Coping with Grief and Loss over the Holidays

Grief and Holidays

In October of 2015 the man who had been my husband for fifty-six years died. December found me still numb with grief and loss. As my children and I struggled to navigate the season without a compass, we were feeling a lot of things. Joy wasn’t one of them. If it was there, it was buried under a thick layer of pain.

It was time to write the annual holiday letter Jerry and I had always written together, but I felt lost.

Should I just skip it and leave friends wondering whether they’d been abandoned? Should I spill tears all over the page? Should I put on a happy face to hide the pain?

None of those choices seemed right.

Then I reflected on what had followed Jerry’s death. I realized that this was a season when grief, like the Wise Men, came bearing gifts.

I rarely weep, but tears were a gift that relieved my anguish. Old photo albums revived happy memories. I was comforted by the simple presence of my family and others who loved me. My church community took over all of the funeral planning challenges. Neighbors brought food and chipped in with practical help. Loving messages poured in through letters, cards, and phone calls. Friends picked up relatives at the airport. Jerry’s former colleagues offered help.

And so I wrote my holiday letter mindful of the gifts I was receiving, gifts wrapped in love. The grief didn’t leave, but my dominant emotion became gratitude.

I decided to write as honestly as I could. The pain was there and I acknowledged it. I realized I was not alone, that many of my friends were suffering too. A few of them had also lost a loved one. Others might be facing a frightening medical diagnosis, or the end of a marriage, or a child mired in addiction. Or they were haunted by the gnawing fears of aging or loneliness.

My own grief had sensitized me to coping with loss that was also confronting others. I realized that many of the people who wrote only about family fun and personal successes and talented kids were also carrying an invisible bucket of tears. But keeping pain locked in a closet carries an emotional, spiritual, and sometimes physical cost. I wanted to be real, hoping this would give others permission to do the same.

My former pastor once said, “We love others because of their vulnerability, not their strength.” If you’re ready to risk being vulnerable, you might begin, “This has been a hard year.” Or “a year of love and loss.” Or, more positively, “This has been a year of grit and grace.” Be positive but be real. Your own truth-telling may free others to face their own situation with courage.

On a positive note, remember you’re still alive. You’re a survivor. Reflect on your own sources of strength. Work? Faith? Family? Friends? A larger purpose? A stubborn will that won’t give up? Name it and claim it. Others may need to hear what has helped you.

Finally, include at least one story in your letter. After he died people wanted to tell me stories about Jerry. Many surprised me. They illustrated his kindness and generosity and humility. They sparkled with humor. They showed why so many people loved him. I put them in my letter.

Ending your letter on a positive note will bring hope to the recipients. Your honesty will inspire courage. Your letter may be the best gift a friend dealing with grief and loss receives.

And having given it will bring you something that feels like joy.

This essay appeared in USA Today on 12/11/17

Contributing author – Carolyn Parr with Tough Conversations

By |December 15th, 2017|Categories: Blog, coping with loss, funeral planning challenges, Grief and Holidays, Grief and Loss|Tags: , , , |Comments Off on Coping with Grief and Loss over the Holidays

How to Face Grief and Loss

Facing Grief and Loss and
Putting Life’s Storms into Perspective

On a back to school shopping event with my daughter, we were drawn to display after display of beautiful pieces of costume jewelry. An elderly woman laden with packages passed by commenting on how tired she was feeling. She found a quiet spot to rest nearby, still holding her packages. I asked if she was alright or needed any help. She assured me she was fine, she just needed to rest. We continued to converse. The woman mentioned how thoughtful it was that I took the time to inquire of her well being. She said that I must not be from around here. I told her I lived 3 hours away in a neighboring state. As she spoke, I noticed some of her words and letters were not spoken clearly. Watching closely, I saw that she did not have any teeth. Her clothing was in good repair, but subtly stained, as if in need of being laundered. I admired a necklace with small charms from the display case. The woman was intrigued with the charm necklace and thought it would be perfect for me.

The next words she spoke caught me off guard. She asked me if I had ever been a victim of a house raid. She explained to me that everything she owned had been stolen. She had loved her porcelain doll collection that was now gone. Her brother was involved in drugs, and came into her house with his friends, and took all her possessions. She mentioned he had taken her dentures because she would not give him any money. She apologized to me for her appearance. Even though she had no teeth, and an empty house, she had a strong resolve. She was kind, grateful, and determined that her brother was not going to break her spirit. My heart went out to the small woman. I found myself watching her around the store as she moved on from her brief rest. The checkout lines were long. My daughter and I helped her get through the line so she was not struggling alone. Shortly thereafter, we headed our separate ways. I think of that sweet little woman often, especially when I wear the charm necklace I purchased that day. I have one regret however, I wish I would have asked the woman her name and contact information.

I tell this story because each of us weather various storms in our lives that affect our perspective. This can alter how we react to those experiences, and how we move forward. Our life’s encounters, as difficult and painful as they are at times help us to build resilience. We pray to find small rays of hope even in times of sadness. We may have to dig deep to find any hope, when there is little hope in front of us. Determination kicks in, and helps us keep trudging forward, so we can carry our emotional burdens.

Putting Life’s Storms into Perspective

Putting life’s storms into perspective is a conscious effort. When we are overcome with sadness or grief it can be difficult to continue the daily climb, and keep looking forward. Each of us have experienced a moment when it feels as if all hope is lost. How do we move past the grief and loss? How do we move forward again? Losing a loved one, a friend, facing a debilitating disease, divorce, or a job change, can tax the strongest hearts and minds. Even when carrying an umbrella, the storm is sometimes too strong and difficult to weather. What can be done to put the challenges into perspective?

Almost 20 years ago, I faced a storm in my own life. Being a strong person I had always believed I could handle whatever was thrown my way. I have learned to never assume. I was brought to my knees, facing a trial of loss that was numbing. A gray cloud settled over my life. I cried at the drop of a hat, and felt like I was wearing concrete shoes up a steep mountain path. Day after day, it felt like the sun would not shine again. Tackling the daily routine was a difficult feat.

The Family Tree: The Night of the Storm

I was inspired during that time to put pencil to paper and write. After months and months of writing, I wrote The Family Tree: The Night of the Storm. The story is about a wondrous tree that in a fierce storm loses a branch. The family who visited the tree, was very sad about the lost branch, so they come up with creative plan. They decide to build a swing with the broken branch, so the branch would be with the tree once more. The story’s message helped heal my heart. I was able to move forward again. My concrete shoes came off, I was not crying all the time, and it helped me by coping with loss.  It allowed me put the storm I was facing into perspective. I realized that life would not always stay exactly like I wanted it to stay. Change and loss are beyond our control. As difficult as my experience was, I had to force myself to rise above the grief. I needed to remain strong for those around me. So when life sends its storms, I now find my swing. In my swing I can sit and ponder, treasure great memories of those I love who have moved on, make future plans when my life needs direction, or just think about a sweet, elderly lady who touched my heart.

I have learned how important it is to not only put our own life’s storm’s into perspective, but to also be conscious of others who may be battling their own storm. In hind sight I always wished I would have given a copy of the book The Family Tree: The Night of the Storm to the woman in the store. Maybe it would have given her a moment of hope and inspiration. I hope each of you finds hope and promise in your future and can, in time, build your own swing.

The story The Family Tree: The Night of the Storm has won numerous awards. The message offers children and their families a sense of hope and promise for the future. In the aftermath of life’s storms the sun will continue to rise every day. Our perspective on life will in time find a ray of sunshine, that will chase gray clouds away, to give each of us hope for the future.

The Family Tree: The Night of the Storm can be purchased at www.lauriecopmann.com.  For more helpful information, use this link to learn more about the five stages of grief.

About Laurie Copmann, Author and Educator

Laurie Copmann is the principal of an elementary school. She has a Master’s degree in Administration and a Master’s degree in Counseling. She loves working with children and encouraging them to be confident individuals, excellent citizens, and to strive for high academic achievement. She writes stories for children in hopes of inspiring them to reach their potential, with the belief that anything is possible. Laurie lives in Idaho with her husband, two children and a dog named Tux the Terrible.

Protect Your Family Against Grave Robbers

Grave Robbers

Protect Your Family Against Grave Robbers

It’s no surprise that identity thieves are running rampant, however it’s a shocking fact that these scammers are using the personal information and vital statistics of more than 2,000 deceased people every day. An ID Analytics study recently revealed that the misuse of social security numbers belonging to the deceased occurs more than 1.5 million times every year. Are the identities of your deceased loved ones protected from these identity thieves?

Protect Identity Today

In the same way people provide protection for their families using funeral insurance to cover funeral costs and burial expenses and replace lost income after a death, many people today are also taking additional steps to ensure their loved ones left behind aren’t abused by scam artists.

Be proactive to protect your family. Take the proper steps to provide protection against identity theft while you are alive. Enroll in a service like LifeLock.com to monitor credit reports and inquiries, applications for utility and wireless service, and many other aspects of personal information to reduce the risk of exposure. Monitor your online bank activities, guard your social security number and private information, and keep your digital devices protected with reliable security software to deter fraudsters from gathering your personal data and vital statistics.

Make Final Preparations

Coping with the loss of a loved one is emotionally and physically challenging for most people, and on top of the grief, it often takes weeks, or even months, to notify creditors and vendors after someone dies. Unfortunately, scammers and identity thieves get started immediately after they see perform an obituary search or read a newspaper report that announces a death.

Assign a friend or relative to take charge of reporting your death immediately. Or consider hiring a funeral estate planning attorney to handle all notifications. Recommendations from AARP.com include contacting the Social Security Administration (1-800-772-1213), sending death certificates to the three major credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—and asking financial institutions and creditors to mark accounts closed due to death. The IRS should also be notified as soon as possible to prevent fraudsters from filing for a tax refund with the deceased person’s information or claiming the deceased as a dependent on future returns.

Block the Channels

The best time to consider identity theft is before it happens. Make sure you create a love drawer with a list of everyone—businesses, government agencies and individuals who have access now, or might have acquired your information in the past. Include medical providers, lawyers, the IRS, the Social Security Administration, banks, creditors and even your landscape and pest control contractors.

Prepare a simple form letter that informs recipients of your death in advance. Assign someone to mail these letters, preferably by certified mail, immediately after your death. Ask your designated helper to cancel your voter registration card, drivers license and online social media accounts (learn more about digital estate planning).

Work With the Credit Bureaus

The credit reporting agency Experian advises that credit bureaus periodically update records with information received from the Social Security Administration to flag files when people pass away. It could take up to six months for the information to be transferred so, having someone designated to report the death is preferable to waiting for agency notification. To protect against fraud, survivors should request credit reports every few months after a loved one passes to be sure no one is trying to assume the deceased identity.

 

A Special Video Tribute With Custom Funeral Music

Memorial Technology

Sharing a Personal Story

The Powerful Combination of a DVD Video Tribute

and Custom Funeral Music

 

Talking About Losing a Loved One is NEVER Easy:

My name is Chris Hill, and many of you know I am the Founder of FuneralResources.com.

First of all, I must admit that is not easy for me to publicly talk about the fact that I lost my mother a few years ago, or to say how much I love her and miss her.

And quite frankly, it is even hard to admit that looking back, I wish I could have done things diffrerently.

Live Every Day Like There’s No Tomorrow:

The truth is I wish I was with her more.  I wish I could have told her how much she meant to me.  I wish I had told her how special and amazing she really was.  I wish I told her how much I appreciated everything she did for me.  I wish she knew how lucky I was that she was my mother and friend.  Most of all, I wish I would have been there with her…and shared more time with her…particularly in her final stages.  But as much as it haunts me, I can’t turn back the clock.

Truthfully, I will always believe she needed to hear these things from me, and I will always regret the fact that I never had the chance to tell her how much she meant to me, and how much I loved her.

However, knowing how special she was, how selfless she was, and how unconditional her love was for her family and friends, I truly believe she knows.  I also believe that she forgives me for not being there as much as I think I should have, and for not letting her know the things I wished I had told her.

See the Powerful Combination of New Funeral Technology and Custom Crafted Funeral Music:

Today I feel very blessed to share with you this great opportunity I was recently given.  I was able to create a special memorial video tribute for my mother, which is comprised of three all-important pieces:

1.  Creating a personalized DVD Video Tribute for my mother

2.  Choosing the best photos of my mother thoughout her life.  The ones that help me see her as I remember her, and also help me remember all of the great times and memories we shared together.

3.  Creating personalized funeral music which was specially written, produced, and sung by a very special and talented singer and songwriter, Anna Huckabee.  Anna creates custom crafted funeral music which is solely created to tell an individual’s story of their special and unique life.  You can hear Anna’s song she created exclusively for me and my mother in this video.

Learn About the New Funeral Technology Options Available:

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to have this professionally crafted and personalized video tribute as a memorial, since someone like her truly deserves nothing but the best.  This video says so much, and helps me tell the story and message.  I hope she hears every day and knows and believes it in her heart.

Best of all, creating this video helped me in coping with loss, but also provided me with something truly special that I can always remember her as that amazing and beautiful person you can see.

It is never easy to talk about someone you love who has passed, but I share this with you because I truly hope anyone who has lost a loved also considers taking advantage of this great opportunity!

Also, there are many other great new memorial technology tools that you should learn more about that, like me, might help you make these difficult times a little easier.

 
Christopher P. Hill, Founder
FuneralResources.com

Dating After the Death of a Spouse

 

Grief and Loss

Romance Do’s and Don’ts Following Loss

There are definitely some things to keep in mind when being in a new relationship with someone who has lost their spouse and some Do’s and Don’ts to consider.

The Don’ts

Coping with Loss

No Place for Jealousy: Countless people have written in to Beyond Indigo with frustration dripping from their emails. They want to know when their boyfriend/girlfriend is going to “get over” their past relationship. We have heard people say they feel there is a third person in their relationship; the third person being the deceased. Resist the urge to be jealous if you want your new relationship to continue. Instead, listening to the stories about the other’s loss helps him/her to grieve and heal. Remember your new boyfriend/girlfriend chose to date you even though they are grieving.

Stop Talking: One of the most common errors (at least in western society) is that people stop talking about a person once he/she has died. Do not act like your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s past mate never existed. It will hurt your relationship instead of making it stronger.

The Do’s

Keep Communicating: Talk, talk and keep talking. Talk about everything. Do not assume that your boyfriend/girlfriend is mad at you, or hates you, or doesn’t want to be with you anymore because he or she is sad. Most likely, the emotions that he or she is feeling have nothing to do with you and everything to do with grief and loss. The more you talk about daily issues the easier it will be talk when the heavy emotional content emerges. A key to strong relationship is fluid communication.

I Love You! Express the positive feelings you have towards your new love. Time is short and you do not want to waste it stewing over feelings. Take the time to say I love you in many ways.

Eating, Sleeping & Drinking Water: Help your new love by watching if he/she is eating three healthy meals a day. (Potato chips and chocolate do not count!) Another key thing is sleep. If your new partner is having difficulty sleeping or has troubled dreams beyond six months after the loss, suggest that he or she should see a doctor. Getting rest helps the grieving process. Finally, keep an eye on your boyfriend/girlfriend to make sure that he or she is drinking plenty of water. Alcohol and caffeine dehydrate the body instead of giving it the nourishment it needs. Grieving is hard work and it takes a lot of energy.

Are you looking for others with whom you can relate? Visit the Beyond Indigo forums to connect with others who are on their grief journeys.

 
© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

By |July 2nd, 2010|Categories: coping with loss, Death, Grief and Loss|Tags: , , , |Comments Off on Dating After the Death of a Spouse

Funeral Etiquette Tips

Funeral Etiquette

Tips on What to Do…And Not to Do

Since people in our culture have not had much opportunity to be socialized regarding how to act at a funeral or how to be helpful to the bereaved, it falls upon professionals to assist people in these areas. I call it giving people “tools” to put in their “toolbox”.  Below is a list that can be copied and given out at services, left at churches or presented in school classrooms. In the instances of particularly harsh or draining deaths, I would suggest that information about that loss is placed first on the handout. This helps the people who are grieving so that they do not have to repeat the same story ad nauseaum.

Things That are NOT Helpful While Someone is Grieving:

Don’t Talk About God: Please don’t tell us our loved one is with God. We really would rather have our loved one still here with us on earth. Especially in the case of a deceased child the reminder he/she is not with us just hurts us more.

Don’t Bring A Ham: Right at the time of loss everyone feels like bringing us a meal. Please, if you know we have food to feed an army save your generosity for another time. I will be grieving for three to seven years. A meal will be really nice once everyone leaves after the funeral.

Don’t Forget: Please do not forget me after the funeral is over. I DO want to talk to people about my loss. Expect that I will cry and that you were not the one to cause the tears to flow. A phone call, a note in the mail or flowers would be appreciated.

Don’t Expect Me..: Do not expect me to be the same after my loss. I may be forgetful, have lower energy or just not want to socialize as much. Some events like holidays maybe very overwhelming for me. Realize it is not you. Please keep inviting me and in time I will rejoin events.

Don’t Set Me Up On Dates: If I have lost my mate please do not ask me when I am going to date again. This type of conversation causes me pain. It is normal for people to choose their own time when they are ready to look for a new mate. Remember some of us may never date again and that is okay too.

Things that Can be Helpful to the Grieving:

Do Call Me: The phone is a great way to see how I am doing. If I choose not to answer I will let voice mail pick it up. After the funeral it gets really lonely and people seem to disappear.

Do Speak Their Name: The person I lost lived a wonderful life. Please share your memories with me and speak their name. Just because he/she has died doesn’t mean they are gone. Please let their life mean something to someone. This is important to me.
Do Remember The Special Days: When everyone else is celebrating holidays and religious events keep in mind that I am remembering my loss. This holiday or spiritual event will never be the same for me again.  Phone calls, cards, flowers all would be a nice touch.

Do Give Me Gifts: Did you know there are services out there to help me while I am grieving? Memory gifts are now appearing that can help me during my time of grief. Even simple things like funeral flowers, chocolates, scented soaps, bath soaks and a gift certificate to a massage would be fantastic.

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

By |June 25th, 2010|Categories: coping with loss, Death, Funeral Etiquette, funeral etiquette tips, Funeral Flowers, Grief and Loss|Tags: , , |Comments Off on Funeral Etiquette Tips

Coping With Grief and Loss

Grief and Loss

When Coping With Grief and Loss,

Consider Grief Counseling, Support, and Books

Grief is a human way to deal with the feelings of love that we believe have ended.  Another way of defining grief is the normal and natural reaction to significant emotional loss of any kind.

There is no one way to grieve.  As we all are individual, we all grieve different and often turn towards grief support groups.  Also, our society at large does not have a general way to honor grief. Since we are a society that is always struggling with time management and high demands, taking time to grieve or knowing how to grieve is not part of our system. However, religion often fills this gap in our society.

Each religion has rituals to follow for grief and how to grieve a loss. These rituals can provide us with a way to get through the initial shock of grief, but as many people know who have been through a loss, that when the rituals of religion end there is still grief and the adjustment of loss with which to deal.

There are many different opinions about grief such as “time heals all wounds“, and many believe you can actually break this emotional experience into five stages of grief.   It is important to keep in mind that depending on the individual and their personal situation, many of these opinions or “myths” about grief, or even recommendations from some of the top grief books, can actually slow down or prevent some people from moving beyond their pain.

Where Should You Seek Grief Support?

When it comes to the most of the important things in our lives, seeking group or professional help can usually provide some of the best possible information, support, and direction. The two most common types of professional help families seek to help cope with grief and loss are Grief Counseling and Life Coaching.

How Can Grief Counseling Help?

Grief Counseling

Funeral Directors wear numerous hats, and are expected to accomplish many important things in a short period of time, while facing many funeral planning challenges. Families are grieving and have important decisions to make under much duress. They may often expect a degree of emotional support that some Funeral Directors may not have the time or skills to be able to provide.

Through grief counseling and working with a Life Coach, these added levels of emotional support and expertise can very often help families bridge and offer the help that most families are searching for.

Five Powerful Ways a Life Coach Can Help Families:

1.  Offer the support needed to get through this sorrowful time.
2.  Help families develop a short term, “what’s next”, plan for their lives.
3.  Help families establish new or revised long term life goals pertaining to work, school, relationships, hobbies and general wellness.
4.  Provide families with hope, motivation and direction to take control of their lives in the new role that they inherited as a result of their loss.
5.  Some families can turn to and listen, since many times what is most needed most in a time of sorrow and confusion is just simply listening.

Grief Counseling is one of the fastest growing trends in self improvement, wellness and life in general. By offering this level of grief support and Life Coaching services; you are keeping your business relevant, and fulfilling your potential to better serve your families.

Coaching is not therapy or counseling. A therapist would be recommended if your client is particularly overwhelmed and unable to cope with their grief.  Another popular and healing option is to consider using grief message boards, which is where people who are have experienced similar losses gather together online to talk in real-time via the Internet.

What is a Grief Recovery Outreach Program?

If you have experienced one or more losses, and you wish to move beyond the pain, this type of program offers step by step actions that will help you overcome your grief. It is the only program of its kind and has helped thousands of people worldwide recover from their heartbreak.

In summary, there are many ways to work through things like grief, loss, or even a crisis. There is help available to those who are grieving a loss, and we strongly suggest you consider seeking professional help in addition to some of the other excellent options mentioned above.

 
Christopher P. Hill, Founder
FuneralResources.com

Bereavement and Grief

Grief and Loss

Inside the Grief Space

People who are coping with grief and loss are definitely operating out of a different place then people who are not grieving. I call this the “Grief Space”. Within this space different thoughts and feelings are occurring to the grieving person than occur to those that are not grieving. If you could see this ‘space’, and experiencing the five stages of grief, it would look like a bubble that surrounds the person. If you could look into this bubble you would find:

Limited Awareness of physical events: Grieving people who are coping with loss tend not to be too aware of their physical surroundings nor do they care as much about doing so. If the house stays dirty or they forget to eat it doesn’t cross their own internal radar. People can lose awareness of national events, local happenings and family news. It just blurs together. I have even heard of people breaking bones and not being aware of the pain from the break.

Acute Awareness of Emotions: People who are grieving are in acute emotional pain. This pain, most likely, is the worse, intense emotional pain they have ever felt. They know that they are in pain and don’t know what to do with it. Grieving people are highly aware of how other people react to their (the grieving person’s) grief. They know when people are not comfortable with the concept of death and the emotional loss that follows it. They know when others are uncomfortable with intense emotions that are being displayed.

Blurring the Hands of Time: Time is a subjective concept for people who are grieving. On one hand, every minute is a painful reminder that their loved one is no longer with them. The days can drag and their mind is full of the grief and loss that they have just suffered. On the other hand people lose track of time when it comes to non-emotional aspects of their life (eating, drinking water, working out, paying bills, mowing the lawn, etc.).

How to connect with families while they are grieving

Remember that you are seeing people when their bereavement and grief are the most intense. People at this point in their grief journey are not functioning well or at all. Here are some thoughts for you to keep in mind while speaking to families during this time.

1. Be aware of your concept of death: Remember that families can tell when you are not comfortable with the thought of loss. They will be expecting pleasant platitudes because what else do people say? Your families will know when you truly are not afraid of deep emotions, yet are able to guide them through the practical aspects of taking care of business. Word will spread that you understand and care.

2. Listening to your family: When listening to the grieving person tell his or her story, allow silent spaces in the conversation. Silence is helpful but sometimes hard for the listener. It is acceptable to rephrase what you heard from those grieving. This will let the family members know you are listening to them and they will feel understood.

3. Keep checking in with your families: After the funeral, your part in helping them through their loss is completed, but for the family their grief journey has just begun. After a funeral, most people stop talking about the loss and act like it hasn’t happened. By avoiding the loss, people don’t have to deal with the hard emotional issues that surround it. Grieving people want to talk about their loss. This is their grief space. Their loss fills this space. Call the families once in a while or send a note in the mail. This is a marvelous way to provide aftercare, and maintain a relationship with your families.

A memorial website is another great way to keep in touch with families.  These new memorial technology tools do not require great time commitments from your staff. With the proper software, your website becomes the 24×7 employee who keeps in touch with your families.

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

Terminal Illness and End of Life Support

 Death and Dying

Terminal Illness Planning…

One Year to Live

When you are dying it is hard to come to terms with the end of your life much less help others to cope with their grief and loss of losing you soon.  The concept of death in our western culture is avoided by most people because they do not know how to talk about it.  Terminally ill planning is rarely discussed and often misunderstood.  But always remember you are not alone in this!

Before you sit down to discuss your condition with your family and friends take the time to create a handout. This handout would include why you are sick, how you found out about your condition, the nature of your illness and information on where to learn more about your disease.  When people first hear the news they will be in shock and only remember one or two pieces of information.  With hard printed information your family and friends can take a moment to digest the news and then when they want they can revert back to the information you gave them.  This will cut down on the number of questions they might ask you and the difficulty you might have to talk about your demise and the cause.

Before you approach your family and friends think to yourself, “How do I feel about my situation?” Make sure you can verbalize how you feel clearly. It will be important to convey to your loved ones how you feel when you do talk to them. They will want to know, “Is he/she okay”? “Does he/she hurt?”Will he/she be sick or just weak?” etc.

Some options to tell your loved ones

In a Letter: If you are the type of person who expresses yourself better in writing than verbally you might want to consider a letter. It could include how you feel, your concerns about how your family would feel, how you would like them to treat you or help you in the coming months. You could also include the information sheet discussed above. Write it in a manner that gives the impression you are sitting down with them for a nice, intimate chat.

Over a Family Dinner/Conference: Invite your family over and make your favorite meal. If you don’t have enough energy to make a meal ask each person to bring one part of the meal. Tell them you invited them over because you have some important news to share. You could pass around a letter if you wrote one and your information sheet. Start off with what they mean to you and how hard a time it is for you right now and that you need their support. Once you start the conversation the rest will happen.

With A Therapist/Pastor/Minister/Rabbi: Sometimes having a third person in the room helps. The third person can help monitor people’s reactions, keep everyone calm and be the voice of reason when questions are being asked. This third person can start off the conversation and explain why everyone is being gathered. This means that you will have already had the opportunity to discuss your feelings, condition, and fears with someone. It acts as a type of dress rehearsal for the meeting with your loved one(s).

When you do meet with your friends and family you might want to stress to them that the time you have left on this earth is short but that you are still living. You have not died yet. This time would be a good opportunity to settle old differences, to clear the air of hurts and anger, and to have conversations about how much people have meant to you. Don’t forgot to talk about finances, your final ceremony and what you would like to happen with your possessions, and your memories (photos and etc.). You might even want to designate someone to go with you to discuss your end of life arrangements at your local funeral home or cremation society.

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

Children and Death

Grief and Loss

Children at the Deathbed

The topic of children and death is a hard one for many people in our society.  Keeping kids sheltered is thought to protect the children so that they will not suffer as much.  However, when we keep children away from a dying family member or don’t allow kids to attend a funeral we cut them off from the cycle of life. In addition, children realize they have been “left out” and because of this, some children can grow up feeling excluded in other important activities as they go through life.

One of the important ways children learn about death is through socialization. If we do not allow our children to socialize and learn the process of death, then they will not know about coping with loss when they are adults. Death is a natural part of life. In this instance, it most likely will not be as traumatic for these children to be with their mom as you might think–as long as you discuss what death is and where people go after they die. Since discussing death in our western society is a difficult subject for people, this topic is usually handled with evasiveness. Encourage the family of the children to discuss the death of their mother openly and honestly. Be sure to answer any questions the children ask honestly using correct terminology.

The kids are going to comprehend death differently depending on their ages and stages of grief. The seven year old in this case perceives death differently then his/her siblings. Children ages four to seven DO know something is wrong. They think in black and white so it is very important for the adults not to say something like “Mommy is going to heaven in an airplane.” The child will literally think this is happening. The older children can think in conceptual terms and do understand people die and go elsewhere.

I would suggest to the family that they utilize their local hospice, if there is one. The nurses through hospice are wonderful people who can explain in detail to the children the process of death and what might happen at each stage. They will know age appropriate words and concepts. They often can predict the time of death fairly closely.  Sometimes dying people see loved ones that have passed away in the room with them and they might talk to them. Dying people can hear music that no one else hears and/or they may see sparkling lights. Prepare the children for end of life behaviors that have happened to others dying for similar reasons.

Having the kids present can help their healing down the road. I would make sure to have them part of a grief support group or they seek some form of professional grief support. One final thing to note is people don’t always choose to die with others present. Some people wish to die alone and will wait to pass until is someplace else, or it is the middle of the night.

Remember that the children need to honor their own feelings, as well as that of their mother. If they want to be at her bedside, then make that possible for them. If they do not want to be there, allow them to feel good about their decision to stay away. Either way, there should be no guilt involved with the choices the children make.

Death is hard regardless if you are in the room with the person or not. Assist your family to know what supports are available to them.

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

Coping With a Pet Loss

Pet Death

Children and Pet Loss

Question:

Our family dog died last week and my son is beside himself. We held a small funeral for Scruffy and then had him cremated. Should I be worried about my son’s grief and loss?

Pet loss, and the stages of grief related to it, is just now coming into sharp focus. Researchers are beginning to contrast how the loss of a pet can affect a person with the loss of a relative or a friend. In 2006, the Journal of Death Studies (Volume 30: pages 61-76) did an article about children and coping with the loss of a pet.

Here is some information from the article which might be of help to you:

1. Depression and anxiety might occur over the loss of a pet but it probably won’t be as intense as the loss of a family member.

2. Some research has found up to 30% of children experience severe grief. What children might experience more grief then others is determined by how integral the pet was to the family, how strong the tie was to the pet, and if the death was sudden.

3. Adolescent girls have a harder time with pet loss than do boys in that age group.
For children, grief over a pet might last longer than for adults. It might be the child’s first time experiencing death and hence they may show more emotions as they learn what grief feels like and what it means to them.

4. A death of a pet can bring up grief from past losses. (If a pet was brought into the family before the loss of a loved one that pet is like a bridge to that person. When the pet dies people have said it brings back the loss of the loved one all over again. People state if feels like they have lost the last living link to their loved one lost.)

With your son, be aware that his grief might be very intense. His relationship to Scruffy was one that he had every day. Do not be surprised if his grief is more intense over the loss of his pet than if a grandparent dies that he has not seen very often. Children grieve differently than adults. Some warning signs of intense grief are: not wanting to go to school, wanting to go to heaven to be with Scruffy, and problems with eating and sleeping. You might see some acting-out behaviors because your son doesn’t know how to talk about his anger or sadness over the loss of his pet.

There are things you can do to help your son heal. They are:

1. Do not downplay your son’s grief over the loss of his dog. To him the loss is deep, personal, and hurts like heck. In other words, do not trivialize his feelings.

2. Talk to him about his feelings. If he has troubles verbalizing his thoughts then have him draw pictures of him and Scruffy. Then have him talk about the pictures.

3. Creating pet memorials for Scruffy either through clay, paintings, a poem, writing, or any other form of memorial services.

4. Talk about grief and feelings and explain that getting a new pet right away won’t make the sad feelings go away. Tell him that in time if it is right for him and the family a new dog will be brought into your home.

5. Let him know that you understand that a new pet will never be a replacement for the old. Help him to see that a new pet will bring new yet different delights.

Pet loss is a wonderful way for kids to learn about loss and the subsequent grief. The way you help them to handle their emotions and questions during this loss will set the stage for future losses amongst friends and family members. Don’t avoid the subject but address it head on.

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.