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.

Wearing Wedding Rings After Death and Memorial Diamonds

 Grief and Loss

Wearing of Wedding Rings

After the Loss of a Spouse

How to expand your horizons after a loss but still integrate the memory of our loved one is a common theme. A normal process through our grief and loss journey is how to integrate the loss into our lives. One of the symbols of your past is yours and your spouse’s wedding rings. Changing how you display them is one way to help you transition to the future. The key is to pick something that feels “right” to you. There are many options and we suggest you be creative. We have outlined some suggestions below that might “fit” you.

Change where you wear the rings. A simple solution would be to move the rings from the hand that symbolizes marriage to the other hand. Some people have also chosen to place the rings on a necklace and wear them around his/her neck.

Transform your wedding rings. If you chose to transform your wedding rings this is where you can be especially creative. Many people have taken the stones out of the rings and placed them in new settings or made them into a new pair of earrings for example. Another option is to consider adding memorial diamonds to your current settings.

For example one woman said: “My husband died this year, and I had a nice gold chain, took the diamond that was in his Masonic ring, and suspended it in the center of his wedding ring, all held together in the suspension with small diamonds encrusted in a slide. It is lovely, and I wear it all the time. Sometimes I find myself even bringing it to my mouth, and unconsciously kissing it. But, my left hand ring finger is empty.”

Position the rings in a place of respect. If you choose not to wear the rings, you could make a place of honor for them. An idea might be to make a shadow box that you hang on the wall that will hold the rings. The shadow box then can be placed in the house somewhere that will bring comfort to you as you view your creation. This is also a nice way to pass a keepsake onto children.

Some people choose to wear their wedding ring for the rest of their lives on their left hand, especially those that are older, and have made up their mind that they will not ever want to marry again. Feel comfortable to do that, if this is your choice.  There are no rules about what you “must” do.

We have been told by those that want to take off their wedding rings as a symbol of “moving on” that they have chosen to give them to their children now, rather than wait for their own passing. If you have no children, perhaps a niece or nephew might be the perfect recipient.

If you want, you can put your wedding rings in your jewelry box, and keep them there until you decide what you do want to do with them. There is no need to rush to a decision.

Give yourself permission to take your rings off, if that is what you feel like doing. Sometimes, it is a simple as listening to your intuition to know what is the thing to do that “feels” like the perfect solution for moving to a new emotional plateau.

If you have come to a place in your stages of grief where you are truly ready to move forward, keep in mind to choose something that is right for you and that also symbolizes you are moving on from your loss. Symbols, such as wedding rings, are powerful. Potential mates will respect that you are honoring the past while being ready to accept new people and new love into your life.

But above all else, be creative, and do what pleases you!

© 2010 Kelasan, Inc.

By |May 24th, 2010|Categories: Death, Funeral, Grief, Grief and Loss, Loss of a Spouse, Memorial Diamond, memorial diamonds, Monuments, stages of grief|Tags: , , , , , |Comments Off on Wearing Wedding Rings After Death and Memorial Diamonds

Death of a Parent

Grief and Loss

Death of a Parent

Organizing a deceased parents’ house or put it up for sale is not an easy task because, as you struggle through the various stages of grief, you are filled with reminders of their life. Going through a home is like walking through a photo album. Each room and item has the potential of holding a precious memory.  Some people tend to be more pack-rats while others had lived with their home being more spartan. Some people are very generous with those that they allowed in their living space while others tend to be on the paranoid side. When you are going through the house there might be a few extra places you might check to see if there are any hidden memorabilia or heirlooms.

The filing cabinet: Some people are super organized. If your family members were organized type of people, check the filing cabinet first. People have told us they have a red file in the front of the cabinet that is labeled “Love Drawer” or “Family Record Guide” on it. Inside is a list of where all the important papers are to be found, where hidden treasures in the house are stashed away and a copy of their will. Simply pull the file and follow the instructions they have left. The filing cabinets are almost always the last place people may search, as they seem overwhelming. I’ve also heard people say they didn’t check the file cabinets because they felt since the person was deceased, what was in there “didn’t matter anymore.”

Bathroom/Kitchen Sinks: Check under the kitchen/bathroom sinks. Sometimes there is an extra ledge up underneath there were people can hide valuables like important papers or jewelry. It wouldn’t do to sell the house with the family jewels still located inside!

Closets: Check all the bags in the closets no matter how big or small. People like to hide things in plain view and sometimes items such as gold, jewelry, stocks, etc. can be hidden in the closet.

Money Belts: Check to see if any of the belts in the closet are money belts. You might find some extra cash you would have otherwise sent to goodwill with the belts. In addition, check the pockets of suit coats, and inside all women’s purses. Look in the sock drawer for money rolled up in socks, or stuffed between underwear. I know someone that found a thousand dollars cash in a sock drawer.

Freezer: Before you throw out frozen food wrapped in tinfoil, make sure you unwrap it and verify that it is food. People have been known to wrap up stacks of cash and place them in the freezer. The same is true for cereal boxes. Plastic toys may not be the only surprise in a box of cereal!

Cans: Check to make sure the shaving cream can and other items of that type don’t have screened-off bottoms. These could be little safes that match common household products to deter theft. What you think is shaving cream could really be filled with an heirloom item.

Books: Ditto for books.  Expensive looking books in reality could be little boxes that hide valuables. Before you pack up boxes of old books, magazines and newspapers, shake out all the pages. Money and stock certificates have been known to drift to the floor when this is done!

Backyard: If you are sorting items from a very private family it might be worth your time to rent a metal detector and do a once — over in the backyard. Some families still believe the coffee can out back is the best place to keep investments safe.

Mattress: Don’t overlook the obvious — what is under the mattress, or the bed.

Knowing your parents and the type of people they were will help determine what they may have done to keep family treasures safe. Never assume anything, especially if your loved ones were suffering from a memory loss in their final stages of life. Remember to smile and think of it as a treasure hunt instead of a burden. You never know what you will find!

© 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 the Loss of a Spouse

Grief and Loss

The Empty Space

When you lose a wife or husband it is the first of many end of life losses. As you are finding out there is more than one person/thing missing in your life. Everything about your life is now different. The empty space will seem smaller as you go through the various stages of grief and as you change and grow from within.  To help you with this change so that the empty space seem less empty you can:

Make a Plan:

You are changing even if you do not realize you are changing. The loss you experienced has created a vacuum in your daily life. In general, nature abhors a vacuum. Personally we do not like a hole or space so we rearrange things to make us feel complete. This change occurs whether you want it to or not. What you can control however, is how you want that change to look, feel and act. Make a list of goals of where you want to be in six months, a year or even eighteen months from now. What do you have to do to obtain these goals? For example do you need to downsize your home and move to a smaller abode? The more in control you feel the quicker you can manage your grief and loss.

Start Something New:

When change occurs in your life it is a good time to try something new. What have you wanted to do for some time but haven’t given it a go– like taking pottery classes? Perhaps there is a trip you have always wanted to take? Make a life list of things you still want to do before you die and start checking them off!

Rearrange Your Space:

It is important to change your personal surroundings to reflect the internal changes occurring in your life. Take stock of your material possessions and remove the ones from your living space that no longer suit you or that you no longer need/use. Go through your wife or husband’s belongings and keep a few treasured items and then remove the rest form your space. This cleansing process might be difficult but it will help you grieve and eventually help to fill that empty space.

Decide Who You Are:

No matter what our age we can always ask the question, “Who do I want to be now?”  You are moving from a time in your life where decisions were decided as a “we” and not as an “I”. How do “I” want to live? Where do “I” want to live? Who do “I” want as friends? How do “I” want people to see me now? What decisions do “I” need to learn to do that we used to make as a “we”?

I had a perfect example in my grandmother. My grandfather died in 1985 at the age of 82. Throughout their marriage he refused to eat pizza or have it delivered. My grandmother decided in her next phase of life that she was going to have pizza. It helped defined what she wanted be. Small things can be as important as the big things.

Remember that you will be changing over the coming years. You do not have to be a passive observer to your own life. You do not need to feel like a victim because your husband (or wife) died but instead you can take the control seat. With each change you make the empty space will start to fade and it will, in some ways, seem smaller.

 

By |May 13th, 2010|Categories: Blog, Death, end of life, Funeral, Grief, Grief and Loss, loss, loss of a spouse, stages of grief|Tags: , , , , , , , |Comments Off on Coping with the Loss of a Spouse

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.