Tracy Lee

Recent Articles

My “To Do” List

Wow, it is the first week of November and already, I feel the pressures of holiday preparation.  The holiday season is a lot of work and I cannot imagine not having my husband beside me, helping me with all of the details and stresses that go into this time of year.  Party planning, festive clothing, and holiday hair are already topping my list of things I must do this week.  I have added a new category to my list this year; it is service. Year after year, I worry and pray for those who mourn and for those who have been forgotten in nursing homes, hospitals, and assisted living facilities.  I usually add these souls to my Christmas card list and hope that they enjoy a little cheer upon receiving it.  This year, I have decided to change that practice.  I have decided to take the time to actually do something for them.  I have decided to provide service to them.  
GRIEF BRIEF 58
SPECIAL DAYS
 

Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and especially the yearly loss anniversary are extremely stressful for 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. Continue Reading →

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Distracters and Maskers

Following the loss of one’s child, the worst death experience, in my opinion, would be multiple or stacked deaths.  I have assisted families who have lost as many as six members in quick succession.  A situation where multiple family members die all at once or close together is usually unexpected and very difficult to accept. Recovery from multiple or stacked deaths is complicated and generally, requires assistance for those suffering the tragedy.  In these scenarios, survivors may choose to try dealing with them as one loss rather than several.  In other cases, the pain may be so great that survivors choose to ignore them all together.  Both recovery scenarios are unhealthy and invite extreme complications. When a survivor tries to ignore a death, he/she will generally incorporate distracters or maskers into his/her life.  
Grief Brief 88
Distracters and Maskers
 

Some mourners try to minimize or avoid their grief with distracters and/or maskers.  Popular distracters include food, excessive exercise, anger, isolation, sex, shopping, work, movies, books, and TV.  Popular maskers include alcohol, prescription medications, over the counter or illegal drugs. Prolonged self-medicating is never an appropriate treatment.  It in no way contributes to recovery.  Under these circumstances, self-medicating has a tendency to take control of your life and infuse all sorts of collateral damage physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Continue Reading →

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A Family’s Love

Quite often when I direct out of town services, I will arrange for my clients to have their visitation and funeral on the same day; one immediately following the other. Doing so saves my client money, as I am not staying in hotels more nights than necessary, nor am I forced to bill them for non-productive hours. Last week, I directed such a service. My husband and I rose early and set out on our way across the great state of Texas. It was a peaceful morning as the sun rose over the majestic Texas landscape. Continue Reading →

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Always Be Prepared

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 →

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My Two Friends

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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Millennial Grief

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

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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Special Occasions

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
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 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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Denying Denial

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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Stone Service

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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