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5 Ways to Spread Awareness and Hope in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

If you are currently battling breast cancer, if you know someone who is battling breast cancer, if you know and love a breast cancer survivor, or if you’ve lost a loved one to the disease, we stand with you in the fight to see an end to breast cancer.

According to current statistics, it is expected that, in 2018, more than 40,000 deaths will be linked to breast cancer. Moreover, one in every eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime as will one in every 1,000 men. In our collective struggle, as men and women, we can join forces in a number of ways.

1. Participate in Wellness Programs & Lifestyle Changes

When possible, men and women should participate in a wellness program and take part in all the tests required to monitor current health status. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies show that some lifestyle changes contribute to a marked decrease in breast cancer risk.

For example, here are a few suggested changes:

  • Limit alcoholic beverages
  • Quit smoking
  • Control weight
  • Stay physically active

2. Get Involved & Spread Awareness

Firstly, it’s important to remember that the possibilities to get involved in the fight against breast cancer are as limitless as your imagination. There are some established ways of participating in spreading awareness for breast cancer: donate, participate in a Race for the Cure, become an advisor/volunteer for a breast cancer program, host a fundraiser, or wear pink to spread awareness.

However, your original ideas are welcome too, so don’t be afraid to bring them to the table. For example, one woman started a nonprofit that provides unique hospital gowns for women battling illness. Another woman began writing encouraging letters to fellow breast cancer patients, and also started her own nonprofit that has sent over 60,000 handwritten cards and letters to 152 patient centers. The point is, don’t limit your own impact. Think outside the box and find the most meaningful way for you to become involved.

3. Share Inspirational Stories of Hope

The women and men who have battled and are battling this disease are a great source of hope. Read their stories and allow them to change you. Ultimately, no matter the story of your own life, we can find inspiration, hope, and encouragement in the stories of others.  Let’s be loving, compassionate, and above all, changed. And be sure to share the stories that impact you the most with others through social media. That way, you can inspire and raise awareness for breast cancer at the same time.

4. Find a Support Group

If you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, you are not alone. Consider joining a support group consisting of others who are currently battling the disease. In them, you may find much-needed encouragement and inspiration.

5. Get Connected to Grief Resources

Finally, if you have recently lost a loved one to breast cancer, your road to healing is just beginning. Emotions may be raw, and that’s okay. It’s normal to feel grief, anger, pain, frustration. Author, educator, and grief expert, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, puts it this way: “From my own experiences with loss as well as those of the thousands of people I have counseled over the years, I have learned that we cannot go around the pain of our grief. Instead, we must learn to embrace and express it. This is hard but absolutely necessary work.” Facing the pain of grief is hard. But in the end, it is the only way through the journey of grief.

We all need support and encouragement on the journey through grief. Consider talking with a friend, making an appointment with a grief counselor, or finding others who are going through a similar situation. You may even be able to find local support groups for those who have lost a loved one to cancer. You can also visit Dr. Wolfelt’s website, the Center for Loss & Life Transition, to learn from his experience helping people walk through the journey of grief toward healing.

Mourning as a Community in the Face of Tragedy

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

Senseless. Horrifying. Heartbreaking. No words can capture the disbelief, heartbreak, and shock we feel at learning about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, at Robb Elementary School. News outlets are still reporting new information, but at present, there are 21 confirmed dead, including 19 children and two teachers. After an event like this, we’re all left stunned and grappling with questions.

Tragedies like the events unfolding in Uvalde encompass not only the grief and mourning of individual families but of entire communities. As we seek to mourn the victims and process the events, we should consider how to mourn together, as people, as communities.

Communally, how do we mourn such traumatic events?

Respected grief expert, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, has worked with families dealing with grief over the unexpected, traumatic death of a loved one. He says, “After someone you care about dies a sudden, violent death, you are forced to struggle with both the traumatic nature of the death and your grief over the loss. Naturally, traumatized mourners often find themselves replaying and reconsidering over and over the circumstances of the death. This is both normal and necessary. Such replay helps you begin to acknowledge the reality of the death and integrate it into your life. It’s as if your mind needs to devote time and energy to comprehending the circumstances of the death before it can move on to grieving the fact that this person will no longer be part of your life.”

As individuals, as communities, we struggle to comprehend these events. How and why would anyone do this? The survivors and the victims’ families will likely replay the day in their minds over and over. They may even wonder if they could have done something different. They couldn’t have. No one could have known what had been planned. So, now we ask, how do we move forward? We band together, support each other, and mourn as one.

What does it mean to mourn?

Grief is an internal feeling. It is the part of us that feels anguish over these events. Mourning is an outward expression of our internal grief, and it pushes us to externalize our grief, to take action to express that grief. Without externally expressing our grief, emotions can become internalized and remain inside us, unaddressed.

When an event touches an entire community, an entire nation, it is important to externalize our grief and mourn TOGETHER.

Community mourning – how do we do that?

Prayer Vigils

First, our churches and houses of worship can open their doors for prayer vigils. After the events at the Boston Marathon, places of worship all over the city opened their doors to the community. It was an act of communal mourning and a way to come together, grieve together, and heal together.

Candlelight Vigils

Similarly, individuals, businesses, churches, or schools can coordinate candlelight vigils and invite their communities to participate. In 2007, the Virginia Tech shooting horrified the nation. Then, and even now, ten years later, the community, the students, and the families came together to mourn and to remember those who lost their lives. The candle indicates the unity of those participating, their prayers and thoughts for the victims, and their desire to remember those who have been lost.

Memorials

Finally, communities mourn together through creating memorials. To mourn the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, people near and far came together, wrote prayer notes, paid their respects at memorials throughout town, mourning the tragic events together. These memorials help us feel connected to the victims. As a result, they give us a way to show that we care about them, that we mourn their loss.

Communal mourning events are important. We are all affected by this event in some measure, and we need to support each other, giving special support to the survivors and the families of the victims. A significant way that we, as friends, neighbors, and fellow Americans, can show our support is to come together to acknowledge and mourn this significant loss.

How can we take action?

  1. Donate blood to your local blood bank.
  2. Give funds toward the victims’ funerals and assist the families financially.
  3. Participate in moments of silence, prayer or candlelight vigils, or visit memorials to offer a token of our mourning.
  4. Create an emergency plan for our families, in preparation for unexpected events.

It is imperative that we mourn as communities; that we support and pray for those most closely affected by this senseless act; and that we come together and deepen the ties of our communities. May God be with the families and friends of the victims of these tragedies.

Natural Disasters & Hurricanes: How Grief Can Help Us to Help Others

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

What does it mean to grieve during a natural disaster or a hurricane? What opportunities does grief provide for helping others in need? In the wake of natural disasters that have caused so much damage to the lives of so many people, it’s useful to examine the relationship between healthy grief and compassionate action. While our first impulse may be to distance ourselves from the pain of tragedy, it’s necessary that we face this pain, because grief cultivates sympathy and compassion.

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Awareness Spurs Action

It is difficult to wrap our minds around the information that we get from news statistics and apply them to the lives of everyday people. To picture the hundreds of lives lost, and to realize that each of these lives was as precious as that of our dearest loved one, is difficult to fathom. To envision the tens of thousands of homes destroyed or uninhabitable, and to know that each home belonged to an individual or a family who needs a home just as much as our families do, is beyond distressing.

But in response to the hurricanes, we’ve seen a number of heroic acts. Hundreds of Airbnb hosts are offering rooms to house Dorian evacuees. A Lakeland, Florida, hotel is seeing customers give up their own rooms or pay for rooms on behalf of evacuees. In North Carolina, volunteers are helping the elderly prepare for the storm. When hurricanes hit, we see people stepping up to make a difference. We see people showing that they care. This kind of commitment to goodness doesn’t come from a place of comfort. It comes from an awareness of the suffering of others. It comes from the internalization of their pain, and the channeling of this pain into sympathy, and ultimately, action.

We can only transcend the pain of loss by allowing ourselves to feel this hurt. As Dr. Alan Wolfelt says, we must go backward before we can go forward. In other words, we must allow ourselves to feel sad and painful emotions in order to move towards healing. The people who take action understand this essential truth of grief. They have opened themselves up to the suffering of others, and have chosen to expose themselves to pain and discomfort. By moving outside of themselves, they set an example of hope and goodness that is inspiring to all of us.

How You Can Help Those Affected by the Hurricane

In light of the recent natural disasters, you may want to consider ways in which you can help.  If you feel moved to take action, you have the opportunity to partner with organizations that are making a difference in the lives of those affected by these natural disasters, for example:

  • To give toward Hurricane Dorian disaster relief in the Bahamas, this article shares several ways you can help, including the Red Cross, World Central Kitchen, Global Giving, and other Bahamas-based organizations.
  • Americares has set up an Emergency Relief Fund for Hurricane Dorian so that you can help Americares offer medicine and medical assistance. A $10 donation can provide up to $100 in aid to those in need.
  • The Red Cross has a disaster relief program set up to bring aid to those affected by natural disaster.
  • The UNICEF Disaster Relief program works to meet the basic needs of children and their families who have been affected by Hurricane Dorian.

Grief is an avenue for change. It allows us to confront the reality of other people’s pain in order to better care for them. Because grief is unpleasant, our culture tends to downplay its importance. But shying away from painful emotions keeps us complacent. By crossing the threshold of sadness, we find the sympathy that connects us and reminds us of our common humanity.

By letting ourselves grieve, we allow ourselves to acknowledge the needs of those who are hurting. To bury the pain of this loss is to miss an opportunity to show compassion to others. It’s okay to temporarily welcome the sadness. Sadness reminds us that people are in a time of need. It provides a lens through which we can see more clearly to help others. It moves us from mourning to sympathy, from sympathy to action, and from action to inspiration. Tragedies of this kind are always distressing. However, we often find that in the midst of such hardship, humanity shines brightly.

Grief and Loss in the Wake of Hurricane Dorian

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

Hurricane Dorian is lashing against the East Coast‘s shores, sure to cause life-threatening conditions, catastrophic flooding, and property damage. Hurricane Dorian is the first large hurricane of the season and has already devastated the Bahamas. In recent years, we have seen a number of hurricanes wreak massive amounts of damage, including Hurricanes Michael and Florence last year and Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Maria the previous year. Together, these hurricanes contributed to the deaths of thousands and caused billions of dollars in property damage.

Losing everything so suddenly can be especially difficult to grapple with because all that is familiar–your home, your belongings, your pictures, even loved ones–are gone, washed away by an unrelenting storm.

The trauma of such a devastating and sudden loss can manifest as complicated grief. Be aware that total loss as a result of a sudden natural disaster can possibly trigger severe trauma responses, including anger, depression or anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder. Usually, the severity of the response depends on previous life trauma and the support that survivors are able to find after the event.

If you are looking for ways to help others during this time, it is important not to put your own life in danger by going out into affected areas on your own. Consider volunteering with an existing organization or donating to worthy organizations that are making a difference in impacted communities.  This article shares ways to contribute to hurricane and disaster relief efforts.

If you know or are helping someone who has been affected by a recent disaster, the best thing you can do right now is listen to their story and offer tangible help in any way you can. Nothing will take away the pain of total loss. The rebuilding effort for both cities and individual lives will take time. There is not much that we can do to “fix it” or take their pain away. We can’t bring back homes, precious pictures, heirlooms, and loved ones. What survivors need right now is help with day to day necessities, as well as someone who is comfortable being a listening ear and a witness to their pain and loss.

9/11: Grief and Remembrance

By Current Events, Exclude from Top Posts

It’s been 19 years since the devastating terrorist attacks of 9/11. On September 11, 2001, two planes hit the World Trade Center in New York City and one plane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. A fourth plane, headed to Washington D.C. was brought down in a Pennsylvania field in a struggle between civilian passengers and the hijackers. 2,996 lives were lost and thousands were injured.

American Tragedy

The effects of the tragedy on American life were monumental, and the image of the planes hitting the buildings was burned into our collective consciousness. Across the nation, citizens sat in front of television screens, hardly able to believe their eyes. Over and over again, news stations showed the planes tearing through steel and glass, the plumes of smoke rising to the sky, and the citizens, firefighters, and police officers of New York City caked in dust and rubble.

As a nation, we mourned collectively. We mourned the disruption of national security, the desecration of a national symbol, and most discouraging of all, the loss of nearly 3,000 American lives. In 2009, Congress designated September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, officially marking the day as a time to reflect on the tragedy and honor the lives that were lost.

Personal Tragedy

But September 11 is hardest of all for families and friends who lost loved ones on that day. While the entire nation mourns the loss of its citizens, nobody grieves like a wife who lost her husband, a father who lost his daughter, or a child who lost a parent. For those who were personally connected to the victims of the terrorist attack, the weeks of early September are often extremely difficult to get through.

In the aftermath of 9/11, many of those who were personally tied to the attacks experienced significant psychological trauma. Many of the injured civilians, first responders, family members of the victims, and people who witnessed the terrorist attack firsthand struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and sought out counseling and therapy. The events of 9/11 have changed their lives forever, and their pain needs to be acknowledged by a loving and supportive community.

Support and Remembrance

For this reason, it’s important that we continue to show them that we care. We don’t need to crowd or overwhelm them. But we do need to honor the memory of their loved ones and respect the lives that were lost by taking the time to remember. When September 11 rolls around again, it’s tempting to dive into our jobs and our personal lives to avoid thinking about the tragedy. But instead of losing ourselves in work, we should take this time to fully address the events that occurred 19 years ago. Remembrance is the gateway to healing.

Moment of Silence

We are creatures of ceremony, and in difficult times, we often turn to rituals to acknowledge our true feelings. Funeral services do a particularly good job of allowing us to embrace our emotions, and funeral elements such as the visitation, the gathering, the time of eulogy and remembrance, and the use of symbols, music, and readings enhance the ceremony.

In the same way, when a cultural event changes our lives, we can turn to rituals to process our thoughts. The moment of silence is a useful ritual that we can participate in every year on September 11. At 8:46 AM (Eastern Time), many people choose to enter a period of silent reflection at the time of day when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. This September 11, consider planning your schedule around this moment of silence, so that you can join with others across the country in honoring the lives that were lost and showing your respect.

Meaningful Actions

Actions bring meaning to experience and help us heal. If you have an American flag, fly it at half-mast on this day to honor the memory of the 9/11 victims. This national ritual functions as a powerful symbol of mourning and unifies us in our grief. You can also use your social media account as a tool to express your support. On Facebook, you can like the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, or you can follow the Memorial Museum Account on Twitter. Ask your family and friends to support this wonderful museum on their accounts as well. By doing so, you draw attention to a resource that does great work in honoring the lives that were lost on 9/11.

A Time of Healing

Times of reflection are times of healing. We need constant reminders, year after year. It will be a healing event when we remember in 2027. It will be a healing event when we remember in 2057. We will never be “over” 9/11, and if we ever were to adopt such a mindset, it would be indicative of our inability to acknowledge the personal loss of thousands of individuals as well as our loss as a nation. By acknowledging the pain of the loss and allowing ourselves to mourn as a nation, we strengthen our ties to each other and experience something valuable.

As anyone who has ever lost a loved one knows, the grief journey is not linear. Grief bursts occur throughout the lifetime of anyone who has experienced a loss. National grief bursts can occur as well, so it’s important that we acknowledge the continuation of grief after the tragedy. September 11 will never stop hurting. But through acts of remembrance, we can take healing steps, grow closer to each other, cultivate compassion, and become stronger people.

Honoring our Veterans on Independence Day

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal, Veterans

This Fourth of July, many will gather for swim parties, burger grilling, and firework displays. We do these things because we want to reflect the American spirit on the day that commemorates the formation of our country. But the holiday also offers us a chance to honor the veterans who have made extraordinary sacrifices in service to this country. To better understand how Independence Day relates to our veterans, we must first examine the history of the holiday.

The Backdrop

The historical event that the holiday is based on, the creation of the Declaration of Independence, occurred during the Revolutionary War. While the Declaration of Independence formally announced the separation from Britain, the seeds of revolution grew over a period of 10 years. Years earlier, in 1765, Britain passed the Stamp Act, which was a direct tax on any material printed by the American colonists. The actual cost of the tax was less disturbing to Americans than the precedent that it established; Britain felt free to impose a level of control upon the colonies that the founding fathers were uncomfortable with.

No Taxation without Representation

The colonists resisted the tax, and Britain responded by imposing more taxes. Over the next few years, a pattern began to form: the colonists rebelled against legislation that they found unfair, Britain responded by tightening the screws, the colonists protested more vehemently, and the laws continued to get stricter and stricter.

In 1973, Boston passed the Tea Act. The colonists responded by hurling East India Company tea into the Boston harbor in the event that came to be known as the Boston Tea Party. This act put an even greater strain on the relationship between Britain and the colonies, and full-scale war was soon to follow.

On April 19, 1775, Paul Revere completed his famous ride, warning the American soldiers of the arrival of the British. Hoping to gain military supplies, British soldiers headed for Concord, only to be stopped at Lexington by American gunfire. After a brief skirmish, the colonists retreated, and British troops pressed on to Concord. But at Concord, the colonists gained the upper hand, and the British retreated to Boston. This victory for the colonists marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

The Declaration of Independence

On June 11, 1776, a little more than a year after shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, a committee at the Second Continental Congress selected Thomas Jefferson to write the first draft of the document that would come to be known as The Declaration of Independence. The committee chose young Jefferson over several already legendary American figures: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston.

After several changes to the first draft, America released the final document on July 4, 1776. The declaration officially marked America’s break from Britain and claimed independence for the 13 colonies. Independence Day commemorates the creation of this document, which outlines American values.

Contemporary Relevance

The Declaration of Independence is inseparable from the context of the Revolutionary War. For this reason, we link the holiday not only to America, but more specifically to American soldiers. The main principles of the document–life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–are what the American soldiers of the 18th century gave their lives for. Many veterans have since served our country with the same commitment.

Independence Day provides us with an opportunity to remember those who have given so much for their country. The veterans who have served in the spirit of preserving life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have made great sacrifices, and we need to take the time to express our gratitude.

Acknowledging Your Service

If you or a loved one are a veteran, we’d like to say a special thank you. We are thankful for your service and sacrifice. Also, we’d like to highlight an important issue that you need to be aware of: veterans’ burial benefits. It’s important that you are well-informed on the benefits that you are eligible for, as well as the restrictions and limitations that may apply.

Get answers to frequently asked questions, such as:

  • What are my burial benefits as a veteran?
  • Will the VA pay for my funeral?
  • What type of reimbursement or allowance does the VA provide for funeral expenses?
  • What benefits will my family members receive?
  • How do I ensure that my family receives my veterans’ benefits?
  • What happens if my non-veteran spouse or child dies first?
  • Does the VA cover the cost of transportation to a national or state cemetery?

For more information, visit this page.

[button color=”accent-color” hover_text_color_override=”#fff” size=”medium” url=”https://www.funeralbasics.org/veterans-burial-benefits-faq/” text=”Veterans’ Burial Benefits FAQ” color_override=”#27ccc0″]

 

Dealing With Grief on Father’s Day

By AfterCare, Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

Father’s Day is almost here, and if you have recently lost a father or child, Father’s Day can be a particularly painful day of the year. Fathers fill an irreplaceable role in our lives. If you had a good father, then this time can be sorrowful and maybe even bittersweet as you remember good times. If you had a more difficult relationship with your father, Father’s Day can bring up painful memories. Or, if your father was absent physically or emotionally, Father’s Day can bring out feelings of loneliness and sadness.

And on the other side, if you are a father who has lost a beloved child, Father’s Day can amplify your feelings of loss. You may even be struggling with guilt and how you could have prevented your child’s death. What you are feeling is normal. Everyone feels a wide range of emotions when they lose someone they love. Sometimes the pain of what might have been is the most difficult to overcome.

If you find yourself dreading the third Sunday in June, consider applying a few of the suggestions below to help you turn Father’s Day into an opportunity to honor your loved one’s memory in a special way.

Find an activity to do in memory of your loved one

Consider doing something that your father or child enjoyed. Watch a favorite movie, listen to a favorite song, or go to a favorite location. Remembrance is an important part of the grieving process. Paradoxically, it’s important to move backward in order to eventually move forward. By remembering, you forge a path forward in the work of grieving. Finding a way to pay tribute to your loved one can help you find meaning in the day. Father’s Day will still be difficult, but by engaging in a meaningful activity, you can give the day special significance.

Make time for solitude

Carve out time for peace and quiet. Don’t force your thoughts or emotions; just observe them, letting them come and go as they will. If you need to use this time to reflect on your loved one’s life, then do so. If you’d rather use it as a moment to breathe and relax without having to think of anything that could be emotionally stressful, then let yourself enjoy a moment of peace. We all need moments of peace in the struggle, so don’t begrudge yourself a few moments alone.

Talk to family or friends about how you are feeling

During painful times, it’s important to surround yourself with people who will support you. More than likely, Father’s Day is going to elicit some strong emotions within you, so consider making time to talk with a family member or close friend so that you can get a few things off your chest. If you don’t have anybody that you can talk to, consider joining a grief support group. Go online and search for groups in your area. Having somebody to listen and offer sympathy for your loss is enormously beneficial for your grief journey.

Write about your experience

For some, it’s easier to write than to talk because the practice allows you time to get your thoughts together before expressing them vocally. If that’s you, pour out your feelings on paper or in front of a computer. You may feel that your feelings are too raw or personal to share in conversation, so writing is a good alternative. If you do decide to write, be honest about everything you’re feeling. In the end, you may want to keep your thoughts private and write only for the therapeutic value of expressing yourself. But if you feel up to it, you may want to consider sharing your writing with people who are close to you. Don’t worry about “bringing other people down.” Those who care about you want to know how you’re feeling.

For those who have lost a father

Focus on what your father meant to you and what you learned from him. What is your father’s legacy? Why was he special to you? If your memories are more painful, you may try to focus on forgiveness. List all of your painful thoughts, and then, one by one, go through the list and release your father from blame and resentment. Remember, forgiveness is for you. Even if the individual is deceased, you may need to work toward forgiveness for your own health and wellness.

For those who have lost a child

Focus on what your child brought to your life and how their presence impacted you. Tell them how you feel about them, what you miss about them, what your hopes and dreams were for them. If you are struggling with feelings of guilt or anger, that’s okay. Maybe you could have done something different, maybe you couldn’t have – what really matters is how you are going to honor and remember your child now that they are gone.

If you are a blogger or on social media, you may choose to post your thoughts about your experience and raise awareness about how Father’s Day can be painful for some. Your post could serve as an encouragement to others who have lost a father or child.  Whatever you choose to do, expressing your feelings will help you reflect on and process your current experience.

Honor other fathers in your life

Do you have a mentor or a surrogate father in your life? Maybe it’s an uncle, grandfather, spiritual leader, coach, teacher, or family friend who stepped in and became like a father to you when you needed one. Even something as simple as sending a thank you card or an email on Father’s Day can bring comfort to you and honor the person who has been there for you when you just needed a dad. Try thinking of all the “fathers” who have been there for you over the years, and send each one a personal thank you note sharing how much you appreciated their love, support, and words of wisdom.

Honoring our Fallen Soldiers on Memorial Day

By AfterCare, Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

Memorial Day is just around the corner. You might use the holiday as an opportunity to grab a hot dog, plop down in a lawn chair, and settle in for a relaxing three-day weekend. Almost everybody is familiar with the holiday’s contemporary rituals, but many Americans have very little knowledge of the history of Memorial Day.

Background

There is considerable disagreement as to the true birthplace of the Memorial Day.  Of course, humans have used ceremony to honor those who have died in battle for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. However, some people trace the roots of the American holiday back to 1868, when Major Gen. John A. Logan designated May 30th as Decoration Day, a day on which the graves of Civil War soldiers would be commemorated.

Other stories place the holiday’s origins in Charleston, S.C., or Waterloo, N.Y., or Columbus, GA around a similar time.  It’s safe to say that in the aftermath of the Civil War, which caused more American deaths than any other armed conflict, many people in various places were looking for ways to honor those who died in combat. But it wasn’t until 1971, more than a century later, that Memorial Day became an official holiday that was marked by the last Monday of May.

Honoring the Fallen

Now, Memorial Day represents the threshold of summer. To bring in the new season, we participate in cook-outs and kick back by the pool. While it’s perfectly fine to usher in the new season and take the opportunity to celebrate our country, we should also remember those who have given their lives in service and reflect on their sacrifices.

It’s always important to take a few moments of silence. However, this year, you may decide that you want to do a little bit more. If so, there are plenty of opportunities to make this Memorial Day special by remembering those who have given their lives in service to their country. Below are some ideas for paying your respects to the lives of deceased service members on this important day. One of the best ways to honor those who have died is to serve the living in their name. Partnering with the organizations below will serve as a beautiful tribute to the servicemen and women who have passed away.

Donate to Help Grieving Families

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) provides care for families that are grieving in the aftermath of the loss of a veteran or active duty member of the armed forces. They provide around-the-clock support and resources to grieving family members. Through their Good Grief camps and Survivor’s Seminars, TAPS helps loved ones process their grief and gives them the tools that they need to make it through a difficult time. Widows and widowers, parents, siblings, and children have all benefited from the extraordinary work that TAPS does. Consider donating to this organization to make a difference in the life of someone who is grieving.

Donate to Help Children who Have a Parent in Service

Children of Fallen Patriots is dedicated to looking after the children of soldiers who have died in service. They provide college scholarships and educational counseling. Their works ensures that children receive the educational opportunities they need to thrive. Donating to this organization is a great way to honor the memory of veterans who have died during military service and to ensure that their loved ones receive the proper care and attention.

Provide Yard Care

For more than 10 years, Project Evergreen has provided lawn services to disabled war veterans and to the families of soldiers who are currently deployed. They mow, trim, and fertilize lawns. Snow and ice removal services are also available. You can sign up to volunteer in any state. By taking some time out of your day to work up a little sweat, you could be an enormous help to veterans and their families.

Donate to Help Injured Veterans

Wounded Warrior Project provides free aid in the form of mental and physical health services, benefits advice and career counseling to veterans who were wounded post 9/11. Through free programs and events, they offer a helping hand and work to increase veterans’ quality of life after injury. They also offer support to the concerned families of wounded veterans and offer programs to help them as they walk through a difficult period of life with their loved ones. Start a fundraiser or donate personally to ensure that this charity continues to do great work.

Send a Care Package

Operation Gratitude sends care packages to veterans and service members. You can write a personal “thank you” letter to accompany the food and gifts that you send their way. You can also sign up to volunteer at the Forward Operating Base in Chatsworth, CA. Care packages are gifts of encouragement that remind veterans that we haven’t forgotten the sacrifices that they’ve made.

Other Volunteer and Donation Opportunities

There are many other ways to say thank you to the soldiers who have given so much for their country. You may want to do some research into other charities. Alternatively, if you know of another organization that honors veterans and accepts contributions, consider donating to it. Use this time as an opportunity to do a little something for those who have done so much for us. Let this Memorial Day be the catalyst for action.

How Poetry Can Help You on Your Grief Journey

By Exclude from Top Posts, Funeral Poems, Grief/Loss, Seasonal

Did you know that poetry can play an important role in the grieving process? Sadly, poetry readings are becoming less and less popular in everyday life, but they are still widely used in important rituals and ceremonies, including funerals. Our willingness to turn to poetry to mark events of great importance indicates that we still understand the power of poetry and are drawn to it, even though we only turn to it on rare occasions.

What’s So Great About Poetry?

A great poem captures essential truths about the human condition. Through the precise arrangement of a few carefully chosen words, the poet explores universal themes and attempts to encapsulate an aspect of human experience. Good poems are relatable. Writing it allows us to express ourselves to others, and reading it cultivates empathy and reminds us of what we have in common. Poetry reminds us of what it means to be human–to feel joy and pain, to laugh and to cry, to celebrate the wonders of life and to fear our mortality. In this way, it connects us to the people around us.

Reading Poetry to Enhance a Funeral Service

In a funeral setting, poetry reading can be a powerful ritual. It honors the life of the loved one and strengthens the bonds between those who mourn. Whether the poems chosen are mournful or inspirational and uplifting, they can serve as an opportunity to reflect on the life of the deceased. Funeral poems can help us search for meaning in the loss and can bring us into a state of contemplation. Poetry reading is a communal experience: it allows everybody who is present to share a profound moment together.

Therapeutic Benefits

Poetry can also be useful after the ceremony, in the weeks, months, even years after the loss of a loved one. Studies suggest that any form of reading can be therapeutic and poems can be especially useful because of its contemplative, even spiritual, qualities. The grief journey is not linear. Long after the loved one has passed, sporadic periods of intense grief can crop up. During these difficult times, it might be useful to consider reading some poems. The poetryfoundation.org is a great place to start.

Writing Your Own Poems

In addition to reading, you may also find it helpful to write some poems of your own. Grief experts consider grief journaling to be a healthy way to channel painful emotions. In many ways, writing poems can function as a sophisticated form of journaling. Writing is a healthy means of self-expression that allows you to better process your thoughts and to comprehend what you are feeling. The great poet Robert Frost once said, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” In short, poems helps us to better understand our emotions. Understanding what we feel is incredibly useful during times of grief, when we experience confusing or paradoxical emotions. Mourning through creative imagery can be incredibly cathartic. By putting your feelings into words, you open the door to self-discovery.

Using Poetry as a Place of Refuge

Not all of the poems that you use during the grieving process have to deal directly with death. Poetry can be an effective outlet for dealing with painful emotions. Additionally, it can also provide a refuge from the pain and stress that comes after a loss. Taking a few moments out of your day to read some soothing poems can be refreshing. Consider going to a favorite spot, where you can read or write peacefully without distractions. You may find that this activity calms your mind and relieves stress.

Try It!

If you have recently lost a loved one, consider utilizing poetry to help you on your grief journey. Whether you’re thinking about incorporating poems into a funeral service, looking for poems to read personally, or considering writing some poems of your own, find ways to take advantage of the benefits that poetry can offer.

 

Finding Meaning in St. Patrick’s Day

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

The Rituals

You know the drill. On March 17th, you’ll put on our greenest attire in honor of St. Patty’s Day, maybe catch a parade, and celebrate the luck of the Irish. But do you know the story of St. Patrick’s Day, which actually began as a day to commemorate the life and legacy of a saint?

The Commemoration

St. Patrick’s Day is one of the few major holidays that honors the life of a person on the day of his or her death. In this case, what is particularly interesting is that the person whose life and death we collectively honor every year is someone that many of us don’t know very much about.

The History

Much of the available historical information on St. Patrick comes from his memoir, The Confession, which describes details of his life, the people he came in contact with, and his inner spiritual journey. While he is associated with the Irish, St. Patrick was actually born a Roman (in the area we now know as Great Britain), and was captured by Irish pirates who raided the area when he was a teenager. At the age of 20, he had a dream in which God told him to flee. He escaped from captivity and made it to the coast, where sailors found him and took him back to his home land.

In the memoir, Patrick claims to have received a vision that inspired him to return to the land where he was formerly enslaved, a land populated by pagans and Druids, to spread Christianity.  He studied for the priesthood, became a bishop, and eventually returned to Ireland, where he converted scores of people to Christianity. Patrick is credited with bringing Catholicism to Ireland, and legend has it that he used the famed shamrock as a tool to explain the Trinity to his converts. He died on March 17, 461, at Saul, the site of his first church.

The Holiday

On March 17, 1631, the church held a Feast Day in honor of the life and work of St. Patrick. This was the birth of St. Patrick’s Day, and ever since, the holiday has continued to celebrate the life of St. Patrick.

The Importance of Ceremony

St. Patrick’s Day reminds us of the necessity of ritual and tradition. It suggests that our need for rituals of commemoration is so strong that it can span over hundreds of years and reach millions of people who did not even know the person at the heart of the celebration.

Do you have a loved one you’d like to honor in some special way? Consider choosing a day, either their birthday or date of death, and wear a special color in their memory. Maybe even eat their favorite meal, and see if your loved ones would like to join in with you to remember someone special.

If we are willing to use rituals to honor the deaths of people like St. Patrick, a distant historical figure, how much more important is it to use ceremony and ritual to honor our dearest loved ones? The particular ritual you choose for your loved one may vary. After all, each life is special, and we want to find unique ways to honor the individual qualities of a loved one. What we can learn from St. Patty’s Day is that remembering those who have gone before is important, and it is always an honor to participate in special ceremonies for those who mean so much to us.

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