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

Who Really Needs an End of Life Plan? And Why?

Who Really Needs an End of Life Plan?

See Exactly Why This Makes Sense…From the Heart

The sad truth is that the financial planning industry largely overlooks the fact that creating an End of Life Plan needs to be a part of a sound comprehensive financial plan.  To prove my point, as a Financial Advisor for nearly 25 years, I have never been trained or educated on how to help my clients prepare their end of life plans and preferences.  Furthermore, I have also never been trained or educated on how to help my clients deal with the funeral planning process after a loved one has passed.

See For Yourself Why This Makes Sense:

The Missing Piece of the Financial Planning Puzzle

The reality is that a client should logically turn to their Financial Advisor for anything that has to do with not only their money, but also  the best interests of their family.  This involves a detailed review and analysis of things like insurance, investments, estate planning details (How to Choose a Last Will or Living Trust), minimizing or eliminating taxes, college planning, mortgages, and so on.

The key point here is that as Financial Advisors, arguably the most important role we play is helping protect families against unexpected events that can cause major financial or emotional challenges…and possibly irreparable damages or losses.

Most Financial Advisors typically protect their clients by implementing traditional financial products and strategies such as life insurance or creating a Last Will or Living Trust with Estate Attorneys.  They also recommend and promote important insurance policies which are designed to protect against specific losses, such as disability insurance, long-term care insurance, annuities, car and home insurance, and many other options.  These recommendations can vary, since  of course, each family’s situation is usually unique and different.

To be honest, I considered myself to be extremely well-versed in how to protect my clients, as well as my own family, against unexpected events.  However, everything changed on Thanksgiving Day of 2008 when I lost a close loved one and had to go through this experience personally.

Very Few Families Know “What to Do Next”

Losing a close loved one is, by far, one the most difficult experiences anyone can face in their lifetime.  I remember feeling so disappointed as we went through this experience…thinking that since I was a Financial Advisor, I should know better.  However, the enormity of the situation really hit me when I realized that I was never trained or educated on how to plan and prepare my clients for this particular situation.  I am almost ashamed to admit, I was totally unprepared.

I can remember looking at my family, and without saying a single word, you could tell we were are searching for the same answers to “what happens next”?  Sadly, these are the questions that most families are forced to deal with every day when they lose a loved one, such as:

1.  What do we do now?

2.  Who can we turn to for credible help and advice?

3.  How do we get started?

What Could I Have Done Differently?

As I look back, I remember how comforting and gratifying it was to see our family come together and accomplish so many things in such a short period of time.  At the same time, I also remember feeling frustrated because we lacked the knowledge on how to deal with many of these challenges, and we also had not idea where to turn to for the help and answers we needed.

After experiencing all of the emotional ups and downs, the funeral planning challenges, planning all of the memorial service details, and even working out things like;  how to write a funeral eulogy, choosing funeral flowers versus donations, and choosing among the many cremation urns, I can honestly tell you that planning a funeral is overwhelming.

May I Offer Some Valuable Advice?

So after all of this, here is what I think so many people need to hear.  Consider these facts:

1.  There is nothing more difficult than the loss of a loved one
2.  Planning a funeral and memorial service is an overwhelming process
3.  The large majority of families are uneducated on the many details involved in this process
4.  Very few families are left with any end of life plans – telling them “what to do next”

The truth is it really doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, we are talking about death and dying.  No, it is not fun, and not something we like to even think about.  However, the harsh reality is that some day we will all die.  So when you break it down to these simple facts, you are left with two choices:

1.   Do nothing – and let your family add insult to injury
2.   Plan in advance – and minimize or eliminate some of the burden you will leave behind

What is the Key Message Here?

Again, I fully understand that nobody likes to talk about death, dying, or end of life planning.  However, we have to face and accept the fact that not are we going to die some day, but it could happen much sooner than anyone ever expected.

So my sincere hope is that I can encourage anyone who is reading this…every son, daughter, spouse, grandchild, or loved one…to have this discussion with your family. And since nobody knows what the future might bring, have this talk sooner versus later.

There is no such thing as preparing your End of Life Plan too soon.  On the contrary, the worst thing you can do is take the attitude of “I don’t need to do this now, that won’t happen to me, or, I can do this later“. As the old adage goes;

“By Failing to Plan…You are Planning to Fail.”

You Can’t Go Wrong:

By creating an end of life plan in advance, here are a few of the meaningful benefits you will experience from this selfless act of love:

1.  Peace of mind – You will sleep better at night knowing that you have completed this all-important plan, and that your family and loved ones will be forever grateful.  This is the true definition of a win-win situation.

2.  You control how you will be remembered – Knowing this will be a time of great loss for your loved ones, you will be remembered for showing how much you cared by sacrificing the time to do something very special, and easing the burden when it is needed the most.

After going through something like this helps you realize that every day is truly a gift.  I guess that is exactly why they call it “the present“.  So please, take advantage of “the present” you are given today and build a plan that allows your loved ones to celebrate your life, and focus on how grateful they are today…and will be after you are gone…for all of the great memories they were able to share with you.

Get Started Today – Your First Easy Step:

I would like to personally congratulate you, in advance, for taking the first step towards creating a smart End of Life plan for you, your family, and all of your loved ones!

The first step to getting started is clicking on this link below to access our:

Four Key End of Life Planning Guides

(Note: There’s NO COST to download, save, or print these four guides)

Christopher P. Hill, Founder
FuneralResources.com

Seven Ways Funeral Directors Can Help You Plan a Funeral

 Plan a Funeral

How a Funeral Director Can Help

You Plan a Funeral

After losing a close loved one back in 2008, I am constantly trying to find ways I can help both families and Funeral Directors find new ways to make the funeral planning process easier.  After working closely and researching extensively, I have learned a lot about how to plan a funeral and end of life planning industries.

However, since I am not a licensed Funeral Director, I have also focused on learning how challenging and meaningful of a role a Funeral Directors can play in a families life, and therefore, I have gained a tremendous amount of well-deserved respect and appreciation for a Funeral  Director’s selfless contribution to this valued public service.

So given the importance and sensitivity of this matter, I am not only constantly trying to learn more each day, but also searching for any possible new and innovative ways to help add value to this industry.

When I look back on my personal experience, below are some of the key things I truly believe would have helped my family as we worked through the many funeral planning challenges:

1.  I believe it would be helpful if the Funeral Director could give a brief history about their Funeral Home, Cemetery, as well as their personal background and experience.

This would help families learn more about choosing a funeral home or cemetery, funeral director, and feel more comfortable about the qualifications, experience, and credibility of who they are dealing with.

2.  I think it could be helpful if a Funeral Directors would ask if anyone involved has any history or experience with planning a funeral.

This would help the Funeral Director and the family, since this lets the Funeral Director know if they need to begin slowly, starting with the basics, or whether things could be a little easier and streamlined based on any past experience.

3.  Before the Funeral Director begins to review the basic outline of the funeral planning process, it would be helpful if they ask the family if they have any important questions on their mind that they feel like they need to find answers.

This allows the family members to ask about things that might be of concern, time-sensitive, or important to know regardless of the planning process.

4. The Funeral Director could explain the general outline of what the funeral planning process involves and what they will review and work on together. Ideally, this overall outline would be great to have in writing, so they can see it, read it, plan ahead, and follow along step-by-step.

This helps the families to get an idea of what to expect, and also begin thinking about the many funeral planning challenges.

5. The Funeral Director could tell the family members to feel free to interrupt him/her at any time, and ask any questions that come to mind, no matter how basic or uncomfortable they might feel.

This helps families feel like it is OK to ask questions, since from my personal experience, I was very reluctant to ask things that I now wish I had.

6.  After the funeral planning process, the Funeral Director could find a way to help families learn about some of the new and popular memorial technology tools, resources, services, and funeral home services. In fact, I would even recommend offering families a printed list of these options so you can talk about them with the families, or simply let them research these things on their own to find out more.

In addition to the common funeral home services such as funeral programs, caskets, cremation urns, funeral flowers, etc., I firmly believe that families should also be aware of some of the new and increasingly popular new memorial technology tools such as Funeral Webcasting, Video Tribute, Memorial Website, Memorial Reefs, Memorial Diamonds, and the amazing new Gravestone Technology that includes microchips which can now show pictures and tell stories.

Why not let every family know about all of these options? If  families don’t choose to add these to their funeral or memorial planning, they are still better off from knowing these options were available.  And if families do find these options to helpful tools that can allow them to better heal, remember, and pay a special tribute to a loved one, everyone wins!

7.  Last, I would suggest Funeral Directors consider providing every family with helpful details, such as these below, at the end of their funeral planning discussion:

– Key things to consider when planning a memorial service
– Several phone numbers to contact for any questions or concerns, 24/7
– Grief support information, grief books, and local grief support
– Information on how to give a eulogy, funeral etiquette, how to write an obituary, and other common families needs
– Contact information on Charitable Organizations, and ways to help families donate funds “in lieu of funeral flowers”
– Key reasons and benefits to consider an End of Life Plan, and where they can go to learn more
– Names and contact information for people who you recommend that would be willing to help offer free advice for any financial planning matters, such as funeral estate planning, tax planning, wealth management, etc.

Again, these are just some thoughts I had after looking back on my personal experience, as well as some of the details I have found that most families are searching for – and today this is being done largely on the Internet.

I truly hope this helps both families and Funeral Directors, as I continue my quest to make this difficult process easier!

Chris Hill, Founder
FuneralResources.com

Terminal Illness Considerations and Planning

Terminal Illness

Helpful Considerations When

Facing a Terminal Illness

No one wants to talk about death or dying. Nor do they want to think about how to plan a funeral for someone they love, especially if they have not passed. Although extremely difficult, planning the funeral arrangements of a loved one who has been diagnosed as terminally ill is one of the best decisions you can make. However, we strongly encourage you to seek professional help!

When you combine the death of someone you care for with wanting to make the right end of life decisions, especially given the fact that you have a limited amount of time to attend to all the details, it usually leaves many families feeling overwhelmed.

Our Funeral Advisors, Family Counselors, and Funeral Directors can help answer some of the more common, and more difficult, questions that people have about many of the funeral planning challenges that may lie ahead.  They can also help guide you to become empowered by providing you with the information and resources you need – and deserve – to know.

Facing a terminal illness and loss is hard enough to deal with, but the end of life planning shouldn’t be. At your time of need, our nationwide network of pre-screened Funeral Advisors/Directors/Counselors are here to both educate and assist you in making the best possible decisions.

 

End of Life Planning Personal Story

End of Life

My Personal Story…

That’s Not So Easy To Share…

I would like to ask you to please spend some time reading this personal story of mine.  I am FULLY confident that you will find something in this story, some special message, that will make your life better, and end up being worth a few minutes of your time.

When it comes to financial planning, I will spare you the boring details about the importance of having a plan in place for the unexpected, using products and strategies like Umbrealla Policies, Life Insurance, Wills, Trusts, Estate Planning, Disability Insurance, Long-Term Care Insurance. etc.

In the past I might have boasted about how well-versed and experienced I was with helping my clients design and create strategies to protect my clients, and my own family, against the unexpected.  But the truth is, my life has been forever changed since I lost my mother on Thanksgiving Day of 2008.

Looking Back…

Since nobody in my family had ever really dealt with losing a “close” family member before, we had no idea what to expect.  In fact, we didn’t know and we didn’t plan for this outcome in any way, simply because we never once thought about – or talked about = being in that situation.

Once my mother became sick, the thought never crossed our minds to talk about what would happen “afterwards”.  Truthfully, in those situations, talking about someone’s death is an unspoken, unlikely, and unacceptable outcome that never crossed your mind.  All you can think about, and all you can talk about, is how they are going to be ok.  They will make it.  Stay strong.  You have loving family, friends, and medical support – all of which will help you get through this.

After she passed, I can vividly remember that feeling of being so confused, uncertain, and disappointed.  Why?  Because I didn’t know what to do next, or who to turn to.  I also remember realizing that I didn’t know the any of the details regarding what my mother would have really wanted with regards to her end of life plans and preferences.  Why?  Because I did not have the courage to ask while she was still alive and healthy.  Once she back sick, it was simply never the right time to discuss death or dying.

Even after almost 5 years now, I still don’t feel comfortable talking about it.   But what I do feel comfortable talking about is what happened after.

What Happens After a Loved One Passes?

My next memory is, right about the time the enormity of the situation was just starting to sink in, we were sitting in a local Funeral Home, surrounded by various types of caskets and cremation urns, reviewing a two-sided legal page (General Price List) which is filled with countless options on how to plan a funeral – all of which probably add up to well over $200,000.

Now please keep in mind that, at that time, the last thing in the world any of us wanted to talk about or think about was planning a funeral and memorial service, much less having to make decisions regarding any of the financial aspects.

Things I Bet You Never Thought About…

Here is a list of some other funeral planning challenges we faced that.  Keep in mind that, like our family, all of these decisions are usually made within a period of a few days, and with little or no education or professional guidance:

  • How do we determine which Funeral Home, Cemetery, or Funeral Director?
  • How do we arrange and notify family members and/or loved ones who live out of town?  Who contacts who?
  • How do we determine exactly what type of memorial service is most appropriate?  Do you celebrate a life?  Do you mourn?
  • Knowing whether there was a preference to be cremated or buried?
  • Choosing among many different types of caskets or urns?
  • Where should the final resting place be for the cremated remains?
  • How should our plans and preferences work with regards to your religion?  Which Church?  Which Priest?
  • Who should be invited, and how do you locate all their names and numbers?
  • Who will pay for these funeral expenses, and how will this be paid for?
  • Who will give a eulogy at the memorial service?  Who will do a reading?
  • What is funeral etiquette with regards to dress, time, date, day?
  • Will there be a gathering after the memorial service?  If so, who should be invited?
  • How do you place an obituary? What should it say?  Who should handle this?
  • Do you want to request funeral flowers or donations?
  • Choosing among pictures, funeral music, videos, and much, much more…

 

It is Time For Change…

They say “everything happens for a reason“.  Well, even though I believe there is never a valid “reason” to lose a loved one, I can say that this experience has opened my eyes to a lot of things that have previously gone unnoticed.   And as time passes, the one thing in particular that is becoming crystal clear is the fact people and families need to prepare their end of life plans and preferences in advance.

In all my years of financial education and training, I have never once heard someone so much as talk about how to help the families we serve by encouraging them to create an end of life plan.

Well my friends, it is time for change.  Maybe losing my mother is the “reason” and inspiration behind my serious movement to help families make a difficult situation easier.

So from this day forward, I will be seeking the help the finest associations, organizations, and people in the funeral and financial planning industries.  Along with their help, I am going to be speaking loudly, boldly, and clearly, about the need for change when it comes to financial, retirement, and estate planning.  There is a missing piece to the financial puzzle that needs to be fixed, which is helping families Create an End of Life Celebration Plan.

How to Create Your End of Life Celebration Plan…

Below is a link to four guides I have put together that will help you learn more about how to create your End of Life Celebration Plan:

 
In the financial planning industry, it is very rare that a financial advisor can use the word “guarantee“.   And usually the word “guarantee” needs to be accompanied by a prospectus and/or extensive legal disclaimers, documents, and details.

However, when you look at this from a real-life experience like I now can, financial advisors actually have something that we can guarantee every client – which is the fact that some day you will die.  Regrettably, this may happen much sooner than anyone could ever imagine or plan.  But regardless of the timing, some day your life will end.  So begins the two all-important questions…

We All Have Two Choices…

1.  Continue to Do Nothing

Do not plan for this guaranteed outcome in any way.  After reading this article, you are well aware of the fact that you will be leaving your family behind to unnecessarily suffer through a tremendous amount of difficult emotional and financial decisions, during an extremely difficult time, in addition to coping with their grief and loss over your death.

2.  Pre-arrange and/or Pre-Pay Today…

Set aside the time, put in the effort, and create your End of Life Celebration plan that you would want – and that your family deserves.  If you are ready to take this step, here are some easy options:

1.  Call (800) 379-2511 to speak with a Licensed Funeral Counselor
2.  Email me at info@funeralresources.com
3.  Visit this page www.funeralreosurces.com/funeral-help
4.  Complete this easy 10 question survey in about a minute:  www.funeralresources.com/funeral-help-survey

My Mission Going Forward…

My passion is to take this personal experience, learn from it, and turn it into a positive experience through helping other families make a difficult situation easier.  Helping families become more educated, empowered, and most importantly, more prepared.  My hope and prayer is that I can make my mother very proud one day.  I pray that some day she looks down and sees that her never-ending selfless love and legacy will live forever, and that her death has become an inspiration to help others.

Preplanning is Not Fun or Easy…

Like many of the best things in life, nothing good comes easy. So as you would expect, talking about. thinking about, and planning about death and dying is not fun.  However, a legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said;

“The difference between failure and success is largely determined by the
amount of time and preparation put into planning for the future.”

A Gift You Give – and Receive…

After all, what better gift can you leave your family than showing them that you selflessly made time, took that extra step, and sacrificed a small part of your life to show how much you love them. Imagine knowing that one of the last memories you leave behind is that your family knew that you did everything possible to make their lives better.  What memory could be better?

After sharing my own personal experience, I hope you can see that this kind of unselfish love actually provides you a huge gift too, and that gift is called peace of mind.

Lastly, I hope watching this video helps too…

Christopher P. Hill, Founder
www.funeralresources.com

Funeral Webcasting is a New Memorial Technology With Many Benefits

Funeral Webcasting

Many People Cannot Attend a Funeral But… Now They Can View it LIVE on the Internet

Since there are many valid reasons people cannot attend a funeral, such as health, finances, age, work, or timing, there is new memorial technology that exists today called Funeral Webcasting.  This is one of the many new funeral home services that is capable of broadcasting any funeral service LIVE on the Internet.  That’s right, LIVE!  All you need is to be somewhere that has an Internet connection, and you can now share in this special moment in real time.

But wait, there’s more…

It gets even better, because if you cannot attend the funeral in person, nor can you watch it LIVE on the Internet, the video footage of the memorial service can be stored for up to 90 days.  What a wonderful option this has become for so many people, especially given today’s economy and the financial challenges many people are facing. Over the last few years Funeral Webcasting has been quickly gaining popularity among funeral homes and is now to the point where family members are beginning to request these types of services. So this is making this an extremely important for Funeral Directors to not only embrace these new memorial technology tools, but also proactively promote them to those who are unaware these amazing new tools are readily available.

Key Benefits of Using Funeral Webcasting:

• Gives families and funeral directors a wider range of options which leads to a better overall funeral plan experience • Helps families appreciate the funeral director more, knowing he or she is keeping up with such innovative and helpful technology • Helps the families to join together in a much larger way for this special event • Gives families the ability to offer this privately, to only those who they wish to invite, by using a password-protected website • Families also have the ability to open up these memorial services for their loved ones to anyone who may wish to pay their respects by choosing not to elect a password • Allows families to include those you know really want to attend, but simply can’t make for whatever reason • Offers family members in other countries, from all around the world, to join in their loved ones celebration of life • Provide everyone the option to view this video again, or for the first time, after the memorial service for up to 90 days Given the many funeral planning challenges many families face today, funeral webcasting is just one of the technologies being used to BOTH help improve the families funeral planning experience, as well as strengthen their relationships with their funeral directors. For more detailed information about this new tool – and many of the other cutting edge memorial technology tools available today, you can simply CLICK HERE