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Remembering A Life Blog

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Stories and inspiration to help you keep the memories of your loved ones alive

Over this past year, I’ve witnessed extensive frustration amongst bereaved persons who struggle with making the “right choice” in planning funeral services for their loved ones in these difficult times. Beginning in March, I advised grievers to try to reframe their thinking from finding “the right choice” into making the “right choice for you,” while including technological means of adapting to restrictions. By May, when it became clear that this public health crisis was not going to be resolved within a few months, I also began encouraging grievers to think instead about making the “right choice for now” and then the “right choice for later.”   Additionally, I always tell grieving families that regardless of the service they planned during this year – a private burial, a small funeral with virtual attendees, or no service at all – it is never too late to hold a memorial service for their loved one, regardless of whether or not they already held a funeral.

Love and loss are inextricably linked phenomena. Without one, we do not truly experience the other. In this year of mourning, we must remember and hold fast to love – both the love we shared with those who have died, as well as the love we give to and receive from those who bring joy to our lives.

Children learn about life and loss through fiction. It’s a safe place for them to identify with a character and see the decisions that character makes, along with the consequences. It’s where they can vicariously feel loss and examine those emotions. More importantly, they bond with the person with whom they are sharing the story.

How To Process A Loss Due To Overdose

Loving someone who struggles with drug addiction can be painful. Losing someone to those struggles can bring a pain unimaginable to those who have not experienced that type of loss themselves. Moving forward after losing a loved one to drug overdose is no simple feat. This can bring up a wide range of emotions—some of which may be predictable, and others unexpected.

Traditionally the purpose of home altars are for memorials or monuments to the dead. They serve to both help us remember and grieve the pain of the loss through the act of creating. Today, home altars are used by both religious and non-religious persons as a sacred space to focus our minds and engage in reflection and appreciation of a connection to something greater than ourselves.

A Look at Loneliness

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased our awareness of the problem of loneliness. We were lonely before the novel coronavirus arose, and we’re even lonelier since routine social distancing, isolation, and quarantining became unfortunate necessities. Today loneliness is a crisis that cuts across cultures, continents, and classes. Britain has added a Minister for Loneliness to its federal government. In the United States, thirty-five percent of adults over the age of 45 report feeling lonely. In one recent Cigna survey, over half of Americans said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well. And young people are lonely, too. Some studies have found that Millennials and Generation Z are the loneliest of all.

The Often Neglected Grieving Young Adult

I’ve been a bereavement care professional, working with thousands of children and adults for almost two decades. I’ve bared witness to many beginning their journey with grief, hopelessly, and watched as their grief transformed to hopeful individuals living a more meaningful and thoughtful life.  Until my child matured into a young adult, it never occurred to me that I worked with very few young adults. I seldom pondered on this missed demographic until our family grieved alongside a mom and her two daughters, 16 and 18 respectively, after their father died by suicide; then shortly thereafter, another family’s son, of age 21, was hit by a drunk driver leaving his parents and 17 year old sister to grieve. Fortunately, my experience as a bereavement care professional and friend allowed me to be helpful. But it was evident that few resources were available for these emerging young adults.

Creating an Essence Tree

Symbolically, trees represent our growth and development through life. Roots are our foundation, the trunk our source of strength and power. Limbs represent our talents and abilities. And leaves are the many manifestations of our gifts, the results of flowering or producing in the world. The enduring beauty and stillness of trees invite us to absorb their essence so that we can gain understanding of who we are. Several years ago I developed an art workshop called “Creating an Essence Tree” based on tree symbolism. I have reconfigured the original self-exploration-based workshop as a grief support activity. As a grief support activity, the essence of your relationship with your loved one and the essential elements of your loss experience – emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, change in circumstances and more - can find visual voice in the making of an essence tree.  Your tree can be depicted realistically, metaphorically or symbolically, and the meaning conveyed as marks, lines, shapes, colors textures or images on any part of your art creation: background, roots, trunk, limbs or leaves.

Surviving Suicide Stigma

One of the greatest challenges to surviving a suicide death loss and moving forward in one’s grief is the prevalent and damaging stigma that continues to be associated with this cause of death. This stigma is complicated by public misunderstanding of suicide, long-held myths about suicide, and the problematic language used to talk about suicide and the deceased. Moving forward with a suicide death loss is one of the most difficult experiences we may face in our lives, but if we can begin to unpack and understand the roots of the stigma that clings to suicide in our culture, we may become more empowered to challenge them and attain some healing in our personal bereavement.

Surviving Suicide Loss

In 2018, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. That statistic alone is troubling, but suicide is also the second leading cause of death for Americans ages 10-34, and the fourth leading cause of death for those ages 35-54. While we do not yet have a complete picture of the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on suicide deaths, experts agree that the many stressors and complications to physical safety, social interaction, financial status, and mental wellbeing may well culminate in an even greater rise in suicide deaths than we’ve seen over the last decade. While the prevalence of suicide in our culture is in itself tragic, the grief of losing a loved one to suicide is often overwhelmingly isolating and, literally, unspeakable. After the death of a loved one to suicide, we may feel untethered from our understanding of the world, encased in shock that weighs on us like a block of ice, only to reach out for support that we may not receive.