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Courtney Cook

scrapbook page in honor of a mom

11 Ways to Remember Your Mom on Mother’s Day

By Grief/Loss, Seasonal

After losing a loved one, some days are harder than others. Your grief may feel stronger on special days like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, or their deathiversary. If you’ve lost your mom, Mother’s Day might be a grief trigger for you.

If Mother’s Day is hard for you, you may prefer to skip it altogether. But even though your mom is no longer with you, you can still honor and remember her on this special day. Here are 11 ways you can honor your mom this Mother’s Day:

Do her favorite activity

close up of a person painting on a canvas

Activities provide a way for us to express our grief and physically process our emotions. Did your mom enjoy baking, painting, puzzles, or gardening? You can spend some time on Mother’s Day participating in your mom’s favorite activity.

While you may not master the violin or draw a masterpiece, doing something your mom loved can help her feel a little bit closer on a hard day. Alternatively, you could do something you always did together, like having a spa day or visiting a specific restaurant.

Visit her final resting place

man visiting his mom's grave on Mother's Day

While visiting a loved one’s grave may feel intimidating, it can help you in your grief journey. When you go to your mom’s final resting place, whether at her gravesite or urn niche, you set aside time to grieve and remember her. You can talk to her, bring flowers, or simply sit and reflect. If your mom doesn’t have a final resting place, you could visit a spot that was meaningful to the two of you.

Plant or buy her favorite flowers

woman kneeling in a garden and planting flowers

Because Mother’s Day is in the spring, it’s the perfect time for gardening. If your mom had a specific flower she loved, you can take a little time to plant some in your garden. Not only will you be able to enjoy the flowers all season, but their smell can also remind you of positive memories of your mother.

If you’re not big on gardening or don’t have a lot of space, you can also buy some of your mom’s favorite flowers to enjoy. Additionally, if you’re not sure what your mom’s favorite flower was, you can always get other meaningful flowers, like the flowers she wore at your wedding or a flower that reminds you of her.

Write her a letter

Woman writing a letter to her mom in a journal

Often, when someone we love dies, there are things we wish we could have said or changes in our life we want to tell them about. By writing a letter to your mom, you can release thoughts and emotions you’ve been holding inside. It doesn’t matter what you write or how well it’s written; expressing your feelings matters more.

Enjoy her favorite food

parent and child baking and holding cookie dough in a heart shape

What dish did your mom love to eat? What treats did she make that remind you of her? One way to remember your mom on Mother’s Day is by making a food she loved. You could make a full meal, a snack, or her favorite dessert. If you’re not particularly skilled in the kitchen, you could have a friend or family member help you, or you could hunt down a local restaurant or bakery that makes something similar.

Wear her favorite color

man wearing all yellow standing in front of a yellow background pointing at his shirt

One very easy way to honor your mom on Mother’s Day is by wearing her favorite color. In a way, adding her favorite color to your outfit is a way to bring her memory with you throughout the day. You could make the color the main focus of your outfit or incorporate it through accessories. You could also wear an heirloom or piece of jewelry your mother gave you. Incorporating something important to your mom into your outfit is a simple way to keep your mom close.

Look at photos or old home videos

Person pushing an old home video tape labeled "Family Vacation '98" into a VCR

Looking at photos of your mom or watching old home videos can remind you of the happy moments you shared. Pictures may remind you of memories that have faded into the background, and videos can bring back your mom’s voice.

Whether you choose to enjoy these old memories on your own or with loved ones, photos and videos can make your mom feel a little bit closer on Mother’s Day.

Make a scrapbook page

scrapbook page in honor of a mom

If you enjoy crafts, creating a scrapbook page for your mom can be a great way to celebrate her memory on Mother’s Day. You can incorporate favorite photos of her, mementos from events you attended, or stickers of her favorite flowers. You could add significant quotes: things she said that stuck with you, her favorite saying, or a selection from her favorite book or poem. By taking time to be creative, you’ll allow yourself to express your feelings and embrace your memory of your mom.

Share favorite memories and stories

woman sharing stories with her daughter

Stories have power, and by sharing them with others, you can relive them. If you have a favorite memory with your mom – something sweet, heartfelt, or funny – you can share it with a friend or family member or in a post online. If you have kids of your own, you can tell them about your favorite moments with your mom and maybe even recreate them.

You could also write down some of your favorite memories and stories! Whether you write them in a journal just for yourself or choose to share them with someone else, you can write your memories to cherish them forever.

Volunteer at her favorite charity

young man encouraging a boy with Down syndrome

As mentioned above, participating in activities can be a great way to process your grief. Giving your time to a cause your mom cared about can be a great way to honor her memory on Mother’s Day. While some organizations may be closed on Sunday, you could also volunteer the week before or after Mother’s Day.

Keep in mind that some charities may require paperwork or a background check, especially those that work with kids in need. Investigate ahead of time to learn what requirements your volunteer opportunity requires.

Make a donation in her name

Person placing money in a jar labeled "donate"

Did your mom have a cause that she often donated to? You could give a memorial donation in her honor to her favorite charity. Or did your mom die from a specific disease, like breast cancer or Alzheimer’s? You could support an organization that researches that disease.

Some organizations accept donations of useful items, like hats, toys, or blankets. Even a small donation can make a difference, and your generosity can be a great way to honor her memory.

Whether you choose to skip Mother’s Day or participate in a remembrance activity, remember to be patient with yourself. Losing your mom is hard, and it’s okay if you need time to grieve. Whatever you do, cherish the happy moments you shared with your mom and hold her memory close.

Embalming 101: A Beginner’s Guide

By Educational, Explore Options

An ancient process that has evolved greatly over the centuries, embalming is common in our modern world. But what actually is this process, and why is it important?

Embalming is the process of temporarily preserving a body for public viewing or transportation. Preserving the body provides an opportunity for the bereaved family and friends to spend time with the body of a loved one following a loss, which allows them to honor the life of their loved one and say their goodbyes.

Keep reading to learn about the history of embalming, what the modern process looks like, and what laws and regulations affect the practice!


photo of a mummy - mummification is similar to embalming

In broad terms, embalming has been around for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians were able to slow the deterioration rate of the body through the process known as mummification. While the Egyptians perfected the mummification process, ancient South American and Asian civilizations also used body preservation techniques. While we no longer use mummification, this historical precedent influenced contemporary embalming practices.

Modern arterial embalming is believed to have originated in England in the 18th century. While the public was initially against arterial embalming, the process gained more acceptance in America during the Civil War. After Colonel Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth, a friend of Abraham Lincoln, died in the war, Dr. Thomas Holmes, a physician from New York who had been experimenting with French embalming methods, treated and transported Ellsworth’s body to his hometown in New York.

As the war continued and soldiers died hundreds of miles from their homes, embalming was used occasionally to preserve bodies for transport back home to their families. However, it was the embalming of Abraham Lincoln’s body for his “lying in state” that really brought the practice to the forefront. After the war, the demand for the practice decreased for several decades. But by the end of the 19th century, embalming was on the rise as the role of the undertaker (today’s funeral director) became more defined.

At the turn of the century, more trained undertakers began establishing funeral parlors. Embalming became more readily available to families, affording them more time and flexibility to gather together for a funeral. Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, embalming has continued to be a common practice, allowing loved ones more time to plan a meaningful service before burial.

The Process

funeral lilies

Before embalming begins, the embalmer bathes and prepares the body. After that, the arterial embalming process starts. Embalming fluid, often a formaldehyde-based preserving agent, replaces blood and other bodily fluids. Natural oils may also replace chemical fluids. While these oils don’t preserve the body as long as the chemicals, they are worth considering, if you are able to have the funeral or viewing relatively soon after the death.

After the embalming process is complete, the body is dressed and prepared for viewing using restorative art and cosmetology. In cases where the body has undergone trauma or tissue donation, the embalmer can do restorative work to return the body to its former state. In severe cases, embalmers trained in post-mortem reconstructive surgery can be brought in. A skilled embalmer can do an extraordinary job restoring a body.

Embalming and the Grief Journey

Woman placing her hand on a casket during a viewing

After losing a loved one, the first step in the grief journey is acknowledging the reality of the death. Seeing the body is one way for that to happen. Many people feel that without the presence of the body, a vital element of the ceremony is abandoned. Seeing the body allows the fact of death to fully sink in and opens the door to healing. 

By slowing down deterioration and making the body presentable, embalming gives more time for a visitation or funeral service to be scheduled. That means more people can find a little bit of closure and say goodbye to their loved one.

Many people associate the embalming process with traditional burial, but embalming can also be used with cremation. If you’re interested in green or natural burial, you may need to follow stricter guidelines for the embalming process.

Federal and State Embalming Laws

The Funeral Trade Commission includes a section on embalming in the Funeral Rule and makes it clear that, except in special circumstances, embalming is not required by law. No state requires embalming for every death, though some states may require it in certain situations. For instance, embalming may be required to transport a body across state lines or store the body for an extended period before burial or cremation without refrigeration. Be sure to familiarize yourself with your state’s specific laws.

Whether you choose embalming for yourself or a loved one is up to you. Depending on your situation and your family’s needs, you can make the best decision for you. Embalming is simply an option that can provide your family with more flexibility to celebrate and honor a life well-lived.

Read More About Embalming

woman with cleaning gloves using a brush to clean a headstone

How to Clean a Headstone in 6 Steps

By Cemeteries

A headstone or grave marker is a special place where your family and friends can remember and honor your loved one’s memory. But because most monuments are outside, it’s easy for dirt, plants, or moss to build up and damage the headstone.

But how do you clean a headstone? You may need to consult a restoration expert if a monument is old or damaged. In many cases, though, you can clean a monument yourself as long as you take certain precautions. Follow these 6 steps to clean your loved one’s headstone properly so your family can visit them and honor their memory for years!

1. Make Sure You Have Permission

person wiping a headstone with a white cloth
First, you’ll need to make sure you have permission. Some cemeteries may have specific rules and regulations about cleaning headstones, especially those that take care of maintenance themselvesGreen or natural cemeteries that allow grave markers will likely prohibit certain chemicals and cleaning products.

Additionally, government-issued headstones for veterans are still considered government property and can only be cleaned following the VA’s cleaning guidelines. Historical and preservation societies also have specific policies regarding how older headstones should be cleaned.

You should also only clean the headstones of your loved ones or those you have explicit permission to clean. While cleaning someone else’s headstone might be a nice gesture, some people may see it as an invasion rather than a help. Plus, you would be liable for any damage to the headstone.

2. Check the Headstone for Damage

Cross-shaped headstone fallen over and broken in several places
Before you clean the headstone, you’ll need to ensure it’s in good condition. If the headstone sounds hollow or is cracking, chipping, flaking, or powdery, even gentle cleaning could further damage the marker. Plus, if the grave marker seems unstable (shifting, wobbling, or leaning), cleaning increases the chances that the headstone could fall.

If the headstone you want to clean is damaged, consult a headstone preservationist to get professional help repairing the headstone. That way, the marker will be fixed properly and can stand for generations to come.

3. Pay Attention to the Headstone Material

variety of headstones and grave markers of different materials
The material of the headstone you’re cleaning will affect the products and cleaning strategies you can use. While most modern headstones and grave markers are made of marble, granite, or bronze, a wide variety of materials can be used for headstones.

Once you know what material your loved one’s headstone is made of, you can choose cleaning products that will safely clean without causing damage. If you can’t tell what material was used and don’t have any records to consult, you can check with the cemetery to see if they can identify the stone, read this article for some more info, or do a quick search online for similar headstones.

4. Use Gentle Options First

headstone carved with flowers with plants growing over it
As you start the actual cleaning process, start by using the gentlest methods. Carefully remove plant growth by hand, cutting plants close to the roots to prevent them from growing back. Brush off dirt with a light cloth or gentle brush, and use a soft toothbrush to get the dirt out of the carvings and grooves in the stone.

To remove moss and lichen, soak the headstone in water and wait a while. After a little while, the growth should loosen up, and you can use a plastic scraper to remove the moss.

Before using any cleaners, start with water, gentle soap, and brushes. Depending on the material, you can also try baking soda on some headstones. If these methods don’t work, you can then move on to use stronger cleaning products (step 5) if your cemetery allows.

5. Test Cleaners Before Using

woman's hand using a cloth to wipe cleaning products on a headstone
As you pick a cleaner to use on the headstone, start by reading the instructions and looking at product reviews. Do research to ensure you choose the best cleaner based on the headstone’s condition, material, and local conditions (sunny vs. shaded cemetery, high vs. low humidity, etc.).

Once you’ve selected a cleaner, test it on a small, less visible area of the headstone first. After following the product’s instructions, let the area fully dry before using it on the entire headstone. That way, you know for sure that it won’t cause damage!

No matter what, you should avoid power washing the gravestone or using harsh cleaners like bleach and strong acids or bases. These can cause permanent damage to the headstone and surrounding grass and plants.

6. Don’t Clean Too Often

woman with cleaning gloves using a brush to clean a headstone
Now that the headstone looks clean and new, you’ll probably want to keep it that way! But think twice before cleaning the headstone frequently. Cleaning too often can accelerate the wear and tear of the headstone. Additionally, you should avoid using chemicals too often or cleaning the headstone during extreme heat or cold.

A good rule of thumb is to clean a headstone about once every 1-2 years, but that number can vary based on the environmental conditions in your area and the headstone’s condition.

Cleaning a headstone is an important task that shouldn’t be taken lightly! As you follow these steps, take time to remember your loved one and the impact they made on your life. While the cleaning process can be time-consuming, know that you are ensuring your loved one’s memory lives on for years to come.

older couple having fun outside

How to Leave a Meaningful Legacy

By Living Well

We all want to leave our fingerprints on the world. When we reflect on our mortality, we inevitably wonder how we’ll be remembered and what we want to accomplish before passing away. In other words, what legacy will we leave? In such times, we often find that the things that occupy our time are trivial and unsatisfying. Acknowledging the reality that we will die allows us to put things in perspective and focus our energies on the really important things.

When you pass away, how do you want people to remember you? What are you passionate about? Answering these questions will help you make the most of your life and leave the legacy you wish to. Each of us has a unique opportunity to live a meaningful life and create a legacy that will inspire people. Here are some tips for building a legacy that will make a difference in the lives of others.

Identify the things that are most important to you

small girl in a yellow shirt in between her grandparents placing her hands on their cheeks

Before you start to build your legacy, spend some time in reflection so that you know what direction you want to go. As respected author James Cabell once said, “While it is well enough to leave footprints on the sands of time, it is even more important to make sure that they point in a commendable direction.

Take time to determine your direction. What do you care the most about? What are your strongest beliefs and convictions? You may want to list the values that mean the most to you. Do you want to be known for your integrity, humility, generosity, or trustworthiness? Do you want others to see you as a leader? A hard worker? Someone people can always count on? Consider the person you want to be and write down the traits and values you want to strengthen to become that person.

Live your legacy in everyday life

older man helping a young boy ride a bike

Once you have your values laid out, you can look for ways to live them out and build them in yourself. Thinking about the story you want to leave behind can be helpful, but taking action is what truly creates your legacy. In the rush to create an inspiring and exciting legacy, letting big projects consume you can be tempting. But it’s also important to remember the small things: a kind word, a smile, an opportunity to laugh.

Think about ways you can live out your values. If you want to become more humble, you could find ways to serve others. If you want to be more generous, you can donate your money or time to a cause you care about. If you want to be known as reliable, show up on time and follow up with your commitments. By building the traits most important to you, you can live out your legacy every day.

Learn from your loved ones

group of older people hanging out, drinking tea, and laughing

There’s nothing better than the inspiration you get from the people you love. Do you admire the legacy of your parents or grandparents? Do you have a mentor you look up to or a friend whose life inspires you? Pay attention to why these people’s lives inspire you. You could even interview them to learn more about their story and perspective on life.

As you build your legacy, ask your family and close friends for feedback. Your loved ones know you better than anyone, and they can give you ideas about activities that could contribute to your legacy. If you don’t want to talk openly about your legacy, that’s also fair. But be sure to listen to those around you. Paying attention to the people who motivate you will remind you of what is important as you work to build a meaningful legacy.

Consider ways to pass on your legacy

girl hugging an older man in a green shirt

Once you begin to live out your values, you can start thinking about how you want to communicate them to others. While living out your values will create your legacy, personal projects can highlight the story you’re leaving behind. You may want to write a book about something important to you. Or you could write a letter that contains life lessons you have discovered. You may get active in community service or donate to charities you find meaningful. Invest time or money in causes that you really want to support. By taking action and investing in what you care about, you inspire others to do the same.

Ask how your decisions could potentially impact others

older couple having fun outside

When considering what projects to invest in, try to envision how your different options could affect people. While it is obviously impossible to predict how your actions will be interpreted after you are gone, putting some real thought into the results of your actions is beneficial. On close examination, you may see that some of your projects are more practical and beneficial than others. Since the activities you engage in represent an important part of who you are, make sure you spend your time in the best possible ways.

As you think about your legacy and the mark you want to make on the world, don’t lose sight of why you’re doing everything. Stop periodically to reevaluate your goals and intentions. Building a legacy is a great way to inspire others, but don’t let your desire to be remembered become an obsession that keeps you from living out your values. Focus on what matters most to you, and you can create a positive legacy.

bouquet of white flowers and pink and red roses

Funeral Etiquette: “In Lieu of Flowers” and Donations

By Educational, Grief/Loss, Helping a Friend in Grief

Have you come across an obituary that asks for donations in lieu of flowers? The phrase “in lieu of flowers” has been used in funeral service for years. But what does this phrase actually mean in an obituary or death announcement?

When friends or family request donations in lieu of flowers, it’s important to respect their wishes. Here’s what you need to know about the phrase “in lieu of flowers” and the etiquette surrounding this special request.

What Does “In Lieu of Flowers” Mean?

bouquet of white flowers and pink and red roses

While giving flowers to the family of someone who has recently died is a tradition that goes back many years, sometimes families don’t wish to receive flowers. Maybe they already have enough flowers for the service, or perhaps someone is allergic to flowers.

No matter the reason, when a family doesn’t want flowers, they often ask for donations or cards instead of flowers. In an obituary, the phrase “in lieu of flowers” is typically used in this situation, and often the family requests donations to a specific charity in the deceased’s name.

How Do I Make a Donation In Lieu of Flowers?

glass jar full of change marked "charity" sitting on a wooden table next to two paper hearts

There are several ways to donate in honor of the deceased. If the family included a link to a specific charity or page in the obituary, you can click on that to make your donation. If they mention a charity without linking to it, you can go to the charity’s website and donate there. Be sure to include a note with your donation that mentions the deceased, like “In memory of ____.”

In most cases, you’ll donate directly to a charity. Don’t send cash or money to the family unless requested. In some cases, the family may request donations to support a particular family member, like the spouse or children of the deceased. When you donate to a charity or the family, consider giving what you would typically spend on flowers for the family.

If There Isn’t a Charity Listed, How Do I Pick One? 

Two hands holding a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon

Sometimes, a family will ask you to donate to your favorite charity instead of mentioning a specific charity. In this case, you can contribute to your preferred charity, making sure to specify that you’re giving a memorial donation in memory of the deceased.

If you’re unsure what charity to donate to, pick a charity that may be meaningful to the family. For example, you could donate to a charity looking for a cure to a disease the deceased fought, like breast cancer or Alzheimer’s. If the deceased was passionate about animals, you could donate in their name to the World Wildlife Fund. No matter what you choose, remember to notify the family of your donation.

How Do I Let the Family Know I Made a Donation? 

woman wearing a gray shirt writing in a card

If the family provided a link to a place to donate in the obituary or has a specific page to donate in the deceased’s name, the charity may notify them that you donated. If you’re unsure if the family has been notified of your donation, you can mention it in a sympathy card or condolence letter. Make sure to mention the gift in a sensitive manner and keep the focus on the family and the deceased.

Can I Provide a Donation and Flowers? 

parent and child hands holding a heart

It’s always best to follow the family’s wishes, but if you wish to send flowers in addition to a donation, you can always contact the family and ask if they’re okay with receiving flowers. If they’re fine with that, you can send flowers with a note that mentions your donation.

Alternatively, consider giving the family a different kind of sympathy gift. There are plenty of options for gifts you can give to the family, and there are even sympathy gifts you can mail if you cannot visit the family and give them something in person.

Regardless of how you express your sympathy, remember that your main goal is to support and encourage the family. By respecting their wishes, you show that you care about what they’re going through, and the family will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

woman crying with her hands clasped by her face

8 Ways to Express Your Grief

By Grief/Loss

After losing a loved one, it’s natural to want to avoid things that trigger your grief, like your loved one’s clothes, their favorite song, or a place that was special to the two of you. However, studies have shown that avoiding your grief can keep you from healing and lead to more serious issues, like complicated grief.

While allowing yourself time to heal is certainly important, it’s also necessary to let yourself feel those more negative emotions so you can continue on your grief journey. Instead of bottling up your feelings, find healthy ways to let yourself feel your grief.

While everyone expresses their grief differently, here are 8 ideas to get you started.

1. Write

woman in a green skirt with brown shoes writing in a notebook while sitting outside on grass

Writing, whether through journaling, blogging, or writing poetry, can be a great way to express your grief. Many people struggle to understand their emotions until they begin to write. A grief journal can be a great way to understand your grief better and see your progress along your grief journey. You could also write a letter to your loved one to say things you wish you could have told them.

However you choose to write, don’t focus too much on grammar or finding the perfect words. You don’t have to show anyone what you write, so immerse yourself the process and focus on being honest with yourself.

2. Talk

Two women having a conversation while drinking coffee at home

For many people, talking about emotions can be intimidating. Sometimes, it can be hard to put emotions into words, or you may be afraid that someone will judge you. That’s okay! You can start small. Try talking out loud about your grief when you’re on your own or visit your loved one’s grave and talk to them. If you have a friend or family member you trust who is willing to listen and support you, you can meet up with them for coffee or lunch to talk together.

If you don’t have a friend or family member you feel comfortable opening up to, you can also visit a grief therapist or join a grief support group. Getting help from a professional can be an excellent way to better understand and express your grief.

3. Cry

woman crying with her hands clasped by her face

After losing a loved one, many people feel pressured to stay strong. Maybe you feel like you need to support other family members who are grieving or act like nothing’s wrong at work, school, or social events. But crying isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, crying can help balance your emotions and improve your mental well-being. Allowing yourself to cry can help you acknowledge your grief and begin to heal.

If you feel unable to cry, that’s okay, too! It may take time before you can express your grief in this way. You could also try watching a sad movie or listening to a song with lyrics that make you think of your loved one. But don’t pressure yourself too much.

4. Music

man listening to music with his eyes closed

Many people use music as a creative outlet, and it can also be a great tool for expressing your grief. Whether you write songs, play an instrument, or simply enjoy listening to music, you can find meaningful ways to express your emotions. You could compose a song about your loved one or play one of their favorite tunes on the piano. You can put together a playlist with their favorite artist or genre. If you enjoy dancing, you could create a dance to one of your loved one’s favorite songs. Music can help you express what words can’t, so however you choose to enjoy music, let the lyrics and rhythm move you.

5. Art & Creativity

older woman in a plaid shirt painting a canvas on a tabletop easel

Just as music can say what words can’t, art can help us express ourselves in unique ways. Art and creativity create opportunities for expression you may not find anywhere else. Maybe you have always loved painting or woodwork, or perhaps you want to try something new, like knitting or scrapbooking. You could choose to create something in honor of your loved one or use the creative process itself to help you release your emotions. Even something as simple as coloring can make room for your grief and help you feel your emotions while your hands are busy. Whether you keep your art private or share it with others, the act of creation can help you process, understand, and express your grief.

6. Exercise

older man hitting a punching bag at a gym as a workout

Grief can take its toll on your physical and mental health. While the last thing you may feel like doing is getting up and moving, exercise can help you in your grief journey – and help you express your grief. Whether you try yoga or stretching, participate in sports, or work on a more intense exercise regimen, incorporating movement into your day can help you relax, which may provide you with the release you need to let out your tears, frustration, or anger.

7. Get Outside

man wearing a white shirt breathing in deeply outside

When you’re grieving, sometimes you need a break from the pressures of everyday life. Spending time in nature is a great way to do that. Getting outside in the sun, seeing wildlife and plants, and breathing fresh air can give you the space to let yourself feel your grief. You could do something simple, like take a short walk, spend time in the garden, sit outside, or read a book on your patio. Or you could go for a hike or camping trip to immerse yourself in the outdoors. Whatever way you choose, take time to enjoy nature and allow yourself to let your guard down.

8. Participate in Remembrance Activities

person cupping their hands around a burning candle

Was there anything your loved one enjoyed doing? A hobby, a sport, or volunteer work? One way to express your grief is to do something that helps you feel close to your loved one. If your loved one enjoyed scrapbooking, you could make a page with photos of them. If they liked to play soccer, you can get friends to play a game at the local park.

Or you could do a more solemn activity in their memory, like lighting a candle or visiting their grave. By taking time to remember your loved one, you can express your grief and honor their amazing life.

As you continue along your grief journey, be patient with yourself. Everyone grieves differently, and what works for one person may not work for another. While expressing your grief and letting yourself feel it is important, give yourself time. You may not feel ready yet, but eventually, you’ll better understand your grief and grow more comfortable expressing it.

Sorting Through a Loved One’s Possessions

By AfterCare, Planning Tools

If you have lost a loved one, you may dread the day when you have to give away your loved one’s favorite shirt, well-loved books, or old golf balls. Possessions are tied to events and memories, and when you come across an item that was part of a loved one’s identity, you find yourself in a lose-lose situation: it hurts to keep it and it hurts to part with it.

But there are ways to make the sorting process more bearable. Sorting through a lost loved one’s belongings is never easy, but by developing a strategy, you can make it much more tolerable. Here are some tips that might provide you with some peace as you face this daunting task:

1. Develop a Game Plan

Man making a plan in a notebook

Start by giving yourself some structure. Diving into such a big project without a plan will leave you overwhelmed and exhausted. There are plenty of ways to create a game plan that works for you. Make a list of what needs to be done and organize your goals. Separate the items you need to clean into groups and move from group to group. Or you could designate each room as a separate job and have an individual strategy for each room.

2. Set Small Goals

Woman holding a notebook and pen and thinking about goals

After the loss of a loved one, cleaning can be physically and emotionally draining. For this reason, it’s important to pace yourself. Completing any task, big or small, can create a sense of satisfaction, so break one task into five and have five moments of victory! Be sure to take plenty of breaks between tasks. Or you can develop a reward system for yourself. You can grab a coffee after finishing a certain closet or take a TV break after finishing a room.

3. Sort as You Go

Clothes sorted into keep, donate, and discard stacks

You’ll cut down on a lot of excess time and energy if you sort the items into piles as you go. You may want to designate areas or boxes labeled “Keep,” “Donate,” “Give to a family member,” and “Throw away.” Then, you can place things in the appropriate areas. Sorting items while you’re cleaning will help you decide on a clear goal for each item and make the project more manageable.

4. Set a Quantity Limit

As you look over your loved one’s possessions, you may be tempted to keep too much. So, in addition to setting goals for completing your project, set goals for your ability to let go. You don’t have to get rid of everything; however, there is no way you can keep every item that has meaning to you. The best way to decide what to save is to write a short list of items ahead of time that you can’t imagine parting with and set specific limitations for each type of item you will keep.

5. Assess Each Item for Future Worth

Which items are the most meaningful to you? When you first look at your loved one’s possessions, everything seems important. And when you decide which items are most important, how do you know if your loved one would want you to keep them? Determining what to keep and what to part with can be extremely difficult. There are no fixed criteria to help you decide to hold on to item A and let go of item B. It’s ultimately up to you to decide. Remember your loved one’s connection to the possession and try to determine if you truly need to keep the object. If not, consider donating it.

6. Invite Friends to Help

younger woman supporting her mother

Going through your loved one’s possessions can be a daunting task. If you’re struggling to tackle the sorting process, you could invite close friends to help out. It’s essential to surround yourself with people who can provide emotional support. Your support system can help you make decisions, provide an extra set of hands, and encourage you when things get hard. If you decide this is a personal project you’d rather complete on your own, that’s fine, too. Still, consider planning time to be with others during breaks or right before or after sorting. Falling back on a support network can be extremely helpful when facing emotionally difficult tasks.

7. Find Peace with the Decisions that you Make

Sorting through your loved one’s belongings can put you in an emotionally vulnerable place and can lead to self-doubt. Remember: there is nothing to feel guilty about! Letting some things go is not an act of betrayal. On the contrary, it is a gift to your loved one, a tribute. Maintaining a healthy attitude is key. Know what you are doing is necessary, and view it as one more way to honor the person you love.

Cleaning out a loved one’s home or possessions after a loss can be stressful, so go easy on yourself. Remember the importance of what you are doing, and keep a positive mindset. Don’t rush through the project, and above all, leave no room for guilt. Love yourself just as you loved the person that you lost. Know that this is a challenging project and that your best effort is more than good enough.

Woman standing in front of a sunrise with her arms raised

Live Without Regrets: 7 Ways to Live Life to the Fullest

By Living Well

Have you ever wondered what you’ll think about at the end of your life? What memories will you think of? What will you regret? What changes can you make now to live a more meaningful life?

While there will always be things we regret, we can also take steps to make our lives more meaningful. By pondering the things people typically regret at the end of their lives, we can find common themes that show us ways to live a more fulfilling life.

When we put these ideas into practice, we learn how to live life to the fullest. Here are (in no particular order) seven practical steps you can take to live your life with purpose.

1. Prioritize your work-life balance

Stack of rocks that looks like a scale balancing

“Working too hard” is one of the top regrets of people at the end of their life. While there’s nothing wrong with hard work and ambition, overworking yourself will take its toll – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Whether your job is your passion or just a way to keep food on the table, balancing work and life can help you feel more rested, reduce stress, improve your performance at work, and boost your overall mental health.

Finding the balance between work and life can be challenging, but remember that work-life balance is an ongoing process. Some weeks, finding balance may be easy, while other weeks may require more thought and intentionality. But there are some small steps you can take to improve your work-life balance, like:

  • Saying no to extra work commitments
  • Using your time off and legally required breaks
  • Unplugging from devices for an hour at home
  • Doing things that help you rest

Work-life balance looks different for everyone, so find what works for you and helps your life feel more meaningful. Even small changes can make a significant impact.

2. Spend more time with loved ones

multigenerational family enjoying a meal together

Along the same lines, many people regret not spending more time with their loved ones. We often fall into the trap of thinking that our family and friends will always be there, but in reality, we only have a limited time with those we love. That’s why it’s so important to cherish time with family, whether with your parents, siblings, spouses, children, or friends who are yourfound family.”

Plus, spending time with your loved ones can improve your mental health and help you cope with stress by providing a stronger support system. While spending quality time with your family may be difficult if everyone is busy with their own things, be intentional about carving out time together. Eat a meal together at least once a week. Do chores together while singing to your favorite music. Plan a tech-free family game night. Go to community events. Spend some time outdoors playing games or hiking.

Whatever you choose to do, intentionally set aside time together and prioritize it – try not to let anything interrupt your time. Both you and your family will benefit from your time together.

3. Don’t be afraid to take risks

Two people skydiving together

What holds you back from taking risks? Uncertainty? Fear of failure? While caution and restraint can be good, they can also keep you from exploring new opportunities. Our instinct is often to play it safe and stay in our comfort zone. But if you refuse to take risks, you miss out on many amazing things life has to offer.

Whether you try out skydiving or get up the courage to talk to your crushgetting comfortable taking risks can open up new opportunities and boost your confidence. If you find yourself struggling to take risks, start small. Try out a new hobby or compliment a stranger at the store. Don’t be afraid to ask for support and advice from someone you trust.

And remember that taking risks is different from making bad choices! Not all risks are worth taking, and don’t let anyone pressure you into taking a risk that may harm you or someone else. For a few more tips on assessing risk, visit this article.

4. Be yourself

Woman standing in front of a sunrise with her arms raised

How often do you worry about what other people think of you? In a world where we’re afraid to be judged, many people struggle to be themselves. From the outfits we wear to how we talk and the media we consume, it’s tempting to try to create a version of ourselves that we think people will like.

But you can’t please everyone, and the harder you try to, the more you lose sight of who you are and the more unfulfilled you’ll feel. Instead of trying to please others, embrace what makes you unique! When you choose to be your authentic self, you can build deeper relationships with the people who truly matter and who love you for who you are.

While you may find this hard initially, you can take small steps to grow more comfortable being yourself. Check out these practical tips for building your confidence and embracing who you are.

5. Keep in touch with friends and distant family

Man writing a letter to a long-distance friend

A common regret many people have at the end of their lives is losing contact with their friends. Our relationships with others are a part of who we are; the people we choose to care about shape us in unique ways. When someone we love moves away or our life circumstances change, it can be easy to drift apart and lose contact.

Sometimes, once a relationship starts to fade, it gets harder and harder to reconnect. But there are many ways to bridge that gap and keep your friendships going, even if they look different. Share a funny video you think they’ll enjoy. Send them a card on their birthday. Write them a letter. Text or call to check in with them. Read the same book or watch the same movie and talk about it. Plan a trip to visit them.

Above all, don’t be afraid to reach out. Your friends will most likely be excited to hear from you, and even though your relationship may look different, you can still support and encourage each other.

6. Give back to others

Group of volunteers looking out at trees

In our busy lives, it’s easy to stay focused on ourselves. But taking time to think about, care for, and give back to others can improve your mental health and help you feel a greater sense of purpose. In fact, 94% of people who volunteer say that volunteering boosts their mood. Even simple acts of kindness can increase your happiness and self-esteem and help your life feel more meaningful.

By taking time out of your day to do something nice for someone else, you divert your attention from your own problems and channel your energy into something that benefits others. You don’t have to do anything big, either! You can compliment a stranger or give someone a card with a sweet message. Let someone merge in traffic. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen or food bank. Give a family member a hug.

There are hundreds of ways, big or small, that you can give back. Check out this page for inspiration or come up with your own idea!

7. Enjoy the small things

woman and her elderly father drinking coffee and laughing together

How often do you find yourself longing for the weekend or anticipating your upcoming vacation, wishing the days would go by faster? While these moments of rest are worth looking forward to, focusing only on the next big event can make you lose sight of the beautiful, everyday moments.

Taking time to enjoy the little things in life can help you appreciate what you have and feel more satisfied with your life. Building an “attitude of gratitude” helps create a positive mindset, improves your outlook, and gives you a new perspective.

Enjoying the little things looks different for everyone. You could take a few minutes to enjoy your coffee outside in the sunshine or cuddle your cat. Embrace a child’s goofiness and act out a story with them. However you choose to enjoy the small things, cherish those beautiful moments you experience every day.

As you consider these ways to create a life that feels more meaningful, don’t stress about making the “perfect” life. Instead, think about what you want from life and what’s most important to you. A meaningful life doesn’t look the same for everyone, and what works for one person may not work for everyone. Most importantly, take everything one day at a time. Change doesn’t happen overnight, so focus on making small daily choices to create a meaningful life.

group of elderly people in hospice playing guitar

The Healing Power of Music Therapy in Hospice

By Hospice

If you or a loved one are receiving end-of-life care, you may be looking for ways to bring a little joy to each day. Hospice care is focused on managing the patient’s symptoms and improving their quality of life, including their mental and emotional health. In recent years, music therapy has grown in popularity. Research shows that music therapy can mentally, physically, and emotionally benefit hospice patients.

But what exactly is music therapy, and how can it help? Keep reading to find out!

What is Music Therapy?

While listening to music can be helpful for hospice patients, music therapy takes things a step further. Typically, a certified music therapist will assess the patient and determine how to use music intervention to help them in a specific area.

group of elderly people in hospice playing guitar

Depending on the patient’s needs, a music therapist may use live music or a customized playlist. Some music therapists combine relaxation techniques, like visualization or breathing techniques, with music. Sometimes, the patient will play music, sing, move to music, write songs, or analyze lyrics.

It’s important to note that music therapy may not benefit everyone. Some patients may have music-related triggers. A certified music therapist will consider each patient’s needs and preferences.

Music therapy may provide the following benefits to hospice patients:

Benefit #1: Helps manage pain

two people holding hands to comfort each other

As surprising as it may seem, research shows that music can help with pain management. Because music acts as a distraction, it can provide short-term relief from pain. Additionally, music therapy can help with emotional pain and distress and improve patients’ mental health. If a patient is agitated, anxious, or depressed, music can create a calming atmosphere and help them relax.

Benefit #2: Encourages communication

woman putting her hand on an elderly man's shoulder to comfort him

Sometimes music helps us express emotions that we can’t put into words. As a patient copes with their terminal diagnosis, they may struggle to understand or communicate their feelings. Music can help them recognize their feelings – whether through lyrics that they relate to or through the emotions the music evokes. Plus, music provides an outlet to physically express those feelings by singing or moving to the beat.

Benefit #3: Boosts memory

Wooden brain with puzzle pieces on top of it

For patients struggling with dementia, music may boost memory. Have you ever listened to a song and remembered something you did in the past while it was playing? Sometimes, we associate songs with strong memories, like our first prom or walking down the aisle at a wedding. Listening to familiar songs can help patients, even those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, access their long-term memory.

Benefit #4: Connects people

group of people in hospice playing music together

Many people who are in hospice struggle with feeling isolated and lonely. But music has a way of connecting us to others. Not only does the patient develop a beneficial relationship with the music therapist, but music can also increase empathy. This increase in empathy may help ease tense relationships with family members. On top of that, music also brings other social aspects into play. Music brings people together, whether the patient shares their favorite songs with loved ones or connects with another patient who likes the same musical genre.

Benefit #5: Improves quality of life

elderly couple singing and playing guitar together

For many patients, music therapy can improve their quality of life by helping them relax and providing comfort. Favorite songs can create a familiar environment and help patients feel more at home. Additionally, music therapy can help patients remember the happy moments they’ve spent with loved ones.

While music therapy may not be the right fit for everyone, many potential benefits exist for those in hospice care. From managing pain to releasing tension, music therapy can help improve a patient’s quality of life and make the transition to end-of-life care a little easier.

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