Children at the Death Bed

July 8th, 2013

Question: A family came into my funeral home to make arrangements. The husband’s previous wife was dying of a terminal illness. The husband and his new wife asked me: “What my husband and I would like to know is if it is too traumatic for the kids (12, 9 and 7 years old) to be with their mom at the moment that she
dies as she has requested?  How do we handle this and still honor her
wishes?” What should I tell this family?

Read the rest of this entry »

Independence

July 1st, 2013

A death is a life-changing event for every person and family. Studies have shown that people undergo transformations as they grieve over their loss. On Beyond Indigo we have heard many times from people that the loss of their loved one has brought positive changes into their lives. One of these changes is freedom.

Freedom occurs in so many ways.  For example, death may give us the chance to discover that we cannot always foresee or control events in our lives – therefore we can be free of future worry.  Death, or change, can give us a chance to redefine our belief systems. Read the rest of this entry »

What is Value?

June 14th, 2013

Lately I have been struggling with the word “value”. We have been born in interesting times where everything changes. As soon as you buy the new “must have” it is instantly out of date. You drive a brand new car off the dealer’s lot and its value has depreciated by thousands of dollars. If so much is changing so quickly, where do we find value in what we buy for either our businesses or ourselves?  How do we know we are giving a solid value to our families with our services? What products or services can a service business comfortably purchase? Are we so used to helping others that we forget that there are services to help us.

This question of value caused me to search for the definition of value in the dictionary – on the Internet. I realized I did not own a hard copy dictionary anymore. Clearly, I do not see the value in keeping one on hand. I went to http://dictionary.reference.com/ and this is what it said:

  1. An amount, as of goods, services, or money, considered to be a fair and suitable equivalent for something else; a fair price or return.
  2. Monetary or material worth: the fluctuating value of gold and silver.
  3. Worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit: the value of an education.
  4. A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable: “The speech was a summons back to the patrician values of restraint and responsibility” (Jonathan Alter). Read the rest of this entry »

Loss of Control

June 7th, 2013

Question: I am a wreck. Nothing seems normal anymore. It is hard to focus and move through each day. Before the loss of my mother, I used to be orderly, have everything in its place and organized. Now I am lucky if I remember to take a shower each day and get the kids fed. Is this normal? Why do I feel so out of control?

Answer:

Death is like a wrecking ball in a person’s life. It takes a big sweep and breaks everything in its path. This, although painful, is a normal feeling. It can also be beneficial. Even though it seems like everything is a mess now, out of this chaos new growth and opportunities will come. Remember control is mostly an illusion. It is a concept that we each construct to get through the days. We find out how transparent this fantasy is when something like a death occurs. Some things to keep in mind about control are: Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking outside of your box

May 31st, 2013

Boxes. We all have at least one. Normally we aren’t aware that we have a box that surrounds us every minute of the day but it is there. What is this box? It is formed from our preconceived notions of what we will and won’t do in the world. Our personal box is composed of thoughts and actions with which we are comfortable as well as the ones that give us night sweats. Our box is generally our comfort zone.

We become aware of this personal box when we are asked to step outside of it and try something new. Most of us dig in our heels and say, ‘Nope, not going to happen today”. I recently had the opportunity to step out of my box in a big way. It came on a trip to Asia for my honeymoon. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating Mother’s Day after she passes

May 6th, 2013

Question:  I have been babysitting for three brothers for the past four years.  Last Thursday their mother died suddenly at the age of 30.  The boys are ten, six, and four years old.  They go to school with my children and I have been asked to help find ways to help them deal with Mother’s Day at school.  All of the classes will be making Mother’s Day cards and gifts soon and no one is sure what to do.  Any help or resources you can give me would be greatly appreciated.  She was a single mom and Grandma and Grandpa have stepped in to take care of the boys if that is any help.

Answer:  A child can celebrate Mother’s Day even though they have lost their mother. When a person dies it does not mean all the love they have given to people just disappears. A mother leaves a lasting imprint on the children she leaves behind. Helping the children remember this love will be important to them as they grow older. Read the rest of this entry »

Death of a business

April 29th, 2013

A friend of mine was over recently for brunch. It was good to touch base with him to see how he was faring because he has just suffered a loss. Not a loss of a loved one or friend but the loss of his business. Death is not just about the loss of someone you have loved. Death is a transition and occurs in many places in our lives. Many times we experience these types of deaths and don’t even realize that we are walking through a grief journey over this loss.

As I sat there listening to my friend I could tell he was going through many of the same emotions as if a family member had died. He was experiencing:

  1. The loss of the future where his hopes and dreams had been invested. No longer would he be able to watch this creation, this entity grow. Read the rest of this entry »

The Love We Shared

March 22nd, 2013

Question: I am a new funeral director and I was wondering if you have any advice you can give me on how to relate to older people. My grandparents passed away when I was young and my parents are still living. How do I connect to a generation that  is foreign to me?

Answer:

Great question! By connecting to your families– as I have stated in other articles — a funeral becomes much more meaningful to them. To your families this funeral is all about them. It is about the loved one they have lost. Your families are trying to remember the connections they had to their loved ones. They want that relationship and that person’s life to have meant something that goes beyond death. There are a few ways to go about establishing rapport with your families that show them you care.

Talk about the loved one:  Before you conduct any business matters ask the family to tell you about the loved one they have just lost. What is their greatest memory? What is something they will always remember about their loved one? Were they a hunter? Did they enjoy the outdoors? Perhaps this person made beautiful quilts or knit. Listen to what the family has to say and then pick out nuggets of information and suggest you incorporate what you have learned into the service. For example, if the loved one was loved to fish the family could bring in some fishing poles or put a picture of that person fishing on the cover of the funeral program.

Ask the family before proceeding: As you are going through the funeral planning ask the family before proceeding to the next phase if they are comfortable talking about this section of the funeral arrangements. For example, many people do not want to go into the casket selection room. Mentally it is too hard on them to have had their husband/wife/parent living the night before and today they are putting them in a casket. Asking shows consideration for their loss. It shows that you care. If they are not comfortable show them a picture in a book or suggest you pick one out for them. Perhaps they would like to come back the next day to make a selection, or suggest cremation.

Share stories that relate: Share your stories that relate to their stories. If you had a friend who died who loved to fish you could share that story. However, be aware that it is not helpful for you to talk about your own personal problems to the family. Remember, this is first and foremost about them, not about you.

Touch the families: It is okay to shake hands, give hugs, and pats on the back. People know then that you care. When you greet people it is an okay to gently and briefly touch them. Some older men feel most comfortable with a handshake. Women are okay with hugs from other ladies and handshakes from the men. It is a judgment call. The most important thing is if you are comfortable with it they will know you mean it.

I would suggest you visit some seniors at senior living places. Many people are lonely and would love the company. You can get to know about their lives and what interests people in that age category. You might surprise yourself and find out how much you enjoy the visit too!

Ignoring a death

March 15th, 2013

Question:  I received a note from one of my families. This is not the first time I have talked to a family and heard this complaint. Do you have any insight into this situation? The family wrote:

“We have a strange question, especially when there should be more important things on our minds’ (and there are), but it is something that has upset me and my family quite a bit.  While we received many beautiful letters and cards of sympathy when my mother died, there were many people that we are close to that either haven’t sent a card or even called to acknowledge her death.

For example, my husband’s parents, who were very friendly with my parents (we spent holidays, birthdays, functions with the grandchildren together), did not call or send a card to my father until one month later.  The few times I had talked to my mother-in-law after my mom passed, she would mention that she had to get to the store to get a card, and actually said to me twice, “Better Late than Never.”  I have to tell you, I am so hurt by this behavior. Read the rest of this entry »

Moving on After the Loss of a Spouse

March 8th, 2013

How to expand your horizons after a loss but still integrate the memory of our loved one is a common theme. Your question is an excellent one. A normal process through our grief 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 I suggest you be creative! I have outlined some suggestions below that might “fit” you.

  1. 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.
  1. 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 add more gems to your 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 grief journey 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!