Mourning Coffee with Tracy Lee

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Death Anniversary

Mourning Coffee, by Tracy Renee Lee

Last year my best friend’s husband died.  We are now approaching the anniversary of his death.  With that in mind, I have been searching for a gift to send her to help her through what is going to be a difficult month.  I want something that I know she will love, something that will bring her comfort, and something that will help her get through the pain she will experience as the dreadful day nears. 

Grief Brief 58

Special Days

Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and especially the yearly loss anniversary are extremely stressful for the survivors of loss. The anticipation of these important dates may sometimes be worse than the day itself. If you have a close friend or relative, it may be a good idea to let them know that you might need extra understand and support on these days. (Mourning Light, 2016)

Of course, you can’t have a best friend who has a fabulous husband and not love him as well.  My best friend’s husband was such a rare sort of man.  What I loved most about him was the intensity of his love for her, his unrestricted consideration for her, and his attentiveness for his family.  These are honorable qualities in a husband, and Steve had them all. As luck would have it, Steve and my husband were best friends too.  Having your best friend’s husband as your husband’s best friend makes life very agreeable.  Outings, vacations, and times spent together were always great experiences.  I miss my best friend’s husband.  I miss my best friend with her husband.  I worry about her incessantly. Continue Reading →

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His Dying Wish

I met with the widow and her sons to plan her husband’s funeral services.  She was a soft-spoken, genteel woman.  As we stood to select the casket, I saw her falter.  Her strength was weakening.  We returned to our seats and began planning the details of the services. 

Her husband was a well-known man in town, yet asked her to limit his services.  As our time together progressed, I understood his request.  She is in no way strong enough to host the social gatherings surrounding the death of a loved one.  She is elderly and taking life-sustaining medications that rob her of her energy and vitality. Tonight will be his visitation.  People are calling the funeral home, asking all sorts of questions about the memorial events planned on his behalf.  The visitation is only for one hour.  Many are disappointed about the limit of time.  Her husband knew, though, that she would not be up to the rigors that their friends might place on her.  He preempted their demands by requesting that she limit his services.  Even as he laid dying in pain, and preparing to meet his maker, his thoughts were of her and her health.  He knew his darling wife, kind and frail with genteel manners, would try to appease everyone without personal regard. Sometimes traditions can be demanding at an inopportune time.  This is the case with this family.  Should the widow accommodate the community, she would become very ill and suffer immense exhaustion.  Her friends do not mean to put undue stress on her; they simply want to pay their respects.  After all, they too have lost someone special to them.  They are unaware of the danger these events impose upon her health. In such cases, it becomes the responsibility of extended family members, or the funeral director, to protect a survivor who is in danger of becoming ill from overextending themselves.  Loss is a dangerous time for survivors.  They are sometimes unable to eat regularly, forget to take their medications, they may be unable to rest, and quite often, become dehydrated.  These issues can be very dangerous; even life-threatening for survivors who are already weak from the rigors of caring for their loved one prior to death’s arrival. Tonight we shall place a comfy chair close to her husband’s casket where she can greet her guests without rising for hugs and condolences.  I shall stand beside her, protecting her from the rigors of her daunting task.  I hope I shall be able to uphold her husband’s wish of protecting her from her impeccable manners of grace and propriety.  She deserves that, and it was her husband’s dying wish. Continue Reading →

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Grief Recovery – Mikey Joe 12

Mourning Coffee, by Tracy Renee Lee

Part of my workload today was to reformat a book that I wrote some time ago. As I neared the end of the book, I came to the pages that contain articles written about a dear friend of mine who died years ago. Once I finished my task of reformatting, I realized that I had accomplished my work without overwhelming sadness. 

I was quite impressed as I realized that I am at last able to read articles about my dear friend without heartache. Grief recovery is a wonderful milestone. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, how long it will be until I can read about, or reflect upon, the loss of my beloved grandson Mikey Joe, without overwhelming sadness. Continue Reading →

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My Difficult Friend

Mourning Coffee, by Tracy Renee Lee

Yesterday, as I was working in my office, one of my assistants asked me if she should publish a memory submitted on our website.  I asked her why she wouldn’t, and she read this submission to me. ” Helen was her youngest sister, not her daughter.  She was my “difficult” Aunt.  She was lonely because she was the meanest person anyone ever met.  No one could stand (to be) around her.  She did her best to ruin her daughter’s life and actually succeeded.  There are no warm gentle memories of her because she lacked the ability to be compassionate or kind or loving.  My uncle said she was mean because she was raised by their grandparents.  I don’t know what that means.  She was a toxic human and even (though) her faith was strong I will never believe she learned what it meant to be a loving kind human.” (QueenCityFuneralHome.com/Obituaries)

 It just so happens, that the woman whom this writer describes was a friend of mine.  I buried her a few years ago.  Upon her death, I wrote an article about her entitled “A Difficult Woman.”  While my friend was indeed a difficult woman, she was not mean.  At least, in the latter years of her life, when I became friends with her, her meanness was gone.  She did, however; remain awkward and somewhat unapproachable. 

The issue for my friend was that as her mortality became a looming reality, she desired to make amends with those whom she had become estranged.  Unfortunately, during that last stage of life, she lacked the social skills and physical strength to obtain her goal.  In her innermost self, however, my friend wanted friends, she tried her very best to be friendly.  Unfortunately,  my friend did not know how to become the person she so desperately wanted to be; an approachable, friendly person. I instructed my assistant to publish the posting.  Although the words are unflattering to my friend, she probably earned them.   As she is deceased, her niece’s words will not harm her, however, not publishing them would stifle the writer’s recovery from the pain of grief, the sting of abuse, and the opportunity of peace. 

My friend may not have been the kindest woman to her niece.  However, knowing her as I did, I know that although she would have found it difficult to express her sorrow for her dreadful actions toward her niece, she would have wanted me to assist her survivors in any way possible to recover from any ill behavior she may have imposed during her lifetime. 

GRIEF BRIEF 35

FROZEN IMPERFECTION

While it is true that none of us is perfect, at the moment of death, imperfection is frozen. Unfinished business remains unfinished; estrangement remains estranged, meanness remains mean, etc. Death robs the living of the opportunity for resolution and blocks the comfort of peace. Continue Reading →

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Funeral Service – A Life Changer

Mourning Coffee, by Tracy Renee Lee

Funeral Service is a unique business. A funeral director meets her clients on the worst day of their lives and helps them traverse the daunting task of laying significant loved ones to rest. There are many decisions that must be made that affect the estate in which the survivor may now reside, legal issues involving wealth, dependents, and beneficiaries, and events that usher in and establish the effectiveness of closure, as well as the grief experience in general. These decisions are often made under the information shared through the knowledge and experience of one’s funeral director. For these reasons, it is immensely important that a funeral director is well informed, educated, and abreast of current trends, regulations, and laws. Continue Reading →

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Death Occurs when Life Ends

Mourning Coffee, by Tracy Renee Lee

 I was reading an article this weekend about a prominent woman who recently miscarried her baby. Upon miscarriage, she temporarily stepped out of the public limelight. The public would not accept her absence without all sorts of speculation, and thus, she came forward to explain herself and save her reputation. The miscarriage of a wee babe creates an emotional and sometimes psychological nightmare for the mother, father, siblings, grandparents, and others close to the immediate family. A tragedy has occurred within this small circle of human beings, and an appropriate amount of time is required for healing and recovery. Continue Reading →

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Mikey Joe 10 – Yanked

As I was researching bereavement this weekend, I stumbled across an article written by a mother who had lost her young son.  As I read the article, the reality of losing my grandson, Mikey Joe, last year was yanked forward in my mind, and my eyes welled with tears.  Near the end of the article, I realized that my heart not only hurt for the author, but for myself and my darling daughter, as despair filled my soul. GRIEF BRIEF 176YANKEDGrief is all-consuming; it is no respecter of persons or time.  You may have several weeks of great recovery and suddenly find yourself in the pitfalls of despair.This is a normal response.Eventually, despair and loneliness will be replaced with kind and fond memories.Even so, you will be yanked back from time to time by the least little insignificant thing.  (Mourning Light II, Tracy Renee Lee)

The mother in the article wrote about the heartache she sustained and the impossibilities associated with continuing on in life as though nothing of significance had happened to her.  The holidays were of particular concern, and she wanted people to understand that she could be thankful for her blessings, and heartbroken by her circumstances at the same moment.  Her heart yearned to hear her child’s name spoken out loud by those who knew and loved her, but people were too afraid to say it. 

GRIEF BRIEF 212SAYING AND HEARING YOUR LOVED ONE’S NAMESaying and hearing your loved one’s name is essential to grief recovery.Unfortunately, friends, family, and acquaintances are unaware that speaking your loved one’s name actually has a healing effect and therefore avoid the mere mention of it.For those who have not endured significant loss, avoidance seems the natural discipline.  Help them overcome this awkward concept by being the ice breaker.  Consciously strive to be the first person at any event to say your loved one’s name.  Offer a story or interesting fact about him or her so that everyone will feel more at ease and will feel free to engage in comforting conversation without fear of increasing your anguish.At first, this practice may be incredibly difficult.  You may shed tears or need to pause as tender feelings tear at your soul.  Doing this, however, may increase the speed of your recovery and assist you in moving yourself into your new reality much quicker than expected.  (Mourning Light III, Tracy Renee Lee)

It is unfortunate that friends, family, and acquaintances fear mentioning the name of a decedent or speaking about your loss.  In their efforts to spare your feelings, they have accomplished the exact opposite.  The act of ignoring your pain actually increases it.  There is no escaping the reality of your loss, but others do not know how to approach you or what to say to you.  Unfortunately, the discomfort and awkwardness of those who care for you are part of your reality. GRIEF BRIEF 213MISCONCEPTION OF KINDNESSWhen loss has occurred, family, friends, and acquaintances are afraid of sharing memories of the decedent as they fear that sharing them will cause the survivor increased loneliness and pain.It is not their fault that they do not understand your healing needs.    In reality, hearing and sharing loving, funny, awkward, and even touching memories of your decedent encourage the healing powers of recovery.Because the tradition of such conversation has long been accepted as impertinent and merciless, the only way to correct this misconception is for the bereft to educate those about them.   As a survivor, you must realize that you are the expert of your recovery needs.  Those around you are at a disadvantage of not knowing what to say or do to help you.  Therefore, in an attempt of kindness, they quite often say and do nothing.It is time for this “Misconception of Kindness” to be exposed for what it truly is.   Ignoring and acting as though a survivor’s loss is conversationally taboo magnifies their isolation and associated pain.  (Mourning Light III, Tracy Renee Lee)

My weekend was dappled with tender moments of missing and longing for the sweet touch of my beloved grandson, Mikey Joe.  Through it, however, I realized that recovery, although slow in fruition, has planted its much longed for glorious seed. My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a Certified Grief Counselor (GC-C), Funeral Director (FDIC), published author, syndicated columnist, and co-founder of the “Mikey Joe Children’s Memorial” and Heaven Sent, Corp. Continue Reading →

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The Absence of Your Funeral

My daughters and I love watching old Doris Day movies.  She was so talented, beautiful, and sang with the voice of a lark.  Now that my daughters have daughters of their own, our tradition of watching Doris Day continues throughout the generations of our family. 

We were saddened to hear last month that Doris Day had died.  She was a great lady and a stalwart cynophilist.  Unfortunately, the latter years of her life were sad and reclusive.  As such, she requested no funeral and no grave marker upon her death.  Doris Day leaves surviving decedents and a large fan base to grieve her loss without closure.  She unknowingly robbed many of them of the essential elements of healing. Less than a year ago another great entertainer died, Aretha Franklin.  Ms. Franklin went out with a bang.  Her services were attended by former US Presidents, Governors, Athletes, Entertainers, and Religious figures.  Her body was displayed in high diva fashion with wardrobe changes expressing her concept of life and how it should be lived.  Her family, friends, and fans had ample opportunities to pay their respects, realize the reality of her death, and begin their recovery journey.  

The differences between the two star’s funerals are noteworthy.  They represent their concepts on life, self-value, and love.  Doris Day was well loved, but she felt that life had abandoned her in so many aspects; therefore, in death, she abandoned the living by taking a quiet, non-eventful exit out of stage door left.  She displayed her self-worth as small and did not understand her value to those who remained ever loving and respectful from afar.  Sadly, her perceptions may have been the result of physiological manipulation.  Aretha Franklin lived her life and its tragedies wide open.  She shared her story as it happened, as well as, the close of her life with everyone.  She created a celebration that included all who had ever loved her.  All were welcome, and no one was left out.  She set the stage for those left behind to know that she loved them,  appreciated the life they had shared with her, and that even though she was gone from them, her life, talents, and spiritual gifts were celebrations for all to continue experiencing. Everyone has the right to choose their end of life services; however, it would be prudent to realize that your services are not for you.  Your end of life services are for those whom you leave behind, those who must continue on without the comfort and security of your presence, and for those who have no assurances, only memories, of your love and influences.  Your death, depending on how you chose to present it, can shore up the lives of your survivors and give them confidence in their future, or it can rip the ground right out from under them and shred their confidence into a nightmare of pathological psychosis. 

Some argue that friends and family who did not visit them, or who may have offended them, should not have the privilege of farewell.  Why is this concept irrational?  The answer is simple: upon your death, a realization of finality wakes up the hearts of those who might not have realized that their absence or their actions were hurtful to you.  Suddenly, the security of your being is gone from them, and your living influence no longer resides in the same dimension as they do.  These realizations can be earth shattering and might potentially retard success or growth in your survivors.  Indeed, such actions can even lead to additional deaths among those whom you hold, or held, dear. 

Furthermore, you may have misunderstood the reasons or causes for particular survivor’s absences from you or actions toward you.  What may have seemed menial to you may have been survival for them.  Contrarily, what may have seemed monumental to you may have seemed minuscule to your survivors.  At any rate, as we mature and move toward life’s end, it is incumbent upon us to adhere to a higher purpose, realize that our time was not inconsequential to those whom we leave behind, and prepare for our legacy to enhance, not hinder, those lives who have been within our influence. 

Our duty or purpose in life is to improve it for ourselves and others as we travel toward our inevitable end of days.  The measure of our legacy is the degree of life’s improvements realized by those who survive our loss.  If we rob those who may need a final opportunity to clear their souls from potential anguish or growth, no matter what our accomplishments, our legacy is incomplete and our purpose less effective.  What a failure of purpose when one becomes exactly whom they resent simply by mirroring the distasteful behavior. Although the absence of funeral services may injure survivors, it is not my opinion that Miss Day forwent services in an attempt to harm anyone.  I believe that her absence of services expressed her loss of self-worth and what she perceived as a loss of esteem among her survivors and fans.  My heart breaks for the loneliness and distorted reality she endured.  If I knew her place of internment, I would purchase the plot next to her and anonymously place a monument in honor of her kindness to animals and incredible talents she unselfishly shared with those who adored her. Continue Reading →

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GRIEF BRIEF 9

Mourning Coffee, by Tracy Renee Lee

SUBJECT:  PAINFUL TRIGGERS

Some survivors will avoid places or things that trigger painful feelings of grief. 

Quick disposal of the decedent’s belongings may indicate ambivalence and can result in complicated grief. Survivors suffering extended avoidance or ambivalence might consider professional intervention. 

My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a Certified Grief Counselor (GC-C), Funeral Director (FDIC), published author, syndicated columnist, and co-founder of the “Mikey Joe Children’s Memorial” and Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and Grief BRIEFs related to understanding and coping with grief.  I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. 

It is my life’s work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com. Continue Reading →

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A Lock of Hair

My eldest daughter and her sweet family recently moved to Texas.  They reside next door.  It is wonderful to have my grandchildren so close.  My daughter has joined me at the funeral home as we are expanding this year and I need her help. As my work is now her mother’s work too, my granddaughter and I were having a conversation about funeral homes and death in general.  Last year I cremated my daughter’s mother-in-law, so my granddaughter and I were discussing cremation in particular.  I mentioned that in days gone by, people would keep a lock of their loved one’s hair upon death.  My granddaughter thought that this was an extremely odd tradition.  I explained that during the Victorian Era, women would weave and crochet a decedent’s hair into art pieces.  Also, that these art pieces grew each time another loved one passed, as their hair would be added to the arrangement in the form of a new leaf or flower.  My granddaughter was dismayed by this information.  I saved the best for last, however, and told her that for particularly significant loved ones, a woman would weave and crochet the hair locks into meticulously detailed jewelry.  My little granddaughter was absolutely appalled. We spoke about her grandmother’s death last year and the process of cremating a body.  I asked her if she had saved a lock of her grandmother’s hair?  In wonderful nine-year-old demonstrative fashion, she assured me that she certainly had not because that would “just be gross.”  I asked her, “Wouldn’t you like to have a piece of jewelry to wear, made from her hair so that you could always have part of her with you?  Then when you wanted to remember her, you could wear it or get it out and look at it?”  She replied, “Me Maw, that’s gross!  I wouldn’t wear a part of a dead person’s body as jewelry.  That’s sick.” 

 “Oh, I understand what you’re saying,” I replied.  “I agree that it is gross to wear a piece of a decedent’s body as jewelry.  That’s why it grosses me out when people wear a decedent’s cremains around their necks in little decorative containers.”

Instantly, my granddaughter jumped into defensive mode.  “Uhn uhn, Me Maw. That’s not gross.  My daddy wears a necklace with my grandmother’s cremains around his neck.”  And, that’s when it hit her. 

My granddaughter took a moment to process our conversation.  It was an excellent opportunity to teach that traditions create heritage and that just because one generation did something that may seem distasteful to us, we should not label it as unacceptable simply because we do not understand it, or it is currently unfashionable.  There are many variables to evaluate long before a judgment is made, for, or against a tradition.  Indeed, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (William Shakespeare) 

The passé tradition of wearing a lock of a loved one’s hair as jewelry, or weaving it into an art piece to hang on your wall, may currently be perceived as morbid, however during the age of Victoria, upon death, a lock of hair was all that could be sanitarily salvaged and preserved.  Today, we subscribe to the same tradition, but we substitute a lock of hair with a decedent’s cremains.  Unlike the bygone era of Victoria, today, cremation is readily available.  It is also sanitary and modernly acceptable.  For the Victorians, incinerating a loved one’s body was not at all acceptable.  It was downright barbaric. 

Today we wear cremains around our necks because the wearing of a loved one’s remains, remains an acceptable tradition of comfort and love.  Overtime, traditions enhance our existence; however, as we modernize, we revamp our traditions to suit our perceptions of palatability.  Even so, whether you wear a lock of hair, or cremains, around your neck, our tradition of doing so, is simply a rose that still smells as sweet. My name is Tracy Renee Lee. Continue Reading →

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