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

By Living Well

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

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

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

1. Prioritize your work-life balance

Stack of rocks that looks like a scale balancing

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

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

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

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

2. Spend more time with loved ones

multigenerational family enjoying a meal together

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

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

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

3. Don’t be afraid to take risks

Two people skydiving together

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

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

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

4. Be yourself

Woman standing in front of a sunrise with her arms raised

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

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

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

5. Keep in touch with friends and distant family

Man writing a letter to a long-distance friend

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

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

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

6. Give back to others

Group of volunteers looking out at trees

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

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

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

7. Enjoy the small things

woman and her elderly father drinking coffee and laughing together

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

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

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

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

Young woman drinking a glass of water

9 Tips for Staying Physically Healthy While Grieving

By Grief/Loss, Living Well

After the death of a loved one, you’re going to experience a variety of emotions. Every person is different, but the emotions will range from sadness and confusion, to anger, fear, and disbelief. So much of the grief journey occurs in the mind, but grief also takes a toll on the body. To help yourself grieve and stay on top of the things you “must do,” here are 9 helpful tips to keeping your body healthy while you’re healing emotionally.

Woman wearing orange sweater as she put together her weekly routine in her calendar planner

1. Establish a routine

Grief will throw your life and routine off balance, so you will need to re-establish a sense of normalcy after a loss. Routines provide a sense of peace and calm amidst the emotional upheaval. You know what’s coming and can enjoy the comfort of regularity. So, determine the best routine for you. This will support your emotional healing as you adjust to what life looks like after the loss of someone loved.

Young man at grocery store selecting apples to buy

2. Eat a healthy diet

You may be tempted to indulge in sweets and junk food when your emotions are in turmoil but try to maintain a healthy diet. Nourishing food will give you strength to face the difficult days and weeks ahead. When you feel good physically, you will also feel much better emotionally! Unless cooking helps you relax, you might consider meal prepping, so that you have less stress throughout the week.

Spoon with sugar in it and small dice with the words "Less Sugar"

3. Eat less sugar

As mentioned above, a healthy diet is important to caring for your body. But let’s take a moment to talk about sugar specifically. Sugar in moderation is completely fine, but research shows that too much sugar leads to mood imbalances, fluctuating hormone levels, and increased blood pressure and inflammation. In some people (higher risk in men), it can lead to depression. So, even if you can’t be completely healthy with your diet due to money, time, or energy levels, consider at least cutting back on the sugar.

Young woman drinking a glass of water

4. Stay hydrated

Much like food, water is essential to a healthy body. It’s actually even more important. The body can go 3-6 weeks without food but only around 3 days without water. So, as you’re grieving, make sure you stay hydrated. Plenty of water will help regulate your body temperature, assist with digestion, help you absorb nutrients, fight off illness, and improve mood. If you have a tough time remembering to hydrate, set timers or carry a water bottle around with you.

Attractive middle-aged woman sleeping in bed

5. Get plenty of sleep

Good sleep is essential for overall health and wellness. After a loss, you may lose sleep due to intrusive thoughts, stress, bad dreams, or anxiety. To promote sleep, try to create a comfortable, cool, and calm atmosphere at night. Over-the-counter sleep aids may also help. If nothing else works, consider talking to your doctor or therapist. For more suggestions, give “Sleeping Tips for the Grieving” a quick read.

Middle-aged man stretching at the park as he prepares to exercise

6. Exercise regularly

Exercise reduces stress and improves mood, which is important while grieving. If you participated in a regular exercise routine before the death of your loved one, try to continue. If you did not practice a lifestyle of exercise, start small. Take a walk, ride a bike, or pick up small hand weights. Even moderate daily exercise can help improve your mood and relieve stress. To learn more about the benefits of some form of exercise during a time of loss, go to “Can Exercise Help You Grieve?

Middle-aged woman sitting on couch at home, mindlessly choosing something to watch

7. Avoid numbing activities

Unfortunately, for some, grief can trigger or exacerbate unhealthy coping habits. When these habits are unaddressed or go on too long, they can seriously affect your ability to live a healthy life. If you notice that you are using activities like overeating, drinking, addictive substances, or mindless TV/news watching to avoid confronting painful emotions, it may be necessary to seek assistance. Not only will these habits inhibit your ability to emotionally heal, but they may also affect your long-term physical health.

Mature man in casual shirt reclining on couch as he listens to music on headphones

8. Choose nurturing activities

Instead of numbing activities, engage in activities that feed your spirit and soul. Look for opportunities to do things that bring you joy or give you a sense of fulfillment. Spend time outdoors. Listen to uplifting music (skip the moody stuff for now). Take walks. Get a massage. Volunteer for a cause you believe in. Write in a grief journal. Express your emotions through creativity. Spend time in quiet reflection or meditation. All of these activities will soothe your mind, and in turn, keep your body healthy.

Young woman talking to therapist about her thoughts and feelings

9. Seek out support

If you are struggling with difficult emotions, such as depression, or need a listening ear, don’t hesitate to ask others for help. Trusted friends, family members, therapists, counselors, or grief support groups are all excellent resources to help you on your journey through grief. Grief is something we all go through, but we all experience it differently. You must find the methods that work best for you on your individual journey. Don’t compare your needs to someone else’s – simply find the healthy options that work best for you.

Hopefully these 9 tips will help you on the journey toward healing. It will take time, so be patient with yourself. As you do the work of grief by actively engaging with your emotions, you will begin to see that each day becomes a little brighter. You will never “get over” the death of your loved one; that’s not the point of healing. The goal is to come to terms with it, to make peace with it, and find renewed purpose and meaning in the remainder of your days.

Grandparents laughing with young granddaughter

The Importance of Laughter in Hospice Care

By Grief/Loss, Hospice, Living Well

When you or someone you love receives a terminal diagnosis, the last thing you may feel like doing is laughing. As the transition to end-of-life care begins, you may feel overwhelmed by various emotions, like fear, anger, sadness, or despair.

But a positive mindset and humor can improve the quality of life of a person in hospice, boost their physical and mental health, and help them cope with their new situation. As you and your family begin to process the terminal diagnosis, laughter – at appropriate times – can bring you together and help you grieve well together.

Here are four ways laughter and humor benefit those in hospice care. Plus, make sure you read to the end for some helpful tips for creating a positive atmosphere during this difficult time!

Benefit #1: Laughter helps you cope

adult daughter hugging and smiling with elderly father

Coping with a terminal diagnosis can be difficult for both a patient and their family. But humor can help you change your perspective and make the most of the time you have left together. While death is serious, end-of-life situations often come with weird, peculiar moments, and laughing at those situations can help you have a more positive mindset. Plus, humor is a positive coping skill that can show acceptance, rather than avoidance, of the situation.

Benefit #2: Laughter provides relief

elderly couple laughing together while watching a movie

Laughter can also benefit those in hospice by relieving stress and tension. When we’re in a stressful situation, we often hold in our emotions. These emotions build within us, creating pressure. Laughter releases that pressure and brings those emotions to the surface, providing relief from the stress and tension. This doesn’t mean that negative emotions disappear; instead, laughter helps us relax and cope with our emotions in a healthier way.

Benefit #3: Laughter boosts physical health

Two elderly friends laughing together outside

Most of us know the old cliche, “Laughter is the best medicine.” While this statement is an exaggeration, laughter does have some healing properties! Hospice is about improving a patient’s quality of life, and laughter can help. Laughter increases oxygen intake, which provides a boost for your internal organs, and it can alleviate pain by releasing positive endorphins. Plus, laughter helps boost your immune system, improve your blood flow, and burn calories – all of which can improve your health.

Benefit #4: Laughter connects you to others

group of elderly friends laughing in a circle

Have you ever seen or read something so funny that you had to share it with someone else? Humor has a way of bringing people together and creating connections. Laughing with others helps you let down your walls and be less defensive, encouraging you to be more vulnerable. Laughter can also decrease loneliness, which can be a big problem for some people in hospice care.

Laughing with others can also help decrease relationship tension and stress. During stressful situations, like coping with a terminal diagnosis, tensions can run high, creating conflict. Humor and laughter (at appropriate times) can alleviate tension in these difficult situations. Learning to make light of the awkward moments that may come with end-of-life care can help the patient, family, and hospice workers feel more comfortable with each other.

How can you create a more positive atmosphere?

Grandparents laughing with young granddaughter

After you or a loved one receives a terminal diagnosis, it may be hard to find ways to laugh. Here are a few different ways to incorporate more humor into your daily life.

  • Find humor in situations. Little funny things happen around us all the time, and finding humor in those moments is great! Just make sure that you’re laughing with someone, not at them.
  • Watch a funny TV show, movie, or video. Everyone has a different type of humor that makes them laugh. You can watch a favorite movie that you’ve always found funny or try something new!
  • Talk with kids. Kids can say the silliest things sometimes. If you have kids, grandkids, or know anyone with kids, take time to talk to them, play with them, and ask them questions.
  • Have a game night. Playing games with friends and family can often lead to shenanigans. Just stay away from Uno Draw Fours and Monopoly’s Boardwalk!
  • Share a cheesy joke. The best part of telling someone a cheesy joke or terrible pun is making yourself laugh! Even if no one else finds the joke funny, their groans are sure to make you laugh.

As you look to laugh more, remember that timing matters! Not everyone will feel like laughing during this time, and it’s important to be sensitive to the emotions of those around you – whether you’re the patient or your loved one is. Above all, focus on using laughter to create a positive atmosphere and mindset to make this difficult time a little easier for everyone.

6 Ways to Say Thank You to a Funeral Home

By Explore Options, Grief/Loss, Living Well

During a time of loss, it’s common to feel lost, overwhelmed, and a little anxious. When the funeral home steps into your grief and provides top-quality care and compassionate service, it can feel like a soothing balm to an aching heart. You don’t have to do this alone – there are people to help. When you’ve received excellent service from a funeral home, you might want to thank them personally, but what can you do? Let’s talk about 6 simple ways you can express your gratitude to the funeral directors and staff members who have made a difficult time a little bit easier.

Write a thank you card

View from above of woman sitting at table writing a thank you note with coffee and cell phone nearby

One of the simplest and most touching ways you can say thank you is through a handwritten note. By taking time to thoughtfully select a card and add your own sentiments to it, you can really make the funeral home staff feel good about the work they have done. Plus, your words affirm that their role was important to your grief journey and that they really did help you during a time of loss. That’s what matters most – knowing they took care of you well!

Leave a Google review

View of cell phone open to review site with person about to submit 5-star review

If you prefer typing to handwriting, then leaving a Google review would be an excellent way to thank a funeral home. Not only will they have a chance to read your words of gratitude, others in the community will also see what you have rated the funeral home. In a time when reviews help us choose many services, leaving a positive review can really help the funeral home gain credibility in the community and become a resource for more area families during times of grief and loss. If you aren’t sure how to leave a Google review, ask the funeral home or check out this how-to guide.

Give the gift of food

Dad and daughter making homemade muffins in kitchen

Who doesn’t love good food? Whether it’s a box of donuts or muffins, an edible arrangement or Starbucks coffee traveler, homemade cookies or zucchini bread, or even a fully catered meal from the local breakfast joint, there are so many ways to say thank you with food. Simply choose an option that’s easy and meaningful to you and include a note. Funeral home staff work long hours and take few breaks, so you can bet that anything you drop off will be eaten and fully enjoyed!

Sign up for a video testimonial

Foreground with camera on tripod with blurred background of woman leaving a review

Many funeral homes are expanding their technological offerings. For some funeral homes, that means spreading the word about their services through video. If you would like to help the funeral home, consider signing up to give a personal testimonial. Think of it like a review but recorded! When other families hear your story, they will be even more comfortable choosing the funeral home for their own funeral care needs, when the time comes.

Offer a hug or handshake

Two men shaking hands warmly

For those of you who are huggers, feel free to give one to your funeral director and other staff members. They know how hard it is to lose a loved one and have personally experienced the roller coaster of emotions you’ve been through. Knowing that they made a difference in your life is all the thanks they need. And a hug speaks volumes! Of course, if you aren’t a hugger, no problem. Shake a hand or pat a shoulder instead. Pairing your words of gratitude with a small physical expression makes an impact!

Make a handmade gift

One person giving a wrapped gift to another person

Whether you love to knit, crochet, paint, woodwork, or do something else entirely, you can use your creativity to thank the funeral home staff. Knit scarves. Crochet beanies. Paint a mini canvas. Whittle figurines or an entire chess set. You can give a handmade gift to each individual person, or you can create something that will grace the funeral home as a whole, like a handmade pillow for a chair or couch. No matter what you love making, you can use your talent to say thank you.

Feel free to take these suggestions and run with them (one or even all of them). However, remember that you aren’t limited to these ideas. They are a starting place for your own creativity and imagination. And really, anything you do will touch the hearts of the funeral home staff – you can count on it!

Three friends celebrating as they summit a mountain after a hike together

Do You Have a Bucket List? Here’s Why You Should

By Living Well

We all have things we want to accomplish before we die, but with all the demands in life, it’s hard to find the time (and resources) to do them all. But in many ways, it’s important to have a bucket list because it’s so hard to find the time. Rather than spend our days on things we aren’t passionate about, a bucket list can help us focus in on the things that matter. Today, let’s talk about why bucket lists are important and how you can put achievable goals on your list!

pen with red notebook with the words bucket list in the upper left corner

Quick note before we begin: think of a bucket list and a wish list as two different things. A bucket list should be filled with dreams but dreams you can actively work toward achieving. A wish list can include all the other fantastical and amazing things that would be incredible, but you don’t want to put specific effort into accomplishing.

Why Should I Create a Bucket List?

As you consider what to put on your list, here are several reasons why a bucket list can be helpful:

1. A bucket list can provide purpose

Having hopes, dreams, and goals can give you purpose, focus, and direction in your life. By choosing to pursue a particular gift, talent, or dream, you can make choices that push you ever closer to accomplishing things you didn’t think possible.

2. A bucket list can ignite your creativity

When you’re focused on accomplishing something, you come up with all kinds of ways to make it happen. Whether it means taking classes, learning a new painting technique, or improving your rock climbing strength, you can push your creativity (and your inspiration) to new heights.

Mature couple sitting in their car out on a picturesque highway, fulfilling a bucket list item

3. A bucket list can create meaningful memories

No matter how long it takes you to accomplish each item on your bucket list, you’re going to make memories along the way. You will learn and grow, becoming a different and better person through the process.

4. A bucket list can help you enjoy life

Have you ever noticed that when you’re working toward a goal or finishing a project, it makes you happy? A bucket list can do the same! If you really embrace the practice, it can give you an added zest for life as you work toward achieving your dreams!

If you’ve decided that you definitely want to write out your very own bucket list, it’s important to make sure that your goals are achievable. But how do you do that? Let’s talk about it.

Young woman in navy blue shirt making a heart with her hands

How Do I Set Achievable Goals?

The first step is to write down the things you’d like to add to your bucket list. Then, for each entry, you will need to set sub-goals. These sub-goals will help you accomplish each bucket list item. But how can you be smart about setting these goals? Use the S.M.A.R.T. method!

The S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting concept originated in 1981, and because it’s so effective, it’s still a much-used practice today. Basically, any goals you set (i.e., any items on your bucket list) should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.).

Let’s say that one of your goals is to visit Washington, D.C. someday. Using that example, let’s talk through each section of the S.M.A.R.T. goal method.

Three friends celebrating as they summit a mountain after a hike together

Specific

When you write an entry on your bucket list, don’t be vague. For example, a vague goal would say, “I want to see museums in Washington, D.C.” A specific goal would be “I want to see the Hope Diamond at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.” When you add specificity, you make the goal easier to track and measure, which keeps you accountable and helps you achieve.

Measurable

When you add a goal to your bucket list, you should be able to track your progress. You’re going to need to pay for that Washington, D.C. trip. Rather than put “Pay for Washington, D.C.” on your list, say “Save $7,000 for my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Washington, D.C.” Now, you can better measure how close you are to actually achieving your goal of visiting the city.

Young man learning to paint, fulfilling a bucket list item

Achievable

When you set a goal, it should be something that’s possible for you to accomplish with your own tools and resources. For example, when you’re in Washington, D.C., you might want to say, “Talk to the President of the United States.” But how likely is that to happen? Do you have the right resources or know the right people to make that happen? If you do, put it on the list! If you don’t, move on to something more achievable.

Relevant

Your goals should be relevant to your overall objective. In this example, your overall objective is to visit Washington, D.C. A non-relevant goal would be “Try out a new haircut.” While you may want to sport that new haircut while you’re in D.C., it’s not relevant to actually getting there and achieving your bucket list item.

Time-bound

Lastly, it’s useful to have a timeframe. If you just say, “I want to visit Washington, D.C. in my lifetime,” it may never happen. However, if you decide that you want to see cherry blossom season at the National Mall, you can say, “I will visit Washington, D.C., in April two years from now.” Then, you can start planning and saving with a deadline in mind.

Blonde woman wearing hat as she enjoys cherry blossom trees

Pro Tip: Don’t try to do everything at once.

Depending on what’s on your bucket list, you may only work on a handful of goals at a time. For example, it’s hard to save for a trip to Washington, D.C., while also saving for a trip to Italy. But, you could be saving toward a trip to Washington, D.C., while also teaching yourself to knit, learning how to polka, or trying out pink highlights in your hair.

Often, we think of a bucket list as consisting of things that are almost unachievable. But today, we’re challenging that mindset! Choose the things that matter to you and work toward achieving them with smart goals and intentional steps. A beautiful, meaningful, and purposeful life doesn’t come with a specific blueprint – you have to figure out what yours looks like, and it will be unique to you!

Older man sitting at desk writing letters

Creating Memory Capsules to Help Your Loved Ones Grieve

By Hospice, Living Well

Sometimes, leaving a tangible reminder is just what your family needs to grieve well. Tangible items give surviving family members something to hold when they miss you. Something they can treasure when the pain of loss is sharp. If you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness or have reached a significant age, consider utilizing your time to create memory capsules that will help your family grieve in the days, months, and years to come.

By leaving close family members such a precious gift, you help them participate in a healing ritual that will play a key role in helping them grieve well and heal. Plus, it will give you a sense of relief to know that you’ve said what you need to say before your final days come.

Older man sitting at desk writing letters

What is a Memory Capsule?

Similar to a time capsule, a memory capsule is a container that holds precious mementos, photos, notes, and other memorabilia associated with a loved one. Once the capsule is complete, you put it away until a specified time. This might be a year after the loss, or even specific times, such as weddings, graduations, and other special events that you may not be able to attend.

A memory capsule could include letters to loved ones to be opened on special days, gifts, video messages, favorite photos, and cherished mementos. Then, when the date comes to open the capsule, surviving family members will feel like you are there with them in that special moment.

Cherished jewelry in a small box

Remembrance is a key part of grieving well and creating a memory capsule is one way your loved ones can remember, reminisce, and acknowledge the pain of the loss. The capsule will allow your loved ones to feel your presence when they need you most. Regardless of what you decide, when they open the box, tender memories will flood them with love and help them lovingly remember and grieve.

How to Create a Memory Capsule

With a few simple steps, you can create both a memory capsule that will bring healing and comfort to your family.

1. Determine where you’ll store the capsule or capsules.

First, you must decide where you will be storing the capsule. Whether you decide to store it indoors or outdoors will affect what kind of container you use and what types of items you place inside. So, before you can really begin, you need to determine how you plan to store your memory capsule. Also, select a person to be in charge of the capsule. This person will be responsible for storing the container and bringing it out of storage at the appropriate time.

Woman holding box on lap while sitting on couch

2. Choose your container.

Once you’ve determined where you plan to store your capsule, it’s time to select the type of container you intend to use. For indoors, you could select a box, a plastic container, a jar, or some other container that is easily storable.

However, if you plan to keep the capsule outside or you intend to bury it, there are a few things to consider. For outdoor safekeeping, find a container that is non-biodegradable, like something made of metal. Water, dirt, pressure, and critters won’t be friendly to your capsule so make sure that it’s strong, weather-proof, and watertight.

3. Decide what to include.

Next, it’s time to decorate your container (if you wish) and gather your memories. Since this activity is meant to be part of a healing ritual, you might write a letter or record a video message for your loved ones individually or as a family. This may be for a special occasion or for a later date in general.

For your message, record a favorite memory. Share funny stories. Give words of wisdom that you think they may need after you are gone. Share how proud you are of them and what they mean to you. Then, gather photos, drawings, trinkets, clothing, or other cherished items. Find the items that are meaningful to you and place them in the container.

Woman sitting at table selecting photos

If you are planning to store your capsule outdoors, consider using good paper and permanent ink. Try not to use paper clips, staples, or rubber bands because they will rust or break with age. Consider placing photos and other paper items into plastic sleeves to further protect them.

WARNING: Make sure you don’t include flammable materials or anything else that may cause damage, such as liquids, food products, matches, or lighters.

4. Set a date.

Typically, memory capsules are left closed for several years, but you can do whatever works best for your family. For example, if you are putting together a memory capsule for a loved one’s future birthday, Christmas, or wedding, they may open it within one year or it may be several years down the road. The most important thing is to select a time frame and make sure that everyone participating knows what the time frame is.

5. Seal your container and store it.

Once you have had a chance to add your letters, messages, and memorabilia to the memory capsules, all that’s left is sealing the container and storing it away until the agreed upon date. You can even write a “Do not open until” date on the outside. Enlist the help of family members so that your plans and wishes are known.

Little girl opening small memory capsule with her mom beside her

For extra protection, seal memory capsules with tape or a lock. If you are writing letters for future dates, entrust those letters to a family member. That family member can deliver the letters at the appropriate time.

Helping Your Loved Ones on Their Grief Journey

It may be difficult to think of all the special moments you may miss. The process of putting together messages and mementos can be very emotionally demanding. But in the end, it is worth it.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally respected grief counselor and educator, says this about grief: “From my own experiences with loss as well as those of thousands of grieving people I have companioned over the years, I have learned that we cannot go around the pain that is the wilderness of our grief. Instead, we must journey all through it, sometimes shuffling along the less strenuous side paths, sometimes plowing directly into the black center.” So, as you lovingly help your loved ones confront their emotions head on, you can help them begin to deal with your loss and find a way to move toward healing and eventually reconciliation.

Just remember, you’re not alone on the journey. If you need help creating your memory capsules, lean on your loved ones. They love you and can be a source of support through the process of saying your goodbyes.

Everything You Need to Know about Death Doulas

By Grief/Loss, Living Well

Have you heard about the growing use of death doulas for the terminally ill? No? Then you’re in luck. We’re going to take a look at what death doulas are, how they help individuals and families, why it’s a growing practice, and more. Let’s get started!

What is a death doula?

You may have heard of a birth doula – a woman who walks alongside a new mother from before birth, through birth, and then following the birth. Well, a death doula does much the same, but for death rather than birth.

Also called death midwives, end-of-life coaches, or even transition guides, these doulas take a holistic approach. They are trained to focus on the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of death, leaving medical to healthcare professionals. Their overall goal is to normalize the experience of death for everyone involved, taking it from an uncomfortable experience to one filled with rich, sweet memories.

So, what do death doulas actually do?

Though many death doulas are medically trained, their focus is not medical care. Instead, they work in partnership with hospice palliative care to ensure that your loved one’s whole person is taken care of on the path toward death. One of their main concerns is to help the terminally ill person have a good death, whatever that may look like. For some, it may mean being surrounded by family; for others, it might mean watching a favorite movie and then sitting quietly with their most treasured people.

In addition to helping people take a measure of control over death by defining what a good death looks like to them, a few other things that death doulas help their clients and families with are:

  • Suggesting ideas for optimal comfort, including giving massages, holding hands, etc.
  • Providing spiritual, emotional, or social support to both the dying and their family
  • Simply being with the dying person, whether to listen, stay silent, read a book aloud, watch tv, whatever they want
  • Educating both the terminally ill person and their family about the process of dying so that they know what’s coming and what to expect
  • Working on legacy projects with the dying, like writing letters to loved ones, taking family photos, creating gifts, writing down life experiences, etc.
  • Offering consistent presence during the final days, easing any fear or anxiety that the dying person may feel and allowing family to take much-needed breaks
  • Encouraging the dying to take care of estate planning, such as completing a will
  • If the family wants, a doula can help plan a funeral or memorial service or provide grief support

Because death doulas often take a holistic approach, they will be familiar with home vigils, wakes, and even natural or green burial options, if these are of interest to you (they will work in tandem with a local funeral home). However, the doula will not pressure you into any decisions; their job is to find out what the dying person wants and advocate for that.

Why is this practice growing?

In many ways, death has become sterile and impersonal, often occurring in hospitals or nursing home care facilities. As a culture, we have come to avoid death. This tendency can cause those who are dying to feel more alone and isolated. With the aging Baby Boomer generation, it’s likely that there will be a rise in the need for alternative care services that may allow more people to stay at home during the end-of-life phase or provide care at hospice or other care facilities. Death doulas may be an answer to fill in the gap needed for end-of-life care. A hospice nurse can only come at certain times to assist while a death doula can be much more available to assist the family, even after the death has occurred.

How do you hire a death doula?

It’s an individualized process. Some doulas have private practices while others work in connection with hospices, hospitals, or other community organizations. But no matter how you find a doula, you should sit down and interview them first. After all, if the doula is going to walk through weeks or even months with you and be privy to intimate details of your family’s life, you’ll want to choose someone you feel comfortable with, who honors your personal beliefs, and is trustworthy.

Before securing the services of a doula, you can review what types of assistance you want (which days/hours of the week, cooking meals, sitting with the dying person, working on legacy projects, etc.). Most often the doula will tailor their work to suit your needs and preferences. So, go over everything before you sign anything. Also, a conversation about compensation will need to occur, with the doula letting you know their current rates. Each doula sets their own rates, so you will simply need to ask.

What kind of training do doulas have?

While the practice is currently unregulated, there are associations that offer certifications. A few learning institutions that offer training are the International End of Life Doula Association (INELDA), Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, International Doulagivers Institute, and Lifespan Doula Association (LDA). While the programs at each institution vary, most death doulas receive 6-9 months of training before they receive a certification.

Janie Rakow, the president of INELDA, says this about the role of a death doula: “We journey with the person who’s dying and their family to help them navigate through the whole end-of-life process. Although hospice is wonderful in the death and dying field, they don’t have the hours and hours and hours that the doulas have to really, deeply, get into this work. It’s kind of an adjunct to hospice where we’re there for them [the dying] to provide emotional, spiritual, and physical support.”

Is a death doula right for your family?

It’s entirely up to you. Look at your support network. Decide if your friends and neighbors will help you through a loved one’s terminal illness. Ask yourself questions: Do I want help? Do I want help from someone I know? Or, would I like to bring in someone with specialized training? Do I have the funds to pay for a doula’s services? Also, talk with the person who is dying and get their thoughts. Do they want someone who will offer consistent support? Do they have projects they want to complete?

Whatever you decide is best for your family is the right thing to do. Right now, most families don’t utilize the services of a death doula. However, if this sounds like just what your family needs, start putting out feelers in your community. You may find just the right person to journey with you.

6 Ways to Focus on the Good During Tough Times

By COVID-19, Living Well

With many communities facing shelter in place restrictions and social distancing requirements due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us are struggling with the loss of our freedom, independence, and ability to enjoy the people and activities we love. This sense of isolation and loss of social interactions that help us feel loved and connected can bring about unexpected feelings of grief and loss. Grief is essentially the pain of separation from loved ones, and that is exactly what many of us are experiencing today.

When grief and loss are at their worst, focusing on the good things you still have can have a profound impact. Whether you are grieving the loss of connection with your loved ones, the loss of a job, or even the loss of your peace of mind and independence, focusing on what you are grateful for can help you foster resilience and adaptability as you face what life throws your way. Focusing on the good will help you persevere through the hard times and find hope for the future.

6 Ways to Shift Your Focus in Tough Times

When times are tough and your anxiety level is high, it’s easy to get stuck in a downward spiral. While it’s good to let yourself feel what you feel, remember to turn your focus to the good things in life as well. Today there may be storms and rain clouds, but tomorrow, the sun will shine again. As you face the challenges of each day, let’s talk about some good things you can focus on that will give you hope for the future.

1. Connect with the People You Love

No matter what kind of loss or crisis you are facing, there are people who love you and want to support you. Be intentional about making time to connect with family, friends, and co-workers who have a way of brightening your day and bringing a smile to your face. Even with limitations on gatherings in place, you can still reach out by text, email, and even video chat to feel connected. Don’t underestimate the power of your heartfelt words at a time like this. In time, the troubles you are facing will not be quite as difficult as they are today, and the people in your life can make all the difference in making your days the best they can be.

2. Remember the Good Times You’ve Had

Though you may be struggling right now, things haven’t always been this way. It may be difficult at first but take time each day to dwell on a time when you were happy and joyful. Perhaps it was a family vacation, a college experience, a road trip with friends, or accomplishing a long-sought-after goal. If you have some extra down time on your hands, you might want to work on a project such as a video slideshow, picture album, or photo wall that will help you dwell on the good times you’ve had. Even now, you can set your mind on a goal for the future that will give you drive and determination to move forward and figure out what life looks like beyond today’s struggles.

3. Take this as an Opportunity to Grow & Develop

Depending on your situation, you may want to take this time of transition as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. If you’re mourning the loss of a job, you might take this time to explore an area of personal development you’ve never focused on. If you have experienced a loss of mobility or independence, look for ways to continue to express who you are and learn more about yourself. This could mean taking online classes or reading books on new topics. A perceived setback can actually be a launching pad to something new and better that you never expected.

4. Renew Your Hopes & Dreams for the Future

Despite what your feelings may tell you today, life will move forward. While things may not go back to the way things used to be, you will discover a “new normal.” But today, even in the midst of fear, sadness, or anxiety, remember that things will get better, and you will get through this. Now is a good time to consider your own hopes and dreams. Think about what you’ve always wanted to do and plan how to get it done. Looking forward to the future will give you a renewed sense of hope and a reason to keep moving forward.

5. Focus on Helping Others

When you’re experiencing grief or loss, you have a natural tendency to focus inward, dwelling on your own thoughts and feelings. Expressing what you feel is an excellent step toward healing, but you need to grieve in “doses.” In other words, you can’t do it all at once. It takes time. By helping others, you can actually give yourself a break from your problems and experience a sense of accomplishment and pride. In the midst of whatever you’re facing, taking time to care for others is an excellent way to not only make a difference in your community and the lives of others but to find continued purpose in your own life.

6. Appreciate What You Do Have

Even though you may be tempted to focus on what you don’t have, try to be intentional and focus on what you do have. That could be as simple as appreciating a lovely day or a good movie. Or, you can focus on loved ones who are close to you and give them extra doses of your time and attention. Take time every day to think about or write down a few things or people you are grateful for, and watch your attitude and appreciation for what you do still have begin to change.

These are just a few ideas for shifting your mindset so you can focus on the good things in your life when times are hard. The pain of this grief, loss, and difficulty won’t last forever. In the meantime, you can take this time to think about your goals in life, all the things you are grateful for, and where you want your life to go in the years ahead once you have come through this difficult time.

Nurturing Hope in Difficult Times

By COVID-19, Living Well

“Hope is the pillar that holds up the world.” — Pliny the Elder

The caller to the Center for Loss asked a question that is on the hearts of many right now: “Are we going to get through this?”

It became obvious as the conversation continued that she was experiencing feelings of grief and in search of borrowing some much-needed hope. As I hung up the phone after 20 minutes, I found myself yearning to write about hope, because, especially during difficult times like these, it is indeed the pillar that holds up the world.

As director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, I advocate for our human need to acknowledge and embrace our darker emotions. Our culture usually isn’t so good at honoring loss and supporting others who are grieving, even though they are essential parts of our lives. Instead, to our detriment, we tend to focus almost exclusively on the happy and the distracting and the fun.

It’s a question of balance. We need both, you see. We need to honor the light and the dark, the happy and the sad—and everything in between—because all of it belongs. All of it is authentic. And whatever is authentic is normal and necessary.

Usually we’re out of balance because we choose to shine our awareness only on the “good stuff.” But right now, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re at risk for the balance tipping too far the other way, in the direction of fear and despair.

Yes, in difficult times, we must remember to hope.

What is hope? It’s an expectation of a good that is yet to be. It is an inner knowing that the future holds positive things. It is trust that no matter the current circumstances, the days to come will reveal happiness. It’s forward-looking—yet experienced in the now.

Like mourning, nurturing hope is active. It’s something we can do. Let’s look at what we can do to embrace hope even as we are experiencing the many losses caused by this pandemic.

Practice mindfulness

As I write this, most of us in North America are sheltering in place. Though our normal lives have been completely disrupted and we may be experiencing very real personal losses (sick friends and family members, financial jeopardy, lost connections with loved ones, to name just a few), many of us are also, in this moment, safe and comfortable.

Practicing mindfulness means learning to be present to our immediate surroundings right now. As I write this, the sun peeks out from billowy clouds in a denim-blue sky. I see spring crocuses blooming. My dogs sleep at my feet. Whenever I am mindful of the present moment, I find gratitude, and gratitude helps me access hope, which we might think of as gratitude for what is to come.

Being mindful in the now also helps me build relationships with the people I care about. In the now I can share quality time with my wife, and even though I can’t visit them in person, I can also spend time each day on video calls with my children and friends. The more I can use this time to strengthen relationships with my dear ones, the more hope I will have for the future gatherings we will share.

Relinquish the illusion of control

There’s a fine line between a) informing ourselves about the pandemic and steps we can take to keep ourselves and others safe, and b) overconsuming information (and misinformation), causing undue stress and even despair.

In this information age, we have limitless content at our fingertips. We could read, watch, and listen to new information about COVID-19 for many hours a day and still never be “caught up.” It makes sense that we might be tempted to overconsume information in an effort to feel in control of what is happening. The trouble is, we as individuals can’t control this epidemic, and we can’t even fully control what happens to us and our loved ones.

Relinquishing the illusion of control can lessen our anxiety and help us to build trust in our own capacity to cope with whatever happens. If we work on mindfulness, we don’t have to obsess and worry. Instead, we can learn to be OK with our lack of control and trust in our own resilience. When tomorrow comes, we will handle what comes tomorrow. Today we are only responsible for today.

Build hope

If we believe that our futures will include moments of joy, love, and meaning, we already have within us that spark of hope. We can grow that spark into a flame by intentionally building hope into each day.

How do we build hope during difficult times? Here are a few ways:

  • By taking part in activities we care about to the extent that we can while sheltering in place
  • By engaging in spiritual practices
  • By making a collage of words or pictures that symbolize hope in our mind and heart
  • By intentionally imagining the futures we desire
  • By making future plans that excite us and that we know we will enjoy
  • By helping others
  • By staying in close contact with the people we care about, ideally through video and phone calls
  • By taking care of our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our social connections, and our souls

Consciously Choose Hope

Please understand that hope is not something that will just passively float into your life. Instead, hope will enter when you create ways to consciously bring it into your day. Despite these challenging times, the door you open to hope each and every day will dramatically influence the quality of your life.

Consciously choosing hope means deliberately focusing on it—paying attention to it, inviting it into a given moment, and letting yourself feel it as it enters. Be creative with how you give attention to hope and invite it in. Moment by moment, choose hope over fear. Choose hope instead of despair. If you start feeling hopeless, act with intention to bring hope to that moment.

If hope feels out of reach right now, consider borrowing a little to get you through. When you cannot muster the energy to cultivate it yourself, it’s possible to receive hope from others. It’s appropriate in times like these to turn to people who have hope to lend.

How do you know someone is hope-filled? Look for friends and family members who have a hopeful outlook on life. They are people who have a positive energy when they are in your presence, and they make you smile when you simply hear their voice. They are also usually caring, nonjudgmental listeners. The energy they radiate can anchor you right now. Remember—hope is a renewable resource. Borrow it now, and know that in the future, when the time is right, you can pay it forward to someone else in need.

In the words of Victor Frankl, I remind you, “Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” As you choose your own way during these challenging times, I invite you to nurture hope and to be grateful for your life each and every day.

 

About the Author
Dr. Alan Wolfelt is an author, educator, and grief counselor. He serves as Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition and is on the faculty at the University of Colorado Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine. Dr. Wolfelt has written many compassionate books designed to help people mourn well so they can continue to love and live well, including The Mourner’s Book of Hope. Visit www.centerforloss.com to learn more about the natural and necessary process of grief and mourning and to order Dr. Wolfelt’s books.

Healthy Practices for Your Later Years: 80s

By Living Well

You now have eight decades under your belt, which means you have a lot of valuable life experience and many memories to cherish. Now that you’ve reached this milestone, it’s even more important to make healthy practices a core part of your everyday life.

Let’s go over 10 helpful and healthy practices to help you make the most of the coming years.

1. Focus on Balance

Movement continues to be an important part of life, so keep staying active with walks, yoga, and other forms of exercise. However, as you age, it’s also important to focus on balance. Falls and broken bones are a serious concern for older adults and can significantly impact the way you live your life, including whether you can continue to live independently. As you add exercise to your life, incorporate specific movements that help with balance, mobility, and flexibility.

2. Eat Nutrient-Rich Foods

For many older adults, it’s hard to get all the right nutrients into your body. Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated if you take the time to create an eating plan for yourself. Ask your doctor what you should include in your diet and make changes from there. Even if you haven’t paid as much attention in the past, that’s okay. Simply adding antioxidant-rich foods to your diet will help your body repair itself and prevent future damage.

3. Don’t Miss Your Screenings

You’re at an age when your health is a bit more fragile, so screenings could literally add years to your life. Talk to your doctor and find out which screenings you should do each year, and then, go ahead and schedule the appointments. Don’t feel like you need to screen for everything – just the ones that make the most sense for you. Going to the appointments may take extra time and feel inconvenient but taking that extra step will allow you to catch any health concerns early and protect your body from illness.

4. Protect Your Brain

There are many ways to stimulate and protect your brain. For instance, simply spending time with friends can keep your brain healthy and protect you from loneliness. Also, try new things. Letting your brain get bored leads to less stimulation and engagement, so find ways to interact with the world around you. Have interesting conversations, play games (find a few you’ve not played before), or learn a new skill. Alternatively, you might consider teaching a younger person one of the skills you already possess, like sewing, playing an instrument, gardening, or woodworking.

5. Ask for Help

There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help. Now that you’re enjoying your 80s, you will need more assistance than you used to, and that’s natural. If you have family and friends nearby, they are typically more than willing to lend a hand, but first, you need to let them know what you need. You may not want to “bother” them, but more than likely, they’d rather you ask than do without. If you are specific about what you need, people will gladly step in and help you.

6. Be Safe

Safety is a serious concern for many seniors, especially those who are living independently or are experiencing physical or mental decline. Some of the most common concerns are: falls, driving safety, extreme hot or cold weather, elder abuse, and identity theft or fraud.

To prevent falls, de-clutter your home and make sure walking paths are clear. For driving safety, objectively consider your driving capabilities, and if it’s time, don’t be afraid to let someone chauffer you around. With weather extremes, pay attention to the news or a weather app and adjust your home’s thermostat accordingly. And for elder abuse, identity theft, or fraud, cultivate a good relationship with a younger, trusted family member or friend who can teach you how to keep your personal information safe and recognize criminal behavior.

7. Get Enough Sleep

The benefits of sleep can’t be overstated. Sleep improves concentration and memory, gives your body time to heal itself, refreshes your immune system, and helps prevent health problems like diabetes and weight problems. Doctors recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per night for the average adult. More sleep means less risk for heart disease, stroke, or dementia. If you are having trouble sleeping – a common problem for older adults – talk to your doctor. They can help you find a solution that will lead to long nights of rejuvenating sleep.

8. Complete Your Estate Planning

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to complete your estate planning. You may still have many years left to enjoy, but none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, so getting your affairs in order is an important task. For your estate planning needs, speak with an attorney who can help you write a will, complete powers of attorney, record your advance care directives, and answer any questions you may have.

Additionally, though it may not be your favorite topic, you should consider putting together a funeral plan that outlines how you would like your life to be remembered. Putting a funeral plan in place allows you to control the budget and the way your life is honored. On top of that, it also protects your loved ones from having to make difficult decision during a time of grief. Instead, they can focus on honoring your life and offering comfort to each other.

9. Invest in Relationships

Without people, our lives would be less rewarding and full. Those we love add an extra dimension of hope to our lives. Even though you may spend more time at home these days, look for a few activities a week where you can spend time with others. If you are homebound entirely, call, write, or email others. Invite them over for meals or just to chat and catch up. If many of your friends have already passed, talk to your neighbors or ask your children to bring over some of their friends so you can cultivate relationships with a younger set of people. Connecting with others in a meaningful way will brighten your days and give you joy.

10. Find Your New Purpose

If you are here on Earth, you still have purpose. However, at this stage in life, your purpose may have changed compared to your working years. When you were younger, you may have found purpose in a career, raising a family, or hobbies and activities that your body just can’t keep up with anymore. Now, things are different, but you can still live with purpose. Perhaps it’s mentoring a younger person, writing letters or a memoir, volunteering at an organization you believe in, or dedicating your time and resources to help those in need. Think about the legacy you want to leave behind for those you love, and take small steps every day to leave a legacy of kindness, love, wisdom, and generosity. No matter your situation or limitations, you can find something to pour your passion into and ignite purpose in your life.

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