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5 Tips for Grieving When You’re Isolated

By COVID-19, Grief/Loss

Grief is hard, no matter the circumstances. Losing someone we love to illness, accident, or even natural causes is one of the most emotionally taxing experiences in life. But imagine if you had to grieve all alone – what would that look like? Well, unfortunately, it’s not so hard to imagine anymore. COVID-19 has disrupted our lives, distanced us from each other, and put a stop to the way we typically process loss through a healing and meaningful funeral or memorial service surrounded by the love and support of friends and family.

So, what can we do during this unique season – when we are physically separated from each other – to honor a loved one’s life and do the work of grief?

1. Find a Way to Honor Your Loved One’s Life

While funeral and memorial services are under restricted guidelines at the moment, that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to honor and remember the person we love. A public service celebrating the life of your loved one may need to be scheduled for a later date, but you can honor their life now. Create a memorial photo or scrapbook with all your favorites. Write down the stories you love about your loved one so that you can share them at the eulogy when it happens. Upload photos of your loved one to your preferred social media platform and write a tribute. Consider writing a grief journal so you can express what’s on your heart and mind during this time of grief.

2. Schedule Video Calls with Friends and Family

A hug may be just what you want right now, but sometimes, we have to do the next best thing. Instead of sitting at a coffee shop, have a coffee date via video call in your own living room. While face-to-face is preferable, we don’t need to be in the same room to give and receive their love and support. Instead of a visitation, we can talk on the phone or schedule video calls. Use technology to your benefit. When you lose someone you love, talking about that person, your memories, your fears, and your sadness is all part of the grieving process. Instead of turning inward, turn outward and talk with people who care about you through digital avenues.

3. Practice Self-Care

During times of grief, it’s even more important to be kind to yourself. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected author and grief counselor, has a lot to say about self-care. He states: “The word ‘bereaved’… means ‘to be torn apart’ and ‘to have special needs.’ So, despite its obsolescence, the word is still accurate and useful. Perhaps your most important ‘special need’ right now is to be compassionate with yourself. In fact, the word ‘compassion’ means ‘with passion.’ Caring for and about yourself with passion is self-compassion.

So, at this time of grief, treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Give yourself time to grieve – there’s no rush. Express what you’re feeling – through journaling, creative writing, painting, wood-working, listening to or composing music, praying, or simply talking with another person. Take care of your health and ensure that you are eating well and exercising. Get enough sleep. Grief can sap your energy, so by taking care of yourself, you can find the motivation to continue to move forward.

4. Express Yourself

Grief makes us feel things that may be outside our normal. It could be a deep sadness, anger, guilt, regret, or even relief. No matter what you’re feeling, these are all normal reactions to losing a loved one. More important than what you feel is how you process and deal with your feelings. For many of us, the solution is to stuff down our emotions and keep soldiering on, especially when faced with difficult circumstances. But trying to ignore what you feel won’t make it go away. In fact, stuffing your grief away can have serious consequences on your mental and physical health. Rather than avoid what you’re feeling, give yourself permission to grieve and find ways to express yourself in a way that makes sense for your needs and personality.

5. Plan a Celebration of Your Loved One’s Life

It could be that your loved one’s final tribute is delayed because of COVID-19. Or, it may be that you just simply aren’t able to attend the service because of distance, finances, or difficult relationships. No matter the reason, plan something – big or small – to mark your loved one’s life. That might mean working with a funeral home to create a meaningful and personalized final tribute. It may mean planning a dinner party with your closest friends. In our current days of social distancing, it may mean scheduling an event for the future or having an online get-together. No matter what it looks like, no matter your circumstances, make an effort to acknowledge the reality of your loved one’s death and celebrate their life and its significance.

And Remember, Grief is a Journey

In many ways, grief is a journey – one we’d rather not take. It’s a journey that requires much from us, but one that is worth taking. If you do the work of grief, you will eventually reach reconciliation. You won’t “get over” the loss – that’s not possible – but you will find a way to move forward. Dr. Wolfelt puts it this way: “Never forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever. It’s not that you won’t be happy again. It’s simply that you will never be exactly the same as you were before the death.” So, slow down, breathe deeply, and take the time you need to grieve.

May these suggestions help you grieve during this unusual season and find the healing you need to move confidently and wholly into the rest of your life.

What Are My Interment Options?

By Explore Options

For many of us, the ins and outs of funeral planning are unfamiliar and confusing. We don’t know where to start or even what all of our options are. Should you go with cremation or burial? As you do your research, you may come across unfamiliar terms, like interment, columbariums, mausoleums, crypts, vaults, niches, and more. This article will explain what these terms mean and how you can make decisions ahead of time that give peace of mind to your loved ones at a time of loss, knowing that they are following your wishes for your place of final rest.

Definition

First of all, let’s define interment. Usually, the term refers to burial, typically with funeral rites. However, with the increase in cremation, interment now means “final resting place.” In other words, it’s the place where a person is laid to rest permanently, whether they are buried or cremated.

Interment Options for Burial of the Body

If you choose burial of the body as your preference, you have many options available for both in-ground or above-ground burial. Not all options are available everywhere, so check with your funeral professional to determine which ones are available in your area.

Traditional Burial

With traditional burial, the body remains intact and is usually embalmed to allow for a viewing or visitation prior to the funeral and committal services. Prior to burial, the grave is excavated at the cemetery and either a grave liner or burial vault is placed in the grave (the family decides which one). Later, after the committal service, the cemetery grounds crew will lower the casket and fill the grave with soil. Eventually, a grave marker with epitaph is added to the location as a memorial.

Lawn Crypt

Essentially, a lawn crypt is a type of underground mausoleum. It’s built deeper into the ground and can house multiple caskets. Often made of concrete, a lawn crypt possesses a drainage system, which protects the grave’s contents from the elements. In some cases, families are all buried together, but it’s not a requirement. Make sure to ask a cemetery representative if they use individual grave markers or just one for everyone buried in the lawn crypt.

Mausoleum

A mausoleum is an above-ground memorial building for housing casketed remains. They offer personal ways to commemorate your loved one, including name carvings, plaques, and vases for flowers. A mausoleum typically offers single or companion crypts and protects the remains from the elements. Both community and private mausoleums exist. In most cases, a private mausoleum is much more expensive. A mausoleum is a great option for families who want to be interred together.

Natural (or Green) Burial

Another option for full-body interment is natural or green burial. The main idea behind green and natural burials is to allow the decomposition process to occur naturally. The main differences are two-fold: 1) Green burial excludes any type of embalming, and the cemetery grounds are specifically sanctioned for green burial; 2) While green burials must occur on very specific plots of land, a natural burial can take place on private land (subject to regulations) or in any cemetery that allows it.

Interment Options for the Cremated Body

Columbarium

Moving into interment options for the cremated body, a columbarium is a popular option. Columbaria consist of many small compartments, called niches, that each hold an individual urn. Each niche typically includes a memorial plaque that acts as a grave marker, identifying the names, dates of life, and an epitaph (if the family wishes). All columbaria are communal, though a family can purchase a family-sizes niche to allow multiple urns to be placed together.

Urn Burial

It is also possible to bury an urn rather than to place it in a columbarium niche. Some cemeteries have landscaped urn gardens while others offer burial plots similar to those for traditional burial. A traditional plot can hold the cremated bodies of multiple people or may even hold a casket and an urn, depending on the cemetery regulations. As with traditional burial, urn burial requires an outer burial container. A third option for urn burial is green burial. You can place the urn in a green burial ground without an outer burial container.

Scattering

You can take your loved one’s cremated body to a special place (remember to check the laws and regulations for that place) or you can go to a scattering garden, a designated, beautiful space often attached to a cemetery. With a scattering garden, the cemetery often provides a means of adding a permanent physical marker so that family and friends feel more connected to their lost loved one. If you decide to scatter all of a loved one’s ashes, take time to prepare yourself emotionally. For some, it can come as a shock that all that was left of a loved one’s body is suddenly gone.

Other Interment Options

A few lesser-used interment options are:

As you can see, there are several interment options available to you, and you can choose the one that best fits your wishes and your family’s needs. No matter which option you choose, remember that it’s important to designate a final resting place so that friends, family, and future generations have a place to visit, remember, and honor the life that has been lived.

THE ETERNAL OPTIMIST By Beth Dalton

By Uncategorized

We have been lucky to be blessed with three sons. They have each brought us special joy with their individual personalities, but our middle son, Billy, is fondly known as the “eternal optimist.” I wish that we could take credit for this attitude, but it’s something he was born with! For example, he had always been an early riser and liked to get in our bed at 5 a.m. As he would crawl into our bed, we would admonish him to be quiet and go back to sleep. He would lie on his back and say in a falsetto whisper, “It’s going to be a beautiful morning. I hear the birds singing.” When we would ask him to stop talking to us, he would reply, “I not talking to you; I talking to me!”

In kindergarten, he was asked to draw a tiger. Now, while optimism is Billy’s strong suit, art is not, and his tiger came out with a crooked head and one eye that appeared to be shut. When his teacher asked him about why the tiger had one eye closed, he replied, “Because he’s saying, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid!’”

Also, when he was five, he got into an argument with his older brother about whether a man on TV was bald. Billy said, “He’s not bald. He’s like Papa. He’s only bald when he looks at you. When he walks away, he has lots of hair!”

These memories and many, many more led up to the ultimate optimistic statement. Our third son, Tanner, was stricken with hemolytic uremic syndrome on a Tuesday and died the following Sunday. Billy was seven. The night after Tanner’s funeral I was putting Billy to bed. I often used to lie down beside him to discuss the day. On this particular night, we lay quietly in the dark with not much to say. Suddenly, from the dark, Billy spoke.

He said, “I feel sorry for us, but I almost feel more sorry for all those other people.” I questioned him about which people he was talking about. He explained, “The people who never knew Tanner. Weren’t we lucky to have had Tanner with us for 20 months. Just think, there are lots of people who were never lucky enough to know him at all. We are really lucky people.”

From A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Reprinted by permission of Health Communications, Inc. Copyright © 1996 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen

KEEP YOUR FORK By Dr. Roger William Thomas

By Uncategorized

The sound of Martha’s voice on the other end of the telephone always brought a smile to Brother Jim’s face. She was not only one of the oldest members of the congregation, but one of the most faithful. Aunt Martie, as all the children called her, just seemed to ooze faith, hope and love wherever she went.

This time, however, there seemed to be an unusual tone to her words.

“Preacher, could you stop by this afternoon? I need to talk with you.”

“Of course. I’ll be there around three. Is that okay?”

As they sat facing each other in the quiet of her small living room, Jim learned the reason for what he sensed in her voice. Martha told him that her doctor had just discovered a previously undetected tumor.

“He says I probably have six months to live.” Martha’s words were certainly serious, yet there was a definite calm about her.

“I’m so sorry to…” but before Jim could finish, Martha interrupted.

“Don’t be. The Lord has been good. I have lived a long life. I’m ready to go. You know that.”

“I know,” Jim whispered with a reassuring nod.

“But I do want to talk with you about my funeral. I have been thinking about it, and there are things that I want.”

The two talked quietly for a long time. They talked about Martha’s favorite hymns, the passages of Scripture that had meant so much to her through the years, and the many memories they shared from the five years Jim had been with Central Church.

When it seemed that they had covered just about everything, Aunt Martie paused, looked up at Jim with a twinkle in her eye, and then added, “One more thing, Preacher. When they bury me, I want my old Bible in one hand and a fork in the other.”

“A fork?” Jim was sure he had heard everything, but this caught him by surprise.

“Why do you want to be buried with a fork?”

“I have been thinking about all of the church dinners and banquets that I attended through the years,” she explained. “I couldn’t begin to count them all. But one thing sticks in my mind.

“At those really nice get-togethers, when the meal was almost finished, a server or maybe the hostess would come by to collect the dirty dishes. I can hear the words now. Sometimes, at the best ones, somebody would lean over my shoulder and whisper, ‘You can keep your fork.’

“And do you know what that meant? Dessert was coming!

“It didn’t mean a cup of Jell-O or pudding or even a dish of ice cream. You don’t need a fork for that. It meant the good stuff, like chocolate cake or cherry pie! When they told me I could keep my fork, I knew the best was yet to come!

“That’s exactly what I want people to talk about at my funeral. Oh, they can talk about all the good times we had together. That would be nice.

“But when they walk by my casket and look at my pretty blue dress, I want them to turn to one another and say, ‘Why the fork?’

“That’s what I want to say. I want you to tell them that I kept my fork because the best is yet to come.”

From A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul

Reprinted by permission of Health Communications, Inc. Copyright © 1996 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. www.hcibooks.com

WHEN YOU FEEL LONELY by Unknown Author

By Uncategorized

When a person you love passes away
Look to the night sky on a clear day.
The star that to you, appears to be bright
Will be your loved one,
Looking upon you during the night

The lights of heaven are what shows through
As your loved one watches all that you do.
When you feel lonely for the one that you love,
Look to the Heavens in the night sky above.

Author Unknown

A LIFE WAS SAVED

By Uncategorized

By Coral Popowitz, Executive Director of Children’s Grief Connection

At Hearts of Hope grief camp for kids we know we have a profound impact on grieving children. Our mission at the Children’s Grief Connection is to bring hope and healing to those children and that was more than evident throughout this past weekend as we gathered to greet a small but very traumatized group of children and teens who had their loved one die recently. At the Hearts of Hope camp there were several families struggling with suicide, one with a murder-suicide. There were six children grieving the loss of a brother and friend in a car accident. There were three teen boys coping with the suicide of their classmate and best friend. There were deaths from heart attacks and cancer, mothers, fathers, grandmothers – and there were grieving volunteers, adults who took their time, energy and courage to meet these children at the soft spot in our hearts that hurts most when our loved one dies, the spot where hope and healing starts.

We know it from the messages of hope and healing that were collected in our mascot Hope the Bear’s big white basket: “my hope is that nobody else dies in my family” “my hope is to have a good future” “my hope is that Thanksgiving and mom’s birthday will be wonderful” “my hope is to move on in life and stop using my mother’s death as an excuse to not try to be who I truly want to be.”

We know it from the Love and Anger wall with messages of love: “I miss your ‘magic’ kisses” and “you were the best – in the whole world” and messages of pain on the Anger Wall: “WHY? I loved you” “I hate what you did but I love you.” We know it in the candle lighting – in the darkened room, heart shaped candles ablaze – we share memories and say our goodbyes.

As the room lights up with the warm candle glow, we give permission for young and old alike to shed tears, to express pain, laughter, hope and love. Maybe it was the candlelighting, or the sharing circle just before, maybe it was in the questions the doctor and funeral director answered, or in the caring and concern her volunteer counselors provided. Whatever it was, a beautiful ten year old girl who had delighted everyone with her smile and her kindnesses shared with her counselors how much pain she was in. At her young age she had a plan to end her pain; she laid out in detail how she intended to end her young life because the emotional pain of her loss was too much for her tender heart to bear. With the help of Hearts of Hope she was able to write a letter to her mother about how she felt and what she’d planned. As frightening as this experience was for all of us involved, the hope lies in her being able to reach out and tell someone of her pain, her plan, knowing help was available to her. Because of her being at Hearts of Hope camp she and her mother will now be able to get the help they need in the days and months and years ahead; a life was saved.

At Hearts of Hope camp our anger is left behind, our love remains and our hopes are carried forward. It’s stories like hers that bring us hope…hope that our mission reaches more children and teens who hurt the way she did…

From http://childrensgriefconnection.blogspot.com. Reprinted by permission of Coral Popowitz.

INSTRUCTIONS by Rev. Arnold Crompton

By Uncategorized

When I have moved beyond you in the adventure of life,
Gather in some pleasant place
And there remember me with spoken words, old and new.
Let a tear fall if you will, but let a smile come quickly
For I have loved the laughter of life.
Do not linger too long with your solemnities,
Go eat, and drink, and talk
And when you can — Follow a woodland trail

Climb a high mountain
Sleep beneath the stars
Swim in a cold river
Chew the thoughts of some book that challenges your soul
Use your hands some bright day to make a thing of beauty.
Or to lift someone’s heavy load.
Though you mention not my name,
Though no thought of me crosses your mind
– I shall be with you.

by

REV. ARNOLD CROMPTON

I’M OKAY, MOM AND DAD From Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul

By Uncategorized

When I returned home from the funeral of a church member, my grown daughter, Jenny, asked me about the service. I had been very moved by a story the priest told about a dragonfly, so I shared it with Jen.

A group of water bugs was talking one day about how they saw other water bugs climb up a lily pad and disappear from sight. They wondered where the other bugs could have gone. They promised one another that if one of them ever went up the lily pad and disappeared, it would come back and tell the others where it had gone.

About a week later one of the water bugs climbed up the lily pad and emerged on the other side. As it sat there, it transformed into a dragonfly. Its body took on an iridescent sheen, and four beautiful wings sprouted from its back. The dragonfly flapped its wings and took off in flight, doing loops and spins through the sunlit sky. In the midst of its joyful flight, it remembered the promise it had made to return and tell the other bugs where it had gone. So the dragonfly swooped down to the surface of the water and tried to reenter the water, but try as it would, it could not return.

The dragonfly said to itself, Well, I tried to keep my promise, but even if I did return, the others wouldn’t recognize me in my new glorious body. I guess they will just have to wait until they climb the lily pad to find out where I have gone and what I have become.
When I had finished relating the short story, my daughter said, with tears running down her cheeks, “Mom, that’s really beautiful!” I agreed, and we talked for a while about it.

Two days later, early Sunday morning, July 9, 1995, Jenny came into my room, waking me to say good-bye before leaving for work at a resort on Lake Okoboji. I hugged and kissed her and told her I would see her that night when I joined her for a week’s vacation at the lake. I asked her if she had eaten breakfast and if she was wide awake, as we had been out late the night before. I knew she was tired.

“Yes, Mom, I’ll see you later!”

Several hours later, our worst nightmare began. Jenny had been involved in a head-on collision and was flown to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Thoughts crowded in on me. Why hadn’t I fixed her breakfast? Did I tell her I loved her? If I’d kept her with me a few minutes longer, would things have turned out differently? Why hadn’t I hugged her a little longer? Why hadn’t I kept her home with me that summer instead of letting her work at the lake? Why? Why? Why?

We flew to Sioux Falls and arrived at noon. Our Jenny was hurt mortally, and at ten o’clock that night, she died. If God had given me a choice, I would have traded places with her in a second. Jenny had so much to give this world. She was so bright, beautiful and loving.

On Friday of that week, my husband and I drove to the lake to see family, and we stopped to see where the accident had occurred. I don’t remember a lot, but I know I was hysterical trying to figure out what had happened and why.

Leaving the scene of the accident, I asked my husband to take me to a greenhouse, as I needed to be around beautiful flowers. I just couldn’t face anyone yet.

Walking to the back of the hothouse, I heard the fluttering of wings as if a bird or hummingbird was hitting the top of the roof. I was looking at a beautiful rose when a beautiful, large dragonfly landed within arm’s length of me. I stood there looking at this lovely creature, and I cried. My husband walked in. I looked at him and said, “Jenny is telling us that she’s okay.” We stood and looked at the lovely dragonfly for a long time, and as we walked out of the hothouse, the dragonfly remained on the rose.

A couple of weeks later, my husband came running into the house telling me to come outside quickly. When I walked out our door, I could not believe what I saw. There were hundreds of dragonflies flying in front of our house and between ours and the neighbor’s. I have never seen that many dragonflies at once in town, and the strangest thing about it was that they were only by our house.

There is no way these two experiences were just coincidences. They were more than that. They were messages from Jen.
Each time I see a dragonfly, beautiful memories of my daughter kiss my grieving heart.

Lark Whittemore Ricklefs Reprinted by permission of Health Communications, Inc. Copyright © 2003 John T. Canfield and Hansen and Hansen LLC.

SUPPORT FROM OTHERS by Unknown Author

By Uncategorized

Don’t tell me that you understand.

Don’t tell me that you know.

Don’t tell me that I will survive,

How I will surely grow.

Don’t come at me with answers

That can only come from me.

Don’t tell me how my grief will pass,

That I will soon be free.

Accept me in my ups and downs.

I need someone to share.

Just hold my hand and let me cry

And say, “My friend, I care.”

AUTHOR UNKNOWN

ALL IS WELL by Canon Henry Scott-Holland

By Uncategorized

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household
word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you, for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
How we shall laugh at the trouble of
parting when we meet again!
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before
How we shall laugh at the trouble of
parting when we meet again!

by

CANON HENRY SCOTT-HOLLAND