Let’s talk about the stages of grief. There
is denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I studied them in
nursing school, reviewed them when I got divorced and generally found them to
be a pretty accurate and helpful bit of knowledge. And then, a family
member died. Stages?
In our house it was more like we all went to
the amusement park and were all on very different rides. Up and down, round and
round, quiet and loud. We were definitely not that family walking together
peacefully along a path through stages. We were all a bunch of nuts. Although
we love each other, we were dangerously close to coming apart at the
I don’t think we are the only ones. Death is
the number one stressor for families. I’ve seen families break under the weight
of illness and loss. Funeral directors will tell you the hardest part of their
work is dealing with families who are emotionally fragmented.
We all experience grief differently. It’s a
singular journey. But, you have to get along. If you don’t work it out you risk
loosing your family, not just the one member who actually died. So what helped
Deep breathing and listening, I mean really
listening to understand not just hear. Recognizing anger as an expression
of fear. Seeing frenzied activity as a coping mechanism for helplessness.
Making room for each other’s ways of expressing love.
Accepting the prayers and the mementos even
when the prayers aren’t ours and the memento is not what we would
choose for a funeral.
Being tolerant of each other’s needs and
expression of their personal grief. Looking for what’s motivating the behavior
not just the behavior itself. Being kind and tolerant. Hugging the huggers
and giving the non-huggers their space. Letting go of judgment and making room
for differences. I mean really, so what if your sister cries loudly? What’s the
The days before a
funeral, the time during the arranging of the funeral and weeks following a
funeral are not easy. You and your family can come out of it broken or
Preplanning Your Funeral in Your 60's
According to a National Funeral Directors
Association survey, more than half (62.5%) of us expect to
participate in making our own funeral arrangements. And yet, less
than a quarter of us have actually acted on that impulse. Not really
so surprising since making funeral arrangements can literally be the very last
thing we do. We can put it off right up to the end!
So, when do you think you should just go ahead
and get it done? How about when you are critically ill? Or, maybe before
you go on that cruise? Does when you go into the nursing home seem too late?
How about as you are preparing for retirement? Actually, sooner is better
than later for several reasons.
First, there is no down side to having your
arrangements in place. If something new comes along or you change your mind
about what you want you can always make changes to your plan. If you move you
just move your plan. Nothing is carved in stone.
Second, there are some real up-sides to
getting your funeral plan written and on file at the funeral home. For one
thing, you just never know. people do die unexpectedly. And then there is
the money. Historically funerals, like almost everything, have gone up in price
over the years. The funeral of today will likely almost double in cost in 10
years. Why are you waiting?
Prearranged funerals are often funded in a way
that buffers or even eliminates the impact of rising prices. You buy at today’s
prices and you are done. When you plan in advance you also have the benefit of
being able to pay over a specified period of time (you choose). As you age your
choices become more limited. When you make your arrangements while you are in
reasonably good health the cost of your funeral can be paid in full should you
die before you’ve completed your payment cycle. Again, sooner is better than
The early 60’s is a
good time to visit your neighborhood funeral home and get your plan written and
on file. This is when you will get the most out of the funding options.
It is also when you are likely to have a good idea of what you will want in the
way of services. At this age you are grounded and you are likely to still be
earning income. Making payments for a bit will hardly be noticed. Then when you
retire, and take that cruise, you can just enjoy. You’re all set to just enjoy
the rest of what life has to offer.
The 4th of July...Birth of Our Great Nation
It’s a time to celebrate. Summer is in full swing. We get
out the barbeque and cook our hot dogs and hamburgers. We fly the flag, go to a
parade and end the day with fireworks. Happy Birthday America!
Two hundred and forty- three years ago, this July 4th,
the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia. Twelve colonies, New
York abstained, declared separation from Great Britain. The actual war of
independence had already begun in 1775 and would continue until the final
battle in 1781 at Yorktown. The war was not officially over until the Treaty of
Paris was signed in 1783.
But what was born?Who are we as a Nation?
Four hundred years ago in 1619, the seeds of who we wanted
to be and who we would become were sown in Jamestown, Va., as the
reorganization of the bewildered Jamestown settlement was begun.
Second sons who would not inherit from their fathers on the
European continent traveled across the Atlantic seeking land and success.
Vicars, and those of the church, came to the new world for the opportunity of
religious freedom or to save the souls of the natives.Others, like the Virginia Company, came to
find riches for their investors. Some of the early founders, like Edwin Sandys,
saw the opportunity to build a colony of people governed for the common good of
the people, to establish a commonwealth.
However, we were never all of like mind about our goals,
objectives and purpose. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton worked together on
The Federalist Papers and then were at great odds over the creation of a national
bank. George Washington mediated between Thomas Jefferson, who favored States
rights, and John Adams, who believed a strong central government was necessary
to hold together the infant United States.
We the people have, from the beginning, held very different
ideas about how to go about pursuing happiness, but we have always been of one
mind about the desire to pursue.We have
all embraced the quest for opportunity from the very beginning.
When we are at our best, we listen with a desire to
understand our fellow countrymen’s viewpoint. Jefferson famously invited his
friend Madison and his rival Hamilton to dinner at Monticello where the three
broke bread, talked, and listened to each other. They agreed to support both
the creation of a national bank and the placement of the capitol on the
Potomac.Prior to that dinner they were
locked in an intractable debate with Hamilton wanting the capitol in New York and
a national bank and Madison and Jefferson wanting the capitol in the South and
squarely against the creation of a national currency and bank.
The riddle of who we are continues today. We
disagree, sometimes with vigor, on how best to go about the pursuit of
happiness. But we are all of one mind when it comes to the value of the
pursuit. We all love our country; we all want it to be the best. We care. What
if we each make a commitment, as a birthday gift to our nation, to really listen
and really understand more often?
Honoring Military Service
Taps. There is nothing
like the sound of those patriotic notes. It grabs your
heart, it makes you cry. It honors the service and risk a man or woman took for
our safety and the safety of our country.
Public law provides military burial benefits
for all who served and were honorably discharged from any of the five branches
of the U.S. Military. Your funeral director or advance funeral planner can
explain all of the benefits you or your family members are eligible to receive.
They will also access those benefits related to the funeral or burial on your
behalf. Your funeral director can help you weave the remembrance of your loved
one’s military service into the fabric of their full life experience.
Most who have served in any of the branches of
our military, whether it be for a few years or as a career, will tell you the
experience had a profound impact on their life. Even when the service
period was brief and at a tender age and followed by many years of some other
vocation, that service should be honored.
The funeral professionals at your local
funeral home have the resources and know how to help you get the remembrance
just right. In addition to the playing of taps and flag ceremony provided by
public law, there are caskets, vaults, and urns that highlight each branch
of the armed services to be considered. Photos and music can also be a
part of the funeral gathering or ceremony and can add so much to the
How much or how
little your family wishes to focus on the military service of a loved one is a
matter of personal choice. With the assistance of your funeral director, a
military service can be planned that finds the perfect balance for your family.
Let’s all give
a big shout out for all the fathers! Boy, have they ever stepped up to the
plate and embraced the changing role of fatherhood. Lots of those who are young
dads today were raised by a very different kind of dad. Their dads may have
never changed a poopy diaper or traveled alone with an infant. But times have
Now, dads are
all in. You see them on planes toting a little one in a carrier on their chest,
no mom in sight, so you just know they will be changing that diaper. We have
stay at home dads, dads who cook meals inside the house as well as on the
grill, and dads who know where the kids’ PJs are stored. Lots of big changes in
That’s not to
short-change the granddads. The generation that spawned those super adapters.
They are now grandfathers and were grand fathers. A generation ago lots of dads
supported the family all by themselves. They also coached, were scout masters,
mowed their own lawn (with a push mower) and made pancakes on Sunday
mornings.These same guys are now the
grandpas who are teaching their grandchildren to fish and holding the hand of a
princess in a tutu as they wander the zoo. Kudos to the Dad’s! It’s their day!
Today is the day to appreciate your dad and to
say thank you. You won’t have him forever, you know.
Thinking About Skipping the Funeral?
Are you considering going to a funeral? Will
you be a guest or, are you the survivor in charge and deciding if
there will even be a funeral? Either way, before you just skip the funeral
perhaps you should consider how elephants behave when one of their species
dies. Perhaps we have something to learn from Dumbo.
First of all, elephants are very busy
mammals. Just like us, they have to work hard to keep life together. An
elephant needs to spend nearly 20 hours per day looking for and eating food.
However, they do take time to honor their dead. It is rare to see an elephant
in the wild stand still. However, when they happen upon the remains
of an elephant, they seem to understand they need to stop and take a
minute to pay homage.
Elephants have a natural curiosity
about death. They seem to understand that somehow death is connected to their
own existence. They use their trunks to fondle the bones of the deceased. They
are still and strangely quiet. They raise one foot and paw the air, they are
gentle, and they shed tears.
Elephants, like humans, have very strong
social bonds. They help one another. A funeral is an opportunity for people to
gather and be still. It is our opportunity to pay homage to our human
existence. It’s a safe place to shed a tear, give a hug, or tell a story. A
funeral, in any one of many forms, is an opportunity to reach out to our fellow
man and give or receive help and comfort.
There is still a lot
of debate regarding whether or not elephants feel emotion. Some think yes
and others are equally convinced emotion is exclusive to humans. So maybe we
humans should embrace our emotion and just feel it? Having a funeral doesn’t
make you sad. You are sad because someone has died. That sad emotion
won’t go away just because you skip the funeral. The funeral is actually the
first step in the long journey to feeling better.
Normandy's Hallowed Ground
On June 6, 2019
the world will mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion
during World War II. The invasion by the Allied Forces established a foothold
on the shores of France; and was the start of the Allied advance into the
interior which eventually lead to victory in Europe and liberty for the
millions of people living under the tyranny of Adolf Hitler. The costly battle
was the most important allied victory in the second world war.
began on June 6 and ended on June 30. During that period 425,000 Allied and
German troops were killed, wounded, or went missing. Many are buried in the 27 war
cemeteries, ranging in size from 30 graves to 20,000, in Normandy.
The Normandy American Cemetery is the resting place for
9,387 Americans, most of whom gave their lives during the landing operations
and in the establishment of the beachhead. The headstones are of white
Italian marble adorned with a Star of David for those of Jewish faith and a
Latin Cross for all others. The permanent cemetery is located on land
France granted to the United States in perpetuity.
For those fortunate
enough to visit the burial grounds, the experience is singular.Approaching alone or with a group the mood
changes. Breathing slows, the chatter quiets, tones are hushed. The feeling is
somber. It draws you in.
And then, there
it is, pristine lush green lawn dotted by thousands of white markers in perfect
formation overlooking the very beaches where those buried here fought and died.
at first, overwhelmed by the sheer number of markers. But as you get closer and
begin to read the engravings, the reality of the cost of war begins to sink
in.So many died, they were so very young,
and all lost in such a short span of time.
All those lives
ended before they ever really began. So many who would never find their true
love, hold a new born child of their own, or buy a home. So many who never got
to experience all the post war changes the rest of us take for granted. Those
buried here did not live to see air travel become commonplace, a man land on
the moon or watch a color television.
heroic and their sacrifice was great. We must never forget.
is an opportunity to honor those lost. It is also an opportunity celebrate
peace and reconciliation. In our mindfulness we become aware of the fragility
of peace and the pain of war. It is that mindfulness that makes us better
In the words of the late John
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
What is the
purpose of Memorial Day? Why do we have this holiday?
Of course, it
is a three-day weekend. A perfect time to hit the road and do something in the
great outdoors. After all, in most parts of the country it’s the start of the
Summer season. Time to clean off the grill, get out the frisbee, and invite
family and friends over for the first barbecue of the season.
before you get going on the “Yay! It’s Summer” theme, take a moment to remember
the origin of this holiday.
It started as
Decoration Day. The Civil War ended in the Spring of 1865 claiming 600,000
lives. More lives than in other wars in US History. Decoration Day was a day
set aside to decorate the graves of those who died in this war. Graves were
decorated with flowers and flags with a goal to honor the ultimate sacrifice of
those who died. By the end of the 1800’s Decoration Day was an official
After World War
I, Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day. The revamped holiday was set
aside as a time to remember all who gave their lives in service of our country
in any war. Memorial Day is a distinctively American holiday and is properly
celebrated with red, white, and blue American enthusiasm.
It is also a
time to visit the cemetery and decorate the graves, fly the flag, and go to a
parade. It might also be a time to think about and learn a little about
American History. You could even make it a family activity. Get the kids to put
those electronic devices to good use playing Memorial Day Trial Pursuit of
sorts. How many wars have we Americans participated in? Where did we fight? Why
were we fighting? Just go with the tried and true journalism questions… who,
what, where, when, and why. There is a lot to learn.Your family might even have a discussion!
Use a little of that time off work to learn
about, remember, and honor all the men and women who have died in military
Cremation Society or Funeral Home
electric cars and cell phones is here to stay. For some people cremation is
part of their religious practice. For other people, cremation just feels right
for them.The big question is who should
help you with your cremation, a society or a funeral director?
Societies specialize in what is called a direct cremation. Direct cremation
means the society will remove the deceased from the place of death and take the
body directly to their crematory where the cremation process will take place.
Following cremation, the ashes are returned to the family in a bag or box. It’s
all pretty quick. The cost is quite low for direct cremation.
How do we feel
when a family member dies? What helps? Death is a loss. It is hard to describe how
loss feels, but it is something like a void, a vacuum, or an energy shift.You see something close when you watch
victims of the California wild fires or a tornado on television. You see that dazed
and stunned look on their faces. That is loss.There they stand looking at a pile of rubble that was their home … and
now it is gone.That look is about loss
of a building. Loss of a person, someone you love, is so much more. It hurts
directors are trained and specialize in taking care of the deceased AND in
taking care of the family of the deceased. They know people need more. They are
going to encourage you to slow down a little and give the family a little time
for the reality of the loss to sink in. Give a little time for the family to
consider what they need to do to begin to heal.
directors specialize in helping families put together a gathering to honor the
one who died. They know that being with those you love and who love you helps.
They know words, as a part of a religious, spiritual, or life celebration
ceremony help. Funerals are the funeral director’s specialty. They have done
this many times with many families.Funeral directors are the experts.
Of course, the
funeral home will help you with a direct cremation if that is what your family
prefers. To be fair, cremation societies will also add on some service options
at the family’s request. As you add services the cost increases. It is
important to look for value.
The funeral home is staffed by licensed trained
funeral directors and serves families from a clean, company ready facility with
plenty of parking and is a good value. Do your homework. Where will cremation
take place? If your family wants service where will the service take place? If
you add service and products what is the difference in price? How important is cost over expertise? Share
your budget with the funeral director at your funeral home. Don’t assume you need
to sacrifice ceremony for savings.
Mothers come in
all shapes, colors, and sizes. There are tall moms, short moms, thin moms, and moms
with soft edges. There are single moms, moms with partners and moms with husbands.
Moms are an indispensable part of our existence. They literally keep the human
species from becoming extinct. Hooray for Moms! Today is their day!
different ways to become a mother, but there really is no training program for
being a mom. Most moms will tell you they had no idea what they were getting
into. The job requires that one learns as one goes. On the job training.
There are a few
how toparent books that may be helpful. Then there is always the option
of getting advice from another mother or even your own mother. But, when all is
said and done, it is the mom who decides. Moms decide what their children eat,
what they wear, and when they sleep. Then one day the decision maker dynamics
change. This change comes when the child
develops a mind of his own. Children typically begin to come into their own
mind beginning at about age three and believe themselves to know all by age 12.
Then a mother prays.
Moms are always
“moming” no matter how old their children become, no matter how many degrees
they get or how smart they are, no matter they are moms themselves. Being a mom
is a forever job.
Once you have a
child you never really sleep soundly again. Oh, and yes, moms do have eyes in
the back of their heads. They grow in when their child begins to crawl. They
stay fully functional for the life of the mother. Some mothers are able to put
blinders on those eyes once a child becomes self-supporting, but other moms
just keep watching forever! Moms are
wonderful but never perfect, you know.
So, how do you say thank you for all of that? It
really doesn’t take a lot. Mothers are notoriously easy to please. A call, a
card, dinner out, flowers. It’s pretty easy to please a mom. Don’t forget, May 12
is MOTHER’S DAY. Send her your love!
A Fresh Optimistic Start
are back. Nest building is underway across America. The early blooms dot the
landscape with bright yellows and blues. The grass is that beautiful fresh
green that only happens this time of year. Spring has arrived. People feel
revitalized, ready to take on new tasks and are optimistic about the future.
not everyone is in on the fun. Some folks struggle. Perhaps they have
experienced a loss or change in their life that has them feeling down. Or,
maybe they are caught up in the negative spiral of information and talk. What
makes the difference? What makes the optimist optimistic?
optimists just lucky to feel so up and energetic? Are they without challenges
and personal loss? Are optimists born or, are they made? Do they remain upbeat
in spite of adversity or, are they just getting a free ride and feeling no
tell us their positive outlook is the result of conscious effort. It’s mind
over matter.Optimists work at focusing
on the positive. They are not immune to those “Henny Penny the sky is falling”
feelings of fear and panic. They get them too. The difference is they actively
work at looking for the positive and protecting their optimistic attitude.
optimists feel panic, they reset their thinking by asking themselves, “Am I
really okay right now, in this minute? Is there something I can do to improve
the situation or is it out of my control? Do I need to ask for help or do I
have the resources to deal with this myself?” If action is needed, they take that
first tiny step to improve their situation. They own what they can do and let
go of what they cannot improve, change, or fix.
live in the moment. We all hear about living in the moment, but some have no
idea what that phrase means, much less how to go about doing it. Living in the
moment means being mindful. Paying attention to where you are and what you are
doing right now.
example, the simple task of walking the dog with your mind racing. Thinking
about all you need to do when the walk is over is a chore. When approached from
a living in the moment perspective you will pay attention to the way the dog
notices little changes in the familiar path.See what he sees, smell the fresh air, notice the squirrels and birds
look at the sun and the clouds. The same walk becomes a joy. Optimists milk the
joy from every task from washing the car to weeding the garden.
protect their positive attitude. Everyone knows people who just want to talk
about the bad stuff. It’s a world of the service is never just right, the
weather is always a little off, and the world is going to hell in a hand
basket. These people could drag down an elephant.
don’t play that game. They don’t feed the negative by jumping in it themselves.
They shut that negative talk down with something positive, or they just don’t
spend as much time with those people.
Seeing the good
in things, being positive and optimistic expands and becomes easier as the
attitude is nurtured.When we are kind
and up-beat and others mirror what we do, we all benefit as the reflections
Death and Taxes
Death and taxes (seemingly unlikely
bed fellows at first glance) are often linked together because they have long
been considered unavoidable life events. Some even say they are the only
two things that are certain in life. Neither are something people typically look
forward to, but they are both events that are anticipated and can be prepared
for in advance.
This is the time of year when
folks hope they have prepared well for their taxes.Most people prefer to get a tax refund rather
than a tax bill. They hope the calculations have been made correctly and the payments
made throughout the year will be enough to offset the sting of a big tax bill
come April 15th.
Hmmm… come to think about it,
most folks don’t typically look forward to a big funeral bill at the end of
their life either. Few want to leave their family responsible for funeral
costs. However, many people don’t plan to offset that expense like they do
Even though most people, 62.5
percent according to theNational Funeral
Directors Association’s (NFDA) annual Consumer Awareness
and Preferences Study, think
it’s important to plan in advance. Only a small percentage (21.4 percent)
actually act on their good intentions. Why? They have the perception that
prepaying is too costly.
Most people are unaware that
prepaying does not mean you must pay in one single payment. Many funeral homes offer
specialized programs that allow funerals to be paid in advance, just like
taxes, in small easily digested bites. Payments can be made on a variety of
schedules allowing the consumer the opportunity to choose how long to stretch
out payments and how often to make those payments. Individuals can even choose
to make one payment per year!That means
a person could choose to put their tax refund toward their funeral.Taxes could pay for death!
What about that roughly one quarter of people
who do go beyond thinking they should make a funeral plan and actually make one?
How do they feel once they have their plan in place? Ahh, they feel good.
Funeral planners often say they see shoulders go down, hear audible sighs of
relief and get hugs at the conclusion of a planning session. It’s like cleaning
out the junk drawer. Something most folks put off but when they dig in and get
it done, it feels so good they just keep going back to sneak a peak at that
drawer all in order.
Do I Really Need to Attend the Funeral?
is important. If there is any way possible, please, just be there. When a child
is born it is a life changing event for the parents, siblings and grandparents
at the very least. It may also be a life changing event for the kindergarten
teacher five years in the future. Bottom line, life matters.
When a life
ends, it is also a life-changing event. Regardless of the age at which the
person dies or circumstances of the death, lives will change. Family and
friends will never see that person again. They will not share in each other’s
joy. Neither will they have the opportunity to heal old wounds. They will not
hear that voice in praise, love or anger ever again. It’s over, and in some way
everyone close will have to adjust to the change.
the gathering together, acknowledges a living person is gone. Your presence
says, “Yes, this life mattered. And, yes, your lives have changed. But not
everything has changed, you still have us.” Going is important.
home is a safe place for the family to receive guests and their condolences.
It’s ok to cry at the funeral home. In a few weeks when you see this friend of
yours who lost her mom, you will want to say something. And when you do, the
emotion will open up and the sadness will surface. Crying at the grocery store
or the soccer field is uncomfortable for everyone.
When people organize a funeral gathering and ask friends and family to
come to them to share in their loss and sorrow, to help them. Please go, hold a
hand, give a hug, share a memory, offer your condolences, and smile at the
video. Let them cry in a safe place.
Our Dog Died & Our Family Wants to Get a New One. Why?
When a beloved
pet dies, the death leaves a void in its human owner’s life. There will be no
jumping, wagging greeting waiting for them when they come home. Every pet owner
knows there are days when the walk, or cleaning the litter, is more dreaded
than enjoyed. But when the chore is gone, they feel the loss. Sure, they have their
popcorn all to themselves. But they miss their fur friend. They miss those expectant
eyes looking up at them waiting for a kernel of the human treat. Their pet is
gone and it is missed!
So, what about
getting a new dog? Getting new dog or cat is not for everyone. But for some pet
lovers, that void, the hole in their life, is unbearable. They seek to fill the
hole. They need that fur baby to take for a walk, to feed, to talk to, to sleep
on their feet, to be glad they are home.
Fair warning to
the mourning owner, a new pet is not a replacement for the beloved pet that has
passed. Just as when we lose a human family member, the individual cannot be
replaced. The pet that died was unique, one of a kind. There will never be
another cat or dog just like your fur friend. For those who need to get a new
dog, or cat, or bird, or snake, it’s the role the pet played in their life they
seek to fill. There is just a need to fill the hole death has left in their
The pet who
passed isn’t forgotten. People who have had multiple pets have a whole string
of memories and stories. Those memories stay. They are with them always.
Pets enrich our lives. So,
for some the need to have a new pet is almost immediate. Others need more time. Some fill the hole in
another way entirely. Try not to judge the needs of a family member when their
desire to get a new pet is out of sync with yours. Do your best to understand.
Writing Thank You Notes
you notes is usually one of the very first “after the funeral” tasks you will
undertake. You may be surprised to find that your brain/hand coordination is
not working so well. You sit there with pen in hand and well-formed thoughts in
your head, but somehow it all gets lost between the head and the paper. Don’t
despair. This is normal and it’s all part of the grief journey. You are not
thinking straight now, but you will again soon.
tackle who gets a “thank you” and then I can give you a few wordy ideas to help
you get started. Anyone who made a donation or sent flowers should get a thank
you note from a family member. You will also want to send a note to people who
helped. Maybe they provided food or took care of the dog for you or picked up
people at the airport. All of those folks should receive a note of thanks. You
do not need to send notes to people who sent condolence cards, emails, or
Your words can
be brief. No one expects a long letter from you at this time. It is just nice
to know that the flowers arrived, or the donation was received. Your kind
friends just need to hear thank you.
you for all your kindness ….
help meant so much to us….
all loved the broccoli, thank you for taking care of us ….
flowers were so beautiful and such a comfort to us ….
some, these are written the day after the funeral. Everyone sits around the
kitchen table to write the thank you notes and everyone laughs as more than a
few notes are torn and tossed in the trash. This may be the first laughter
heard in several days.
Finding Your Joy
Even months after the funeral it’s not
uncommon to feel just not exactly right. We all lose our way from time to
time. Things happen and we can’t find our JOY. It’s not really so much
gone, as it is misplaced. Life feels dull and the days seem to drag. No
matter what the circumstances, if you look for it, you can find your own
personal JOY again. However, you will have to work a bit to find it and
To begin, you must put on your little super
power cape and take control. You’ll have to take ownership of your joy.
Terrible things happen to us in life. Illness of a loved one, your own illness,
even the death of a loved one, there really are a lot of things to be unhappy
about. You can, however, experience joy in spite of adversity. Make a
positive decision to take your personal joy into your own hands and get it
Start by connecting with your senses, hearing,
touch, smell, taste, and sight. Take them one by one and dig in. What
sounds bring you joy? Maybe it’s the sound of little kids on the playground, or
the Beatles, or waves crashing on the beach. Get out a piece of paper and make
a list. You may be surprised at how many little tiny things you enjoy related
to your senses.
Once you have identified things you like to
smell, touch, taste, hear and see, you need to make a plan to get at least one
of those things in your life on a daily basis. Turn on the music you love, buy
yourself a bouquet of flowers, bake one little chocolate chip cookie
every day! What the heck, they make that frozen cookie dough for a reason!
Get up early once a week and see the sunrise. Take a walk. Put joy back in your
life in its simplest forms. Just go for it. It’s not that hard.
Once your senses are starting to wake up
again, start to think about gratitude. What are you thankful for? That time
your dad took you fishing, that your grandmother taught you the names of all
the birds, fireworks on the Fourth of July or the beauty of a tree. The list is
endless, humbling, and there is joy in gratitude. Be grateful.
It’s YOUR JOY take it back.
Plan it...All the Way Out
harkening the long-awaited approach of spring is upon us – March Madness.
People of all
ages, incomes, and professions will be completing their brackets and winding
down to the biggest decisions of all … the final four! Players and coaches have
been working hard for months leading up to this finale.
The work and
preparation leading up to the end of the college basketball season is not
unlike what we all do in our professional lives. Most people work for years in
anticipation of the day when they will retire and have the luxury of calling their
time their own. The final five working years before retirement are typically
the time to get your ducks in a row.
approaching retirement begin to think about maxing their savings in those final
years of earning. Many take care of deferred maintenance to the home and some
even work on their estate plan. Fewer think about the final duck … their
funeral. Planning and funding your funeral during those years is a great time to
get it done. Especially if being frugal about this expense is of importance.
Some of the
benefits to planning and funding a funeral in advance include:
plan set up while you are still working and earning means the funeral will be
completely paid for (at today’s cost) before you retire. That means you won’t
need to withdraw from investments to cover this cost in your retirement years.
people are in good health as they wind down their working years.That means the total cost of the funeral can
be covered should something unexpected happen before the payments are complete.
like most things, tend to inflate in cost over time … it’s not going to get cheaper.
You can lock down your cost and be done before you retire.
It’s easy to
find out everything you need to know about planning and funding a funeral. Just
call the funeral home and ask to speak to the individual who takes care of
advance funeral planning.
live long… and have fun during your March Madness and beyond!
Preserving the Family Relationship While Planning a Funeral
You are with someone with whom you share some
history. Maybe it’s a brother, sister, or a childhood friend. You are talking
about an event from the “old days” and you suddenly realize you all remember
the event a little differently. Most of us have had this experience. Our
relationships work in a similar fashion. The way we love, like the way we
remember, is unique to each of us.
A man’s children know him as Dad. Each child
knows and loves a slightly different Dad. His wife knows and loves him in yet a
different way. A wife may know fears, strengths, hopes, and dreams children
never saw. They all love, but in such different ways. Though not a bad thing,
it can add to the stress a family experiences during a death and subsequence
So how do you preserve your family
relationship and plan a funeral that provides comfort for each family
a common goal. For example: “We want a funeral that reflects Mom’s life,
her love for us and our love for her.”
someone has the final say. This is usually the person who is financially
and legally responsible.
to listen to each other. REALLY listen with purpose. Listen to understand
a point of view, not with the singular intent of getting to the good part where
you get to say what you want.
input from a variety of close family members or friends. Don’t forget the
little ones. Ask them about grandma. What did they love to do with her? Do they
have a special memory or story?
go. Realize everything is not going to be as you would choose. Give a little or
maybe even a lot.
for a time out when you need it. Your first reaction to someone’s idea may
be tempered with a little time and thought.
your questions: Tell me more about that? Why is ______ important to you?
the advice of Stephen Covey from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective
People, “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”
Emotions are raw when
families are mourning a death. Tread lightly and be kind. Remember you
may want to have Thanksgiving dinner with these people in a few months!
Moving After a Spouse Dies?
One of the realities of losing a spouse or a
parent is the impact that event has on living arrangements. Are we living in
the “right” place? Is the house too big? Is it too far away from family? Will
my surviving parent be safe where they live? Should I move to be closer to mom
or should mom move closer to me?
These are tough questions and they come at a
time when emotions are running so very high. They also come at a time when
income has likely decreased, perhaps requiring a change be made sooner rather
than later. Conventional wisdom says wait at least a year before you make any
big changes to your living situation, but the reality is waiting a year may not
be financially possible. If you are able to slow down and let the dust settle a
bit, that is no small blessing.
Really, it all boils down to three
considerations: happiness, safety, and finances. The surviving spouse needs to
be in a place that not only works financially, but also is safe and happy.
You are going to need to use both your rational mind and your emotions if you
are to make the best decision.
On the face of it, the financial
consideration seems to be the trump card. After all, you have to be
able to afford where you live. However, it is not always that
simple. When the happiest place is affordable but not the most frugal
choice, then maybe happy trumps financially smart? Decisions based on both
emotion and rational thought are usually the best decisions.
That emotional happiness factor also impacts
the safety issue. Perhaps the safest living arrangement isn’t going to be a
happy situation? In that case, put your rational mind to work
on finding a way to make the happy place safer.
You have to find
the best fit answer for your family. As you are weighing those
three considerations, resist the temptation to base the decision on what
you think may happen or will happen down the road. Consider the
wisdom of making decisions in the present, based on present circumstances. So,
if dad is safe, happy and can afford to stay in his present home maybe no
change is necessary … for now.
Where Should I Send My Condolences?
matter and timing is important.
Do not put off
contacting your friend to express your sympathy. Options and opportunities may
have changes over the decades, but the importance of reaching out to those suffering
a loss has not. A call or a written note is always just right. Social media is
just fine under some circumstances and a personal visit is lovely.
Additionally, many funeral homes have a place on their website to post
condolences. This format allows your expression of sympathy to be
delivered privately and quickly.
start with the newest trend - technology and social media. It’s so fast and so
easy to access. If you are texting a co-worker several times a day about other
things, it would seem rude to not mention the loss of her mother. Do use
private messaging forms of social media with people you communicate with
regularly in this manner. Caution!! Be very careful to not send a public
condolence message using social media if your friend has not made an equally
public announcement of his or her loss on the same platform. Do follow-up your
message with a call or personal note. Finally, do not use electronic messaging
if the receiver is not a regular user of tech.
notes or cards made for just this purpose should be mailed to the person
closest to the deceased or to a personal friend who has experienced a
loss. Your personal note should be simple. Thoughts such as you are sorry
for their loss, you are thinking of them in this difficult time or they are in
your thoughts and prayers are appropriate. If you knew the deceased, you might
share a brief story about the person who died and shares your
Should you make a condolence visit? Oh, my yes! A personal visit is the
only way to give a hug. However, do call ahead. Do keep your visit brief
and do focus on the grieving individual. Please, don’t say you know how they
feel even if you share a similar experience. There will be a time for sharing
later. For now, just let them know you are sorry for their loss. Come as a
listener not a problem solver.
Why Plan Your Funeral in Advance
The story below illustrates the benefits
of preplanning your funeral. Also known as an “advance funeral plan”, “preneed”,
or a “preplanned funeral”, it is one of the few things in life where you can pay
today’s prices for a product and service you may not need for many years down
the road, thus saving you money.
We buried my
dad last week. My dad’s funeral would have been just a little more $8,000
not counting the luncheon or cemetery space. However, thanks to his pre-need funeral
plan that he prepared 18 years ago at the funeral home, we got it for $5,000
and some change. Saving money wasn’t necessarily what motivated him to make the
plan in advance. But, let me tell you, my mom was pretty pleased to know she
didn't have to write that check.
Now, I should
clarify something here. My mom is more than okay financially. Paying, even the
full $8,000, for the funeral would not have been a financial issue. It was an
emotional thing. She knew the death of my dad was going to change her life. She
just didn’t know how it would change. So, everything, every action and
especially spending money, increased her anxiety. We didn’t need that. Thank
you, dad, for taking care of the plan and its cost well before it was
my father to pre-plan was the fact we are a blended family. It’s not the we
don’t all get along, we do (most of the time). But, we don’t all have the same
taste. My sister, his oldest daughter, likes the earth tones. Our mom, his
wife, on the other hand, likes the jewel tones. My dad picked a black casket
and even said he wanted to be buried in his navy suit. Seems like small stuff,
but it probably saved us all some angst. There was no fuss, no brown suit and
no hurt feelings.
If my dad
would have asked us 18 years ago if he should pre-plan and pre-pay for his
funeral, I feel certain all five of us would have said, “Don’t worry about
that. We can take care of it when we have to.” I am so grateful that he did not
ask and that he did not think just about the money portion of an
advance funeral plan. Dad, thank you for being smarter than us and knowing that
we would need your emotional support even in death.
Get Your Family Involved in Funeral Planning
When death is near or has just occurred, there are so many
things to do and yet there is nothing you can do. You feel helpless. You can’t
make the person well or bring them back.But you know you will, very soon, need to make many decisions about the
service, the final resting place, the music, food, flowers, donations, clothing
and much more. Your mind is racing and oddly enough, at the same time, at a
complete standstill. On one hand it feels like it is too soon to do anything.
You’re just not ready. But at the same time, you feel the weight of all that is
This is stress. It is hard. If you can, reach out to your
family and friends and let them help you. Have your son or daughter get the
older grandchildren involved in pulling together pictures and music. They are
really good at this stuff. Going through the pictures brings back happy
memories and it’s one of the most therapeutic chores that comes with funeral
preparation. Let them do something that will help them - they are dealing with
this loss too.
If would you would like family and friends to donate to a
charity, put someone in charge of looking into that. Have your daughter-in-law
pull together a few clothing choices for your final selection. Send your
son-in-law to the cemetery or have him get the cars washed. You may want to delegate
the task of writing the eulogy and obituary. Give someone the job of gathering
information for the funeral luncheon or brunch.
the work around. Let go, embrace help and give them something to do. You’ll
feel better that things are getting done and they’ll feel better because they
are involved and helping.
Who Should Record My Funeral Wishes?
There is a woman who once thought that she’d like to have a hologram
made of her wearing an Obi-Wan Kenobi robe for her funeral. Her four sons grew
up during the Star Wars era and similar to Obi-Wan, she would love to pass
along the wisdom she acquired over her lifetime to those she loves. And yes,
she would also like to have the last word!So who should this woman see to discuss and share her wishes? Should she
talk to an attorney? Her financial planner? Or a funeral director?
Both her attorney and financial planner suggested they could
help but she wasn’t convinced based on her past experience. When her parents
died the funeral was over before she even started to work on the finances and
the estate. And there was so much attention paid to the final, final part…burial
or cremation. She decided to contact her family funeral home and she met with Sue,
the advance funeral planner. As it turns out, helping people get their funeral plans
in place is Sue’s only job at the funeral home. And help this woman Sue did!
They talked about what this woman thought she wanted for her
funeral plans. They talked a lot about her family – her husband, her four grown
up sons, their wives and their children. Sue helped this woman see that
although her sons would appreciate the Obi Wan idea, her husband would need
something a little more traditional with a spiritual element. They talked about
the cost and how she could keep that under control. They also talked about the burial
and cremation options. Sue explained to the woman that if she wasn’t ready, she
didn’t need to make a decision about burial or cremation. The woman ended up talking
to her family about it and she was able to get her wishes recorded at the
funeral home and she decided to use a payment plan. With her plan in place, she
can go in and change her plans at any time (e.g. if she decides she wants to be
cremated at a later date) and Sue will help her with that.
Sue also suggested the woman begin gathering those words of wisdom that she wants to share at
her funeral and bring them to Sue so she can put them in the file. On the day
of the woman’s funeral, the funeral directors will print these words of wisdom and hand them out to those
attending the funeral. As it turns out, holograms aren’t available just yet,
but Sue thinks they may be prior to this woman’s death.
the end, leaving the finances to the financial planner, the will & estate
planning to the attorney, and the funeral planning to the funeral home made the
most sense for this woman.
When Death is Sudden and Unexpected
Sometimes, if you are open to it, you can receive amazing
information in the most unlikely ways.For
example, there was a driver who was taking a woman to the airport when she
received the news that a family member had died. The woman gasped and her driver,
who was from another culture, asked if she was okay. Normally she would just say
“I am fine” because she is a private person. On this particular occasion,
however, she shared her situation with this driver. Upon hearing the news, this
gentleman shared his cultural belief and at that moment…it was exactly what she
needed to hear.
He said, “When the soul leaves the body, it can take a long time
or it can happen very quickly. No matter how, it is painful. It is painful for
the one who is dying, and it is painful for those who are left behind. The
separation of the soul from the body, that is the ending of life. That is
death. No matter how it happens, there is pain.”
When death is sudden and totally unexpected, you may find
that you and your family members react in ways that seem strange and
unfamiliar. You get the call. Something terrible has happened. Someone has
died. You are stunned.
As you begin to process the news, you may experience a
strong pull to see where it happened. This is a normal response. Before you can
accept the reality of the death you may have to see.
Seeing a loved one after their passing is not an easy thing
to do, but it is necessary for many. If you feel you need to see, honor your
need. The funeral director understands this need and can help you. Even if your
mother always said, “I don’t want people to see me after I die”, she probably didn’t
understand back then how her passing would affect you now. Talk to the funeral
director and he or she will help you honor your mother’s wishes and satisfy
your need as well.
In addition to accepting the reality that a death has
occurred, those who experience a sudden loss also have burden of working out
how the death happened and why it happened. Many questions will go through
Who didn’t do what they needed to do to prevent
the awful reality?
Who is accountable? Is it, me? Did I miss
Should there be a law?
Why? Why? Why?
is a normal. Be patient with your family members as each of you must work
through this in your own personal way. When the soul leaves the body it is
always painful, but when it happens suddenly and unexpectedly, there are
additional burdens to work through.
Who Will Take Care of My Funeral Plans?
It is not uncommon for people to ask themselves, “Since I
never had any children, who will take care of my funeral plans?” That is all
the more reason to preplan your own funeral!
Each state has laws that say who will “own” your body when
you die.The “owner” is responsible for
making and paying for your funeral service and “final disposition”. Final
disposition is simply what happens to your body in the end and those choices include
burial, cremation or donation. Regardless of disposition, a funeral service
with or without a religious component can take place before or after
disposition. These are all choices the responsible person will make.
If you are to be cremated, there is still the matter of what
will be done with your cremated remains. They can be kept by a family member, scattered
on private property, buried in a cemetery, or kept in a columbarium niche. Again,
this is a choice the responsible person will need to make.
In most states the responsible person is your spouse. When
there is no legal marriage then your parent will be responsible. If your
parents are deceased, then your child will take the lead. When there are no
children, then your eldest sibling will be responsible.
As you can see, this system only works if you and your
family are all of like mind regarding the funeral and you are on the same page
regarding faith. Since this is not always the case, you can break the legal
chain and designate a person of your choice to carry out your wishes.
It’s not at all difficult or even expensive. You just need
to call the funeral home of your choice, ask for an appointment with the person
who does the pre-planning. Be sure to tell that individual that you want to
designate someone to carry out your wishes. He or she will need to get the
proper paperwork for you to complete this task.
This is also a perfect time to talk to the pre-planning
person at the funeral home about your ideas regarding both your funeral service
and your final disposition. A funeral professional can help you get everything
written down so that your designated person will know just what to do. Since
this person will also bear the financial burden for your funeral service and
burial or cremation, you will want to talk to the advance funeral planner about
eliminating that burden by prefunding your plan.
Email to a Funeral Director
To: Funeral Director
From: Dad with no plan
Subject: A question about funeral preplanning
Before I get to my question, I have to tell you the background.
Friday after Thanksgiving I took my wife (who cooked for a week for that dinner) and my kids (who came from west coast, east coast, and the middle) and the grandkids (who only ate rolls for Thanksgiving) out for pizza.
Sounds nice, right? OMG! It took us forever to order, no one could agree! We ended up with one cheese pizza for the picky grandkids, a large with ¼ meat lovers, ¼ with anchovies, and ½ supreme. We also ordered a medium white with gluten free crust. Still they were all picking stuff off, making faces, and huffing and puffing. OMG again!
So, my question…and I need your opinion here…how are they going to do when the time comes for them to meet with you to plan my funeral? Do you think maybe the wife and I should do one of those funeral preplans or advance funeral plans?
OMG yes, you and your wife need a plan. Your family sounds perfectly normal! They’ll get over the pizza … but I’ve seen too many families break apart over disagreements about how to honor their parent’s life. Decisions such as burial or cremation or who is going to pay can be tough when families are grieving. A funeral plan is an easy fix. I‘d be happy to help. When do you want to meet with me? At the funeral home or your house?
To Plan or Not to Plan Your Funeral in Advance
How does Advance funeral Planning affect the
first hours before a funeral and the days and weeks that follow?
CALLING THE FUNERAL HOME / MORTUARY
Funeral preplan already in place: When a funeral preplan is already in place and on file
at the funeral home, there is no question as to who to call.The deceased has left a clear message. The stunned,
tired, grief-stricken family just makes the call and the funeral home takes
your loved one into their care.
No funeral preplan in place: When a death occurs and no funeral preplan has been
recorded at a funeral home, the first order of business is deciding which
funeral home to call. The stunned, tired, grief stricken family must agree upon
who they will trust to guide them through this difficult time. They must
determine the funeral establishment that will help honor their loved one in a
way that satisfies all their needs and fits their budget.
THE EVENING BEFORE THE FUNERAL ARRANGEMENT CONFERENCE
Funeral preplan already in place:When a funeral preplan is in place, the family can take
this time to comfort each other. They can share memories, go through pictures
or just rest. Tomorrow they will meet with the funeral director and review the funeral
plan their family member put together with them in mind.
No funeral preplan in place: For the family with no funeral preplan in place,
tomorrow will bring many questions and decisions. Tonight, they will be
weighing in on one big question – burial or cremation. They’ll be figuring out
how much to spend and who will pay for the funeral. They will need to decide
which of them will participate in the arrangement conference. They will need to
consider and agree upon how to honor their loved one’s life.
DAYS AND WEEKS AFTER THE FUNERAL
Funeral preplan already in place:The family with the funeral preplan has no doubts, no second-guessing,
and no regrets. They know they did the “right” thing.They know they spent the right amount of
money. They miss the one they lost but they have no regrets about the service
that honored their loved one’s life.
No funeral preplan in place: Sadly not all families are able to pull together
following the loss of a family member. Some are pulled apart because they
disagree about decisions great and small. The days and weeks following a death are
emotional and tense. It can be a very difficult time to be making group
When Your Parent Loses Their Spouse
“And the two
shall be as one” just rolls off our tongue. But think about it. What does it
mean to the one who lives when their partner has died? Are they now a half?
Families are interesting in that we tend to “know” our family member as their
role relates to us. Mom is mom, dad is dad. We kids typically don’t really see
the couple side, or the work side, or the friend side of our parents.
So how must it
feel to lose your life partner? Try to step into your parent’s shoes. Pretty
quickly in a marriage the jobs are assigned. She does the laundry, he cooks the
dinner, she manages the household budget, and he manages the retirement plan. Sure,
they have separate interests but look at all those shared interests. Are they
lost with this death? What happens to their couple activities?Do friends still invite them for bridge or to
join the bowling team when they become a single? Life changes drastically when
death parts a couple.
If your parent
begins to date, it is not so easy to move from your point of view to
understanding and accepting theirs. For a child it may feel too soon, like your
living parent is replacing your deceased parent. Perhaps this new wife or
husband is stepping in a way that you thought you would. She is going to the
doctor’s appointments with dad or cooking dad dinner when you expected to fill
that role. He is mowing mom’s lawn with dad’s lawn mower no less! It’s hard.
Consider working on
changing the way you look at this budding relationship. How hard would it be to live as a half when
you have been married for 35, 50, or even 60 years? Maybe this new relationship
is a search for the happiness they had with your deceased parent? Try to
understand that as we age, time really is limited and precious. And honestly…maybe
they can’t wait. Maybe they need a partner, or another half, to be whole again.
New Year’s Resolutions
New year, new
you. It’s an exciting concept full of promise, right? Then we take all the fun
out of it by resolving to do things we don’t like to do. We’ll lose weight, eat
healthier, exercise more, give up ice cream. Ugh, no fun at all.
So how about selecting
enjoyable resolutions instead? Some ideas to get you thinking are listed below:
more of something you love.
Read more books, go fishing more often, spend more time with your kids or
grandkids, binge-watch your favorite series from the start again. Just enjoy
and give yourself a big old hug in the form of having fun your way.
better at something you really like to do. Take a lesson, learn to cook something new, improve your golf
swing, learn a new knitting stitch, or just build on what you love.
a dream come true. See
the mountains or the Grand Canyon. Go to the opera or to Disney. Buy the car,
lease the car, or rent the car of you dreams for a weekend. Just complete the following
sentence and do it: “I’ve always wanted to _______.”
your town like a tourist.
Everything fun doesn’t have to require a lot of money. Most of us have
attractions, restaurants, natural wonders or parks close to home that we
haven’t visited in ages. Just go.
lots of new friends. Some
friends are for life while other friends can be for just for a few hours or even
minutes. Try smiling and talking to the cab driver, the checkout person, or the
person next to you as you walk into or out of church.
Enjoy your life. Seize the
day. Happy New Year!
Loneliness in Losing a Life Partner
To say one “feels
lonely” after losing their life partner is an understatement, especially if you
have been happily married for many years. In time, however, you may find
yourself at a crossroads. On one hand you can’t imagine life with another
partner while on the other you hand you can’t bear this loneliness. You want a
adult children are concerned, good preparation can literally keep your family
from falling apart. Hard as it may be, talk to them and share how you feel and
what you are missing. As much as you love your family and as much as they love
you, their love cannot satisfy what you need. Help your children understand
that you are not trying to replace their mom or dad, but that you may want to
have someone to eat dinner with or a bridge partner again.
As soon as the
thought of dating enters your mind, before you bring the thought to life with a
real person, think about how a new relationship will land with your adult
children. Consider both the emotional impact and the financial concerns that
might be raised. Make an appointment with your attorney and talk about how a
second marriage would impact your estate. Family concerns about money or the
inheritance will only make things more difficult if you begin to date. We’ve
all heard stories, so get your affairs in order BEFORE there is a person you
care about and share any changes you make to your estate with your children.
consider your pace. If you slow down just a little bit and really enjoy the
dating part of a relationship, it will give your children some time to get used
to the idea of you dating again. It can help everyone adjust to the changing family
dynamic that occurs when a new person is added to the mix. Just as the family
dynamic changed when your children dated and/or married, it will change again if
you start dating.
Communicate, talk about how
you feel, and if you decide to date, go slow. Take care of those money matters early
on so that any changes will not be seen as the fault of the new person in your
Previous blog posts have acknowledged how hard it is to deal
with special occasions (e.g. holidays, birthdays) when you’ve recently lost the
one you love. So, what do you do when you receive an invitation for that
special occasion that you don’t feel
like accepting? Maybe you are afraid you’ll be a wet blanket, or you aren’t
eager to do something new and different because you really just want things as
they were. That’s understandable but perhaps turning down the invitation isn’t
really in your best interest.
Before you say “no” to an invitation too quickly, give
yourself a few minutes to think about it. Take that time to consider your
alternatives. What will you do if you don’t accept it? Is there something you
would prefer to do? Think about it, do you really want to be alone on that
It is important to acknowledge that the day won’t be the
same. Acknowledge your loss. A woman who recently lost her husband goes to the
cemetery for a little chat on those special days. She tells her husband how
it’s hard for her and that she misses him. Then she tells him how she is going
to spend the day.
It is difficult to do something different on those special
occasions. Your first few efforts may even fall short. Eventually, perhaps even
sooner than you expect, you will find your joy in those occasions again.
A Year of Firsts
When someone close to us dies, a spouse, a child, a parent,
a sister, brother, or friend, their passing leaves an empty space in our lives.
We will go on and we will have happy moments, then happy days, and eventually whole
stretches of happy time. However, that initial year, after the death, we must
deal with a whole year of firsts. The first anniversary, birthday, holiday or
vacation without the one we love can be challenging to celebrate.
Why are these occasions so hard and what can we do to get
through this hard place?They are
difficult because the pain of that empty space our loved one filled is so very
acute on these special days.There is
probably nothing that can be done to prevent the feeling of loss. It will
follow you for sure if you run away from it and try to ignore the special day.
But perhaps, with anticipation and preparation, the occasion can be made easier
and maybe even special.
Keep an eye on your calendar, don’t be blindsided by an
event. Prepare in advance, make a plan and include others. Tap your family
members or your friends let them in, tell them this will be a tough day for
you. Consider what will be the most difficult part of the day.
Maybe it’s not receiving a gift from the love of your life,
or not having your wife bake your favorite cake on your birthday. What can you
do to work around the pain, acknowledge the loss, and save the day? Perhaps you
can go shopping with a good friend and buy yourself a “gift”. Then write a
little thank you or whisper your thank you to the one you miss in your prayers.
Pull out your wife’s recipe for that cake, call in a grandchild and bake it
together. It won’t matter one little bit if the cake doesn’t match up to the
quality of your wife’s baking.
you make your plan for the special occasion be sure to include some way to
honor the memory of the person who died. Your day will not be the same without
the one you lost, death is a loss. However, you can ease the pain and have a
pleasant day in a slightly new and different way.
The Cranberry Sauce is for Dad
People often say that one of the hardest things about that
first year, the year after your loved one died, is that no one uses their name
or talks about them. The hole in your heart begins to feel deeper and wider
because talking about them seems forbidden. And as the holidays approach, the
quietness can feel even more painful. So, why not take the bull by the horns,
so to speak, and find a way to bring your loved one to your holiday gathering
in a light but meaningful way.
A good example of keeping your loved one in your holiday
gathering is the family that always includes that jiggly cranberry sauce
straight from the can on their table. There it is - just as it comes from the
can - indentations, ridges, and all. Every year it’s there for dad. Every year
it is ceremoniously placed on the table accompanied by a few words about how important
it was to dad’s enjoyment of the holiday. Every year it brings lots of smiles
and stories about dad.
you have lost someone dear, and you miss them more at the holidays, consider
opening the conversation, using their name, and talking about them in a
The First Thanksgiving Without the One You Love
Oh boy, here they come. The holidays! You can’t really
ignore them, but they are going to be different because that special person in
your life is no longer going to be sharing the day with you. So, what do you
First, acknowledge your loss and be aware that you need a
plan. Thanksgiving isn’t just another day unless it has been just another day
for you in the past. Losing someone you love always leaves an empty space in
your life so how will Thanksgiving be different this year? So, what will
For some it may mean you no longer have a place to gather. For
others it may mean no one knows how to cook the turkey, make the dressing, or
smooth gravy. Maybe you lost the one who carved the bird or said the blessing.
Regardless, you need a plan. The time to deal with the loss
of the gravy maker is not at the last minute when the turkey comes out of the
oven. A sudden realization catching everyone off guard is likely to intensify
and expand the feeling of loss and your day may fall apart entirely. Plan in
advance and give the gravy job to another family member. Be prepared for a
different sort of gravy. There may be lumps, it may come from a box, it might
be better or worse, but it will all right.
If you are going to be alone this year, consider inviting
others who don’t have family close at hand to join you. Make Thanksgiving a
potluck. After all, that’s what the first Thanksgiving was…people sharing the
bounty of the harvest.
This year be sure that you include some acknowledgement of
the one who died in your plans for the day. Maybe you pull out the photo albums
after dinner and just express your gratitude for the good days with your loved
one. Maybe you include your thanks in the blessing before the meal, or have
everyone share something special about your loved one as you gather around the
table. Yes, it is difficult, but don’t forget to look for the positives. They
are there, you just have to find them.
Make Family the Foundation for Funeral Planning
There are two ways to take care of funeral planning: 1) you
can plan your own funeral in advance or 2) your survivors can plan your funeral
for you after your death. Regardless of when or who plans the funeral, the
planning needs to begin from the inside out. It needs to start with your
family. Your family should be the foundation for funeral planning.
After all, the funeral is not really for the deceased…it is
for those who survive. We show respect for all human life in the manner in
which we care for the body that housed the soul or spirit of our loved one.
Respect and dignity for the body is important. The funeral helps those of us
who survive as by changing our focus from the cause of the death to the life that
was lived. The funeral is the beginning of our grieving process and that is why
funerals are so important.
If you are planning in advance for your own final
remembrance, begin by thinking of those who love you. Your spouse, your children,
your grandchildren, your friends and even your co-workers, what will they
remember? What will make them smile? What will comfort them? What will they
need? When they think of you what will come to mind? How is faith a part of
If you are planning a funeral for a deceased family member,
involve the children, grandchildren and even close friends in the process. Ask
them how they remember their friend or relative. Remember, we have all had a
unique relationship with the deceased, so what you want to remember may be
different from what your brother remembers. Ask your funeral director for ideas
so they can help you capture and express the unique personality of your family
member in the service plan.
For many years funeral planning started with a different set
of questions. It started with questions about the faith. What church did your mother belong to? It followed with questions
about the decedent’s wishes. What do you
think your dad would want? These are still good valid questions but basing
the entire funeral plan on only these aspects may not touch every family
may have preferred that no one see her after death, but if you, her daughter,
need to see her, speak up. If you don’t share your brother’s faith and you need
to hear a eulogy that is all about his life or see pictures that bring back
your time growing up together, speak up. The imprint of the funeral sticks with
the surviving family. It is literally the last memory we carry of someone we
How Much Does a Funeral Cost?
For most of us, one of the first questions think of when we think we need a funeral home soon is, “How much will it cost?” It’s understandable that everyone wants a simple answer to this question. Unfortunately, there is no one simple answer.
Think of the last time you bought a pair of shoes. It’s not really helpful to know that the average cost of a pair of shoes is $75.00. So, what does an “average” pair of shoes look like? Shoes come in many different sizes, colors and styles. You wouldn’t expect to call the shoe store and ask, “How much does a pair of shoes cost?” Everyone needs some help finding the right fit for his or her feet. You also understand that you’ll need to share more information about the kind of shoe you are seeking before you find the cost.
It’s the same with funerals. The funeral you choose will need to fit your family’s needs as well as your budget. The funeral director will help you with both. You will be pleased to know funeral homes are required to have standardized prices for everything they do. This price list must be printed and available for you. You should also take comfort in knowing there will be a range of prices associated with the choices you will be making. The funeral director wants you to be satisfied with both the service you select and with the costs associated with those services.
As soon as you are able, it is a good idea to call the funeral home and ask to set up a time to meet with a funeral director to review your options and prices. There should be no cost for this meeting. This is the best way to assure that you understand what is involved with the various services so that you can get the best value for your dollar. You can schedule this kind of meeting with as many funeral homes as you desire.
At first, this may seem like a lot of work. The reality is, however, that you’ll obtain far more information by meeting with the funeral director versus searching online or making phone calls. You’ll save time, too. Don’t wait to set up that meeting if you think you’ll need a funeral home soon.
Thank You for Your Service
Because you are there we all sleep better at night. You
serve in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. Some of you serve
for two years, some for twenty or more. Some enter into service at a tender age
looking for opportunity. Some are following a longstanding family tradition.
You are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. We, thank you for your service.
You spend days, weeks, and even years away from your family.
You are not always there to teach your daughter to ride her bike; perhaps you
missed your son’s first steps. Because you serve, you can’t always be counted
on to attend the baseball game or the teacher conference. With your service
comes sacrifice. Sacrifices made by both you and your family.We thank you and your family for your
Thank you for being ready and on alert so that we can go
about our business without even thinking about the “what ifs”. Thank you for
putting yourself in harms way.Thank you
for giving us your time, your energy and your youth. Thank you for representing
us with honor where ever you are stationed.
Regardless of whether you serve us at home or in foreign
lands, in time of war or peace, we thank you for your service.
On Memorial Day we remember those who gave their lives in
our service, on Armed Forces Day we honor those currently serving. On Veterans
Day we honor all who have served our country from the Revolution in 1776 to
today. Thank you.
Talking with a Veteran
Talking with a veteran of the more recent wars or conflicts such
as Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq can be intimidating. You may have a parent or
spouse who served in Vietnam who has never shared anything about their
experience with you. The Vietnam War was different from wars in the past in
that the value of the war itself was questioned and many of those who served
came home to a hostile public. It was not a hero’s welcome. Their story may
have been bottled up all these years and time is running out for families to
learn about their loved one’s experience.
Since the Vietnam War, a small percentage of the U.S. population
has served in our armed forces. This means the Vietnam experience is not shared
by the broader population and those who did not serve can’t possibly understand
what war is like. Not understanding can make us uncomfortable about starting a
conversation.As a result, veterans can
feel isolated while we remain unaware.
How can we push past our discomfort? How can we talk with
these people we love and appreciate about a period in their life that was so
very important to them? It can be tricky depending on how well you know the
veteran. Below you will find some tips to aid your conversation with a veteran:
During the discussion:
Take your time, go slow
Plan to LISTEN
Listen without comment or judgment
Listen to learn, not to tell.
Below are some suggestions you can ask:
Would be willing to talk with me about your
What service were you in?
What inspired you to join?
What does your service mean to you?
Would you mind sharing what you are currently
You may want to avoid some of the
Don’t ask if they killed anyone or saw any dead
Don’t be surprised if they don’t want to talk.
Don’t ask about PTSD.
Don’t make it about you.
Don’t think you know what it is like to go to
war unless you have been to war.
It is always a good idea to do your homework and study the
war prior to your discussion. And most of all, express your appreciation for
their time and service.
How to Thank a Veteran
Three hundred and sixty five days a year, twenty-four hours
a day, rain or shine, hot or cold, from the year 1776 to present day, they’re
serving our country.They are our
veterans and November 11th is the official day that we honor and
thank them each year.
So what can you do to show your appreciation?Here are a few ideas:
Attend a parade or remembrance event held in
Brush up on your patriotic etiquette
Teach your children things such as when to stand for the
American flag or what to do during the playing of our National Anthem
Visit the gravesite of a veteran
Hang a flag in your yard
Support a veteran-owned business
Hire a veteran or the spouse of a veteran
Visit a veterans hospital
Say thank you to a veteran and his or her
Did you know you can even hold a “Care Package Party”?
Invite friends to bring items for those serving
away from home.
You can contact the US Post Office for help with
packaging supplies for military care packages.Some items you could send:
1.Foot care products
3.Flavorings for water
4.iTunes gift card
6.Hand written notes expressing your thanks
Everyone is busy and on Veteran’s Day we’ll be inundated
with advertising. It will be easy to see November 11th just as another
great sale day…but it is so much more. Perhaps the most important thing you
could do is ask a veteran you know to tell you about their experience and then
listen. Just really listen.
are for Saints and Sinners
These days we’re hearing a lot about life celebrations. A
funeral is a ceremony for someone who has died and the survivors. A celebration
of life is a funeral with a celebratory feel and it may or may not have a faith-based
component. Celebrating the life of the accomplished, the kind, and the generous
feels natural. It feels like something we should do.
On the other hand, what do we do about the “broken” people?
The bullies, the addicted, the angry, or those who just never got it all
together. What do we do when they die? Most of us have one or more imperfect
people in our immediate circle.
The loss of one of these folks is real and it hurts. Because
they are gone, our lives will not be the same. We may be relieved of a burden,
but we are also without hope. The hope that we will get a hug or a kind word is
gone. The hope that a child will get sober and realize the potential you knew
was there is gone. The hope that we will hear “I’m sorry” or understand the
reason behind the addiction, the anger, or the hatred is now gone. It’s
painful. Someone we love has died. Having a funeral will help.
It can be hard to know just what to do when “celebration”
doesn’t feel right. This may be especially true if a faith-based service does
not feel like the right fit. Ask your funeral director for help. There are
funeral celebrants who are not attached to a church who can help you find the
right fit. Your funeral director can help you find the right person.
are always for the survivors. Regardless of how the deceased spent their
time on this earth, survivors need to gather with each other and their
friends. Everyone needs to share in a
safe place. All survivors grieve. We all need the opportunity to begin our grief
journey in a healthy way. A funeral, a ceremony for someone who has died, is
the beginning of that journey.
History of Veterans Day
Day, a national and state holiday, serves as a day for Americans to come
together to show their deep respect and appreciation for the military veterans
of our country. It is the one day a year when we pause, reflect and show our
gratitude to all those who are serving or have ever served in our military. So
how did it come to be?
What we know
today as Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day. On November 11,
2018, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War
I. This armistice was signed at the 11th hour on the 11th day in the 11th month
of 1918. At the time, we believed World War I was “the war to end all
wars”. One year after the armistice, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed
November 11th as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. In his address
to his “fellow-countrymen” delivered from the White House on November 11, 1919,
Woodrow Wilson praised the contribution of the American people and shared hope
for the future:
splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries,
concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and
assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in
the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a
great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had
suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought.
Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political
freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations
acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the
enduring conquests, which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in
furtherance of the common interests of men.
To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled
with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service,
and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has
freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her
sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.
lasting peace was not to be. After the Second World War, Alabama veteran
Raymond Weeks had the idea to expand Armistice Day to honor all veterans. On
May 26, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed into a law a bill presented by
Congressman Ed Rees from Kansas establishing Armistice Day as a national
holiday eight years after Weeks began celebrating Armistice Day for all
veterans. Congress amended the bill on June 1, 1954, replacing
"Armistice" with "Veterans," and it has been known as
Veterans Day since.
honors those who died in service, Armed Services Day honors those who currently
serve. Veterans Day honors ALL veterans. Thank a Veteran on November 11th and
be very proud and happy to go to bed tonight in the United States of America.
Funeral Costs by Planning Ahead
How does planning for your funeral in advance save you
money? Doesn’t it just let the funeral home make money on your money? How big a
part should emotion play in your funeral selections?
First, let’s be honest. Emotion is not a bad thing. Some
life events should move us
Marriage, birth, and death all appropriately tug at our
heartstrings. But the cost of all three can also get out of hand if you make
all the decisions when emotions are running high.
Put the word “wedding” in front of anything and the cost
doubles. If you’ve ever planned a wedding, you know that the dress will cost
you half as much if you buy it in far in advance instead of just before you
need it. The same is true of funerals.
When you and your spouse sit down together with the funeral
director or the advance planning specialist, well in advance, you’ll feel a
little emotion as you consider the reality of your death.
But that little tug is nothing compared to what your husband
or wife will feel if you don’t prepare in advance and they’re making those
decisions alone hours after you’ve died.
Emotional overspending happens. Funeral directors don’t make
it happen. In fact, they don’t like it either.
Advance funeral planning allows you to make all the
decisions that determine the final cost. Making them together with cool heads
and warm hearts saves dollars.
Planning ahead eliminates the excessive spending that can
occur when someone is in a heightened emotional state.
Think back to wedding planning.
Starting early can also help you absorb the cost over a
longer period of time. That means you don’t drag the wedding debt into your
brand new marriage.
When you plan your funeral in advance, you will also have
the option of paying for it over time. That means you don’t have to take money
from your savings or investments and your survivors won’t have the financial
burden of paying for your funeral days after your passing. Advance funeral
planning eliminates the need for a lump sum payment when death occurs.
All money set aside in advance for a funeral should be held
with a third party. Nearly all funeral homes participate in programs that hold
the dollars in either insurance or a trust product until the death occurs.
The funeral home should not have access to your funds and
the insurance products they use should have an increasing death benefit to help
offset inflation, providing a cushion for increasing funeral costs.
Consult with an advance funeral planning specialist for more
Food Provides Comfort
Why is food such a fundamental part of any funeral?
Food provides comfort and strength. A gift of food shows
that we care. It’s natural to connect food with the healing process of a
When should you give food? What’s helpful without being overwhelming?How do you accept food graciously without
having to buy a second refrigerator?
If you’re helping a friend who is dealing with the death of
a loved one, a gift of food is appropriate before the funeral, at the
conclusion of the funeral, and even weeks or months after the funeral.
As you think about your gift, be aware that your friend may
not even know they’re hungry. They likely won’t be able to tell you what they
want or need.
Take the initiative and make it easy on them. Call with a
simple offer that can be changed to meet the needs of those on the receiving
end. You might say something like this:
“I’d like to bring
your family dinner tomorrow evening. I thought I’d bring you a turkey roast
with a broccoli casserole. Will that work for you? I’ll bring dinner by around
10:30 a.m. It’ll be all ready for you to warm in the oven or microwave.”
When you’re on the receiving end, be gracious, but honest.
Your friends want to help you. If their offer won’t be
helpful, give them an opportunity to make a different suggestion.
“Thank you for your
offer, but we’re all set for the next few days. May I have a rain check?”
If you’re part of a close circle of friends, consider
coordinating with others in your group to cover the family’s food needs on
different days and with a variety of dishes.
Consider breakfast food. A basket with granola, muffins, or
a breakfast casserole may be a nice change.
Sheet pan dinners, where the entire meal is cooked on one
pan in the oven, are easy for both parties. You can find lots of recipes online.
If you don’t cook, consider giving a gift card for a local restaurant
that offers take out.
Whatever you do, don’t forget your friend after the funeral
is over. Most people find sitting alone at the dinner table one of the bigger
challenges of their bereavement.
A loaf of your famous zucchini bread will be greatly
appreciated and it’ll be even better if you can share it together over a cup of
How to Dress for a Funeral
First, understand that what you wear to the funeral is much less important than actually going
to the funeral or gathering.Don’t
underestimate the value of your presence.
Your kind words, shared stories, or even just a hug will
mean a great deal to friends and family when there has been a death. Don’t let
not having a pair of dress shoes keep you from offering your support.
That being said, what you wear depends on several different factors.
The first thing to consider is who died.
If your 80-year-old grandfather passed, the funeral is likely
to be more traditional. His older friends will attend, so you will want to be
A pair of slacks and a collared shirt for men and boys will
do nicely. If you own a sport coat, by all means wear it. A tie with or without
the jacket would be a nice, but not a required, addition.
For the ladies and girls, dress slacks and a nice sweater or
blouse will serve the purpose. A dress or skirt would also be lovely. Do pay
attention to necklines and length of the skirt.
When the funeral is for a younger person or will not be
faith based, it may be more informal.
A celebration of life is typically more relaxed and may even
have a theme that the family will ask attendees to support.So if you’re asked to wear golf attire to the
funeral of an avid golfer, don’t be surprised.
Like the dress code for most events today, what we wear to a
funeral has relaxed. Black is no longer required, but neat, clean, and subdued
are always in good taste.
A funeral is not a place to stand out or be the center of
attention. As you survey your wardrobe, think in terms of what you would wear
to an important job interview or something you would want to wear to apply in
person for a bank loan.
How to Say the Right Thing at a Funeral
First, take a deep breath and relax. We all
worry that we’ll say the wrong thing.
Second, know that you don’t have to be
eloquent. While we wish it were so, you can’t make everything all better with a
Here are a few simple ideas to keep in mind to
be sure you say the right thing when attending a funeral.
underestimate the power of your presence.
It’s important. Just being there says more
than you can know.
your words simple.
“I’m sorry for your loss” may be all that is
If you have a brief anecdote about how you
interacted with the deceased, share it. Knowing how her sister lit up her
workplace may just be the most comforting thing a mourner can hear.
deceased person’s name.
“Mary always made me laugh.” “John had the
longest drive, too bad it wasn’t always straight.” “We always knew when Big Bad
Byron was in the plant, everyone was on their toes.” “Nobody made better
chocolate chip cookies than your mother.”
using common platitudes.
Resist the temptation to tell the bereaved how
they must feel -- “grateful that he is in a better place,” “relieved that his
suffering is over,” “grateful for a long life,” etc.
We don’t know how that wife, husband, mother,
son, or daughter actually feels. Just say you’re sorry for their loss.
Let them tell you how they feel and accept it
with a nod or hug.
forget about listening.
Listen to understand, not just to hear. Listen
to show you care, not to judge. Listen with love, even when you’ve heard the
What to Expect at a Funeral
We’ve all been there. Going to a funeral can be a little
daunting, especially if it’s your first or if it’s been awhile since you
attended one. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the terms you will hear and
what you can expect in general.
There’s a great deal of variety in funeral service today. The
funeral home works with the surviving family to help them choose service options
that reflect their lifestyle and belief system. The spouse, parents, or
children of the deceased determine the content of the service.
The service typically includes:
1.A gathering or visitation
2.A religious ceremony
3.Burial or placement in a final resting location
4.A luncheon, brunch, or wake
The gathering may be held the evening before the service or
the same day as the service.
The religious part of the service may be held in the funeral
home chapel or in the family’s place of worship.
At the conclusion of the service, a procession will usually
travel to the graveside where the casketed body will be buried. Cremated
remains may be buried, placed in a niche, presented to a family member for
keeping, or scattered.
The committal service is often followed by a meal at the church,
the funeral home’s celebration center, the family home, or a restaurant.
If you are attending a gathering or visitation that takes
place before the service, the body may or may not be present. When the body is
present in an open casket, attendees will usually approach the casket briefly
and silently say a few words of farewell or prayer.
The family may choose to receive their guests informally and
casually engage in conversation as they circulate among those attending or they
may choose to receive guests in a more formal receiving line.
If you are attending a memorial service, the body will not
be present. A memorial service may take place weeks or even months after the
passing and may or may not include the presence of cremated remains.
The family may choose to have a memorial service for a
variety of reasons. Some religions require that the body be buried immediately,
necessitating service after burial. Some families just need more time to come
How we celebrate a life is often less formal today.
The service may include pictures and music that reflect the lifetime
of the deceased. Work or interests of the deceased are often reflected in
objects placed in the room or favors shared with attendees.
Attendees may participate by sharing memories of the
deceased. A family member or celebrant may also tell the life story in the form
of a eulogy.
Funerals are an important part of the grief journey that all
families must travel when they lose a family member.
We attend to support and help the family members transition
their thoughts from the cause of death to the life’s legacy. This is so they
can begin their long healing process.
Your attendance is appreciated and important.
What do funeral directors do?
It’s late, why is the light on at the
was a funeral. People cried. Tissues were crumpled and left on the tables.Flower petals fell to the floor. Now, the
cleaning staff is making things tidy for the family who will be here tomorrow.
It’s late, why is the light on at the
Someone in our
town died away from home, the funeral director is traveling many miles to bring
him home and into the funeral home’s care. The light is on in anticipation of
her safe return.
It’s late, why is the light on at the
The teacher who taught the funeral director -- and you -- in the third grade
isn’t expected to make it through the night. He’s catching up on paperwork
while he keeps vigil. Soon he’ll be called to the home and it will be his turn
to take care of the teacher.
It’s late, why is the light on at the
computer problems. The video tribute file a family sent won’t work. We’re
staying late to make it right for their service.
It’s late, why is the light on at the
It was a busy
day today and we still need to notify Social Security and the Veteran’s
administration of Mr. Smith’s death.
It’s late, why is the light on at the
There’s been a
terrible accident. We’re doing our best to make a loved one presentable so that
they can say goodbye with dignity.
It’s late, why is the light on at the
the Jones’s gave us for their father is full of misspellings. We need to
correct them and get it to the paper.
It’s late, why is the light on at the
all of the details for tomorrow’s service. When will the celebrant arrive? Do
we have drivers for the cars? Who will be the pallbearers?
It’s late, why is the light on at the
tomorrow’s weather in case we need the umbrellas.
It’s late, why is the light on at the
The light is on
because your neighbor, the funeral director, is pacing the floor. He can’t
sleep. Tomorrow, he will oversee the service for his daughter’s classmate.