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Residents return home: There isn’t one

October 26, 2017
Sister Toni Lynn Gallagher, RSM

The end is not the real end in the story of any tragedy when “good persons” are left behind. Rather it is “our middle life,” when the reality of all we have lost becomes real and we know that no matter who we are, or where we are going, “backward is not an option.” Recognize that the adrenaline rush that has kept you going is beginning to fade, decisions regarding change and possibilities loom before you and the choices you make will live with you for life after the fire (or any tragedy) that has become a life event this year.

Grieving people were never asked: “Is this a good time? Are you ready?” Rather life happens and we are expected to adjust using all the God-given gifts that rest within us. The reality of the holidays, fast approaching, can be another source of deep grief. You have been “robbed of your place of gatherings, your community of friends, your Thanksgiving table and traditions. Christmas trees, decorations, the stuff of family history is no longer in the “boxes of keepers” – the symbolic past times of ornaments and love reminders.

To face this head-on is to be able to create new traditions while mourning what is no longer there. Look at your Thanksgiving table this year as a time of gratitude. See the people who are working beside you, family sending gifts of love and assistance, perhaps from afar, and all the promise of prayer that bolsters hope and gives comfort.

This year try a “Remembering Tree.” Write on colored paper or small ornaments all the losses you have experienced and wish to remember. Balance these ornaments by writing all the new people and things that are happening to make the best of a difficult situation. Look for quiet joy. Write your fears and worries, your concerns and your sadness and place these in the empty crib at the foot of the tree recalling that God, who wishes us true happiness, has never left our side.

Grief puts us in the middle of our life. No turning back. Forward is yet to be made clear. As faith-filled people God walks with us and has sent miracle people to stand beside us journeying with us into the “new.” The message of the season is: Faith-filled people have hope. God is here.

Mercy Sister Toni Lynn Gallagher is ministry of consolation coordinator for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

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