One week from today, on November 2, 2015, we, the Church, will celebrate All Souls Day. All Souls Day is a time to remember those who have gone before us, a time to pray for them, and to ask them to pray for us. In doing so, we recognize that we are still connected, that we are still a community. Though we are separated by the physical world, we are still united spiritually. It’s a beautiful reality, to be sure, but it can still bring back feelings of sadness and loss.
So, while the rest of America is attempting to recover from sugar-comas and other Halloween revelry, some of us will be staring sadly ahead towards a day that may bring grief back to the surface.
Those of us who have joined the Grief Club (as we all do at some point), may not be surprised by this, as we know at least two things to be true:
- Grief is a mixed bag of opposing emotions (sadness, hope, anger, joy of remembering).
- Grief doesn’t end, but returns in waves of various sizes, triggered for various reasons.
There’s a handy acronym (coined by psychologist, Therese Rando) used in the psychology world to refer to these moments when grief crashes into us with its mixed bag-o-feelings:
STUG: Subsequent – Temporary – Upsurge of – Grief
It’s a very clinical way of describing something incredibly unpleasant. I prefer to use the acronym, S.L.U.G (subsequent lousy upsurge of grief), because I hate grief and think it’s lousy. Yes, I know that my loved ones are where they are supposed to be, that I’ll see them again, and we’re still connected, blah blah blah. But I’m still human and get angry that we’re not physically together right now.
In addition to anger, here are some other signs that your STUG’s have been triggered by All Souls Day:
- Poor sleep
- Change in appetite
- Wanting to isolate
- Wanting to fill your social schedule to bursting
- More frequent thoughts of the loved one who passed away
- Dreams starring the deceased, or dreams of losing another loved one
It’s a good idea to be aware of what your STUG’s look like. It’s also a good idea to inform a close friend or family member of what your STUG’s are, just in case they creep back without your knowledge. I don’t know about you, but I prefer to know why I suddenly feel like crap, and a head’s up from an informed loved one brings me much clarity. When I know the “why”, I can then figure out the “how” of how to cope.
Speaking of coping, here are a few “how’s” to add to your coping tool-belt this All Souls Day:
- Go to daily mass.
- Go to adoration.
- Write a letter to the deceased.
- Make a playlist of music that reminds you of your relationship with the deceased.
- Light a candle at the dinner table to represent them
- Plant something at their grave site.
- Color. (It’s not just for kids anymore! Adult coloring pages are all the rage right now – check it.)
- Call that friend who knows what to say, and more importantly, what not to say.
- Cry and comfort yourself with the 5 senses: feel a soft blanket wrapped around your shoulders, taste a soothing cup of chamomile tea, hear soft music playing on the stereo, and smell a lavender candle that you see glowing softly on the table.
In closing, while All Souls Day may bring with it waves of grief – be they new or old – let us remember that grief is proof that a great love exists. Let us also remember that God gave us hearts that can simultaneously grieve the physical absence of someone, and at the same time, rejoice that their spirit is on its way to the home it was made for.
Joyful mourning, aching love… Nothing is as exquisitely torturous as grief. May God and His angels bring you comfort and peace this All Souls Day.
They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.
Death cannot kill what never dies.
Nor can spirits be divided, that love and live in the same divine principle, the root and record of their friendship.
Death is but crossing the world, as friends do seas; they live in one another still. – William Penn