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 April 12, 2016▪ Rev. Jose Gualberto Cruz, appointed weekend Chaplain on call at Valley Baptist Health Systems and Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville while continuing as Parochial Vicar of Church of the Good Shepherd in Brownsville, Texas
▪ Rev. Eusebio Martinez, appointed Chaplain at Valley Baptist Health Systems and Valley Regional Medical Center in Brownsville while continuing to assist at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Raymondville, Texas
Effective May 6, 2016 Rev. Luis R. Tinajero, appointed Pastor of Saint Benedict Parish in San Benito, Texas while continuing as Assistant Director for Vocations and Chaplain of the Catholic Student Center for The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College and relived of his responsibilities at San Pedro Mission in Brownsville, Texas
Rev. Jesus E. Paredes, appointed Priest Administrator of San Pedro Mission in Brownsville, Texas while continuing as Spiritual Director of Apostolado de la Cruz for the Brownsville area and relieved of his responsibilities at Holy Family Parish in Brownsville, Texas
Rev. Mario Castro, appointed Parochial Vicar of Our Lady, Queen of Angels Parish in La Joya and it’s missions St. Anthony in Peñitas and St. Mary Magdalene in Mission, Texas
Effective May 16, 2016▪ Rev. Mishael J. Koday, appointed Parochial Vicar of Saint Joseph Parish in Edinburg, Texas and relieved of his responsibilities at Saint Mary Parish in Santa Rosa and Chaplain for the Serra Club in Harlingen, Texas
Respect Life Apostolate to Host Pro-Life Workshop Join Father Alex Flores, director of the diocesan Respect Life Apostolate, and other pro-life advocates for the Year of Mercy Pro-Life Workshop set for 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 30 at the Youth Building of Holy Spirit Parish, 2201 Martin Ave. in McAllen.
The event will feature informative talks, planning and sharing. All are invited to come and learn more about how to defend and protect all human life.
The Youth Building is located at the end of east parking lot. For more information, contact Mary Lou at (956) 227-5386 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Bishop Flores Delivers Message on Sacrament of Confirmation Bishop Daniel E. Flores delivered messages in both English and Spanish about the Sacrament of Confirmation before a group of catechists from around the diocese who will share his message with the parents and confirmation candidates at their parishes.
To view the message in English, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-dF4gqNriQ To view the message in Spanish, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFIPx9wqRHg
Corpus Christi Procession Planned for MercedesSacred Heart Catholic Church located at 920 Anacuitas St. in Mercedes, TX gathered on Friday, April 15 to plan for our Corpus Christi procession which will take place on Saturday, May 28. Different ministries have been assigned to an altar, we will have five total. The altars have been assigned as follows: Eucharistic ministers, altar servers, youth praxis, and one family at a time, and the decoration committee. This year we will centralize our procession on, Eucharistic miracles approved by the Vatican. More info will be given at the meeting. Please make arrangements to join us for additional information call the parish office at (956) 565-0271 or by email at email@example.com
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