Category Archives: Blog

COPING WITH GRIEF AND LOSS DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Let’s be honest: the Holidays aren’t always happy and cheerful, especially if you have lost a loved one, a job, a relationship, or a pet. The Holidays are full of stress and expectations and most everyone has trouble dealing with this in healthy, healing ways.

Ever since my Mom passed away on Dec. 3, 2013, I have felt especially challenged at this time of year. I know it’s been 4 years, but most people grieve an average of 5-8 years after a significant loss. In reality grieving never ends, it just changes. I am happy to say that I am beginning to embrace a new perspective, and find positive ways to thrive this time of year.

Here are a few suggestions for taking care of YOU during this time, because that is what grieving is really about, taking care of YOU.

  1. Acknowledge your beliefs, thoughts and feelings. I can’t tell you how important this one step is. Becoming mindful of your feelings and the thoughts and beliefs that led to them, and then releasing them, is a powerful way to release the grief. For example, I needed to honor my sadness, guilt and anger (common initial reactions to grief) in order to begin to reframe my perspective: my Mom would not want me to be sad, she’d want me to bake those cookies for the family that she always loved to bake. It is a way to honor and remember her.
  2. Carve out time for YOU, planning for things that nurture  you: a mani and pedi, massage, Reiki healing session, going out in nature, pray, meditate, light a candle, set a place for the person at the holiday table. These things are far better than drowning your feelings in alcohol, food, isolation, or other unhealthy behaviors.
  3. Don’t be pressured to go to a party if you don’t feel you want to go. Don’t feel you have to do the same Holiday routine you did before unless you really want to. Be open to honoring the Holidays differently and be honest with others about it without guilt. Ask for other’s support. Be gentle with yourself. My family has changed our Holiday routine, every year has been a little different, and it’s OK.¬† We still carry on the love we have for each other, that’s the most important thing. Mom would want that.
  4. Lastly, accept the loss, and the opportunities and blessings it brings. The reality is that life will not be the same. Allow it to teach you, to change you. Grief invites us to reorganize our priorities, to appreciate the life we have and the people we love. We can find ways to support others in their journey, thus helping ourselves at the same time. This is how I have moved through my own grief by doing workshops and writing my book. Everyone can find a way to heal and accept the blessings that are there for us along the journey. And look for signs that your loved one is near: a dream, a whif of perfume, a song, a cardinal, a butterfly. They miss us as much as we miss them.

I hope this blog has helped you to have the courage and strength to take care of yourself through this Holiday Season. Please reach out to me if you would like to, write a post here or go to my Facebook page “Chaplain Geri Cappabianca”, leave a post and I will PM you. You are NOT ALONE! I will be praying for you! Love and blessings always!

 

The Prayer Shawl

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One of the most talked-about chapters in my book is about the gift of prayer shawls, like the one pictured above. In the story, I brought a prayer shawl to a mother whose son came into the hospital for a drug overdose. It meant so much to her that she decided to pay it forward by bringing one to me every year since his death, in his memory.

For those of you who don’t know what a prayer shawl is, it is a beautiful crocheted or knitted shawl created by the prayer shawl ministry group that has become an integral part of many church’s outreach ministry. Several parishes donate shawls to our hospital so we can give them to patients.

These shawls are lovingly crafted by people who sit in a circle and say a prayer with each stitch. When the prayer shawl is worn by the patient, he or she is surrounded with prayers.

I have seen many miracles happen because of these shawls. Some patients get better, all feel comforted by their beauty, softness and grace. Some are still wearing them many years after I gave it to them, still comforted, still surrounded with love. I am inspired by the amazing loving people who have such a passion for this ministry. We chaplains are so blessed to have them.

My Mom was a dedicated prayer shawl knitter. Even at 92, as she was failing, she was working on a shawl when she died. I think of her every time I give one to a patient. It is a little piece of her that continues to be part of my ministry. We are all connected, even after the body leaves. The love we have for each other continues, as do the prayers, and God’s grace. There is an endless supply for us as we walk through this life together.

If you have some talent in knitting or crocheting, please consider this ministry. I have a colleague at work who makes a few at a time and drops them off to me to give to patients. She says it keeps her hands busy and they keep her warm on cold winter nights as they grow in her lap as she works on them. I was able to give one of hers to a patient whose family was having a hard time letting go of their dying father. It brought so much comfort to them, especially because the shawl was knitted in camouflage colors and he was a veteran of WWII. God uses these shawls for just the right person…miracles happen.

May God bless you always!

WELCOME!

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I can’t believe it. It was so many years in the making, and in a few short weeks my book, “Memoirs of a Hospital Chaplain: I Stand Near the Door” is published and launched, and I have a website. In addition to my Facebook page “Chaplain Geri Cappabianca” I truly have come into the electronic age. For those of us who grew up without remotes, cell phones and computers, all this is truly a miracle!!

I am so happy to have a blog and a way to reach out to like minded folks. We are spiritual, have a few bumps and bruises from life and love, yet seem to find the blessings in life despite it’s challenges. We walk together through our doors, the doors to life and death. We are not afraid to talk of life’s deepest meaning and our own spiritual experiences. We welcome and accept each person as they are, and listen to their story with open hearts. I warmly welcome you!!

We are about to walk through the door to a New Year. The old is gone, the new lies before us. What better time to set some goals that we may have been putting off? Like planning for the end-of-life.

We are alive and well, in good health, happy to be alive. However, life is unpredictable. We can feel great one day, and the next day be fighting for our life in intensive care through no fault of our own. As a hospital chaplain I have seen this many times. This is not the time to be asking family, “What are the patient’s wishes regarding end-of-life?” It is so hard for the family if this has not been discussed, and it causes so much suffering for the patient and the family.

This year, sooner rather than later, talk with your family about your wishes. Do you want to be kept alive on life support, breathing machines, artificial nutrition and hydration if all hope of recovery is gone?

When my daughters were young, my husband and I wrote our “living will” with a lawyer, outlining our wishes and choosing a healthcare proxy, someone who would make decisions for us if we were unable to speak for ourselves. Once it was signed, we put it in a drawer where we were able to access it. We prayed we’d never need it, but if we did, it was there. And we didn’t need it, but I openly discuss these issues with my daughters who are now much older. They know what I want, and I feel good about it.

The State of Connecticut, like many states, has a “Living Will” or “Advance Directives” form on their government website.

Click to access advancedirectivesenglish.pdf

It outlines what is legal in that specific state. A lawyer is not needed to complete it, but it must be witnessed.

Another wonderful form is “Five Wishes” available at:

https://agingwithdignity.org/.

It is legal is most states and is very well done. Again, witnesses are necessary.

At the very least, have a conversation with your parents, children, friends and relatives so that they know what your wishes are. It will greatly help your healthcare providers to follow YOUR wishes, not what others want for you. Do it once, and you don’t have to do it again, and hopefully you won’t need it, but if you do, it will bring great peace of mind and heart to all.

So now the hard stuff is out of the way!

Have a Happy New Year, may God send many blessings and peace your way in 2016! Come back again and visit and I ALWAYS welcome your feedback!!