Preplanning: A Kindness for Your Family

28020420_sVery often when a death occurs, most of the decision making becomes the responsibility of one person. Even with the help of loving family and friends, it is often a spouse or an adult child who will feel the responsibility of making final arrangements.

Many times I have heard a surviving family member say, “I was so busy making the arrangements, I felt as though I didn’t get a chance to grieve with everyone else.” When you prearrange your service, it can give them some relief at a time when they need it most.

Think for a moment about who that person is likely to be after you are gone. You know they will have to begin a long journey of healing, and nothing can shorten that process for them. However, there are many steps you can take now, while you are still in their lives, that can alleviate some of their burden in the days immediately following your passing.

You can make your plans with a funeral director (a service that should be offered free of charge), or you can sketch them out on a notepad at your kitchen table. Either way, the important thing is that your loved ones know you have indeed made plans, and they know where to find them.

Imagine your loved one is asking you these questions:

  • Who should I contact to let them know about your death? How can I reach them?
  • What should go in your obituary, and where should I send it?
  • What type of service would you like? Who should officiate, read, sing, or serve as pallbearers? Who would you like to give the eulogy?
  • Do you have preferences about flowers or charitable donations?
  • Do you own a cemetery lot?
  • Have you already chosen a funeral home?

Once you have made a list of your preferences, you can leave them with your family members, or have your funeral director keep it and refer your family to him or her. Do not leave this document in a safe deposit box, however, as it can take a long time for family to have access to its contents after a death has occurred.

If you would like a detailed checklist to guide you, one is at our website under “Plan Ahead.” Making even some of these decisions ahead of time can be a kind action to take for your family later.

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Dealing with Grief During the Holidays

12201884_sSome of our most treasured times with loved ones occur when we share holidays together year after year. After a loss, however, those shared memories can trigger new feelings of grief. The holiday arrives again, but this time the loved one is absent. If you are experiencing grief, it is especially important to take care of yourself during the holidays. The following suggestions may be of help:

Reach out to other people. Turn to family and friends and express what you would like from them. They may not know what you need, and they may feel awkward asking for fear of saying the wrong thing. If family or friends are not available, try reaching out to other means of support, such as clergy or support groups for the bereaved.

Add new traditions that support you. You might work the memory of your loved one into the traditions you already share. This may be a toast in their honor before dinner, photos displayed with the other decorations, or a trip to the loved one’s favorite spot in town. Your house of worship, hospital or funeral home may host a ceremony for those who have suffered loss and will know what you are going through, such as our tree lighting ceremony in Yorktown this year on December 5th, 2015.

It’s okay to say no. If turning down invitations or easing up on holiday to-dos is what is healing for you, then it’s fine to say so. Just take care that a healing solitude does not turn into isolation. Use the time to yourself to heal and to seek out what will help you feel better.

Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat right, and try to keep your home in order, even if you don’t feel motivated in the moment. Seek help with chores or meals if you need it.

Your feelings are important. Cry when you need to. Laugh when you want to. Share with those who will respond with compassion. Be patient with yourself at all stages.

Plan for your support ahead of time. If you know an especially trying time is coming up, arrange a time when you can contact someone supportive. Make a list of places you can go or calming activities you can take part in, and keep it at hand for when you need it.

Through turning to others, advocating for yourself, and treating yourself with compassion, you may find some added solace during the holiday season.

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