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christy.kessler

All You Need to Know About Funeral Programs, Prayer Cards, and More

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals

Whether you are planning ahead for funeral wishes or planning a final tribute for a loved one, you may have noticed that many funeral or memorial packages include memorial stationery. But for those of us who’ve never planned a funeral, what exactly is memorial stationery? Does that mean funeral programs only or is there something more?

Let’s review the 4 most common pieces of memorial stationery. Afterward, you will have a better sense of the purpose and function of these different pieces. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to decide whether memorial stationery is right for your family.

What are the 4 Most Common Memorial Stationery Pieces?

1. Funeral Programs

Also called memorial folders or bulletins, the funeral program is a folded pamphlet. Funeral programs usually include the order of service, which are the details of what will take place during the funeral or memorial service. Funeral programs are often printed on a decorative piece of paper folded in half. They can be as simple or complex as you want.

Additionally, funeral programs are an excellent place for personalization. For instance, in addition to name and service details, you could include favorite photos of the person who has died, a poem or passage, a favorite recipe, the obituary, or other personal details. If they were religious, you could include a relevant scripture or verse.

There’s a lot of room for flexibility, so if you want to do something different, go for it! Alternatively, if you’d prefer not to have a funeral program, they are not required, though they are a standard part of funerals and memorials.

2. Memorial Cards

Memorial cards are often used as a meaningful keepsake distributed at funeral or memorial services. They include basic information about the person who has died and you can easily slip one into a book or wallet. They serve as a reminder of a lost loved one and often include a photo and an inspirational quotation. Each funeral home will have outlined on their General Price List which kind(s) they offer.

Folded Memorial Card

Similar to the memorial folder but smaller in size, this type of memorial card can be personalized in many different ways. They are typically used at memorials, wakes, or viewings and visitations. You can also send a memorial card as an invitation to a funeral or memorial service. As with any kind of memorial card, make sure to include service information.

Memorial Prayer Card

Rooted in the Catholic faith tradition, a prayer card (also traditionally called a holy card) is the most common memorial card. This type often includes a religious symbol, a prayer, and personal information about the person who has died. Mourners may use them as a keepsake or as a reminder to pray for the family of the person who has died.

Memorial Bookmark

A memorial bookmark is just what it sounds like. It is a bookmark with a photo of the person who has died along with their birth and death dates. To personalize it, you could include a favorite poem, reading, scripture, or an inspirational quote. The bookmarks can be offered as keepsakes and used as a reminder to pray for the family, similar to a memorial or prayer card.

3. Register Book

Many families choose to use a register book at a funeral or memorial service. The book may be placed at a viewing or visitation as well as at the funeral or memorial service. Because everything may be a bit of a blur, a family may not remember everyone who attended the services. Having a register book gives the family a complete record of everyone who attended. When the family later runs into friends, coworkers, and acquaintances in the grocery store or around the community, they don’t have to wonder if that person attended the funeral. They can always go back and check the register book.

4. Acknowledgment Cards

Lastly, acknowledgment (or thank you) cards are a common piece of memorial stationery. Throughout the entire process, friends and family take on roles and responsibilities to help the grieving family. Afterward, the family may want to thank those who went above and beyond. For instance, a card may be sent to someone who sent flowers or a sympathy gift, gave a donation to a designated charity, prepared meals for the family, or perhaps said something particularly kind and meaningful. For a few helpful hints on how to write a funeral thank you card, please read Simple Tips for Writing Funeral Thank You Notes.

Every funeral home offers memorial stationery, though the look and cost will vary between funeral homes. You can choose which of these items you would like to use and which ones you prefer not to. Make sure to talk to the funeral home of your choice about their memorial stationery and their other memorial options (like memorial tribute videos).

More than anything, the funeral home and its staff want to help you create a personalized, meaningful, and healing funeral experience that will bring comfort and peace to your family. Talk to them about what you need and work together to create the perfect final tribute.

7 Funeral Rituals from Jesus’ Time that Still Exist Today

By Seasonal

As millions around the world celebrate Easter this weekend, marking the miraculous resurrection of Jesus Christ, it’s intriguing to look at the funeral rituals surrounding his death and the Jewish culture in which he lived. Since the beginning of time, humanity has participated in the funeral – remembering and honoring the lives of loved ones. So, what are some similarities that exist between the ancient Jewish customs of Jesus’ day and those we commonly observe today?

7 Funeral Rituals from Jesus’ Time that Still Exist Today

Because humans are humans no matter when they live, it makes sense that some things are universal across time and culture. Just as we all love, we all grieve and need to take time to care for and honor the dead. So, let’s discuss a few rituals from Jesus’ day that continue to survive the test of time.

1. Preparation of the Body

The first ritual that remains to this day is that every person who has died must be prepared for burial. Today, that typically means washing and possibly embalming. In Jesus’ day, the body was washed and anointed with expensive perfumes, like nard, myrrh, and aloes. Then, the body was wrapped in a shroud, the face covered with a special cloth, and the hands and feet tied with strips of cloth. You can see this practice illustrated in the Bible for Jesus (John 19:38-42; Luke 24: 10-12), Lazarus (John 11:43-44), and Tabitha (Acts 9:37).

2. Visitation/Viewing

In Jesus’ day, a person was typically buried within hours of their death. This was mainly because the hot climate hastened decay, and back then, they didn’t have access to the preservation chemicals we do today. So, very quickly after a death, family, friends, and neighbors came to comfort the family and say their goodbyes. Gathering together was even easier because families often lived in the same town and were not usually spread out like we are today.

For example, Mark 5:21-42 outlines the story of Jairus, whose daughter had died. We know the death was recent for two reasons: 1) When Jairus reached Jesus, he asked Jesus to heal her, implying he believed she was alive, and 2) When the two arrived at Jairus’ home after hearing of his daughter’s death, there were people at his home, already crying over her death. They had come to see her one last time and to mourn with Jairus. Today, we still take part in this ritual, though we now call it a visitation or a viewing, and it no longer takes place in the family’s home but often at a funeral home.

3. Procession

After the living had an opportunity to say their goodbyes, the person who died was carried on a pallet or litter to the grave. The body was carried by loved ones, a sign of affection and love. As they made their way to the grave or tomb, women would wail and throw dust in their hair and a crowd of friends, extended family, and neighbors would accompany the procession to the tomb. Just as ancient mourners did, we have our version of a funeral procession. We have pallbearers who carry the casket to the vehicle, and then together, we travel to the graveside as a symbol of solidarity and support for the grieving family. You see an example of a first-century funeral procession described in Luke 7:12.

4. Eulogy

After arriving at the grave or tomb, there is evidence to suggest that a eulogy took place. Some ancient tombs in Israel were found to include a circle of benches or a row of seats just outside the tomb. This archaeological evidence, as well as the ancient Jewish custom of “hesped,” make it likely that some type of remembrance took place, whether at the gravesite itself or at another designated time. Like our eulogies today, they would have spoken words of appreciation and love while offering sympathy and kindness to the bereaved family.

5. Permanent Placement

In Jesus’ day, it was a common practice to bury people in tombs. Many families owned a family tomb, where they would lay many of their loved ones to rest over time. You can see this practice described in Matthew 27:57-60 when Joseph of Arimathea lays Jesus’ body in his family tomb. Also, you can see it in the life of Abraham when he purchased a place to bury his wife, Sarah, in Genesis 23, which became a family tomb for future generations.

In Jewish tradition, the body was laid in the tomb, wrapped in cloth and spices. After roughly a year, the family would return to the tomb. They collected the bones and placed them in an ossuary (a small funerary box). They would then place that box in the back of the tomb with other boxes of its kind. In this way, they made room for future generations of family to rest in the same space.

Today, permanent placement is still important; we just do it differently. Now, we often bury our loved ones in cemeteries or scatter their ashes at a special place.

6. A Gathering

Just as important as caring for the dead is caring for the living. After a loved one dies, we need the support of those around us. They help us as we walk down the road of grief. In Jesus’ day, there was often a brief meal following the burial (called the “meal of condolence”), which was prepared by neighbors. For the next seven days, the immediate family remained at home for a period of mourning (Genesis 50:10).

During this time, people visit to offer their support and words of condolence to the grieving family. Today, we do something much the same when we gather following a funeral or memorial service to share a meal, exchange stories about the person who had died, take comfort in each other’s presence, and offer encouragement and words of condolence.

7. Paying Last Respects

As you can see, we still observe many of the same customs as mourners did in the first century. Funeral traditions like these help us mark the significance of a life and begin to heal as individuals and communities. As human beings, we understand today, just as we understood in Jesus’ day, that life is precious and worth celebrating.

How to Plan a Healing Funeral if You Are Not Religious

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Planning Tools

Funeral rites have a rich history rooted in spiritual and religious traditions. So, what do you do for a funeral if you are not religious? Some families may consider skipping the funeral ceremony altogether, but that would be a mistake. Many of the core elements of a funeral can help the family process their emotions of grief, honor the memory of the person who died, and search for deeper meaning in the loss, whether the funeral is religious or not.

Before missing out on the benefits of a funeral ceremony, take a look at the core elements of a funeral and how these elements might be combined to create a healing and meaningful tribute to a life lived.

Core Elements of a Funeral

“People who take the time and make the effort to create meaningful funeral arrangements when someone loved dies often end up making new arrangements in their own lives. They remember and reconnect with what is most meaningful to them in life…strengthen bonds with family members and friends. They emerge changed, more authentic and purposeful. The best funerals remind us how we should live.” – Dr. Alan Wolfelt

To create a healing and meaningful funeral experience, there are several tried and true elements that you should consider incorporating. Dr. Wolfelt, a nationally respected author and grief counselor, tells us that these elements are necessary to facilitate the six needs that a funeral fulfills: 1) acknowledge the reality of the death, 2) embrace the pain of the loss, 3) remember the person who died, 4) develop a new self-identity, 5) search for meaning, and 6) receive ongoing support from others. All of these basic needs apply to both religious and non-religious families.

If you are planning a funeral, whether because someone you love has died or you are making advance funeral plans, give thoughtful consideration to how you can implement these healing and meaningful elements.

Music

First of all, music sets the tone of a funeral and brings emotions to the forefront. In fact, one of the purposes of a funeral is to allow mourners to grieve together, and in many ways, music says what words cannot. Don’t be afraid to invite people to express grief. With a non-religious ceremony, consider using music that was significant to the lost loved one or songs that cause you to remember them. This might include bluegrass, hip hop, rock, or any other genre of music.

Why Include Special Music in a Funeral Ceremony?

Top 10 Songs for a Funeral Ceremony

Readings

Second, readings add another facet to a meaningful service. They are another way to not only invite mourners to express their emotions, but readings bring the unique spirit of the one who has died to life. Did they have a favorite book or poem? Did the person who died write a letter or even a social media post you would like to highlight? Is there a reading or quote that springs to mind when you think about this person and the loss you have experienced? Or perhaps you or someone you know is inspired to write a poem for the occasion. Whatever you choose, readings can bring aspects of the person you love to life in a very special way.

How do Readings Enhance the Funeral Experience?

Top 10 Poems for a Funeral Ceremony

Viewing/Visitation/Reception

Third, the viewing or visitation is a time for family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors to gather and express support and sympathy. If it is decided to have a viewing, it is an opportunity for mourners to see this special person one last time and begin to acknowledge the reality of their death. For many, as part of the grieving process, it is important to physically see the body. The viewing offers this opportunity. No matter what type of ceremony you create, a viewing or visitation is an important element to consider.

Why Have a Visitation?

Why Should the Body Be Present?

Eulogy/Remembrance

Fourth, the eulogy may be the single most important aspect of a funeral service. It is the time to acknowledge and affirm the significance of the life lived. With that in mind, take time to share treasured memories, quotes, or even the lost loved one’s favorite jokes. Focus your eulogy on describing the legacy that the person has left behind. What did they value most? What were they passionate about? How did they leave the world a better place? The eulogy can be delivered by a celebrant, a family member, a close friend, or even a series of people.

What is a Eulogy?

Crafting a Eulogy

Symbols

Fifth, symbols, or symbolic acts, offer a focal point for the bereaved as well as a sense of comfort. Symbols such as flowers, a portrait of the person, or personal items can be used throughout the ceremony. You also may want to incorporate symbolic acts, such as lighting a candle to symbolize your love or creating a photo display. Releasing balloons, butterflies, or lanterns are symbols that help us process the emotions of “letting go.” We release the pain of the loss while keeping the memory of the one who died alive. You can also consider giving away small memorial keepsakes to attendees that symbolize a passion or hobby your loved one had.

The Importance of Symbols

Exploring Your Release Ceremony Options

Gathering

Sixth, the gathering is an opportunity for friends and family to come together (often around food) after the funeral service to share stories and to support each other. One of the most important purposes of a funeral is to activate support for the grieving family – this is one reason why gathering people together is so helpful. It allows the family an opportunity to engage with others and receive support and condolences. While you consider the benefits of a gathering, take a few moments to read the article below.

What is a Gathering?

Actions 

And finally, by inviting others into action at the funeral service, you engage mourners and invite them to put their grief into motion. Simply put, mourning is the outward expression of our inward grief. To move others toward healing, it is important to invite them to act. For an artist, you might invite attendees to create a communal painting. For a horse enthusiast, you may hold the memorial at a barn or equestrian center. Even actions as simple as joining a procession, planting a memorial tree, writing down a memory, or wearing a certain type of clothing can help mourners become participants rather than observers in their own grief journey.

How Do Actions Help Us Heal?

All together, these elements help you create a service that is healing and meaningful for all who attend. Whether the person was religious or not, those who come to mourn will leave feeling like they have honored a life lived and have taken the first healthy step on their grief journey.

6 Reasons to Write Your Will Now

By Estate Planning

Perhaps unconsciously, we often think we have to own a lot of stuff or at least be in our 5th decade to write a will. This simply isn’t the case. In fact, the sooner you write a will, the better. A will is a legal document that offers certain protections. Without one, if something were to happen to you, the people you care about and the possessions or assets you’ve acquired might not be taken care of the way you would want them to be.

Rather than wait for the unexpected to happen, take charge. Decide how you want to provide for the people you love and distribute the things you care about. Not quite convinced? Let’s go over 6 key reasons why you shouldn’t wait another day to write your will.

1. Because you love your children

Have you thought about what would happen to your children if something were to happen to you (and/or your spouse)? A legal will allows you to designate a specific guardian for your children, which ensures that the people you want raising your child will be able to do so. Without a designated guardian, the state decides who will raise your children. They may not choose the people you would have chosen. Additionally, if you want to leave possessions or property to your children, you protect their financial security by outlining your wishes in the will.

2. Because you should decide what happens to your worldly goods

Throughout our lives, we make cherished memories, we gather precious mementos, and if we’re able, we make our bank accounts grow. Whether it’s ensuring that a trust fund is created for a child or that your mother’s favorite set of dishes goes to your oldest daughter, a will gives you the ability to decide what happens to your worldly possessions. Without a will, your state laws will determine how your goods and assets are distributed, and those laws may not be in accordance with your wishes. Creating a will ensures that your wishes are known and followed.

3. Because you want to eliminate arguments

In many families, there’s often someone who creates strife or dissension amongst the group, either intentionally or unintentionally. To lessen the possibility of arguments or disputes, it’s best to clearly outline what you want done with your estate (e.g. home, car, funds, possessions, care of dependents, etc.). If no one knows your wishes, there’s room for dispute. While you may never be a super star (not many of us are), we only have to look at the cases of Prince, Aretha Franklin, or Sonny Bono to see just how complicated things can become without a will.

4. Because you are part of a blended family

Many blended families enjoy loving relationships, but not all. If you have parented children who are not your legal heirs, you may wish to add them into your will. If you have legal heirs that you do not wish to leave assets to, you may need to exclude them from your will. Either way, blended families can introduce a few challenges, so it’s better to write a legal will so that everyone is clear about your wishes.

5. Because you want to keep things simple for your family

So many things in life become needlessly complicated. The care of your dependents and distribution of your assets doesn’t have to be one of them. To keep things simple for those you love, put things in writing. With a will, your family can just get things taken care of. Without a will, state laws come into play and matters can become complicated very quickly. Keep things simple for everyone by making your wishes known.

6. Because our tomorrows aren’t guaranteed

None of us knows what the future holds. But we do know one thing. None of us are promised tomorrow. By writing your will now, you can protect your family and ensure they are taken care of when you’re gone. If you are someone without a spouse or children at this time, think about whom you would want to benefit. Perhaps you’d give to friends, other family members, or a charity. No matter what you want, writing a will now can make a big difference in the lives of others.

To get started, it’s always best to speak with an estate attorney, especially if you have a large number of assets. However, if you can’t afford the services of an attorney, there are will writing services online. However, by doing it yourself, you run the risk of not addressing certain issues. This may unintentionally create problems for your family. If possible, ask a lawyer to review any document you draw up.

In addition to writing a will, it’s always good to consider whether now is the right time to put together advance care directives, powers of attorney, and advance funeral plans. In addition to a will, these documents create a net of safety and peace of mind for your loved ones.

No matter your age – recent college grad or grandparent – it’s never too early to write a will and ensure that your people and possessions are taken care of your way.

10 Ways to Use Photos to Personalize a Service

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

Funeral and memorial services are about remembering and cherishing a loved one’s memory and honoring their life. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally recognized grief expert, author, and counselor, often says, “When words are inadequate, have a ceremony.” Meaningful ceremonies are reflective of the life that has been lived. They spark memories, help honor a legacy, and bring to mind the good times that were shared. Using photos is one important way we can personalize a funeral and reflect on a life well-lived.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that is certainly true when you are sharing photos of a loved one’s life. Let’s talk about how you can use photos to create a tribute that will bring meaning, hope, peace, and comfort to those who are hurting.

10 Ways to Use Photos to Personalize a Service

Photos are unique to a person, a time, a place, a memory. That’s why they are a perfect way to personalize a funeral or memorial service. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Add Photos to the Order of Service

For most funeral or memorial services, you will receive an “Order of Service” program. This pamphlet usually outlines the order of events that will occur at the service, including speakers, special songs, opportunities to share memories, etc. The Order of Service is a good place to incorporate photos. You can be as creative as you’d like, including your favorite photos or simply ones that capture your loved one’s personality.

2. Make a Photo Collage or Timeline

A photo collage or timeline allows you to tell your loved one’s life story. The big moments, the small ones, the ones that mean the most to you and your family. You can highlight weddings, births, vacations, milestones, hobbies, childhood photos, and so much more. Then, as people view the collage or timeline at the service, conversations will spark. Memories will become fresh. Hearts will be comforted.

3. Put Together a Memorial Photo Album

Sometimes there’s something special about a tangible object. Just like some people prefer physical books over electronic books, there are those who prefer the sturdy presence of a photo album to any amount of digital storage. If you are one of these people, you might consider putting together a memorial photo album or bringing your old family photo albums to the gathering or visitation. Holding the book and flipping through the pages often evokes a strong feeling of connection. By allowing friends, family, and guests to look through the album, you create an opportunity to remember special times and learn new things about the one you love.

4. Create a Memory Board

Similar to a photo collage, a memory board intentionally leaves space open for family, friends, and other guests to add photos of their own or to write personalized messages on the board. By inviting people to participate, you do two things. First, you allow others to mourn, that is, put their grief into action. Dr. Wolfelt tells us that, “Grief is what you think and feel on the inside, and mourning is when you express that grief outside of yourself. Mourning is grief inside out. [It] is showing and doing.” Secondly, by inviting others to add their own thoughts and memories, you create a lovely keepsake that gives a full, vibrant picture of your loved one’s life.

5. Use Photos to Personalize the Gathering/Reception

Many families decide to include a gathering or reception following the funeral or memorial service. Doing this allows family, friends, and others an opportunity to share memories and offer support to one another. The gathering/reception is also a great time to add personal touches to the funeral experience. You might string a clothesline in one area of the room and invite friends and family to a bring a photo to hang. Or, you could use photos to decorate the tables – as centerpieces or even as a table runner. Alternatively, if you are having an outdoor event, you could decorate a tree with photos of your loved one and add mason jars with candles to add softness to the display.

6. Make a Tribute Video

With a tribute video, you can use photos, audio clips, video clips, favorite quotes, and so much more to create a truly personal account of your loved one’s life. A tribute video adds a meaningful element to the service, allows guests to reflect on their memories, comforts family and friends, evokes laughter and tears, and can be a special keepsake that can be watched for years to come.

7. Invite Mourners to Bring a Favorite Photo

Another option you might consider is inviting mourners to bring a favorite photo of your loved one. You could ask people to write a favorite memory on the back and leave the photo with the family as an encouragement. Alternatively, you could create a collective collage. By requesting that everyone bring a 4×6 photo, you can create pre-made spaces where people can add their photos to the collage. Or, you could simply ask mourners to look at the photo and remember your loved one as the eulogy is spoken. A visual reminder – especially one that means something – will help each person connect with their own feelings and begin the grief journey on the right foot.

8. Make a Memory Wreath

Another way to use photos in a unique way is to create a memory wreath. This special wreath will not only serve as a special focal point for any gathering or reception, it can also be re-used in your home afterward. Photos are a great way to remember our loved ones. They connect us to the past; they remind us of the stories of our lives. Sometimes, they even express emotions better than words.

9. Ask Someone to Take Photos at the Funeral

While it may sound odd, you might consider asking someone to take photos at the funeral or memorial. Not necessarily of your loved one – but of the events and the people who have gathered. Photography is about capturing the important moments in life, and the passing of a loved one is significant. Photos taken at any point of the service (funeral, reception, graveside, etc.) will all show a variety of emotions – sadness at the loss, joy at seeing living loved ones, happiness at sharing cherished memories. Who knows, you may find that one of these photos becomes a cherished favorite.

10. Print Your Favorite Photos as Remembrance Tokens

Finally, for many of us, specific items have great value and significance to our memory. “I bought this painting when we went to France,” or “This scarf always reminds me of my grandmother.” Photos can do the same. Consider printing out some of your favorite photos and giving them to guests as a remembrance token. You might add a quote, scripture verse, or poem on the back. As each person takes a photo, they have a physical reminder of your loved one, something they can hold onto and contemplate on as they walk through their grief journey.

What to Do in the First 24 Hours Following a Death

By mtp-at-need, Planning Tools

For many of us, we deal with death so infrequently that we aren’t sure what to do when we lose a family member or close friend. The first 24 hours following a loss can be very difficult. You might feel a wide range of emotions: shock, sadness, anger, or even relief. All of these are normal reactions to loss, but the first question you may ask yourself is, “What do I do now?” To answer this question, this article shares what you should do in the first 24 hours following a death. While you will still feel the pain of grief, knowing what actions to take will make things just a little bit easier.

0-1 Hours After Death: Report the Death

1. If a death occurs at home:

  • Death under hospice care: If your loved one has endured a prolonged illness at home under hospice care, contact their primary medical professional, who will follow all proper procedures, including making a legal pronouncement of death. Hospice professionals may also advise you in this circumstance.
  • Sudden, unexpected death: For an unexpected or unattended death, call 911 to notify the police and emergency medical personnel, who will attempt resuscitation, if they are authorized to do so (note: if your loved one has signed a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) document or is wearing a “DNR” or “Comfort Care Only” bracelet, medical personnel will not attempt resuscitation). The body of your loved one may need to be moved to the hospital where a doctor can make a legal pronouncement of death.
  • Arrangements for organ donation: If your loved one’s driver’s license or advance healthcare directive gives authorization for organ donation, immediately inform the medical staff so that they can determine if organ or tissue donation is a viable option.

2. If a death occurs in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or hospital:

  • Alert the staff, nurse, or physician if you are the first to be aware of the death. Calling 911 is not necessary if the person is under hospice, nursing home, or hospital care.

3. If a death takes place out of state:

  • If your deceased loved one is out of state and you are notified of the death, you may need to travel to where your loved one is. Speak to the local authorities or medical professionals to determine what actions are needed.

4. If a death occurs out of country:

  • Contact the U.S. Embassy or call 1-888-407-4747 for the Office of Overseas Citizen Services in the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

1-4 Hours After Death: Who to Contact

1. Contact loved ones.

Contact immediate family members and ask them to contact others. After making direct contact by telephone with your loved one’s closest family members, you can begin telling friends and extended members of your network. Try to make sure that immediate family members do not learn of the death through social media or acquaintances.

2. Choose a funeral director or service provider.

Hopefully, your loved one planned for their funeral by completing a prearranged funeral plan with a local funeral provider. If not, talk to a trusted friend, relative, or faith-based support person for help locating a well-recommended funeral home. A local funeral director will know the state and municipal laws that apply to the circumstances and death of your loved one and will help you through the planning process.

3. Contact clergy, a minister, or a spiritual advisor.

If your loved one was active in a faith-based community or held religious or spiritual values, contact the leader of that community to notify them of the death. This is an important time to honor the spiritual or religious values of your loved one.

4. Contact other key support people.

Managing the details surrounding the death of a loved one can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Reach out to your support network for help – don’t be afraid to ask. Consider choosing a few close friends or family members to help you make funeral preparations. Ask a trusted friend to field calls, help run errands, care for children, and to act as your advocate. Be sure to give yourself the care you need to get through the challenging process of losing and grieving for a friend or loved one.

4-12 Hours After Death: Prepare for Funeral Arrangement Conference

1. Locate important documents.

If your loved one made advance plans for funeral arrangements, locate any insurance policies, prepaid funeral contracts, or written plans. Your loved one may have also left instructions in a will or estate plan, which families often discover after the funeral has taken place, so you may want to look for any legal documents your loved one completed. If you are unfamiliar with your loved one’s wishes for funeral arrangements, speak to your family members to determine which options resonate with them.

2. Gather vital statistics:

  • Full legal name of the deceased
  • Marital status, including marriage certificate, if available
  • Parents’ full names, including mother’s maiden name
  • Children’s full names
  • Immediate family member names
  • Family members who have predeceased your loved one
  • Place of birth
  • Date of birth
  • Employment history
  • Education
  • Social Security Number
  • Veteran’s discharge papers (DD-214)

12-24+ Hours After Death: Rest and Prepare

1. Rest and nourish yourself.

Try to sleep as much as you can to help prepare for the events to come.

The next several days will be filled with activity, plans, phone calls, visitors, and emotion. Even short naps will help you manage the details, events, and sentiments that follow the death of a friend or a loved one. Remember proper nutrition, even if it may seem challenging. Taking time to care for yourself is as important as the final planning for your loved one.

2. Gather meaningful remembrances of your loved one.

Gather items that you might be able to incorporate into a meaningful tribute for your loved one. These may include photos, videos, articles of clothing or jewelry, and prized possessions that were an integral part of your loved one’s life. Select items that are genuine reflections of your loved one so that you can create a personal and meaningful funeral. This step can also be an important part of the grieving process.

3. Determine how the funeral will be paid for.

Funeral and cemetery or crematory charges will typically need to be paid for before the services are performed. If the service is not paid for in advance with a prepaid funeral contract, consider alternate ways to address costs:

  • Cash, personal check, or money order
  • Life insurance policy – since it could take 6 to 8 weeks for the insurance company to process your claim, your funeral director can help you assign the benefits to the funeral home to cover the funeral expenses
  • Veterans’ burial benefits – again, your funeral director can assist you in determining if your loved one is eligible for any veterans’ benefits that may help you save money
  • Personal credit card
  • Loan from a lending institution
  • Establish a memorial fund to which friends and extended family members can donate

4. Allow yourself to grieve. You may experience moments of intense grief throughout the day.

Some people are afraid that if they start to cry, they may not be able to stop, but this is simply not the case. Usually people cry in bursts of 5-10 minutes, which helps relieve tension and gives expression to deep emotions. It is important to give yourself this time to process your grief and release some of the emotions you are feeling. Accept your feelings and allow them to come without judgment. Surround yourself with people who will not minimize or try to stifle your emotions and who will comfort you and accept you as you are.

What You Need to Know About Burial at Sea

By Explore Options, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

After a loss, we feel both a deep sense of loss and an innate desire to honor the memory of the person we love. We want to remember them for who they were. Recall the times when they spoke truth to us, comforted us, or simply made us laugh. This desire to honor and remember our loved ones is why it’s important to personalize a funeral – so that there is a unique and special tribute for the one you love.

One unique way to honor a loved one is through burial at sea. While burial at sea is not as common as burial or scattering on land, it is still an option worth considering, especially if your loved one had a special connection to the sea.

What You Need to Know About Burial at Sea

Burial at sea has a long history and is one of the oldest types of funeral ceremony. Throughout history, we see it used by the Greeks, Egyptians, and the navies of various nations.

Today, there are two ways to request burial at sea: through the U.S. Navy or through a civilian charter company. Each one has its own regulations, though both will provide your family with the date, time, and longitude/latitude of your loved one’s committal.

Naval Military Vessel

With the Navy, the committal ceremony is performed while the ship is deployed. This means that the family cannot attend, though the commanding officer will send a letter to the family sharing the exact date, time, and location where the committal ceremony took place in addition to any photos that may have been taken.

Only eligible veterans and their dependents can request burial at sea with the Navy. Following the death, your trusted funeral professional contacts the Navy and Marine Corps Mortuary Affairs Office on your behalf and begins the coordination and transportation process.

You will need several documents to request naval burial at sea:

  • Photocopy of the death certificate
  • Burial transit permit or cremation certificate
  • Copy of the veteran’s DD214, discharge certificate, or retirement order
  • Completed “Burial at Sea Request Form”

As with shore burial, veterans will receive the proper military honors, including the playing of Taps and the closing of colors. An American flag will fly at half-mast during the committal ceremony. If the family provides the flag, it will be returned; if not, the Navy will provide one.

Civilian Vessel

For those who are not veterans, you can charter a vessel through a burial at sea provider. By going through an official provider, you ensure that the vessel is Coast Guard inspected for comfort and safety and that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations are followed. Additionally, you can select a vessel intimate enough to accommodate only close family, or if you wish, you can charter a larger vessel to allow additional family and friends to take part in the committal service.

The EPA states that the vessel must journey to a distance of at least 3 nautical miles and to a depth of 100 fathoms (600+ feet) before any kind of burial can take place. Additional state laws may apply. Also, any materials placed in the water must readily decompose, so plastics and metals are not allowed. To learn more about the EPA’s guidelines, click here.

If you wish to bury a full body at sea, a licensed funeral director must be present to oversee the care and custody of the body until final interment. If possible, ask that preparation of the body be done with non-toxic chemicals. Any casket or burial cloth must be biodegradable.

The most common form of burial at sea is scattering of the cremated body. For this, you do not need a funeral director present. The family can facilitate a private service onboard, followed by scattering the ashes and placing wreaths or flowers in the water.

Whether you choose full-body burial at sea or scattering, the charter company will provide a certificate marking the exact coordinates of your loved one’s final resting place.

Helpful Hints for Civilian Vessels

  • Dress casually with a wind breaker and non-slip shoes.
  • Bring a camera, sunscreen, sunglasses, and other desired personal possessions.
  • Report any known or potentially unknown medical conditions to the captain before disembarking; this includes pregnancy, back or neck pain, or susceptibility to sea sickness.
  • If you are susceptible to seasickness, it’s for the good of all that you remain on shore. Many charter companies will provide binoculars for viewing and will call your cell phone when the committal ceremony begins. If you choose not to remain on shore, consider using motion sickness aids.

Planning Ahead for Burial at Sea

If you or a loved one are interested in burial at sea, it’s best to make your wishes known now. You can do this either by communicating your wishes to your family or by sitting down with a knowledgeable funeral professional who can walk you through the process of preplanning the funeral. The more information you provide, the easier the funeral planning process will be on your loved ones. Also, because burial at sea is a specialized service, it’s best to prepare everyone ahead of time to ensure that all the details are taken care of according to your wishes.

Leaving a Legacy: Kobe Bryant

By Grief/Loss

“The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great at whatever they want to do.” – Kobe Bryant

As we mourn Kobe Bryant’s unexpected passing, we cannot help but reflect on his life and the legacy he leaves behind. His life was characterized by drive, passion, perseverance, and tenacity. Considered one of the greatest players in the history of basketball, Kobe Bryant inspired millions with his commitment and heart for the game.

Biography

Born on August 23, 1978, Bryant was born in Philadelphia, the youngest of former NBA player Joe Bryant’s children. With the support of his parents, Bryant began playing basketball at age three and earned national recognition in high school.

In 1996, the NBA drafted Bryant, only the sixth player in history to draft just out of high school. After signing with the Lakers, Bryant began an illustrious, 20-year career with the team. Though he had his ups and downs, he played from 1996 until his retirement in 2016.

In his personal life, Bryant married Vanessa Laine in April 2001. Together, they had four daughters, Natalia, Gianna, Bianka, and Capri. Sadly, Gianna died in the same helicopter crash as her father. In addition to being active in his daughters’ lives, Bryant worked with After-School All-Stars and other charities while also founding the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation and the Kobe Bryant China Fund.

Major Career Accomplishments

  • 5-time NBA Champion
  • 17-time NBA All-Star
  • Spent 20 seasons with the Lakers (most seasons with one NBA team)
  • Selected for the all-defensive team 12 times
  • Holds record for most three-pointers in a game
  • Named NBA Final MVP twice
  • Earned two Olympic gold medals
  • Won an Academy Award in 2018 for an animated short, “Dear Basketball”

The Importance of a Legacy

As we look back at Bryant’s life, none of us can deny that he leaves a legacy. But a legacy is not only for prominent people. Every single one of us leaves a legacy of some kind. It’s up to us whether that legacy is good, bad, or somewhere in between.

“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” — Shannon L. Alder

Look at your own life and determine what kind of legacy you want to leave. And then, ask yourself, “Does my life reflect the legacy I want it to?” If it doesn’t, start thinking about big and small things you can change in your life to build the legacy you want.

Reflect on those who left a legacy for you

Every person is affected by the generations that came before, whether they want to be or not. For Bryant, his parents and coaches left a lasting legacy. So, think about your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, schoolteachers, coaches, neighbors, friends, and even people throughout history or in public service who have had an impact on the way you view yourself and the world. Each of these people left a legacy with you – some good, some bad. Now, think about the legacy you’ve built so far with those around you. Are you happy with it? Or are there some things you’d like to change?

Realize that leaving a legacy is not a choice

Whether you want to or not, you will leave a legacy because the people around you will remember you a certain way, depending on how you handled yourself and treated others. It’s up to you whether you have an accidental legacy or an intentional one. While Bryant may or may not have initially set out to create a legacy, he did nonetheless. There’s nothing you can do to prevent people from forming an opinion of you, but you can contribute to whether that opinion – your legacy with that person – teaches them how to live well and love others or not.

 Remember that quality time spent with others is the most important

When you involve yourself in the lives of others, you have an impact on their lives. Just as Kobe Bryant had a profound impact on the sport of basketball, his children, and countless others, you can have an impact on your own sphere of influence. As the saying goes, when we near the end of our lives, we don’t wish we had worked more, we wish we had lived more. That includes spending time with the most important people. As you seek to leave a legacy:

  • Look for opportunities to know others and be known by them
  • Model and teach what’s most important
  • Compliment, encourage, and build up your family, children, and grandchildren
  • Share the wisdom that you have gained in your life and pass along the knowledge

With our legacies, we contribute to the future. What we do and say affects the lives of others and has the power to create good or bad. What we do matters. What Kobe Bryant did matters. Most of us are not prominent people whose names are known by thousands, but that doesn’t ultimately matter. Instead, it is our responsibility as good men and women to create legacies that will take our families and the next generation to a level we can only imagine.

Let’s be intentional about the impact we have on others and create legacies worth remembering.

To learn more about how to build a legacy, make sure to read Building a Legacy.

How to Talk to Children About the Death of a Pet

By Grief/Loss, Pets

Pets are a lovable, huggable, irreplaceable part of the family. This can be especially true for children, some of whom may not even remember a time when your pet wasn’t part of the family. Because your pet has always been around and has a special place in the family, your children may take its death hard. It may even be their first exposure to grief.

While we often want to shelter our children from the tough things in life, it’s better to help them face it than to prevent them from experiencing it. After all, life is filled with difficult situations our children will have to learn to navigate. That being said, there are helpful ways to talk about the death of a pet. Let’s go over 10 tips for talking with your children about the death of a pet so you can feel prepared to answer their questions and meet their emotional needs.

1. Be honest

Rather than sugarcoating the situation, stick to the truth. Taking your child’s age and maturity level into account, gauge just how much information they need to hear. It’s preferable to use words like “death” and “dying” – it will help the child realize the permanence of the pet’s absence. Also, stay away from saying things like, “Red ran away” or “Clover went on a trip.” These won’t help your child process their sadness and may make them feel abandoned. On top of that, if they find out you glossed over the truth, they may become angry at you for not telling them the truth.

If you must euthanize your pet, talk to your child about why it’s necessary, especially if they are older. If the death is more sudden, calmly explain what happened and answer their questions.

2. Keep it simple

Keep the information as simple as possible. Small children aren’t going to ask too many questions, but if they do, calmly answer them in simple terms. They need to know that the pet isn’t coming back, but you can share that information in a gentle way. For example, “Clover was in an accident today, sweetheart. She was hurt very badly, and she died. That means she won’t be coming back to us. Are you okay? Do you have any questions?”

If your child is older, take time to address their concerns. They will be more vocal with their questions. If you are considering euthanizing your pet for health or quality-of-life reasons, discuss the decision with your children and come to a decision together.

3. Break the news in a familiar place

When you break the news, make sure your child is in a safe and comfortable place. They are about to hear news that may deeply upset their world, so it’s best to make sure they are in a place they consider safe. Use a soothing voice, hold their hand, and minimize the distractions.

If you have multiple children, consider breaking the news to them individually. Each child will respond differently to the news of the pet’s death, and you will want to be able to respond to their separate needs.

4. Tell them it’s okay to be sad

Every child will respond differently when confronted with loss. Some are more likely to cry while others may seem unfazed. No matter your child’s reaction, it’s important that they know that whatever they feel is normal. If they need to cry, tell them that’s okay, and it’s good for them to cry if they feel sad. Don’t try to prevent them from expressing their grief. Instead, allow them to feel what they feel. In the long run, it’s better to allow a grieving child time and space to grieve than to make them think their feelings aren’t acceptable or normal.

5. Share your own feelings

As parents, the tendency may be to play down your own emotions so that you can “be strong” for your children. While it may feel counterintuitive, don’t try to hide your emotions from your child. Your openness and vulnerability will help your child understand that it’s okay to express their own emotions. When you model healthy grief, it helps your child learn how to process grief and understand that it’s normal to feel sad when a death occurs. Of course, make sure not to frighten your child with your own emotions. Crying is fine, but for expressive forms of grief, find a time to be alone or with an adult you trust. You want to share in your child’s sadness – not overwhelm them with your own.

6. Avoid euphemisms

Children are very literal, so you have to be careful how you explain the death of a pet. If you euthanize your pet, don’t use the terms “to sleep” or “got put to sleep.” These terms may make your child afraid to go to sleep because they fear they won’t wake up. Or, they may develop possible fears about surgery or anesthesia because we use similar terms.

Also, don’t say that “God has taken” the dog or that it “went away.” In the first case, the child may begin to resent God for taking their pet away and wonder who God might take next. In the second case, a child may wait and wait and wait for the pet to return from wherever they “went away” to. It’s best to be completely truthful and tell your child that their pet has died, and that you are there to comfort them.

7. Reassure them

For some children, loss can trigger fear. They may fear that another pet will die or that people they love will die. In particular, they may fear that something will happen to you – their parent. Calmly and patiently calm their fears. Hold them close to you. Let them cry. Reassure them with words like, “I love you. I don’t plan to leave for a very long time.” Over the coming days, weeks, and months, they may suddenly fear that you will go away. Each time the fear crops up, reassure them of your love and that you plan to stay with them until you are very old.

8. Give them a chance to say goodbye

Just like adults, children need an opportunity to say goodbye to the family pet. For younger children, this may be as simple as placing a kiss on the pet’s head or attending a small family ceremony to bury the pet. Older children may want to be present if the pet is euthanized, but that decision should be left entirely up to them. No matter the age of your child, make a point of saying goodbye to your beloved family pet so that everyone feels a sense of closure and completion. This doesn’t mean that the grief is done, just that you have had a chance to say goodbye.

9. Answer their questions

Children are inquisitive by nature. According to the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, children between the ages of 7 and 9 will have the most questions about death. If your child does start asking questions, don’t panic. Continue to give simple yet truthful answers. There’s no need to go into great detail. Answer their specific question. And if you don’t know the answer, it’s okay to admit that you aren’t sure. Some things about death are still a mystery.

A few questions you may hear:

  • Why did my pet die?
  • Is it my fault?
  • Where does my pet’s body go?
  • Will I ever see my pet again?
  • Is my pet in heaven?
  • Can I make my pet come back?

10. Help them grieve

The final step is to help them through the grieving process. For many children, a pet can almost feel like a sibling – the bond is so close and deep. That’s why it’s important to help them grieve the loss of their dear, furry friend. You might plan a small memorial for your pet and let your child take part. Or, you could put together a scrapbook of photos and memories or create a DVD. You could place a photo of the pet in your child’s room or purchase a stuffed animal that looks similar to help bring them comfort.

Above all, encourage them to talk about what they’re feeling and look for ways to help them express those emotions. What they learn now – as children – will help them process grief as adults. Teach them now how to process grief in a healthy way, and they will carry it into their adulthood and use what they learned to cope with future grief.

Healthy Practices for Your Later Years: 80s

By Living Well

You now have eight decades under your belt, which means you have a lot of valuable life experience and many memories to cherish. Now that you’ve reached this milestone, it’s even more important to make healthy practices a core part of your everyday life.

Let’s go over 10 helpful and healthy practices to help you make the most of the coming years.

1. Focus on Balance

Movement continues to be an important part of life, so keep staying active with walks, yoga, and other forms of exercise. However, as you age, it’s also important to focus on balance. Falls and broken bones are a serious concern for older adults and can significantly impact the way you live your life, including whether you can continue to live independently. As you add exercise to your life, incorporate specific movements that help with balance, mobility, and flexibility.

2. Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods

For many older adults, it’s hard to get all the right nutrients into your body. Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated if you take the time to create an eating plan for yourself. Ask your doctor what you should include in your diet and make changes from there. Even if you haven’t paid as much attention in the past, that’s okay. Simply adding antioxidant-rich foods to your diet will help your body repair itself and prevent future damage.

3. Don’t Miss Your Screenings

You’re at an age when your health is a bit more fragile, so screenings could literally add years to your life. Talk to your doctor and find out which screenings you should do each year, and then, go ahead and schedule the appointments. Don’t feel like you need to screen for everything – just the ones that make the most sense for you. Going to the appointments may take extra time and feel inconvenient but taking that extra step will allow you to catch any health concerns early and protect your body from illness.

4. Protect Your Brain

There are many ways to stimulate and protect your brain. For instance, simply spending time with friends can keep your brain healthy and protect you from loneliness. Also, try new things. Letting your brain get bored leads to less stimulation and engagement, so find ways to interact with the world around you. Have interesting conversations, play games (find a few you’ve not played before), or learn a new skill. Alternatively, you might consider teaching a younger person one of the skills you already possess, like sewing, playing an instrument, gardening, or woodworking.

5. Ask for Help

There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help. Now that you’re enjoying your 80s, you will need more assistance than you used to, and that’s natural. If you have family and friends nearby, they are typically more than willing to lend a hand, but first, you need to let them know what you need. You may not want to “bother” them, but more than likely, they’d rather you ask than do without. If you are specific about what you need, people will gladly step in and help you.

6. Be Safe

Safety is a serious concern for many seniors, especially those who are living independently or are experiencing physical or mental decline. Some of the most common concerns are: falls, driving safety, extreme hot or cold weather, elder abuse, and identity theft or fraud.

To prevent falls, de-clutter your home and make sure walking paths are clear. For driving safety, objectively consider your driving capabilities, and if it’s time, don’t be afraid to let someone chauffer you around. With weather extremes, pay attention to the news or a weather app and adjust your home’s thermostat accordingly. And for elder abuse, identity theft, or fraud, cultivate a good relationship with a younger, trusted family member or friend who can teach you how to keep your personal information safe and recognize criminal behavior.

7. Get Enough Sleep

The benefits of sleep can’t be overstated. Sleep improves concentration and memory, gives your body time to heal itself, refreshes your immune system, and helps prevent health problems like diabetes and weight problems. Doctors recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night for the average adult. More sleep means less risk for heart disease, stroke, or dementia. If you are having trouble sleeping – a common problem for older adults – talk to your doctor. They can help you find a solution that will lead to long nights of rejuvenating sleep.

8. Complete Your Estate Planning

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to complete your estate planning. You may still have many years left to enjoy, but none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, so getting your affairs in order is an important task. For your estate planning needs, speak with an attorney who can help you write a will, complete powers of attorney, record your advance care directives, and answer any questions you may have.

Additionally, though it may not be your favorite topic, you should consider putting together a funeral plan that outlines how you would like your life to be remembered. Putting a funeral plan in place allows you to control the budget and the way your life is honored. On top of that, it also protects your loved ones from having to make difficult decision during a time of grief. Instead, they can focus on honoring your life and offering comfort to each other.

9. Invest in Relationships

Without people, our lives would be less rewarding and full. Those we love add an extra dimension of hope to our lives. Even though you may spend more time at home these days, look for a few activities a week where you can spend time with others. If you are homebound entirely, call, write, or email others. Invite them over for meals or just to chat and catch up. If many of your friends have already passed, talk to your neighbors or ask your children to bring over some of their friends so you can cultivate relationships with a younger set of people. Connecting with others in a meaningful way will brighten your days and give you joy.

10. Find Your New Purpose

If you are here on Earth, you still have purpose. However, at this stage in life, your purpose may have changed compared to your working years. When you were younger, you may have found purpose in a career, raising a family, or hobbies and activities that your body just can’t keep up with anymore. Now, things are different, but you can still live with purpose. Perhaps it’s mentoring a younger person, writing letters or a memoir, volunteering at an organization you believe in, or dedicating your time and resources to help those in need. Think about the legacy you want to leave behind for those you love, and take small steps every day to leave a legacy of kindness, love, wisdom, and generosity. No matter your situation or limitations, you can find something to pour your passion into and ignite purpose in your life.