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christy.kessler

What You Need to Know About Pet Burial and Cremation

By Pets

When a pet dies, we often feel a deep sense of loss. But no matter how we feel, we must also deal with the logistics of ensuring that our pet finds a final resting place. For most families, that will mean either burial or cremation. Let’s review both options so you can select which works best for your family.

Pet Burial

First, let’s review burial. This option has been around for a long time, and for many families, it’s the best option for keeping things simple and cost effective.

1. Home Burial

If a family has the available land, they may choose to bury a pet at home. By doing this, your pet will remain close to you, and you can even add a grave marker or have a burial ceremony. If your family chooses this option, there are a few things to consider.

  • Is it legal? Check your local laws to ensure that pet burial on personal property is allowed.
  • How deep should you dig? Four feet is usually sufficient to keep predators away.
  • Do you have a large pet? For large animals, digging a grave can be difficult so you may need a back hoe or help from friends or family.
  • What should you bury them in? Make sure that anything non-biodegradable is removed (like plastic) and consider placing your pet in a wooden or cardboard casket or box.
  • Have you chosen a good place for burial? Make sure that you know what’s below the ground where you plan to dig a grave, ensuring that you aren’t going to disturb buried lines or your neighbor’s water supply.
  • What if your pet dies in the winter? If you live in a place where snow blankets the ground in winter, making it difficult to bury a pet, have a chat with your veterinarian. Often, the vet’s office is willing to preserve the pet until spring arrives.

2. Pet Cemetery Burial

Another burial option is to talk with a funeral home that offers pet services or a pet burial services company to request burial in a pet cemetery. With this option, you don’t have to worry about potential legal issues, and if you move away, your pet’s grave will always be in a place you can visit, if you choose.

Typically, you can choose whether you’d like private burial or communal burial. Private burial is often more expensive, but it comes with the ability to add a memorial marker and gives you a specific place to visit, if that’s important to you. Communal burial means that your pet will not have an individual marker and may be buried with other pets. However, the cemetery may offer a memory wall where you can add a memorial for your pet.

Pet Cremation

Cremation is a second option to consider when deciding how best to care for a pet’s body after death. As with burial, you have a few choices, though cremation entails a few extra decisions. Let’s review your cremation options.

1. Private/Individual Cremation

The most important thing to consider when looking at pet cremation is whether or not you want memorial items. For instance, do you want to have an urn at home with your pet’s ashes? Do you want cremation jewelry or to have a memorial box? Would you prefer to keep your pet’s ashes close to you? If you do, then private/individual cremation is best for you. While this type of cremation is more expensive, it gives you greater flexibility on what you’d like to do with your pet’s ashes.

2. Mass/Communal Cremation

If you know that you don’t want memorial items and you also don’t want to bury your pet, then mass/communal cremation might be the best option for you. Because your pet will be cremated with other pets, this option is typically less expensive (often based on the weight of your pet), but it also means you won’t receive any ashes back.

With both of these options, speak to a funeral home that offers pet services, a veterinary clinic, or a pet burial services company to determine the current rates and full range of services available for each type of cremation.

What’s Next?

Once you’ve chosen which type of final disposition is right for your pet, you can decide what to do next. Do you need to purchase an urn or memorial item? Should you select a spot in the backyard for home burial? Do you need to choose a grave marker or headstone?

Another thing to consider is whether you want to have some kind of burial or memorial service. This practice is often quite helpful for children. If you opt for home burial, you can allow your child(ren) to choose the burial spot, encourage them to decorate the area with flowers, and maybe say a few words. With both home burial and private burial, you can work together as a family to choose a meaningful grave marker. These actions may help your child grieve and find closure following a pet’s death.

With cremation, you will need to decide what you’d like to do with the ashes. You can place them in an urn or memorial box, where your child could see it daily. Alternatively, you could scatter the ashes at a favorite park or outdoor area. Saying goodbye is always hard, so deciding what’s best for all members of your family is important and necessary.

For some additional ideas on memorial options for pets, feel free to read 7 Pet Memorial Options and 10 Family-Focused Pet Remembrance Ideas.

Making Christmas Meaningful with Family Interviews

By Christmas, Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

Christmas is a time to come together with loved ones and share in the joy of the season. There’s lots of food, fellowship, and conversations. While this Christmas may look a little different, why not use the conversations you do have to preserve the essence of your loved ones – the stories of their lives, the tone of their voices, and their beloved quirks of habit? Too often, we take our time on earth for granted, and before we are ready, a loved one is gone. With family interviews, you can learn things you never knew before, share a few laughs, and record your family’s one-of-a-kind stories for future generations.

If the idea appeals to you, sit down with or video call your living loved ones this Christmas for an oral history interview. But what is an oral history interview, you may ask? It’s pretty simple, really. Schedule time with someone, ask questions, and record their answers. That’s it!

Why Should I Do This?

First and foremost, it’s a tangible way to show someone you love them. By spending one-on-one time with them, asking questions and sharing conversation, you add value to your and your loved one’s lives. You make them feel loved, appreciated, and important to you. Also, think about what you could learn from your loved one’s successes, or even more importantly, from their mistakes? Did you know that your loved one used to go swing dancing every Saturday night as a young person? Did you know how they felt when their first child or grandchild was born?

People are simple and yet complex. So much of our lives take place internally. By asking questions, you can begin to know your loved ones even more intimately and learn things about them that you may never have known.

Secondly, it’s a practical way to preserve family history for future generations, to discover the stories that bind our families together. In today’s world, so many people are interested in where they came from, what their ancestors were like, and what kind of life they lived. New websites pop up every day related to genealogy and family history. Do you want future generations to know who your loved one was and what their life was like? Take the time necessary to preserve your family’s story.

Thirdly, when the day comes that your loved one is gone, hopefully after a long and fulfilling life, you can take the information you’ve gathered and create a meaningful funeral service. Additionally, if you video your interviews, you will have priceless footage to use in the creation of a special tribute video that will be meaningful for the funeral service but also for future generations of family.

Who Should I Interview?

Whoever you want (but make sure to ask for permission first). You can interview your mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, a next door neighbor, or anyone else. There are no rules that say you can only interview family members, so go all out. Your interest in each person’s life might just make their day.

How Do I Do This?

1. Determine what questions you will ask.

The first step is to decide what questions you want to ask. Thankfully, resources exist online that share in-depth, open-ended questions that you can ask your loved one. There are tips on interview etiquette, how to set goals for your interviews, and how to help everyone be at ease and enjoy the time together.

2. Select a documentation medium.

The second step is to decide what medium you want to use to record your interviews. Some options are:

  • Handwrite everything in a special journal
  • Type everything on a computer
  • Use an audio recording app or other equipment
  • Film the interviews using a phone or other equipment
  • A mixture of these options or something else that’s easy for you

3. Spend quality time with your loved one.

Lastly, go spend time with your loved one. Start this Christmas Day! If you need more time (and you probably will), talk to them and decide what day and time is best for a chat, whether in person, over the phone, or on a video call. Let the conversation flow naturally. Don’t get hung up on trying to get all your questions answered at once. Just be there and absorb. Remember, you won’t get everything recorded in one sitting. Take your time and have fun!

Yes, Christmas is a time when families come together, enjoy each other’s company, and share laughter and memories. This year, what better way to spread a little cheer to your loved ones than to show an interest and intentionally get to know more about their lives?

Reducing Your Christmas Stress During Times of Grief

By Christmas, Exclude from Top Posts, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

Grief can be exhausting – mentally, physically, and emotionally. And Christmas, even though it’s often a joyful and festive season, has its share of stresses, especially during times of grief when it’s a battle to do the normal everyday tasks. So, what can you do this season to reduce your Christmas stress while you process your grief?

Before we move into a few tips, remember that whatever you’re feeling is normal. You’ve lost someone you love, and it’s hard. You may feel a wide range of emotions, including sadness, shock, denial, guilt, anger, or even relief. No matter what you’re feeling, these emotional responses are normal and natural. All you need to focus on is taking care of yourself through the holiday season so that you have the energy you need to process what you feel and begin the journey toward healing.

Tips for Reducing Your Christmas Stress

Your feelings may tell you to skip Christmas altogether this year, but before you make any big decisions, take some time to evaluate what changes you can make to keep things simple while also taking your loved ones’ needs into account.

For example, you may decide not to attend your work party, but instead, you go out to lunch with your closest office friends. Or, instead of getting individual gifts for everyone, you get gift cards instead. There are little changes you can make that will make your life easier while also ensuring that your family and friends still get to enjoy your presence during the holidays.

Here are a few tips for reducing your holiday stress:

Keep Things Simple

You may normally go all out for Christmas, but this year, give yourself permission to take it easy. With a few adjustments, you can take a task or event from stressful to simple.

  • If the stores are too crowded and holiday shopping is stressing you out, do your shopping online or cut back on the number of gifts this year. Or, after talking to your family, consider skipping gifts altogether this year and picking up next year.
  • If signing and sending holiday cards is too much, skip it this year. People will understand.
  • While putting up all the Christmas decorations usually brings a sense of joy, the thought may be stressful this year. Consider minimizing (or even skipping) the decorations if it seems like too much.

Don’t Overcommit

The Christmas season is often filled to the brim with events, parties, get-togethers, recitals, concerts, family gatherings, and more. You may not have the energy to go to everything, and that’s okay. Choose the most important events and pass on the rest.

As you prioritize events, make sure to talk to your family about your plans so they know when to expect you and when not to. This way, they can let you know what’s important for them – maybe a child’s recital – and you can plan ahead for the events you will attend. Plus, communicating your plans to family and taking their requests into account will help soothe any ruffled feathers and keep things relaxed.

Accept Help

If you’re like many of us, you learned early that it’s good to be independent and self-reliant. And while these two things are not inherently bad, we can sometimes take them a little too far, refusing help when we actually need it. So, this Christmas, don’t be afraid to accept a little help. Let people support you through this time of grief. Accept casseroles, offers to run errands, and assistance with household chores. It will only make things less stressful and easier for you.

Practice Self-Care

Grief takes a toll on us, and it’s important to find ways to take care of ourselves. That means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, pampering yourself every so often, and not overdoing it. At Christmas, self-care may be splurging on a gift for yourself, going to the golf range or the day spa, or simply spending quiet time alone to journal, meditate, listen to music, or take long walks. No matter what it is that helps you relax and feel cared for, take time to do that this holiday season.

Express Your Feelings

You may be tempted to push down your feelings and power through the holidays but try to resist the temptation. Instead, build opportunities for reflection into your holiday season. Make time to express yourself. This could mean journaling, painting, talking with friends or family, or attending a grief support group. There will be times when your grief shows up unexpectedly, and that’s okay. People will understand if you’re teary. But by intentionally taking time to address your emotions, you can better confront and reflect on what you feel on your own time and on your own terms.

Honor Your Loved One’s Memory

This year, you’re missing someone special. Rather than ignoring their absence, consider finding a special way to honor their memory. Avoiding the elephant in the room – your grief and loss – may lead to feelings of stress. By openly honoring a loved one, you will have the freedom to include your loved one’s memory in the festivities without reservation.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Save a seat for them at the table
  • Create a remembrance item
  • Serve their favorite dish
  • Play their favorite Christmas tunes
  • Pull out the family photos and reminisce
  • Visit the graveside and leave a wreath, poinsettia, or memento
  • Continue one of their favorite traditions or incorporate a new one in their honor

While remembering your loved one may bring moments of sadness, there will be joy in finding ways to make them a special part of the season.

Let this Year be Different

If you’re someone who wants everything just-so, one big way to reduce your holiday stress is to let things be different this year. Let go of the need for a perfect tree, perfectly wrapped gifts, and the perfectly prepared meal. Give yourself a little grace and some room to breathe. Christmas is different this year; it’s harder. Do what you can to keep things simple.

Now, it’s important to acknowledge that no two people are alike. Some of these suggestions will resonate with you and some won’t. That’s just fine. If having the perfectly trimmed Christmas tree helps you relax, then go all out. If shopping provides a release of tension, do it. You know yourself best, so implement the ideas that work best for who you are.

Just remember – it’s okay to let yourself feel however you feel this Christmas. You don’t have to force yourself to be cheerful, and you don’t have to stop yourself from feeling happy if you enjoy the season. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love or miss the person who is gone; it means that you are human. We are complex beings, and our lives are filled with moments of joy mixed with moments of grief, sometimes both at once! Take time this Christmas season to step back, take care of yourself, and enjoy time with the people you love the most. If you do, you will create sweet memories to cherish in the years to come.

Kid-Friendly Holiday Remembrance Ideas

By Christmas, Exclude from Top Posts, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

After losing a loved one, the holidays can be very difficult for both kids and adults. You and your family may not feel up to all of the Christmas cheer and seasonal festivities, and that’s okay. You need to figure out what’s right for you this year and do that. But no matter what you decide to do, if you have kids who are grieving, consider how you can help them remember the person they love this season through remembrance activities and express what they may be feeling.

Just like you, kids need to be able to express what they feel, and oftentimes, they need a little help. Because they are still developing, they may not always be able to name their feelings as precisely as an adult. That’s why it’s so helpful to provide them with activities and exercises that will help them express what’s on the inside. And who knows? Something you begin this year may become a beloved holiday tradition for years to come.

Here are a few kid-friendly holiday remembrance ideas to get you started:

Put out a Memory Stocking

With a memory stocking or box, the whole family can write down memories or thoughts, share words of love and remembrance, or draw pictures of a favorite memory and then place them in the stocking/box. Then, at some point during the holidays, you can all sit down together and read the notes and spend time honoring your loved one’s memory. Whether you hang an extra stocking, place a memory box in a special place, or dedicate a miniature Christmas tree to notes and photos, the kids can get involved and express what they are thinking, feeling, and missing about the person who has died.

Light a Candle

Candles have long been used to as a symbol for remembrance. Keeping the light burning signifies that the memory of a loved one still shines bright. This Christmas season, consider lighting a candle in honor of the person you’ve lost. You can place the candle in a special place and take turns lighting the candle through the season. This way, everyone has a chance to actively remember the person who has died.

Visit the Graveside

Permanent memorials – like grave markers and plaques – give mourners a place to go to feel close to a loved one who has died. Consider whether a trip to the grave might be appropriate for your family. You can bring a wreath, a poinsettia, notes, drawings, or another meaningful item to leave behind as a token of your love.

If your loved one selected cremation and they were not buried, visit the place where their ashes were released or a place that is particularly meaningful to you. It doesn’t really matter where you go, so long as it’s a place where you feel a sense of closeness and kinship to the person who has died.

Release a Balloon

For this simple idea, all you need are biodegradable balloons and a sharpie. Blow up the balloons, have each person write a special message on their balloon, and then, release them to the sky. This practice is actually more meaningful than you might think, and it’s an easy way to get everyone involved. But remember – get biodegradable balloons that are friendly to the environment.

Enjoy Your Loved One’s Holiday Favorites

Whether it’s watching their favorite Christmas movie, making their signature dish, listening to their Christmas tunes, or driving around to see the best Christmas lights, take time to enjoy some of your loved one’s favorite traditions. Depending on where you are in the grief journey, this may be difficult, so consider what’s best for your family right now.

Just remember – not everyone grieves the same way. While watching that favorite movie might be painful for you, it could be just what your child needs to feel close to the person you’ve lost. Sit down with your kids and decide together which holiday favorites to keep and which to pass on this year.

Create a Holiday Memorial Keepsake

Another option is to sit down with your kids and create a holiday memorial keepsake together. This could be an ornament that they can pull out each year. Or a holiday throw pillow made from your loved one’s clothing. Or a scrapbook filled with holiday memories from years past. No matter what makes sense for your family, you can create a keepsake to bring out every year as a remembrance token. Over time, it will become a sweet piece of your holiday tradition and remind you of the person you love.

Look at Photos Together

Human beings are often very visual beings, and we associate memories with images and items. Sometime this Christmas season, take time to sit down with your little ones and go through family photos. Tell them the stories behind the photos.

Through this activity, you express your own feelings and memories while also helping your children build a more complete picture of the person who has died. Because a child may not have had time to develop a long-term, deep relationship with the person who has died, they will rely on your memories (to a degree) to help them process their own feelings.

Make a Memory Chain

For this activity, cut long, narrow strips of paper in your favorite holiday colors. Then, sit down with your kids to write on the paper. You could write so many things:

  • Favorite holiday memories
  • What you feel right now
  • Things you miss about your lost loved one
  • How you felt about your loved one

Then, you can create an interlinking chain to put on the tree, in a doorway, or across the fireplace mantel.

You can do all or none of these remembrance ideas. These are simply suggestions to get you started. No matter what you decide is right for you and your family this year, look for ways to strike the balance between the joy of the season and your feelings of grief. This year isn’t going to look like all the others – that’s for certain – but it can still be sweet and memorable. Don’t pretend that nothing has changed. It has. Instead, find ways to acknowledge that life is different while still allowing your family to find a little joy in the Christmas season.

Leaving a Legacy: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

To make life a little better for people less fortunate than you, that’s what I think a meaningful life is. One lives not just for oneself but for one’s community.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

As we mark Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, we cannot help but reflect on her life and the legacy she leaves behind. Her life was characterized by drive, passion, perseverance, and tenacity. As only the second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, Ginsburg lived a life of service and commitment to the United States of America.

Biography

Born on March 15, 1933, Ginsburg was the second daughter of working-class parents in Brooklyn, New York. Though her parents did not attend college, they encouraged Ginsberg in her studies. She eventually graduated from Cornell University with her bachelor’s degree and Columbia Law School with her law degree.

She married Martin Ginsburg in 1954, and after supporting him through a cancer diagnosis in 1956, Ginsburg completed law school and moved into employment, where she encountered gender discrimination. It was this early experience that led her to champion women’s rights and work to achieve gender equality.

After teaching at Rutgers University Law School and Columbia Law School, she was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals by President Carter. Then, in 1993, President Clinton appointed her to the Supreme Court, where she served for 27 years. In 2010, her husband of 56 years, “the only young man I dated who cared that I had a brain,” died of cancer. Despite her grief, she finished out the 2010 term at the Supreme Court.

She continued to serve as a Supreme Court Justice until her death from pancreatic cancer on September 18, 2020.

Major Career Accomplishments

  • First female tenured professor at Columbia Law School
  • Co-founded the first law journal devoted to gender inequality
  • Director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union
  • Appointed to U.S. Court of Appeals as a judge
  • Appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court
  • Presented as a lawyer and/or ruled as a Supreme Court Justice on a number of landmark cases

The Importance of a Legacy

As we look back at Ginsburg’s life, none of us can deny that she 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. It’s apparent in Ginsburg’s life that her parents, especially her mother, 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 Ginsburg may or may not have initially set out to create a legacy, she 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 Ginsburg had a profound impact on her children and countless others, so can you. 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:

  • Looks for opportunities to know others and be known by them
  • Model and teach what’s most important
  • Compliment, encourage, and build up our 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. 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 Create a Memorial Page on Facebook and Instagram

By Estate Planning, Grief/Loss, Memorial

More and more, people across the globe are cultivating a social media presence. Some put more effort into it than others, but for many of us, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are a normal part of life. But what happens to these online profiles when someone dies? Today, let’s talk about the ins and outs of creating a memorial page on Facebook and Instagram.

The Importance of Digital Estate Planning

You may associate estate planning with a will or power of attorney, but digital estate planning is an important, often overlooked part of estate planning. It’s just as valuable to provide instructions for online accounts, digital assets, and social media profiles as it is to write down your wishes for physical holdings. To learn more about digital estate planning, take a moment to read Managing your Digital Estate and How to Make Digital Estate Planning Simple.

Now, let’s move on to Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook Memorial Page

Option 1: Creating a Memorial Page on Facebook

With Facebook, you have two options after death: delete the account or create a memorial page. Thankfully, Facebook has clear-cut instructions on how to do both of these things.

The most common reason to turn a Facebook page into a memorial is to create a place where family, friends, co-workers, and even acquaintances can process grief together and offer condolences to surviving family members. People can post memories, offer words of encouragement and sympathy, share photos, and more. Let’s start by going over a few pieces of key information!

Was a Legacy Contact chosen?

With Facebook, estate planning means designating a Legacy Contact. In other words, you tell Facebook who should manage your account after your death (often a spouse, close friend, or family member). The Legacy Contact can monitor your profile by deleting or memorializing the account, accepting friend requests, pinning tribute posts, updating profile and cover photos, and more. However, a Legacy Contact cannot log in to the account to view private messages or remove past posts, photos, or friends.

Currently, you can only add a Facebook friend as a Legacy Contact. When you select a Legacy Contact, Facebook gives you the option to notify that person right away, which is recommended so that person is in the know about your wishes. To learn how to add a Legacy Contact, go to How Do I Add, Change, or Remove a Legacy Contact?

On the other hand, if you’ve been added as a Legacy Contact to someone’s account and aren’t sure how to manage a memorialized Facebook page, go to How Do I Manage a Memorialized Profile on Facebook? for some helpful tips.

What if there is no designated Legacy Contact?

That’s okay. Family members can simply reach out to Facebook directly with a request to memorialize the account. However, memorialized accounts with no Legacy Contact can’t be changed in any way. To request that an account without a Legacy Contact be memorialized, go to the Memorialization Request.

What happens when you memorialize a Facebook page?

Memorialization locks the account and prevents anyone from logging in. While a Legacy Contact can’t log in to the account anymore, they can still make decisions on basic functions, like viewing posts, removing tags, updating profile and cover images, etc.

Additionally, a memorialized account will no longer appear in “search” results. However, any existing friends can still view the page and share photos, memories, and wall messages. The word “Remembering” will appear next to the deceased person’s name on their profile.

For a full list of links to helpful information, go to All You Need to Know about Facebook Memorialized Accounts.

Option 2: Deleting a Facebook Account

Alternatively, you can choose to have an account deleted instead. Keep in mind, if/when Facebook learns of a death, their policy is to memorialize the account if no instructions were left behind (i.e. no Legacy Contact and no request to delete the account).

If you are completing your own digital estate planning and want your account permanently deleted after your passing, go to Settings. Click Manage Account. Scroll down until you see Request that your account be deleted after you pass away and follow the prompts.

If you would like to delete the Facebook account of a deceased family member, you can reach out to Facebook directly. To learn more about the process and the required documentation, click here. Once you have your documentation gathered together, you can use the Special Request Form to begin the process of deleting the account. Please be aware, Facebook cannot provide you with login information for someone else’s account even after a death has occurred, but they can either delete or memorialize the account.

That’s it for Facebook – let’s move on to Instagram.

Instagram Memorial Page

While Instagram has been working on its memorial options for a while, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated their efforts. Now, similar to Facebook, you can either memorialize or delete an Instagram account.

Option 1: Creating a Memorial Page on Instagram

While Instagram now offers the ability to memorialize accounts, they do not currently allow you to designate a digital heir (Facebook calls this person a Legacy Contact). However, with the proper documentation, you can memorialize a loved one’s Instagram account after their death.

What are the key features of a memorialized Instagram account?

With a memorialized account:

  • The account locks and no one can log in.
  • The word “Remembering” appears on the person’s profile.
  • Any posts the deceased shared prior to death will stay visible.
  • You can no longer make changes to photos, videos, comments, privacy settings, or the current profile picture. Also, followers and the pages the deceased was following cannot be changed.

However, if you feel a comment or post on a memorialized profile violates Instagram’s Community Guidelines or Terms of Use, you can report it to Instagram by going to How to Report a Comment or How to Report a Post.

How do you memorialize an Instagram account?

The first step is to put in a request. When Instagram receives a valid request (regardless of whom that request is from), they will memorialize the account. To ensure that the request is valid, you must provide proof of death, such as an obituary or a news article. Just like Facebook, Instagram will not give out login information.

With a validated request, Instagram will memorialize the account. To submit a request to memorialize an account, go to the Request to Memorialize and fill it out.

Option 2: Removing an Instagram Account

The second option is to remove/delete the account. To entirely remove an account from Instagram, the requester must provide evidence that they are an immediate family member of the deceased.

Accepted forms of proof that you are an immediate family member are:

  • The deceased person’s birth certificate
  • The deceased person’s death certificate
  • Proof of authority under local law that you represent the deceased person

To request the removal of an Instagram account, you must complete the Removal Request and submit the required documentation.

Thankfully, both Facebook and Instagram have made the process simple and clear. Now that you know more about how to memorialize or delete accounts, take some time to carefully consider the best way to move forward. Every person is different, so decide what’s best for you and your family and do that. It may mean memorializing a lost loved one’s account so that friends and family can share memories and photos. It may mean removing the account entirely because it’s too painful to manage. There’s no right or wrong answer – just what makes the most sense for your needs.

Ideas for Honoring Your Loved One’s Memory This Thanksgiving

By Exclude from Top Posts, Memorial, Seasonal

Missing a loved one during the holidays is hard. The traditions that used to bring you joy may feel a little hollow this year. You may feel an internal (or external) pressure to keep things the same as always. It could be that Thanksgiving was your loved one’s favorite holiday, which only makes everything more difficult.

No matter what level of grief this Thanksgiving brings out in you, there are ways to add meaningful moments that will soothe your heart and help your family remember and honor a much-loved missing member. While the holiday won’t be the same as years before, it can be sweet, poignant, and just what your grieving heart needs.

Ideas for Honoring Your Loved One’s Memory This Thanksgiving

These ideas are intended to spur your own thoughts. Some of these may resonate with you; others may not. That’s okay. Consider incorporating the ones that make sense to you or come up with your own ideas. You could even make it a family exercise and bounce ideas off each other for how to best honor your loved one’s memory.

Share Cherished Memories

Whether it’s over the dinner table, on family walks, during the football game or movie, or as you sit around the living room enjoying each other’s company, take time to share cherished memories. You could talk about memories from Thanksgivings past. Or, you can simply reminisce over the ones that easily come to mind. Bring out the photos and listen as different family members share varied accounts of that family moment. Not only will this be a sweet time to remember your family moments, it will also allow you to talk about your loved one, which is often what we need most after a loss.

Include a Memorial Opportunity at Home

By creating a memorial opportunity, you allow yourself and others to actively engage in a remembrance activity. What this looks like will vary greatly from family to family, but here are a few ideas for creating a memorial opportunity. Set up a small memory tree and encourage everyone to write a note about your loved one and place it on the tree. Create a memory board or table, adding photos and mementos. Make sure to invite your family to bring something to add. Or, you can create a memory capsule, where everyone brings an item to include (photo, souvenir, note, etc.) and then several Thanksgivings down the road, you open it together.

Bring Their Memory to the Table

If it’s best for you and your family, you can make your loved one’s memory a more prominent feature of the day’s festivities. For instance, you can create a centerpiece to grace the table that features loved ones whose memories you want to honor. Give a Thanksgiving toast or prayer. Go around the table and each share something you are grateful for about the person who has died. Leave an open seat at the table in their memory. Pull out your loved one’s recipes and serve the dishes that everyone remembers and loves. Or, place a different photo of your loved one on each place setting and invite everyone to share memories.

Take Action to Honor Their Memory

If you are a person of action, there are things you can physically do on Thanksgiving to honor your loved one’s memory. You could sign up for a Turkey Trot and walk/run in their memory. Or you could watch one of their favorite movies. Attend a remembrance service. Write a message on a biodegradable balloon and then release it to the sky, your message of love floating towards the heavens. Visit their grave or a place that was special to your loved one. Donate food or money in their name, possibly supplying a Thanksgiving meal to a family in need.

Give a Memorial Gift

A final idea to consider is giving a memorial gift. Perhaps you could give each person a photo of your loved one. Make Christmas ornaments from their clothing and place one at each place setting. Then, when Christmas comes the following month, each person has a memorial ornament to place on the tree. If you have the time, you could create a short tribute video with photos and video or audio clips. Then, you can give a copy to each family member. Or, write your loved one’s favorite recipe on cards and give one to each household so they can enjoy the dish in their own homes.

No matter what you decide to do, make sure to take care of yourself amidst it all. Grief is hard and often very tiring. Journal what you are thinking and feeling because there will be moments when the feelings come strongly. If you aren’t a writer, talk to someone or draw or go for a walk or run. Whatever you need to do to work through your feelings. Get plenty of sleep and give yourself permission to experience moments of joy.

This Thanksgiving will be different. That’s for certain. But you can find the balance between moments of grief and moments of joy. Choose a way to honor your loved one’s memory in a meaningful way and let yourself enjoy time and new memories with the people you love, here and now.

Why Should Veterans Plan Ahead?

By Explore Options, Plan Ahead, Veterans

As veterans, you gave a part of your life in committed service to our nation, and we offer you a sincere and heartfelt thank you. But did you know that you can also do a great service and offer a gift of love to your family by planning ahead?

While no one likes to think about their own death, the fact remains that, one day, your family will need to make dozens of hard decisions to arrange your final life tribute. They will want to gather together, offer support to one another, remember you, and honor your legacy, including your noble service in the armed forces. Even if you don’t want a big fuss, the fact still remains: someone will be responsible for making funeral plans for you. Why couldn’t that person be you?

Why Plan Ahead?

There are so many reasons to plan ahead, but here are the top five.

1. Planning ahead can actually save your family money.

When most people are called upon to plan a funeral, they are doing so for the first time in their lives. Because of this, surviving family members don’t know very much about how to keep costs from ballooning and often end up emotionally overspending because they want “only the best” for you. However, if you put your plan in writing and your family knows exactly what your wishes are, they are generally able to save considerably by avoiding unnecessary spending.

2. Planning ahead allows your family to spend more time together.

At the time of loss, the last thing family members want to do is spend several hours at a funeral home making arrangements. With a plan in place that outlines your wishes for a final tribute, your family is able to spend more time together, offering comfort, support, and love to one another at a time when they need it most.

3. Planning ahead helps avoid arguments.

We are emotional beings, some more than others. The loss of a loved one often brings out those emotions, and if a family is torn about which options to choose, feelings can tend to run high. Even when a general consensus is reached, family members can sometimes continue to feel anxiety, doubt, and regret about the decisions that were made and how they were made. However, when family members know exactly what you want, they experience greater peace knowing that they are honoring your final wishes.

4. Planning ahead gives you time to create a meaningful and healing final tribute.

The more personal the service is, the more meaningful it will be. By planning ahead, you give yourself and your family time to plan and prepare a service (burial or cremation) that truly reflects your life and meets the emotional needs of your family. It will also give you time to mull over other questions, like whether you want to include military honors at the funeral or if you’d like to ask any fellow veterans to participate.

5. Planning ahead brings peace of mind even before you die.

Have you ever completed a big project and just felt a weight lift off your shoulders? That’s what it feels like when you finally take that step and plan ahead for your funeral wishes. Not only does it bring you peace of mind, but it can also bring comfort to family members who know that they won’t have to face those difficult decisions on one of the worst days of their lives.

Also, by planning ahead, you can ensure that you know exactly what you qualify for regarding veterans’ burial benefits. With these benefits provided by the Veterans Administration, you can further alleviate the financial burden left for your family.

What Are Your Burial Benefits?

While the Veterans Administration (VA) does not pay for everything, they do offer assistance that will help you take care of your family and create a healing and meaningful funeral ceremony.

Eligibility

The first step is to determine if you are eligible to receive the burial benefits available. The main thing to remember is that those who received honorable or general discharges qualify while those who received dishonorable discharges do not qualify. If you have questions about your eligibility, contact your local VA office.

Dependents and survivors of veterans may also be eligible for VA benefits. This means that your current spouse and any dependents are also eligible to receive certain burial benefits because of your service.

Now, let’s review the five main burial benefits available to you:

Burial Allowances

Generally speaking, when a veteran’s cause of death is not service-related, the reimbursement is described as two payments:

  1. (1) a burial and funeral expense allowance (associated with funeral or memorial options)
  2. (2) a plot interment allowance (associated with burial costs)

In a nutshell, the burial allowance is a designated dollar amount that the VA pays toward a veteran’s funeral. To receive this benefit, your family must apply following your death (or the death of a spouse or dependent child). The VA will direct deposit a designated amount into your family’s account. Then, they put it toward paying burial/cremation and funeral service costs. Due to rising costs each year, the VA increases the burial and plot allowance amounts annually.

For more detailed information on eligibility, click here.

Cemetery Interment Benefits

Choosing a final resting place is a very personal decision, and it’s always good to know your options. In the VA’s eyes, there are three types of cemeteries: national, state veterans, and private.

National Cemetery 

In addition to burial allowances, the VA also offers burial (cremated or full body) in a national cemetery through the National Cemetery Administration (www.cem.va.gov). This benefit includes a plot, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, and a government-issued headstone. While placement is based on availability, you, your spouse, and any dependent children can be buried in a national cemetery. Of course, as with anything, there are certain rules and guidelines.

There is no charge for a burial plot in a national cemetery. Because of this, the plot allowance is not available for burial in a national cemetery. In some cases, the VA may even pay for the cost of transporting a deceased veteran to the national cemetery. Speak to a funeral director or your regional VA office to get more details.

State Veterans Cemetery 

A second option for burial is a state veterans cemetery. These cemeteries are facilitated by the individual states, not by the National Cemetery Administration, so regulations will vary. Because of this, you or a funeral professional will need to contact your nearby state veterans cemetery to see if there are any fees associated with burial there and if they allow dependents to be buried on the grounds. However, you will be eligible for a government-issued headstone as well as the plot allowance.

Private Cemeteries 

If you choose burial in a private cemetery, then you will be responsible for cemetery costs on your own. However, you will be eligible for the plot allowance to assist with the total cost. Again, you are still eligible to receive a government-issued headstone or medallion. Spouses and dependents buried in a private cemetery receive no benefits.

Government-Issued Headstones or Medallions

The VA will provide a government headstone or medallion to mark the grave of an eligible veteran. If you want, you can even request a government headstone for eligible dependents if they are not buried in a private cemetery. The headstone can be placed in any cemetery around the world, but the grave must be unmarked.

Additionally, if you prefer burial in a private cemetery, you can request to receive a medallion. Medallions are durable and can be easily affixed to any headstone. They offer a way to identify a veteran who elects to use a more personalized grave marker.

Click here to view the headstone and medallion options available through the National Cemetery Administration.

Burial Flags

Because the American flag is a symbol of your service and sacrifice, its presence is a tribute to your life. Due to its importance, the VA provides an American flag to drape the casket or urn, and after the funeral service, the flag is given to the next of kin. Only one flag is issued per veteran.

Presidential Memorial Certificates

Finally, the VA offers a Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC), which is an engraved certificate, signed by the current President, that is given to honor your memory and your service.

So, these five elements make up the basic lineup of burial benefits that are available to an eligible veteran. There are many details to the whole process. That’s why it’s important to work with a funeral professional and your local VA office. They will ensure you have all the answers you need.

What’s Next?

Now you know why planning ahead is beneficial and which burial benefits are available to you. The next step is to reach out to a local funeral home and get started! Do a little research and find a funeral home with a good reputation. To help you, take a moment to read 10 Characteristics to Look for in a Funeral Home.

Once you’ve selected a funeral home, their staff will walk you through the rest of the process. They will make sure you don’t miss any details. With all the decisions made, you and your family will have peace of mind, knowing that everything has been taken care of.

What is Disenfranchised Grief?

By Grief/Loss

You are likely familiar with feelings of grief, but did you know that there are different forms of grief? Of course, the experience of grief is different from person to person, but sometimes “normal grief” can take a turn and become something a little different. The four most common variations are disenfranchised grief, complicated grief, compounded grief, and anticipatory grief. Today, let’s unpack disenfranchised grief and the impact it has on grieving people the world over.

First, What is Normal Grief?

Before we dive into disenfranchised grief, it’s important that you understand what normal grief is. In short, grief is your natural human response to the loss of someone or something you love. The emotions of grief vary greatly – sadness, anger, guilt, relief, shock – but they are all normal responses to loss. As much as you may prefer not to feel or deal with these types of emotions, they are actually a healthy part of the grieving process.

Grief is often accompanied by age-old rituals that bring people together to grieve. We hold hands, offer words of support and love, send cards and flowers, make donations, and deliver hot meals to the grieving family. We stand together to support those who are grieving and give them emotional and physical support as they mourn. But what if your grief was unacknowledged, no one stopped to listen to you, and there were no sympathetic words?

Enter Disenfranchised Grief

First coined by Dr. Kenneth Doka, “disenfranchised grief” is complicated, but put in the simplest terms, it is grief that cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned, or publicly mourned. Often, the grief is minimized or not understood (either by yourself or society in general or even within a family, friend group, or culture). This element of misunderstanding only further complicates the issue.

When your feelings of grief aren’t acknowledged or are minimized, you may begin to feel that your grief is inappropriate, invalid, or unacceptable in some way. And naturally, when you feel that your emotions are shameful, you are less likely to share what you’re feeling but will instead internalize it. Disenfranchised grief is often lonely, private, and you may feel that there must be something wrong with you for feeling this way.

On top of that, disenfranchised grief isn’t black and white; it’s very subjective. Two people may experience the exact same loss, but for one, the loss is openly acknowledged and mourned while for the other, it is minimized. Though they experienced the same loss, for one of them, it was disenfranchised.

To help you get a better grip on this concept, disenfranchised grief typically falls into three buckets. At times, a loss may fall into more than one bucket.

# 1 – The Relationship is Unrecognized

The first bucket is that your relationship to the person who has died is unrecognized. Perhaps the relationship was private or estranged or you are grieving someone you didn’t personally know. In this situation, your loss may not be recognized or understood by others. In some cases, your relationship to the deceased may even be a source of contention and pain to close family members.

With these factors in place, you may feel unable to mourn in the usual way and could end up internalizing the pain because you have no external outlet. When a relationship isn’t recognized, you may not be viewed as a griever so people don’t see or understand the depth of your feeling. A few examples of this are the death of an ex-spouse, estranged relative or friend, celebrity, public figure, or a relationship you kept private.

#2 – The Loss is Unacknowledged or Deemed Less Significant

By far, many forms of disenfranchised grief fall into this bucket. When a loss is unacknowledged (as is the case with many miscarriages) or is deemed less significant (like the loss of a pet), then it falls into disenfranchised grief. Oftentimes, these losses don’t fall into a group’s accepted definition of grief.

Also, disenfranchised grief is fairly subjective. Society may accept your loss as worthy of grief, but your family may not. When your grief is found unacceptable by someone, or even uncomfortable, it may hinder your ability to grieve well and openly, which could cause deep and lasting distress. Some examples of when a loss is unacknowledged or deemed less significant are:

  • Miscarriage (or stillbirth, infertility, or a traumatic birth experience)
  • Breakups
  • Estrangements
  • Job loss
  • Pet loss
  • Divorce
  • Death of an adult sibling, step-child or step-sibling, or an unmarried partner
  • Grieving the loss of a foster family member
  • Loss of possessions or home (i.e. in a fire, natural disaster, etc.)
  • Death of a co-worker
  • Death of a celebrity
  • Deterioration of one’s health

Often, the loss is something people don’t know how to talk about, so it’s generally unacknowledged or avoided (miscarriage is a perfect example) unless you find someone who has gone through the same type of loss. Other times, the loss surrounds something that people don’t think is as significant as other forms of loss. For instance, “Why are you grieving the loss of your stuff when people died in that natural disaster?” Yes, it’s the loss of material possessions, but it’s still a loss of comfort, peace, memories, and perhaps of home and livelihood. That’s significant and valid. Feeling grief over the loss of possessions doesn’t mean you don’t mourn the loss of the people – you can feel both at the same time.

#3 – Stigma Surrounds the Loss

The final bucket relates to losses that are surrounded by stigma in some way, often stemming from the method of death. You feel unable to fully grieve because of the circumstances of the loss. A few examples include suicide, drug overdose, AIDS, murder, or the driver in a drunk driving incident. It could also be grieving someone who is incarcerated, missing, dealing with a mental illness, or who has run away.

The loss could also be stigmatized because the relationship before the loss was not recognized. For example, the death of an ex-spouse could be doubly disenfranchised because the relationship is unrecognized and may also be stigmatized, especially if things are still unresolved between the two parties and their families.

Overall, disenfranchised grief means that what you’re feeling isn’t accepted by someone you deem important. This could be society as a whole, family, friends, or even yourself. After all, you can convince yourself that you have no right to grieve this loss. Unfortunately, that attitude won’t stop the feelings or help you work through them. You may feel judged or criticized by others for your grief, making you feel alone, embarrassed or ashamed. So, what can you do?

Three Suggestions to Help You Move Toward Healing

First of all, if you are going through disenfranchised grief right now, you’re not alone and your grief is valid. You have nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Grief is a natural response to the losses in our lives – no matter what form that loss takes. Now, let’s talk about three suggestions for moving toward healing as you work through your disenfranchised grief.

Validate the Loss Within Yourself

While it’s helpful to have others validate your feelings, it’s not necessary to move toward healing. The most important thing is for you to realize – within yourself – that your feelings of grief are real and legitimate. It’s okay if the people around you don’t fully understand. The most important person to validate your loss is you. Work toward acknowledging that you feel what you feel and it’s all part of the grief journey.

An important note – the grief that children feel is often overlooked or unacknowledged, so take extra effort to listen, validate their feelings, and offer support to the children in your life who are grieving.

Find Supportive People

As you work toward fully realizing and accepting that your loss is valid and worth grieving, find supportive people to talk to and do life with. You need people who won’t minimize your feelings but will accept and support you wherever you are on the grief journey. You might start with an understanding close friend or family member. Additionally, consider sitting down with a support group or a therapist. Sometimes, you just need to talk with people who understand what you’re feeling and can help you identify it. Once you’ve named your emotions, you can better communicate your feelings to the other people in your life.

If you’ve been dealing with disenfranchised grief for a while, then you might strongly consider talking with a grief counselor or therapist. They can help you understand your feelings, realize that it’s okay to grieve, offer a safe place to express yourself, and provide resources that will help you move toward healing.

Participate in Healing Rituals

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally recognized grief counselor, author, and educator, often says “When words are inadequate, have a ritual.” Normally, when we lose a person we love, we have a funeral or memorial service to honor and remember them. However, with disenfranchised grief, you may not have the opportunity to attend a funeral. And if you’ve lost something else, a funeral isn’t feasible. However, the principle remains the same – you can participate in healing rituals to help you engage with your feelings and begin to release them in a healthy way.

While there may not be an official ritual available, you can create your own. Box up your ex’s belongings to symbolize that the relationship is over. Write a letter to say all the things you left unsaid. Light a candle or plant a tree in memory of the person. Make a collage of photos. If you’ve lost your home, write down memories you cherish from that time of your life and reminisce. Hold your own memorial. Create a memory box or book with mementos and reminders. Visit the final resting place. Use your creativity to process through your feelings. And the list goes on. Find a ritual that speaks to your needs and do it.

Processing grief is hard work, but it’s so important to your quality of life moving forward. Unaddressed grief can lead to many debilitating concerns, including depression and mood swings. Instead of listening to those who might try to minimize your grief, take time to listen to your feelings, surround yourself with supportive people, and find a way to participate in healing rituals. Whatever grief you’re feeling, no matter what kind of loss you’ve been through, it’s real, it’s legitimate, and you have a right to grieve and find hope for the future.

5 Powerful TED Talks about Grief and End-of-Life Wishes

By Grief/Loss, Plan Ahead

Planning for end-of-life wishes and walking through grief can both be very difficult seasons in life. But you don’t have to walk through them alone. Others have gone before us who aren’t afraid to discuss their ups and downs through the journey. In these 5 powerful TED talks, each speaker shares part of their own personal journey with grief and the lessons they learned and wisdom they gained as a result. As they bare their hearts and share their stories, may you find comfort and peace but also the inspiration to grow in the way you think, feel, and process grief and death.

5 Powerful TED Talks About Grief and End-of-Life Wishes

The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage (Susan David)

When faced with loss and the difficult seasons of life, our emotions can sometimes feel like a hindrance rather than a help. In her powerful presentation, Susan David discusses the value of emotions while also emphasizing the importance of resilience and emotional dexterity. In this deeply moving, at times humorous, talk, she discusses the passing of her father and how that event catapulted her into learning how to recognize and acknowledge emotions while also working toward accepting and processing them in a healthy way.

We Don’t “Move On” from Grief – We Move Forward with It (Nora McInerny)

Following the loss of a loved one, many of us may have heard the words, “It’s time to move on.” While the person may have had good intentions, these words aren’t necessarily helpful. In this TED talk, Nora McInerny shares her own personal grief story and candidly discusses what we often think and what we’d like to say when other people say the wrong thing during times of grief. In her own words, she encourages her listeners to remember that “A grieving person is going to laugh again and smile again. They’re going to move forward. But that doesn’t mean that they’ve moved on.”

The Journey through Loss and Grief (Jason Rosenthal)

Losing a loved one is never easy. In this brutally honest, at times sweetly funny, and yet heart-wrenching story, Jason Rosenthal discusses the difficulties of caring for a dying loved one through hospice. Before she died, Jason’s wife, Amy, wrote a widely read article giving her husband permission to move on and find happiness. In this talk, given just one year after her death, Jason shares candid insights into the process of grieving and offers heartfelt wisdom for anyone experiencing life-changing grief.

What Makes Life Worth Living in the Face of Death (Lucy Kalanithi)

Even in the face of death, life is precious and worth living. That’s what Lucy Kalanithi and her husband, Paul, found as they faced his terminal diagnosis. In her dually-focused talk, Lucy shares about her end-of-life journey with Paul while also advocating for people to pursue medical care that best fits their personal values. In the end, she says that both she and Paul learned that, “Engaging in the full range of experience — living and dying, love and loss — is what we get to do. Being human doesn’t happen despite suffering — it happens within it.”

Talk About Your Death while You’re Still Healthy (Michelle Knox)

In general, we avoid talking about death and all the trappings that come with it. But is that really the best approach? In this straightforward yet heartfelt talk, Australian Michelle Knox explores a topic most of us avidly avoid: death. She asks us to reflect on our core values and intentionally share them with our loved ones. That way, when we are gone, our surviving family members can make informed decisions without fearing that they have failed to honor our legacy.

DISCLAIMER: Individual circumstances and state laws vary, so any estate planning should only be undertaken with the help and assistance of an attorney licensed in your state.