December is always sentimental. It is a time when we look back at our year and recall the life events that have occurred, for better or worse. We remember things that have changed us, friendships that have helped us, and people who have left us. Christmas time is especially difficult when we have lost someone we love.
For many years now, our funeral home has displayed a grand Christmas tree adorned with beautiful red and gold ornaments and thousands of twinkling lights. To honor each deceased person from that year, we hang an ornament on the tree with their name and invite their family members to come and take home their loved one’s ornament. This tradition is our way of memorializing the deceased on Christmas while remembering each family we have served in the year.
Most families return to pick up their loved one’s ornament, and the experiences are always different. Some people are very excited to come and see their ornament, smiling and remembering their loved one with joy. Others weep when they see the dazzling Christmas tree and feel saddened that their holiday will have one less around the tree. One man even returns each year to take a picture in front of the tree, standing with his wife’s ornament.
We have found that recognizing your loved one during the holidays can help ease the pain of the loss. Ignoring your grief and pretending it didn’t happen will create more tension, even if it seems that you can skate by. As with anything, bottling up emotions like grief can often lead to an outburst down the road. So it’s okay to openly say, “I wish they were here” or “Dad would have loved this” or “Remember last year when Mom…” Include them in your holiday, in your thoughts, and in your actions.
Our wish to you this Christmas season is that you may find peace and joy amidst your grief. We hope that you can experience a pleasant holiday despite your loss, that you can comfortably memorialize your loved one, and that you may find unexpected light this holiday season.
Written by Kate Nypaver
November 7, 2019
Hospice is typically needed when your loved one’s health deteriorates to the point of no recovery. This can happen due to a terminal illness, injury, or just old age. A doctor must recommend hospice care if they feel your loved one has less than six months to live.
There are inpatient hospice centers, but typically a hospice team will come to the home or a nursing home facility where your loved one already resides. The caregivers provide pain management and symptom control, focusing mostly on making sure your loved one is comfortable during the last phases of their illness. (Note: it is possible to leave hospice care and continue treating the illness at any time with a doctor’s recommendation, but it is not usually the case).
When the choice for hospice is made, life will take on a new meaning. Time will become more precious. You might even experience anticipatory grief, which is a feeling of grief that occurs before your loved one has passed. It’s painful trying to accept this new phase of life and coming to understand what it all means. But your hospice care team will include social workers, caregivers, and counselors who are there to help you through these confusing feelings.
And most hospice services provide respite care, so you and others who have been caring for your loved one can take some personal time to rest and manage tasks that have been neglected. This is very necessary for your own mental and physical health, even though you might not want to leave the bedside. Your health is still very important, and in order to properly support your loved one, you need to take care of yourself too.
When the time finally comes for your loved one to draw their last breath, the hospice caregivers will be there to support both you and your loved one. They offer bereavement care and can help contact the funeral home of your choice when it is needed. Through phone calls, visits, and recommendations, your hospice care team will help see you through your grief.
Written by Kate Nypaver
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Journaling is nothing new. Anne Frank, Charles Darwin, Sylvia Plath, Mark Twain, Frida Kahlo, to name a few, all kept journals. Some did it to keep track of their musings and discoveries while others wrote to free themselves from their thoughts. Still others journaled to process their own personal struggles.
Grief takes courage to manage. It requires energy and time, two things we hardly even give to ourselves. But journaling has proved to create space in our busy lives, to allow us to free our emotions in a safe space of our very own.
Here are a few ways to journal through your grief:
1.List your emotions. We, as complex beings, enjoy making simple lists. They are clean, concise, and easy to read through. However, grief can cause some messy emotions that aren’t so easy to name. Try starting with the simple ones, like depression, sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger, and loneliness. How does it feel to see them on paper?
2.Write about times when you felt grief the most. It could have been when you were grocery shopping and saw your loved one’s favorite snacks, or while you were driving to work without much energy to face the day, or when you were lying in bed trying to catch some sleep that just would not come. Writing about these situations can sometimes help ease the pain of remembering them. It’s offers the therapeutic benefits of talking about the situation, only it’s shared with yourself.
Note: It might be helpful to list the emotions you felt while writing out the grief waves. Seeing how you feel on paper is often very eye-opening.
3.Write about the things that scare you moving forward without your loved one. This is a tough step, so don’t feel bad if you’re hesitant. This practice will help ease the fear and let you work toward a place of courage. Ask yourself why you’re afraid and what might you be able to do to ease that fear.
4.Write to your loved one. Any anger, resentment, sadness, or loneliness can all pour onto the page with no limitations. You could tell them how much you miss them, or what your life is like now. Anything you have to say to your loved one, you can put down in your journal. This can feel like a great big sigh of relief sometimes. Like, “There, I said it.”
5.Try your hand at stream of consciousness. This is when you touch pen to paper and don’t stop until you’ve reached your goal (start with half a page and see how that goes). You don’t pause to think about what to write next, but instead you just continue writing no matter what comes out. This might feel a little ridiculous, as some thoughts can trail to others that make absolutely no sense, but releasing the floodgates allows you to see what’s been stuck inside your mind. You might even begin to see thought patterns, but for now, just write away.
Journaling of course is not a cure-all. As much as we’d like to write a few pages in a notebook and suddenly feel better, it typically takes some time and effort before relief really starts to set in. But be patient, get yourself a nice notebook that fits your needs, and take time for yourself to get better.
By: Kate Nypaver
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
When a loved one dies, we no longer wear black veils and black top hats for long periods of time in order to publicly display our grief and loss. But the tradition of public mourning is far from dead. In the 21st century, technology is our mourning device, specifically social media.
Facebook is largely the most popular means to make a public announcement. Family members announce the birth of a new baby, couples announce their engagement, and people announce a death like any other life event. You’ve probably seen a status update from your Facebook friend, announcing they’ve lost a loved one. It’s common to see “likes” on the post in the form of a crying emoji, or tons of comments from friends offering their condolences.
This is how we mourn. It’s our way of communicating to our friends and online acquaintances that we’ve suffered a loss, that we are grieving, and that we could use support (even though it’s not normally asked for). We seek quiet validation for our grief through the people who comment on and like the status. And that’s okay. It’s comforting to see the expressions of care and consideration through comments of sympathy, and serves as a warm reminder that we are loved.
Not to mention, social media has allowed us to share obituaries much easier than a newspaper these days. Young people and now many middle-aged people don’t seek out the obits in the Community section, because they’ll see it on Facebook. Most funeral homes will share the link to the obituary so family members can easily notify friends and relatives of the death and service information.
In 2019, even mourning has been adjusted to the digital age. For a society that shares just about everything on social media, it is no surprise that we convey our grief and mourning on the internet. Some feel it’s a huge advantage and a quick way to spread service information, while others yearn for the traditional word-of-mouth and newspaper clippings. What do you think?
By: Kate Nypaver
Friday, July 12, 2019
We love our pets. They make us laugh and smile, help us through tough times, give us purpose. So when they pass away, they leave a hole in our hearts that we find very difficult to fill.
A pet is often an ever-present companion, wanting attention, expecting to play, hoping for cuddles and treats. They are constantly at our side, whether on the couch, bed, or sitting at the dining table. So naturally, it’s hard to adjust when they’re gone.
They also give us purpose. Our pets rely on us to feed them, give them water and shelter, and take care of them. We find a sense of purpose through being a pet owner, and it becomes a part of our identity. When that changes, we almost have to rediscover who we are.
It goes without saying, but animals provide copious amounts of emotional support. Who got you through that bad layoff? Buddy did. Who stuck by your side through all those anxiety attacks? The was Miss Pretty. We rely on our animals for their companionship, support, and constant source of comfort. So of course, when all of that is gone, it’s hard to get by.
Some say the toughest part is the silence in our homes after our pet dies. Animals create a good bit of noise that we grow accustomed to (unless you have a dog who loves to bark. That’s very noticeable). When they’re gone, we no longer hear the pit-pat of their paws on the kitchen floor, the tags rattling when they hop onto the couch, the rumbling when they race up the steps, and of course, the meows and barks. Even birds, rats, hamsters, and lizards make some noise in their cages. The silence is uncomfortable, and reminds us who we’re missing.
But the grief doesn’t last forever. Eventually, most people do end up getting another pet that becomes an addition but not a replacement, serving their purpose as companion and source of comfort and joy. They make us smile again, give us purpose again, but they have big paw-prints to fill.
By: Kate Nypaver
Friday, July 5, 2019
When our loved ones face a terminal illness, planning ahead becomes invaluable for many financial and emotional reasons. Often, roadblocks occur after death due to probate taking over, and many of them can be avoided.
First and foremost, if your loved one is of sound mind, talk with them before you do anything. The conversation can be as casual or in-depth as you like, but it’s helpful to let them know what you’re thinking and learn if they have any final wishes.
Most importantly, locate a will if it has been created (either it has been filed with probate or kept in a secure location). Try to find out who the executor of the will is, to ensure they are still around and ready to fulfill the role as executor. Having a will in general can be extremely helpful when dividing assets.
Speaking of secure places, if your loved one has a safety deposit box, we encourage you to locate the box and either have your loved one remove the contents, or you yourself could (if you are power-of-attorney or listed as an owner). If the contents are important documents such as a marriage license, military discharge papers, etc., it’s best to make copies of the documents and keep them for your records. Once a person passes and the bank is notified, all accounts and safety deposit boxes will be frozen, even if you are power-of-attorney.
Credit cards will also be frozen if the credit company is notified (usually if the card is a bank credit card), so transferring the name is also helpful, as credit cards are often used to pay for funeral services.
Vehicle titles and house deeds can be tedious to transfer after the passing of an individual. Taking care of transferring titles ahead of time is extremely helpful, and won’t require the usage of a certified death certificate. Remember, it can take several months to over a year before probate court does anything, so it’s best to take care of things ahead of time.
By: Kate Nypaver
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Picture it. The sky is a calm cerulean blue, the sun is shining warm on the lush green grass, the birds are chirping from the full trees, and a soft wind rattles the leaves. Somewhere a few lawns over, a mower is running. In the backyard, family and friends are gathering for a 4th of July cookout with coolers of beverages and the sweet scent of barbeque wafting through the opened window. But you’re standing inside, wishing you were in the confines of your own room with the blinds shut, because everyone else is having fun but you don’t feel much like laughing.
Grief acts like a storm cloud, blocking out the light of anything remotely pleasant, and threatening to pour at any given moment. It’s hard to feel happy with that sort of thing hanging over your head.
But it’s okay for you to feel different than others. We often have this idea that we should feel a certain way at a certain time, and if we don’t, we’re doing something wrong. Say everyone else is having fun at the cookout and playing cornhole, but you can’t bring yourself to laugh when Uncle Roger chucks the bag of corn clear over the fence. It’s okay. You’re struggling with something much bigger than cornhole, here.
If you’re facing grief in the summertime, it’s okay that you might be laughing less, smiling less, and enjoying things a lot less than you did in previous summers. Try to remember that you’re feelings are valid and understandable. And cut yourself some slack! You’re doing what you can.
If summertime reminds you of a loss from a previous summer, acknowledge it, but don’t ruminate. Nostalgia tends to glamorize the past and make the present seem much worse than the “good old days.” Try to ride the waves of your memory, but remember that healing is in the present tense, and at some point you’ll want to find your way back to the shore.
So enjoy what you can, but don’t feel bad if it’s not very much. Summer is just another season, anyway—the sun comes out in the winter, too.
By: Katie Anthony
Friday, June 21, 2019
The purpose of the funeral, the reason we take time to formally recognize the loss of our loved ones, is to help us begin to heal. It is the first step in the grieving process, where we are meant to come together with family and friends, declare “this person was significant. This person mattered,” and to publicly acknowledge the gravity of the loss. Often, when we choose not to have a funeral— or worse, we have a bad funeral for our loved ones— it can complicate the grief journey and delay our healing.
For hundreds of years, humans have marked the most important life events with a religious ceremony: birth, marriage, and death. We acknowledge the miracle of birth with a baptism; the potential of love with a wedding; and the monumental loss that is death with a funeral. But America’s cultural landscape is changing. Every year, fewer Americans attend church. This trend has been going on for many years and for a variety of valid reasons. But it’s still important to mark our milestones, with or without a church. So what are the options if you have no church? Should you call a parish your family attended years ago? Ask your second cousin who happens to be a minister? How do you honor your loved one without the traditional, religious funeral?
If you settle for a minister who never met the deceased, a meaningless and sometimes offensive funeral service can be the result. Sometimes people assume that because they have no church or they don’t know or like any ministers, this means they can’t have any funeral at all. Fortunately, there is another way forward in these situations.
Anthony Funeral Home recognized this issue many years ago, so my father began officiating funerals for those who had no one else. His services have brought comfort and closure to many families over the years. In the fall of 2018, I attended a funeral celebrant training seminar to learn how to write and officiate personalized funeral services to help provide families with services that mourn their loss while still celebrating the life and story of their loved one. The most important part about these services is that they meet the needs of the family. The family needs to acknowledge their loss, remember their loved one, and celebrate their legacy.
The service starts with a meeting. Once the family chooses to have me as their celebrant, we schedule a visit, usually at their home, where I learn their loved one’s story. The family shares memories and history where laughter and tears are often abundant. One family even admitted that the meeting in and of itself was therapeutic for them, which really let me know we were orchestrating something beautiful. When the meeting concludes, I muse over my notes of their stories and spend several hours constructing their personal service. And after many deleted paragraphs and cups of coffee, the resulting service is unique and meaningful, allowing the family to move forward with healing. It still acknowledges the loss ceremonially but it celebrates the very life that will be missed.
If you have questions or are interested in having a funeral celebrant for you or your loved one, please feel free to call the funeral home or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Kate Nypaver
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Father’s Day can be difficult to face when your dad is no longer living. Even if he passed years ago, a holiday to recognize your father can surface some residual grief. But there are ways to face Father’s Day that can lessen your pain and give you some peace of mind.
Try not to focus on your loss. Dads are notorious for telling us stories of their own youth, cracking jokes they think are just hysterical, and giving us some of the best advice. What has your father given you over the years? Maybe it was something tangible, like a watch or a set of tools. Maybe you can look in the mirror and see in your own face what he’s passed down to you. Or perhaps he gave you advice that you now live by.
Writing down the positive things you’ve received can help you feel more fulfilled. Was it a sense of security? Money for the ice cream truck? Unwarranted football facts or Seinfeld references? These things probably made you smile in the past, and have the chance to help you now. And once you start the list, it gets easier to work through as you reminisce. But ultimately, you know who your father was. If this list doesn’t suit you, what else might? A list of life lessons? Things your dad taught you not to do? Times he completely embarrassed you in front of your friends by his dad-isms?
The lists can go on and on, and be as specific or vague as you like. Grief is very significant to the person experiencing it, and the healing process is very much the same. However you treat Father’s Day, try to remember that you’re the one living the day, and that you deserve to enjoy it, even if you can’t give your dad an expensive Hallmark card. You can always buy one anyway.
By: Kate Nypaver
Tuesday, June 4, 2019
It is never too early to discuss your final wishes. Maybe you’ve never thought about it before, but it doesn’t hurt to give it some consideration. Would you want to be cremated? Would you want your loyal dog to go to your kids or best friend? What about funeral services? The most important things to you should be considered, material or otherwise.
Bringing up the conversation can be tough, though. It’s a delicate topic, and some family members may feel uncomfortable addressing the idea that at some point, you might pass on without them. But if you stay honest and even joke around a bit, things may feel lighter and easier. In fact, if you’ve ever purchased Life Insurance or signed up for a retirement plan, you’ve already designated beneficiaries to receive your death benefit, which is very similar to expressing your final wishes.
Be firm in what you want. Don’t let anyone coax you into changing your ideas based on something that is “easier” or “cheaper” or even more expensive. If you’ve been envisioning a funeral with a bronze-plated casket and a burial at the beautiful Lakeview Cemetery all your life, don’t cave for cremation because your son was planning to spread your ashes in Lake Erie. It’s your life, so your say matters most.
Discussing your final wishes can even be relieving, in a strange sort of way. We often fear the inevitable, but being practical about it can help alleviate some of the apprehension, especially since we won’t have to worry about our wishes falling flat. For example, I’m currently writing a novel, and if I died before it got finished, my wish is that someone would finish the book and try to get it published. But if I never addressed that, no one would even think to touch the manuscript and I’d be petrified that my words would never reach the public. Trust me, it’s best to say what you want.
So talk to your friends, your spouse, your kids or your relatives. Let them know what you’re thinking. It can be a brief conversation over coffee, or one of those passing moments in the car on the way to the grocery store. It can be funny, or it can be serious. But it’s healthy and practical, and really only needs to be expressed once.
By: Kate Nypaver
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Pre-planning funerals is growing more and more popular as baby boomers retire. It’s a good time to tie up loose ends, get some finances in order, and settle into relaxation. Setting future funeral arrangements is always beneficial and provides a great way to get ahead.
Financially, the benefits are huge. If you pay in advance, your family won’t need to worry about money when making your arrangements. They won’t have to think about price limits, or how much or how little to spend.
You’ll also have the opportunity to get exactly what you want. From disposition to merchandise to type of service, the choice would be yours. This in particular is beneficial if family members have a history of disagreeing with each other. Why complicate things further?
Because the decisions would already be made, when the time comes, your family wouldn’t have to stress over making arrangements and instead could use the time to process their grief. Typically, funeral arrangements need to be made in the first 24 hours after death, which is often very tasking for people after they’ve experienced a loss. With a pre-arranged funeral, no one needs to worry.
Lastly, after making arrangements, you won’t have to worry about it ever again. The main reason people are hesitant to make pre-arrangements is because they’re reluctant to admit that death is inevitable. Making funeral plans really solidifies the fact, but it’s only momentary. In a week, you won’t even think about it.
So start the conversation. People always say, “I’m glad that’s taken care of.” And their families are always relieved that plans have already been made.
By: Kate Nypaver
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Grief is a difficult concept to truly understand, because it is unique to the person and the loss they’ve suffered. Comprehending loss is a good place to start.
Dictionary.com describes loss as “the state of being deprived of or of being without something that one has had” (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/loss). Loss can be of a loved one, a job, a relationship, a belonging, a capability, etc. Basically, you had something and now you don’t, and the circumstances of which the loss has occurred can vary.
So then grief, according to the Mayo Clinic, is “the natural reaction to loss” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/support-groups/what-is-grief). But we know grief is so much more than that. Grief is the price we pay for loving someone. It is the storm of emotions we cannot avoid when someone leaves too soon. It is natural, and like most natural things, it is inevitable.
Psychologically, grief can manifest through a broad array of emotions—fear, anxiety, sadness, despair, anger, irritation, longing, depression, confusion, numbness, detachment, and guilt are just a few. And it’s very normal to experience several of these emotions in a day, in an hour even. Sometimes they appear in different stages, and other times they may come and go in surges. Or, the feelings could last for days to even months without relief.
Physically, grief can affect digestion, concentration, sleep, appetite, energy, and immune strength (to name a few). Some might experience more physical side effects than others, or in different degrees of severity. These issues paired with the emotional hardships may put strain on relationships and friendships, and instigate withdrawal from society. It can be very difficult to find joy or pleasure in life when one is working through grief—and it really is hard work.
But remember that grief is natural. It is a natural response to loss, the way darkness ensues when the sun goes down. We can always rely on the fact that daylight will come again, though. Grief does not have to last forever, but it does need to be felt.
By: Kate Nypaver
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
Memorial services are often held to facilitate closure, to honor the deceased, and to provide an appropriate place for people to grieve. Personalizing the service will create a deeper significance and lasting memories, making the experience more meaningful to you.
We’ve compiled a list of ways to adjust a funeral service so that it reflects your loved one and the memories you’d like to keep.
Music strongly triggers memories, and it can be used both to represent someone (by playing your loved one’s favorite music), or stand as a memento for later (by playing something that will always remind you of your loved one). For example, my dad likes Pink Floyd, and I know at his service I’ll have to play “Wish You Were Here.” Will I cry like a child? Absolutely. But it will be more fitting than stock music you’d never catch him playing. And it’s easy nowadays, because Spotify and other streaming services have pre-made funeral playlists you can skim for ideas.
Videos revitalize memories in a way nothing else can. Right now, incorporating saved Snapchat videos is popular, because they’re short in length and serve a quick point. You get the chance to hear your loved one’s voice and see them again. You can also utilize a picture slideshow, which can be played during a visitation or incorporated into the service for everyone to experience together.
I call this next one “nesting” because you can set up the chapel or service area with items from your loved one’s life. Take, for example, the funeral we had for Christine. She was an amazing artist, so her kids set up tons of her paintings for all to enjoy. Elizabeth was an avid hiker, so her daughters created a beautiful hiking display with mums, her hiking stick adorned with several medals, and her favorite outdoor gear. And Ruth had a vast collection of marvelous hats, so one of our directors orchestrated an elaborate display of photos, incorporating some of the hats and hat boxes. This personalization is fairly easy to accomplish, and you can set out as much or as little as you’d like.
The service itself will hold some spoken content, and if you don’t know someone who can narrate a meaningful service that incorporates your loved one and the message you’d like to send, you might run into some problems. Some funeral homes employ a funeral celebrant, who can meet with you and your family, get to know your loved one, and stand up to tell their story. Check with your funeral home to see if they offer a celebrant, or another way to personalize the eulogy.
Opening the floor for guests to offer their memories and anecdotes often leads to tears and laughter. Just know that some folks might have a lot to share, so try to be flexible with time.
Take-away gifts are not necessary, but they always seem to leave a lasting impression. We had a funeral for a woman who made hundreds of Faberge eggs in her lifetime, so her niece brought them to the service and asked that everyone take one home. Another family set out bowls of Werther’s candy, because Grandpa always had some in his pocket. This small act serves as a wonderful way to memorialize someone’s habits, to give back to those who came to offer sympathy, and to find joy in an otherwise somber situation.
I don’t usually advise balloon releases after services due to the negative impacts on the environment, but paper lanterns are a great alternative, along with bubbles and butterflies. This graceful ending to a service can be so heartfelt, and it’s a fun thing to do if kids are involved.
But note that grief does take energy, and assembling a service is hard work. You can always keep things as simple as you’d like. Don’t feel pressured to make the funeral service a social gathering that the neighborhood will talk about for weeks—it’s about healing and closure. Lean on your support system for help, decide what you can do and what might be too much, and talk with your funeral director. They should help out as much as they can.
And remember, there is no shame in simply wanting a “stock service.” Some people would rather have something quick and effortless, and that’s fine too. You can personalize as much or as little as you’d like.
By: Kate Nypaver
Tuesday, May 7, 2019
The time surrounding Mother’s Day is often joyous; the weather is warming, the flowers are blooming, and people are gathering close to celebrate and honor the matriarchs of their families. But for some of us, Mother’s Day is a struggle because we no longer have a living mother to celebrate.
A huge part of the population believes it takes about two weeks to grieve, but for anyone who has suffered a loss, it is clear that grief has no official end. Things may get easier over time, but there is no such thing as “getting over it.” So whether your mom passed recently or years ago, you’re probably still feeling the sting of Mother’s Day. The Hallmark excitement is unwelcome, and the constant commercials and ads are just stark reminders of the person you’re missing.
But there are many ways to handle the holiday, and while one option might not work for someone else, it might work for you. Like grief, healing is unique and personal.
If you want to memorialize your mother, you could get out photos and make your way down memory lane. As strange as it might seem, writing her a letter can feel therapeutic, as you can spill all your emotions and hardships to her, through writing. Cooking her favorite meal or getting out her recipe book could be fun, especially if you have kids to share in the experience. Through your own acts of motherhood, you can express a part of your mom in a way that allows her memory to live on. But if you don’t have kids, don’t worry. You’re still your mother’s child, and that in itself lends to the resurrection of her habits, voice, and even appearance perhaps.
Mother’s Day brunch is a common celebration these days, so to avoid other families and possible grief-reoccurrences, whip up your own breakfast or brunch, including some of your mom’s favorites. Or, if you always used to buy her a gift, purchase a bouquet of flowers and set them by her picture as a meaningful tribute you could return to throughout the week. And of course, you can visit her grave with flowers if you have that opportunity.
Sometimes it’s necessary to avoid the holiday altogether. You probably know yourself better than anyone else, so if the holiday is going to cause you more pain than you can bear, skip it.
Plan a large distraction for yourself. Take a day trip somewhere you’ve never been, or pick up a brand new hobby that requires plenty of learning and distraction (you also don’t need to spend too much here, but if you have the funds, don’t be afraid to invest in yourself). Maybe take your family for a hike or bike ride on the trails; an activity that doesn’t involve much interaction with other families or mother-child duos would be ideal. Be sure to keep the TV off and steer clear of all social media for a few days.
Keep in mind, too, that you are doing what you need to do to feel okay. Don’t worry about other people here. You’re taking care of yourself and that’s the most important thing right now.
The death of a child is considered the worst thing one can ever experience. And days like Mother’s Day can intensify your loss tenfold. It is astounding how consuming the grief can be, even years later, and the worst part is that very often people expect you to be over it. You know there is no getting over it.
Avoidance and distraction are very helpful on Mother’s Day. Same rules apply— no TV (unless you can find a show to stream that doesn’t include motherhood or child-rearing, or a series that has the chance to make you laugh) and no social media. A trip or vacation would be ideal, or a project you can immerse yourself in. There is no shame in walking away from something you know will create more static in your life.
But if you want to face some of the grief and emotions, there are ways to go about this. Get out some of your child’s things and just hold them, experience your feelings, and be ready to cry. Sometimes giving attention to your emotions and assessing them can help process grief a little more.
You can memorialize your child in many ways, sometimes by simply lighting a candle for them or visiting one of their favorite places. Have their favorite meal, watch their favorite show or listen to the music they enjoyed.
These ideas might bring more tears, but it’s important to remember your child’s death does not detract from your motherhood. You are still a mom, and your feelings of grief on Mother’s Day are completely valid, no matter how long it’s been.
By: Kate Nypaver
Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Your friend has suffered a loss and you probably have a lot of questions that are causing some anxiety. What am I supposed to say? What can I even do for them? Are things going to change dramatically?
Grief can occur like an earthquake, dismantling your friend’s daily life and upheaving certain habits and lifestyles, only to create what feels like a permanent mess. And grief is very disorienting, so reorganizing this mess is going to be a real chore.
It’s not your job to clean up the wreckage, but rather to help your friend navigate through the chaos.
Once upon a time, Frank had a friend whose wife suddenly died, and Frank was so afraid to say the wrong thing, he didn’t say anything at all. Don’t be like Frank. It’s okay to feel awkward when you approach a touchy subject, like a death. Your friend probably doesn’t expect you to be a certified grief counselor, so if something simple slips out like, “I’m sorry for your loss”, it’s okay.
Try saying, “I’m here for you. I love you. You aren’t alone. I will help you as much as I can.” And don’t be afraid to ask questions too. “Is it okay if we talk about her, or say her name?” Some people find it healing to speak about their loved one, while others find it too painful or difficult.
Don’t assume “he’s in a better place” or “she lived a full life” or “it was their time” because we can’t possibly know that, and those assumptions can instigate anger. Sally Field’s dramatic demonstration of grief in Steel Magnolias is definitely not an unrealistic representation. So I humbly suggest avoiding the provocation of existential grief-fueled anger.
Above all, be present. Remember Frank, who said nothing to his grieving friend because of his own insecurities? There are a lot of people like Frank who drift away from their friends to avoid mistakes. Try to be present. Attend the calling hours with your friend, sit near them at the funeral, and don’t run off afterwards if you can help it. Many people assume grief somehow ends right after the funeral, but oftentimes, this is when it really starts.
If your friend’s spouse died, they might feel worse at night, so perhaps you could stay over with them a few nights.
Set a reminder or alarm on your phone to check in with them daily or so, even if it’s just by text (which is sometimes easier for them). And don’t stop doing this after a month or two. Grief outlives sympathy.
Grief also has a weird way of making daily tasks monumentally impossible, so you can step in and walk the dog or clean the litter box, grocery shop or pack the freezer with food, help with laundry (if they’re okay with that), and other simple things. Buying toilet paper and paper towels is a huge help, and maybe even switch to using paper plates for a while to avoid making dirty dishes.
Your friend may not be aware of what they need, so try to be one step ahead of them, and avoid asking them to call you if they need anything. Odds are, they won’t want to ask for help or might not even know they need it.
*Don’t clean anything without permission from your friend. When someone dies and no longer resides in the home, small things become representations of them. Laundry that smells like them, a stack of messy books and papers they left on the coffee table, shoes they had kicked off by the front door—all of these might hold sentimental value now.
Your friend is experiencing serious pain, which is going to be hard to watch. People often flee from their grieving friends because it’s just too hard watching them suffer. Be strong, but be ready.
This process will be emotionally tasking for you too. Think about it, you’re ramping up your efforts while your friend is seriously slacking on theirs (not their fault). You might feel used or underappreciated (not your fault). Lean on your own support system and remember that all of your efforts are incredibly appreciated and will most likely strengthen your friendship in the long run.
By: Kate Nypaver
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Green burials exist to reduce our carbon footprint even after death. Ultimately, the goal is to refrain from using materials that will not break down in the earth, and reduce the amount of energy and fuel used in burial and disposition. This method is gaining in popularity amongst younger generations, and serves as a great way to give back to the environment.
The current worry surrounding traditional burials is that non-biodegradable materials are being placed into the ground, along with embalming chemicals that can seep into the soil. Many caskets are made of metal, which of course won’t break down. It’s sort of like burying a car.
But if you’re looking for a green alternative, a simple wooden casket without glue, metal, or varnish is a great option. Woven caskets can also be used in green burials, because they are made of wicker, bamboo, willow, or other materials that will break down. These beautiful caskets are a great option and can still be placed into a hearse and carried by pallbearers.
Shrouds are also a very natural and simple method for burial. Typically the shroud is made of linen or other biodegradable fabric, and can be decorated with flowers or other herbs. The body is wrapped in the shroud and placed directly into the grave of a cemetery that will allow this type of burial. With this method, the body is restored to the earth in a natural, modest way.
There are many green methods to utilize after cremation as well, such as biodegradable urns, which are known for their versatility and low impact on the environment. Before burying a biodegradable urn, however, check with your state’s laws regarding the burial of cremated remains outside of a cemetery, as well as the zoning laws encompassing the area you’re about to bury in.
As for a heartwarming goodbye on the water, there are other biodegradable “pillow” urns that are made to float and then disintegrate, which would give plenty of time for a lakeside or even boat-side service. Or, you can always spread the ashes straight into the water, so long as you’re following the law that you must be at least 3 nautical miles from the oceanic coast.
If you’re planning on utilizing a cemetery for burial and you’d like to be green about it, check with your local cemetery to see if it is considered a “hybrid burial ground”, which means it allows any form of burial with any type of container. Another option is to select a “natural burial ground” which allows for green burials and uses only natural and organic pesticides to preserve the simplicity of the land. Some of these burial grounds are considered conservations, so obstructive headstones and plastic fixtures are not permitted.
There are many green burial options to choose from, and many websites that discuss the positivity surrounding green methods of disposition. Many people feel that we have a duty to preserve the earth, while others simply prefer the organic nature of these burials. If you’re interested in an option like this, be sure to tell your funeral director up front! Your wants and needs are important, especially for something as final as a burial.
By: Kate Nypaver
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
If you’re planning to attend a visitation or viewing, be prepared for the deceased to be present in the chapel of the funeral home. The casket might be opened or closed, or an urn may be present, but it is wise to mentally prepare yourself if need be.
Wear something nice, but not necessarily too formal (for more on that, you can check out our previous blog post titled “What Should I Wear to a Visitation?”).
Don’t feel obligated to arrive right at the start of calling hours. And definitely don’t arrive before the hour begins—the family may want private time with their loved one before seeing guests.
There will almost always be a register book, so by all means, sign your name and perhaps take a prayer card or folder if you’d like. Sometimes, surviving family members see so many people during a visitation that they may forget who came to visit, so signing your name is very useful to them later on.
Don’t feel obligated to spend much time near the casket; if you’re uncomfortable, you don’t need to step up to the casket at all. But if you’d like to, make sure no one else is also standing by the casket and paying their respects. Hovering around them is uncouth, so try to maintain a decent distance. If there is a line, follow suit. If there is a kneeler, you may kneel and silently pray or think of a fond memory. If not, simply stand by the casket and bow your head in silent prayer or reverie.
Now, say you don’t know the deceased. Maybe she is your coworker’s mother. You might feel awkward kneeling down in front of the casket or attempting to show signs of grief. The key here is to be comfortable and respectful. Again, if you’re uncomfortable near the casket, simply don’t approach it—no one will notice. But if it feels appropriate, by all means.
Typically, the deceased’s family members stand near the casket or urn so that the visitors form a line. If so, greet each family member and express your condolences. If you don’t know the family member you’re meeting, introduce yourself and express why you’re there, such as, “Hi, I’m Kate, I work with Janet at Such-and-Such. My sympathies for your mom, Janet told me so much about her.” It’s much less awkward if you state who you do know, and why you’re there.
Viewings and visitations normally don’t involve public speaking, but if the family wishes, a rosary may be said or a member of the clergy may come in to say some prayers—if this occurs, follow the crowd. Most likely, everyone will be seated and the music will be silenced while prayers are said. If you’re uncomfortable, you can always step into the lobby. But if you stay in the chapel, please try to stay off your phone. This is a time to pray and reflect.
The amount of time you spend depends on certain circumstances. If the chapel is packed with people and the family is bombarded with visitors, pay your respects and kindly head out. But if groups of people are mingling and sharing memories, feel free to socialize. And if it seems like the family is enjoying having company (smiling, chatting, hugging guests, laughing), it’s okay to stay for a little while. Try to gauge the situation and be mindful of what other guests are doing.
Now, if refreshments are available, it’s best not to hang around the food too long. Maybe have a cup of coffee with something small, but don’t load up!
And of course, if you bring small children, please keep an eye on them to ensure their behavior is not disruptive.
If nothing else, just put yourself at ease and go with the flow of things. I understand social interaction can induce some serious panic for some, especially when death is thrown into the mix. Just remember that your presence is supportive, and it will mean volumes to the family.
By: Kate Nypaver
Thursday, April 11, 2019
If you’re attending a visitation or calling hours, it’s best to wear something modest but not over-the-top; dress like you’re going to church on an average Sunday. For women, dress pants and a nice top will do fine, or perhaps a versatile dress. For men, slacks and a button-down are appropriate. Try and gauge the situation based on who you’re there to visit. Some families dress to the nines for any occasion, while other families are comfortable in jeans. It all depends.
Do note that funeral homes are often kept on the cooler side, so if you chill easily, you may want to bring a sweater.
Also, it is not necessary to wear black to a visitation. Despite what you might see on TV, any color is fine. However, we do suggest comfortable shoes. Depending on the size of the crowd, you might be standing in line for a bit.
Here, it’s best to dress on the nicer side. A suit is recommended, or a dress with hose and flats or a shoe with a small heel. Darker colors are custom, but not always necessary. Again, try and gauge the situation based on what people wore to the visitation. And if that’s not applicable, play it safe. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Weather is a factor here; you’ll most likely be standing in the middle of a cemetery, exposed to the elements. So go ahead and wear your funeral clothes, but be mindful of the temperature outside. Also, if you’re planning to wear a dress, avoid something with a shorter length. The wind will not be your friend.
Proper footwear is vital. You will probably have to trek through grass and around headstones to reach the right grave, and most cemetery grounds are slightly bumpy or even hilly. So don’t wear slim heels! No one likes losing a shoe because the stiletto is stuck in the grass.
Kids get a free pass pretty much all the time. When I was younger than 8 but older than 5, I attended my great-aunt’s funeral wearing this bright green and white floral Easter dress, and I was surrounded by family members who wore black, off-black, and super-black. This wouldn’t have been a big deal had my older brother not teased me for sticking out (yeah, I still think about that from time to time). But my parents insisted, “You look cute! People want to see kids in happy clothes.”
And this is so true. Whether you dress your child in a bright pink Easter dress or a small black suit with a clip-on tie, their presence will be appreciated and loved.