to attend is $10 and includes lunch. Online registration is required www.rgvcmf.org. Visit the event Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/1137753486339765/ for additional information.
Queen of Peace Parish to Host Mass and Healing Service Father Michael Barry of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary (ss.cc.) will celebrate a Mass and healing service at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18 at Queen of Peace Church in Harlingen. All are invited to attend.
Father Barry was born and raised in Cork, Ireland, and currently resides in San Bernadino, Calif. He is active in retreat work and teaches workshops on healing and charismatic spirituality. Father Barry has a scripture-based radio ministry and is co-founder and president of Mary’s Mercy Center, an outreach feeding program for the poor and homeless, and Veronica’s Home of Mercy, a home for unwed mothers and their children.
For more information, contact Queen of Peace Church at (956) 423-6341.
MetLife Representative Available for Consultation Feb. 22-23Mike Gonzalez, representative for MetLife/Mass Mutual, will be in the Rio Grande Valley for his quarterly visit. He will be at San Martin de Porres School in Weslaco from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22 and at St. Anthony School in Harlingen from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 23. If you have any questions or concerns you would like to discuss, please stop by to visit with him.
40 Days for Life Campaign Kicks off Feb. 26The 40 Days for Life campaign is an international effort to end abortion through prayer and fasting, peaceful vigil and community outreach. Pro-life warriors in the Rio Grande Valley will be uniting with many others from coast to coast – and internationally – for a major simultaneous pro-life mobilization throughout the season of Lent. The campaign runs from Wednesday, March 1 through Sunday, April 9. Vigils will be held daily outside of the McAllen abortion facility from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
A kickoff event is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26, in front of the McAllen City Hall. For the first time, the 40 Days for Life national tour bus will be stopping in the Rio Grande Valley “to motivate, encourage and strengthen us,” said Edwin Rodriguez, one of the coordinators of the local 40 Days for Life campaign.
For more information, please contact Edwin and Rosita Rodriguez at (956) 279-1349 or (956) 250-1740 or visit https://40daysforlife.com/local-campaigns/mcallen/
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