When I was a young girl, I went on a “Daddy Daughter Date” with my father, sponsored through our church. There were many girls and fathers there, and the evening was filled with fun, games, and activities. I enjoyed that evening so immensely, that even now, forty-seven years later, I still recall with clarity the fun we had, and the lessons my father taught me. We played several games and participated in many activities, but one, in particular, comes to mind. The director of the event had the fathers and daughters pair up for three-legged sack races. As my father and I pulled the sack over our legs, my father hugged me tightly around the shoulders, securely wrapped my arm around his waist, and with his free hand gathered all of the sack’s slack synching it within his grip. He whispered in my ear, “When the starting bell sounds, take off with your sacked leg first.” I was so excited and as the starting bell sounded; my dad and I immediately took the lead. We finished the race in first place. As I turned to see who would finish second, I saw girls and their dads all over the field, falling as they struggled out of sync with each other. Their lack of preparation and cooperation was evident and catastrophic. I have never forgotten that lesson. In a brief second, before the race began, my father took a moment to prepare me for what was going to happen. With that knowledge, and working together, we were able to run the race efficiently, avoid injury to our bodies, battle our foes with composure, and cross the finish line victoriously. This race demonstrates how a little knowledge, preparation, and cooperation kept us safe and helped us win our objective. The same holds true in all of life’s battles, especially grief. As we travel through life, we take the time to prepare for each of life’s milestones. We go to class and study for tests in preparation for graduation. We date and enter into an engagement to prepare for eternal commitment to our beloved. During pregnancy, I ate healthy foods and worked out vigorously in anticipation of delivery. My husband worked and sought promotions in his field of labor to provide for his family. Why would we not protect and prepare ourselves for loss as we do for gain? Continue Reading →
This past week, I had two dear friends visit me. The first was a friend who is anticipating her husband’s death. As we discussed his wishes and her finances, she would momentarily pause for composure. I could see that his looming death weighed heavily on her heart. As it happens, my first friend and my second friend are also friends. My second friend lost her husband earlier this year. As I was visiting with my first friend, I suggested that my second friend would be a good resource for her as she traverses this experience. She commented with great concern that my second friend was not doing so well. Two days later, my second friend came by the funeral home for assistance. She is the widow of a retired Air Force Veteran. Her husband died nine months ago. She needed my help to complete a form sent to her by the Veteran’s Administration (VA). Prior to her husband’s death, renovations were underway in their home. Since his death, the roof has begun leaking. When he died, his retirement income ceased. From that day forward, she has applied for reimbursement for his funeral expenses and her promised “Widow’s Pension.” Neither has materialized. The VA just keeps sending more and more forms to be completed, over and over again. When my second friend arrived at the funeral home, I could see instantly that she was demoralized. The grief she suffers over the loss of her 60 plus year sweetheart has devastated her. The grief she suffers from the incompetence and lack of concern from the VA is inconceivable. For nine months, my friend has lived with a leak in her roof. That leak, which began as an easy fix, is now a tremendous problem. The beams in her attic are now severely damaged, the insulation is ruined, the drywall and paint have started pealing and falling, the flooring is buckling, the subfloor is swollen, and the support beams that once supported the weight of her home have now rotted and her home is no longer level. She bathes out of a metal washtub as the renovation on her bathroom stopped midstream upon her husband’s death. Without her widow’s pension, she does not have the funds to restore her home. She barely has the funds to keep her power on and food in her belly. Yet, after nine months, the VA continues to require her to resubmit the same information she has submitted time and time again. Winter is coming and I worry whether she will be able to afford adequate heat for her home. Continue Reading →
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Recently, I have received several correspondences asking a question similar to the following, “Why does losing your loved one hurt so much after three years?” Last night I read a post online, written by one of my dear cousins. She was grieving the sixth year anniversary of her mother’s loss. Her heart remains completely broken and her loneliness cuts like a knife. In an attempt to help survivors who are concerned about lengthy grief, I have composed the attached response. Losing a loved one is a very personal and exceedingly painful experience. Continue Reading →
Millennials grieve differently than previous generations. Their lives have been remarkably different from their predecessors. Therefore, it is reasonable that their manner of expression, as well as, their way of digesting and reacting to information and events, will be different too. Millennials have grown up with instant information and instant gratification. My daughter, a Gen-Y girl, calls Millennials the, “Instant Oat-Mealers.” She hypothesizes, “They have grown up with instant friends, instant information, and instant gratification at their fingertips. Continue Reading →
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Hustle and bustle during the holiday season are expected, however, when a loved one is ill and nearing death, hustle and bustle are not at all welcome. The confusion of loss makes life difficult enough without having to summon up extra energy for added tasks and concerns. To this end, it is important that one consider pre-planning, to the degree possible, prior to their loved one’s death. When one is called upon to care for a dying loved one, one must put other aspects of life on hold. There is no longer time for simple pleasures, socializing, or vacations. The primary focus of life becomes tending and caring for the dying loved one. At this juncture, funeral planning is by far the most distasteful duty one might face if it has not been previously addressed. Due to the discomfort of the caregiver, he or she might continue to put off this duty until the time of death inevitably arrives. Under such circumstances, the caregiver at this point has generally depleted nearly all of their abilities to cope with additional stress and confusion. Unfortunately, death’s accompanying influences are exactly these concerns. Death and grief cloud the mind with confusion. As a survival tactic, the mind will invoke denial. Denial numbs the senses. Without this numbing effect, the survivor’s pain would be so great that his or her own death would become an instant concern. The clouding of the survivor’s reality allows him or her to continue living through this very difficult and extremely painful experience. Unfortunately, if decisions surrounding the events that accompany death have not been discussed or planned, the survivor will be faced with them at a time when his or her brain is functioning at a lower than usual capacity. These decisions will have a profound impact on family and friends as they enter their grief experience and continue on with them as they pass through life. They are important decisions, legal decisions, and may very well be expensive decisions. Decisions such as these are better made with a clear mind rather than a cloudy one. If you find yourself in this situation, please take a moment and ask your loved one these few simple questions. His or her answers will make your life infinitely less stressful at the time of their passing.
Have you pre-planned your funeral services? Continue Reading →
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My mother has been in a hospital and/or nursing home now for a full month. Somehow, these past thirty days seem nearer to ninety, if not more. My days have become lead filled boots strapped to my feet as I trudge through my daily responsibilities. No matter how hard I push myself, it seems that it is never enough. My mother’s needs are extensive, and of course, I want her to have all that is necessary and available, in order that we might reap a positive outcome, once her health is restored. Changes have been applied to her life of which she is yet unaware. I worry how these changes will be accepted. Some I do not expect will meet with merry compliance, while others may be readily applied without grievance. Although I yearn for her release from these medical facilities, my apprehension of her displeasure for certain of these changes is great. I find lately that the stress associated with my mother’s possible disapproval over the new confines of her freedoms, and the additional demands upon my time to care for her, have taken a noticeable toll upon my own health. I seem less able to adapt as I would prefer to changes within my work and personal life. This concerns me as I enjoy a relaxed attitude rather than nervousness. My primary focus during all of this is that I want my mother’s health restored. I do not want to see her die in the near future. I want her life to be as comfortable as possible. I want her to enjoy as much freedom as possible, and I do not want to do anything that might cause me any regrets when her time of death comes. As a death care professional, I know that regret and guilt hamper grief recovery. When my mother dies, I want to see her buried deep within the earth, and know that I did all that I could to make her final stage of life as comfortable, and enjoyable as possible. When I lay my head upon my pillow at night, I want only sweet memories to console my heartbreak, not thoughts of what I might have done better for her. I want to know that I loved my mother, that she loved me without reserve, and that my behavior was all that she would have hoped it would be, as she exhaled her final breath. Continue Reading →
Today was an important day for my cousin’s grandson. He hit a milestone in his young life. At church, my cousin said that she was so very proud of her grandson for the efforts he has made to achieve this honor being bestowed upon him, and grateful that her uncle had driven three hours to witness it with her. She continued with a slight hesitation, “But the day is bittersweet as I greatly miss my deceased father today. I wish that he were here to bestow this honor upon my grandson and help him grow in strength and honor as he becomes a young man.”
Special occasions can present difficult situations for survivors. We are excited and happy for the anticipated event, however, our joy may be somewhat over shadowed by the heartbreak we experience, present through the absence of those we love who have gone on before us. Grief Brief 58
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 understanding and support on these days. (Mourning Light, Tracy Lee, 2016)
The Grief Brief above points to the fact that special days may be difficult, however, one may add to it the fact that future events, especially those that would have traditionally involved the decedent, will likewise draw upon the survivor’s heartstrings. What then does a survivor do to overcome their heartache and join the celebrations accompanying milestone achievements? Let us look at my cousin’s case. Continue Reading →
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My mother’s health is failing. She may be gone from us soon. She is very sad and wants her children by her side at all times. She recently suffered a disastrous 11-day hospital stay following what was supposed to be a day surgery. From the hospital, she was released into a nursing home for two days. I was going grocery shopping early Saturday morning, August 5, 2017, as my cupboards were nearly bare from having spent most of the past 13 days at the hospital and nursing home with my mother. As I neared the freeway exit, however, I felt compelled to remain on route, and rather than finding myself at the grocery store, I found myself walking into my mother’s room to check on her. I saw that her eyes were closed. Softly, I called out to her in order that I not to wake her, should she be sleeping. She stirred slightly, so I touched her hand with mine. Faintly, she uttered, “I’m crying.” I was so startled by her statement that I didn’t know exactly what to say to her. In confusion, I asked, “Mom?” With eyes still closed, she grabbed my hand so tightly. She could barely speak. Between sobs, she cried, “I’m dying.” In dismay, I asked in disbelief, “What?” “I want my children here with me. I’m dying.” She sobbed. I immediately reached for my phone with my free hand. Trying to calm my mother, I sent out a text to my siblings, “Hurry here. Mother is very upset. She wants us all here. She is afraid she is dying. She is crying.” I noticed my mother was having some sort of involuntary repetitive twitching. It seemed to be rapidly increasing in severity, so I immediately ran to get a nurse. As the nurse and I reentered my mother’s room, things were not going very well. My mother had gone from bad to worse and needed immediate assistance. The nurse ran out into the hallway and began shouting out names. Apparently, the aids she called out for were not responding quickly enough because she ended her plea with, “anyone”, and ran back into my mother’s room. Continue Reading →
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Yesterday, my husband and I directed a funeral for a young man in an Historical Texas Cemetery. We arrived for the committal service one hour before the scheduled start time. Our service set up was accomplished quickly, so we began looking at the grave markers within the cemetery. Old Liberty Cemetery received Texas historical status in part by containing “Veterans, both men, and women, of six wars…The War of 1812, the Blackhawk War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and World Wars I and II.” (State Historical Marker, 1997) In walking the cemetery, I found markers from later wars as well. Old Liberty Cemetery is a very old cemetery. Unfortunately, ancient cemeteries sometimes suffer from low funding, and therefore, fall into a state of low maintenance. As my husband and I walked the cemetery and photographed the historical Veteran markers, we noticed that many of them stood in need of maintenance and repair. Stones dating so far back in history may no longer have family members who are aware of their relation to them, or family members who may not be physically able to maintain them.
There are sometimes groups who will organize a service project for cemeteries. Scout troops, churches, and historical organizations will often select a cemetery to scrub and level stones in need of maintenance. It is not necessary, however, to belong to an organized group to render such a needed service to great American heroes. My husband and I plan to return to Old Liberty Cemetery this weekend. We will scrub and remove debris from the gravestones of our nation’s heroes who rest there. If you find yourself in a cemetery that has American Veteran’s gravestones in need of maintenance, you might consider rendering this service. It is a good idea to notify the cemetery sexton of your intentions. He or she will advise you of acceptable maintenance methods and available times for your service. Depending on the size of the project, you might even consider organizing a work party for the event. If you would like to join a group or organize one, I have found that the website, aptly named, “JustServe.org” is a wonderful resource. Rendering service is uniquely American. No other nation compares to the American standard of offering humanitarian aid, assistance, and rendering service to those in need. The American military is very often the means by which this aid, assistance, and service are delivered to other nations. If you find it in your heart to give back to those who have served and protected our nation, and who may have likewise rendered service abroad, consider dedicating your weekend to veteran gravestone maintenance. It will be a worthwhile use of your time. Continue Reading →
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Today is a stressful day for me. My mother had surgery this morning. She is not doing quite as well as we had hoped. She remains on a ventilator, as she is unable to breathe for herself. I set my alarm clock for an early morning and drove to the city where her surgery was taking place. Continue Reading →