Grief & Healing Advice
Why Pre-planning is so important
It’s safe to say that most people feel uncomfortable when it comes to talking about death. In fact, it tends to be such an awkward topic that some people don’t take the time to discuss or even think about their own funeral.
On the surface, that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. No one wants to spend an inordinate amount of time contemplating their mortality. However, your perspective might change if you are ever involved in planning a funeral for someone else.
Planning a funeral can be agonizing, especially when the deceased loved one didn’t make any final arrangements. This leaves a great deal of difficult decision making up to grieving family members. How much money is available for the memorial service? Would their loved one have wanted a song or reading performed? Is burial or cremation preferred?
These and hundreds of related questions are likely to clamor for attention in the minds of surviving family members. Uncertainty leaves them confused at a time when they are already sad and grieving. This often leads to emotional decision making that causes them to overspend or to become mired in an endless procession of unanswerable questions.
As difficult as it is to contemplate the end of our lives on Earth, pre-planning is an essential act of love that we can perform for the people who are closest to us. By putting the process in motion long before it is needed, we ease the distress of our family at what is already a difficult time.
When you pre-plan, you make it possible for all of your wishes to be known. If you decide to work with a funeral planner, then you’ll have the ideal opportunity to make all of the major decisions that typically become so agonizing for families. For instance, you’ll be able to specify whether you prefer to be buried or cremated as well as what type of service you prefer. People who pre-plan their funeral arrangements can decide on the location, choose a casket and make decisions about the program and what music is played at any services. Many people also prepare an obituary and buy a cemetery plot.
When you plan ahead it also makes it possible to get financial matters under control. Gathering and updating all estate planning documents and other necessary paperwork definitely eases the load for grieving families. Making certain that the right people will have proper access to insurance, banking and other necessary information ensures that things go smoothly and that important details are not missed.
One of the most vital aspects of planning is discussing the existence of your plan with a close, trusted friend or family member. In fact, you may want to do so with more than one person to ensure that your wishes are well known and effectively communicated. You may also decide to rely on an attorney to hold a copy of your plan for final arrangements.
Pre-planning may also grant you a significant financial advantage. By planning and starting to pay for funeral and other arrangements today, you’ll pay at today’s prices. Since prices tend to rise over time, your pre-planning could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. That means more money that you can leave to your heirs.
Pre-planning is not a comfortable topic for most people. However, it is an important discussion to have with the family members who are closest to you. By planning with the funeral home of your choice, you can take many agonizing decisions out of the hands of your loved ones and make certain that your own wishes can be followed.
Dealing With The Loss of a Child
The loss of a child feels calamitous and overwhelming. Most parents experience a complex mix of emotions that cannot be separated. Shock, anger, sadness, denial and disbelief are often among the responses to an event that feels unnatural.
Grieving a child is not easy. In many ways, it’s not possible to ever completely put this loss in the past. Most parents continue to miss their child every day. The comforting news is that the loss becomes easier to bear over time. That’s especially true if the parent is able to be honest about their emotions and to deal with them constructively.
As the initial shock and denial pass, it’s not unusual for parents to be tortured by feelings of guilt. They wonder if things would have turned out differently if they would have made other choices. Perhaps they are angry and want to blame the other parent, the doctor or a higher power that they may see as being responsible for their loss.
All of these reactions are normal and natural. What’s more, other people have felt much the same way in similar circumstances. Some of those people are even experiencing emotions that are like the ones you’re going through at this very moment. Parents can derive a great deal of comfort simply through knowing that they are not alone. Joining a support group for grieving parents is one reliable way to connect with others who may have an insight into what you’re going through. It isn’t necessary to share every detail of your grief at the first support group meeting. If you’re not ready to share, you may still gain comfort from hearing how others are coping with the loss of a child. Eventually, you may also want to share your story, thereby helping yourself and others too.
Many people also choose to enter private counseling sessions at this difficult time. Working with a trained professional can bring immense peace of mind. A counselor helps a grieving parent process their emotions and strategize useful methods for moving forward with life. In fact, therapy is a particularly strong tool that helps many parents confront their emotions and begin moving in a more positive direction.
In the devastating aftermath of the loss of a child, it’s sometimes tempting for the parents to make sweeping life changes. Selling the family home, moving across the country and changing jobs are just a few of these thoughts that may cross your mind. It seems like a reasonable solution. If you’re in a new place, you won’t have to constantly be reminded of your loss. However, making these major life decisions at such a time of loss and upheaval is rarely helpful. Rather than offering a solution, such changes are more likely to encourage not dealing with your emotions in a helpful manner. This puts an incredible strain on your well-being and your relationships. Save any major life decisions for a time when you’re feeling that you’re on a much more even keel.
Taking care of yourself in the wake of losing a child is a necessity. Do everything you can to eat nutritious meals, stay hydrated and get quality sleep at night. These simple things will help your body deal with the enormous amount of stress it is experiencing. Also, try to keep up with doctor appointments, and don’t let prescriptions lapse. The healthier you keep your body, the healthier your mind and heart will be.
There is no correct way to grieve. There is only the way that is right for you. Use these guidelines to help you recover from a devastating loss.
Helping Young Ones Grieve
Grief is a bewildering experience for children and teens. They are even less prepared to cope with a loss than adults are, and this is especially traumatic when the deceased was a parent, other caregiver or close friend. It’s possible to guide young ones through this experience in a manner that is respectful of their feelings and conducive to helping them move forward.
Remembering and talking about the loved one who passed is a good way to help children mourn. Saying things like, “Remember when Daddy made pancakes?” or “Your mom loved this movie,” are excellent ways to signal to a child that it’s acceptable to reminisce about a loved one who has died. Talking about the deceased and calling them by name lets children know that the person they are grieving for can live on in their memory. Talking about the person also gives children permission to talk about their lost loved one. When an adult talks about the individual, kids pick up on the idea that it’s desirable to share their thoughts and emotions. This can be especially helpful when it comes to children being able to process and perhaps move on from some of their most troubling feelings.
Experts recommend discussing the death of the loved one in relatively frank terms. Children don’t always understand euphemisms like saying that someone passed away or that they have been “lost.” Many kids interpret those terms to mean that the deceased will return someday. Accordingly, they may not fully grieve the loss, which sets them up for an even more crushing disappointment. Consider the child’s age and temperament, but be as direct as you can in your talks. Use words like “died” or “killed,” if this is appropriate, so that kids begin to understand the finality of the circumstances.
Encouraging a child to talk and reminisce is half of an important equation. The other half is listening attentively and without judgment. When adults don’t jump in to criticize, correct or sympathize, it provides the child with an opportunity to express their emotions fully and without fear. Saying things like, “I know exactly how you feel,” or “It’s time to move on,” is generally not helpful. Open-ended questions, on the other hand, can be valuable. When a child talks about missing the deceased, an adult might respond with, “What do you miss the most?” or “How does that feel?” These kinds of questions elicit thoughtful responses that can help the child get through the grieving process.
Young ones often find comfort in being able to honor the deceased and saying good-bye in their own unique way. Children can, and many of them should, participate in the planning of any memorial services. Perhaps they’ll help to choose the casket or select a favorite outfit for the deceased to wear. Children also like to choose a poem to be read or a song to be played. However, if a child seems reluctant or refuses to participate, don’t force the issue. It’s important to let them grieve in the way that feels right to them.
Ask children how they would like to say good-bye to their loved one. Some will want to do so at an open casket or at the graveside. Others may choose to do so at a later time after the headstone is placed and they’ve had a few weeks to process the changes in their lives. Keep in mind that what feels right for one child may not feel right for another. Keep the lines of dialog open, and ask questions to find out how each child prefers to proceed.