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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

I was so incredibly fortunate to have a mother with whom I could always easily communicate. We let it all hang out, all the time. And it didn’t hurt that we were both naturally curious women and incessant talkers who loved sharing stories about our lives over dinner, on car rides, while we were watching TV or cooking together. I never really had to create an agenda to ask her about her life, and since she was young and healthy, never really thought that I would have to. I thought we had guaranteed time.

Parting With a Loved One’s Belongings

After a loved one dies we are often assigned the task by circumstance or desire of clearing out their home and getting rid of their things. The task can seem overwhelming: What do I do with all of this stuff? How do I know what to keep and what to get rid of?

What true self-care in grief means to me

August 2020 marks three years since A died.  For the last two years, I would plan my whole month of August in great detail in order to reclaim a sense of control over my grief but this year, Covid-19 has made that difficult for me.  A cancelled trip to Greece left me with no plans for how to honour A on the third anniversary of his passing.  Instead of traveling and getting together with loved ones, I’ve decided to share some of the lessons that I have learned through loving and losing A. In death, just as he was in life, A remains one of my greatest teachers. These lessons have transcended his passing and continue to influence the way I choose to carry my life forward.

If someone you love has died as a result of an overdose, your grief experience will be even more complex, and it can be complicated by the factors surrounding your relationship with your loved one, the way in which they died, and the responses you receive from others in your life. Complicating those “expected” grief emotions might be intensified anger – at your loved one; at yourself; at friends or family who ignored or enabled your loved one’s substance use; at medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies; or at people in your loved one’s life who supplied drugs or supported their substance use. Similarly, the sadness commonly felt after a death loss may feel more overwhelming due to the sudden and traumatic nature of an overdose death, while the loneliness many survivors experience could become isolating if your grief is unrecognized or unsupported.

For many caregivers, COVID-19 has been a nonstop wrecking ball. It has swung back and forth across the globe, decimating families and communities. And who’s there in the midst of the ongoing crisis, providing care to the hundreds of thousands of sick, dying, dead, and grieving people? The professional caregivers. The nurses, long-term care workers, doctors, funeral directors, hospice staff, social workers, EMTs, and other critical frontline workers whose vocations place them squarely in the wrecking ball’s path.

How we remember a loved one is both a reflection and part of the grieving process. At a funeral or life celebration, our spoken remembrances are often shaped by social etiquette which dictates that only funny or touching or positive memories be shared. For those closest to the deceased, these remembrances can sometimes feel at odds with recent memories of the suffering our loved one experienced at the end of life, a suffering we may have vicariously experienced with them.

Contained within the storehouse of the memories of your loved one is a legacy of values. That legacy is expressed in the things you say, do and believe today due to the impact your relationship with your loved has had on your life. Writing about your loved one in the context of a legacy of values offers you a way to speak from the heart and share with others the life lessons, values, blessings, hopes and dreams bequeathed to you by your loved one.

When someone we love has experienced a loss, we may struggle to communicate our support effectively. Often, my undergraduate students as well as attendees at workshops approach me with their stories of grieving loved ones, culminating with statements such as, “I didn’t know what to say to help,” or “I had such a hard time finding the right words.” It is unsurprising that many of us might feel stumped sometimes in verbalizing our support to grieving loved ones, because we ourselves may not have received helpful communication during our own experiences of loss. We might lean on “sympathy scripts,” such as “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “thoughts and prayers,” while recognizing, with a feeling of discomfort, how little support these scripts may provide to grievers.

Storytelling gives us the power to transform the written word into lasting memories that can be enjoyed for generations to come. In part one of our storytelling series, Elizabeth Lewis establishes a framework for successful storytelling.

Five Tips for Talking to Children about Death

I often get asked, “Is it difficult to be a funeral director?” Yes, it can be. But also, being a funeral director and serving families during their most difficult times is an honor and a privilege. For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to care for others. Funerals are an important part of grieving, for both adults and children, and I take a special interest in meeting the needs of children. Funerals offer us a time to say our last good-byes and help start the realization that a loved one is no longer with us physically. Two questions I often get from parents are, “Should my child attend a funeral,” and “How do I talk to my child about death and the events to come?”