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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.

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.

Coping with Grief on Valentine’s Day

By Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal

Valentine’s Day can be a beautiful opportunity to celebrate your relationships, whether your loved ones are here with you or whether they have been gone for some time.

For those who are grieving the loss of a spouse or loved one, Valentine’s Day can be a particularly difficult time. But Valentine’s Day can also be a special time of remembrance, an opportunity to reflect on the love you shared and to find comfort in memories. With a little bit of planning, it is possible to find avenues for healing during this time.  Here are a few ideas to help you breathe a little easier on Valentine’s Day:

Take Time to Honor and Remember the Person You Love

Do something special in memory of your loved one, and celebrate their life and the time that you had together. You may want to look through photographs, listen to their favorite song, or watch their favorite movie. This would also be a good opportunity to visit the graveside and bring a fresh bouquet of flowers. Taking a little time to reflect on the past can be a healthy way to cope with the holiday, but do so in a way that feels right for you.

Have Some Quiet Time

Take deep breaths and allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you need to feel. If painful emotions come to the surface, find a healthy way to express those emotions. Remember, it’s okay if you need to cry. Grief journaling can also be a very effective way to channel your feelings during this season. Find a comfortable location and pour out your thoughts on paper. You might try listing all the things you are grateful for having experienced with your loved one. Meditation is another great tool for managing grief. Find a quiet spot and focus on your breathing. If this is hard for you, pull up a guided meditation video on your phone or computer. It’s amazing what a 15-30 minute relaxation session can do for your state of mind.

Talk About How You’re Feeling

Your friends and family care. Don’t be afraid that you’re going to “bring them down” if you talk honestly about the sadness that you’re experiencing during a culturally-sanctioned “happy” time of year. If you need some time to get something off your chest, this is perfectly acceptable. You shouldn’t feel guilty for taking time to express your grief around others. Too often, our culture encourages us to stifle sad emotions and to put on a happy face. This can make those who grieve feel guilty or ashamed for not being able to pretend to be happy all the time. Reject this irrational guilt, stay in the presence of people who care about you, and confide in them. Let them support you. If your friends and family are unable to support you at this time, join a support group or find a counselor to talk to.

Spend Time with Loved Ones

While it is good to spend some time in solitude and reflection, it is also important to find a healthy balance. Find opportunities to socialize with people who support you and care about you. Go out to dinner or prepare a meal together. Meals are communal experiences, opportunities to show love and support. You might even enjoy a favorite comedic film or television show together. Numerous studies have shown that laughter plays an important role in lowering stress, improving mood, strengthening our relationships, and contributing to our overall health. By taking time to laugh with people that you love, you take a healing step, and the stress of the holiday becomes a little easier to handle. Remember: couples aren’t the only people who can celebrate and have fun on Valentine’s Day.

Treat Yourself

If you don’t have someone to bring you flowers and candy, there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to something special on Valentine’s Day! Get a massage, choose a beautiful bouquet to brighten your home, or pick out your favorite chocolates or dessert. This is a day to spoil yourself and enjoy a little self-care, especially if you are missing someone special.

Valentine’s Day will never be the same without your loved one, and it’s okay, even healthy, to experience sadness at this thought. But by planning ahead and incorporating some of these activities in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, you can prepare yourself for the holiday and find peace of mind in the midst of a dizzying array of hearts, cards, and candy.

Grieving During the Holiday Season

By AfterCare, Christmas, Exclude from Top Posts, Seasonal, Thanksgiving No Comments

The absence of a loved one during the holidays can bring extremely painful feelings to the surface. Just as you’ve found your groove in a “new normal,” the holidays come at you with a whirlwind of joy, good cheer, happiness, and all things family. Needless to say, the holidays can be an emotional roller coaster for grieving individuals. Having a plan for the holidays can make this time a little more bearable. First, it’s important to acknowledge that this holiday season will not be perfect. So, what is the next step for grieving in a healthy way during the holidays? Here are five actions you can take to help heal your heavy heart:

Save a Seat

Some individuals feel sad or frustrated when a loved one’s missing presence goes unacknowledged during the holidays. They might feel as if the person they love has been “forgotten” or “left behind.” One way to include your loved one into the holiday festivities is by dedicating a specific seat at the dinner table or a spot on the couch in the living room just for them. Consider decorating the memorial area to make it more personable. For example, light a candle, set a place at the table, or fill a space with photos of your loved one and surround it with their favorite flowers or holiday decorations. Having a designated place to honor your loved one allows you to acknowledge the absent family member without feeling like they are being ignored or excluded from your holiday activities.

Keep Traditions (or Try a New One)

Sometimes it takes more than a visual reminder to keep the legacy of your loved one alive during the season. You might find comfort in keeping sacred traditions you shared with your family member prior to their passing. Cooking their favorite dish to serve at the family feast or watching their beloved classic film before bed can bring back happy memories of times once spent together. Keep in mind that new traditions can also be helpful if old traditions are too painful to face. Whatever you decide to do, setting aside time for activities that can be both joyful and painful are healthy ways of coping with your loss.

Take Time to Reminisce

Remembering the past can be bittersweet for grieving hearts. You might find talking about past times with your loved one can be an effective way of coping with your loss. Find pictures from some of your favorite memories and share the stories behind them with a family member or friend who you feel comfortable with. If you are not quite ready to openly talk about the past, scrapbooking is a creative way to share memories without having to speak a word. Another private option is to share your feelings and reminisce with the love one you miss through a letter. Transferring thoughts of memories into words may be painful, but processing them into words can assist in the healing journey.

Call a Time Out if You Need To

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can leave anyone physically and emotionally drained. You might feel especially fatigued if you are grieving during the holiday chaos. It is essential to take time away from the commotion and schedule in some time for restful activities that you enjoy. You may want to take a walk, splurge on a massage, listen to meditations on grief and healing after loss, or curl up with a cup of coffee and a good book. Give yourself time to process your emotions and refresh your spirit so you are better able to navigate the hectic pace of the season.

Give Back

Holidays are known for being a time of selflessness. A grieving heart can make the idea of giving seem exasperating and exhausting. However, if you find a cause your loved one was passionate about, you may find that giving in their honor is an outlet for your emotions. Giving can come in many different forms. If you feel capable, volunteering your time can be a great way to make a difference and keep your mind at work. Sign up to ring the bell for Salvation Army or volunteer at a donation center. If physical work is too strenuous or you are on a tight schedule, giving your resources can also be beneficial. You could gather donation items like canned goods or sweaters and blankets to give to local charities or join a local Toys for Tots or Angel Tree program.

Try to choose a cause that doesn’t require an extra errand. Financial contributions are always appreciated if that method of donation is more preferable for your family. You can do any of these activities or contributions in honor of your loved one, helping you continue their legacy, cope with your grief, and actively help those in need.

The holidays will never be the same. Going forward, the challenge will be finding a healthy balance between joy and sadness, tears and laughter, activity and rest. Remember to pace yourself, take care of yourself, and don’t take on more than you can handle.

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