Thursday, August 8, 2019

Exes, Stepchildren and a Funeral - Planning Matters

For many, funerals, visitations, wakes and burials are all important ways to remember - and celebrate - the life of a loved one. However, in some circumstances the life of the deceased may present a complex or complicated family tree. When arranging a funeral, it can be difficult for current spouses and relatives to plan around inviting and involving ex-spouses, stepchildren and others who may have been close to the deceased at some point.

Contention in the Family
If you are planning a funeral, it is important to remember that it is always best to arrange for what the departed would have wanted. While it may be a struggle, proper etiquette dictates setting aside any personal emotions you may have about other individuals who may have been close to the deceased - such as an ex-spouse. Ideally, it is important to make sure that all family members have an opportunity to gain closure through whatever funerary traditions are laid out.

In these situations, every arrangement may be made on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, exes will get along with current spouses and there will be little disagreement to be had at the ceremony and any other related events. In other situations, some from past marriages may feel that it is best to sit at the back during the funeral, so as to pay respect in a reserved fashion.
Stepchildren or children who may have come from other parents can also be difficult, especially when planning on how to involve them in the funeral. If the deceased played a strong parental role in the individual's life, it is recommended to welcome them into the ceremony and allow them closure if they so choose.

When Tension Cannot Be Mitigated
If family drama will not be able to be set aside during a funeral, it is highly recommended that all individuals pre-plan for these situations before they occur. Whether requesting a private funeral or detailing such desires in a will, individuals can ensure that certain past family members do not attend a funeral or event to avoid unwelcome tension.

Who Gets the Flag from the Military or Civil Officer?

When a U.S. military veteran dies, an American Flag is provided in honor of his or her service. This flag is ultimately folded 13 times, each fold is rich with symbolic meaning; it appears as a triangle, with only the stars visible. These stars are meant to provide a reminder of our nation’s motto—that we are “One Nation Under God.” Meanwhile, no red stripes should be visible, for the red stripes represent the shedding of blood.

One practical question is this: To whom is this flag actually given? Depending on the position held by the fallen service member, the flag will be bequeathed by either a military or civil officer, and it is typically given directly to the next of kin.

Often, this will be a surviving spouse, but in some cases, it may be the eldest child or even the eldest grandchild.

Needless to say, this flag has some symbolic weight attached to it. It’s not just any flag, but a special flag that’s been set apart to honor the service and sacrifice of the deceased military member. It is offered on behalf of the entire Armed Services and the President of the United States.

The next time you attend a military funeral service, pay close attention both to the careful folding of the flag, but also to the receipt of that flag by a member of the family—a moment that is rich in emotion and meaning.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Do People Still Desire Monumental Statues to Mark Grave Sites?

Burial trends and customs are ever changing, and what was popular 10, 25, or 100 years ago isn’t necessarily commonplace today. One example is the use of monumental statues to mark grave sites. This used to be much more common than it is now; in today’s world, there is more and more focus on being buried with a small footprint, whether that’s through interment in an urn garden or the marking of burial sites with compact, modest headstones.

For those who do desire a monument for themselves or their loved ones, however, there are still plenty of options. Monumental grave markers are made in granite, marble, or other materials, and in most cases you’ll find them in special burial sites called monumental cemeteries.

If this is something you’re interested in, the first step is to call your local funeral director and see what local options exist. Public and some private cemeteries may not allow for monuments, simply due to space limitations, but your funeral director can help you find a place that will accommodate.

Something else to note is that, for those who wish to honor their loved one but don’t necessarily want a statue, there are many choices for elegant and ornate headstones and grave markers—all of which can be customized to align with your loved one’s final wishes.

Though large statues are not as common as they used to be, they are still a perfectly respectable option—one of several good ways to show honor to a deceased loved one. To learn more, contact your local funeral director today.


Friday, July 19, 2019

What Is “Opening and Closing” at Cemeteries?

When your loved one is buried, it’s customary for the cemetery to charge a fee for “opening and closing” services. The specific cost can vary, depending on a few different factors, but it’s certainly something to be aware of.

Opening and closing services are required not just for in-ground burials but also for entombment in a mausoleum crypt or a cremation niche. Essentially, opening and closing services refer to the work that the cemetery staff conducts to physically prepare the area for your loved one’s remains.

For instance, for ground burials, the opening and closing duties encompass opening the grave ground (e.g., digging out the area where the casket is to be placed), preparing the site for the service, back-filling the grave, and ensuring that the landscaping looks appropriate following the service.

For entombment in a niche or crypt, meanwhile, opening and closing services can include opening the niche or crypt and then closing it back up once the casket or cremation urn has been placed.

There can be a lot of work that goes into this, which makes it a boon to have the cemetery handle it on your behalf. If you ever have any questions about what exactly these services entail or want to ensure proper coordination with the cemetery, you can always go straight to your funeral director.

You can also address the price point with your funeral director, who can give you advance notice how much opening and closing will cost and explain all the factors that are taken into account.

Opening and closing are important steps in providing your loved one with a final resting place and can help make the entire funeral process go more smoothly.


Monday, July 15, 2019

May I Ask a Cemetery Owner or Operator to Help Me Find a Gravesite?

This is a common conundrum: You wish to pay your respects to a deceased loved one or ancestor and you know which cemetery they are buried in. What you don’t know is exactly where their gravesite is located—and in vast, sprawling cemeteries, this can post a big logistical problem.

The question is, who can you ask to help you find the grave you are looking for? Is it proper etiquette to contact the cemetery owner or operator to provide you with some direction?

The short answer to this question is yes, though you may not need to speak with a cemetery owner directly. These days, a lot of cemeteries have websites where you can get the lay of the land and develop some sense of where your loved one is buried. Often, this is the quickest way to find the information you’re looking for.

But if the cemetery doesn’t have a website, or you still need assistance, it’s perfectly fine to contact the cemetery’s owner or operator. It’s best to gather some key information before you do so, however—including the full name of the deceased and if possible, the year of their birth and the year of their death. This simply helps the cemetery owner to locate your loved one more quickly.

An alternative is to reach out to the local funeral home; even if it’s not affiliated with the cemetery in question, it may have access to records that show where your loved one is buried.

In short, there’s always a way to identify the final resting place of your loved one, so never hesitate to ask!


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Comfort Foods, Scientifically Proven During Times of Grief

People handle seasons of grief in different ways—and one area where you see that quite clearly is in their relationship to food.

When buffeted by a loss, some individuals essentially stop eating, needing to be reminded by their family members to get three healthy meals a day. This is a normal response to grief. However, the opposite scenario is just as common, and just as normal: Many of us turn to food to provide us with comfort, craving calories as a way of dealing with complicated emotions.

Believe it or not, the concept of “comfort food” comes with scientific backing. The important thing to know is that foods rich in fat content, sugar, or salt tend to stimulate the brain’s reward center; they can produce a temporary “high,” a temporary yet noteworthy elevation of mood.

That’s why, when you’re feeling down or depressed, it can be tempting to reach for a chocolate shake, a candy bar, or a bag of chips. These foods really do make you feel better, at least in the short term.

Of course, there are a couple of problems. One is that these foods are not especially healthy— and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with splurging every now and again, you don’t want to develop habits that will compromise your physical wellbeing.

Additionally, comfort food can become a tool for self-medication-- and while it effectively minimizes feelings of sadness, it doesn’t offer a constructive way to cope or to heal. The worst-case scenario is that comfort foods take the place of most meaningful therapies, like talking about your grief with a close friend or with a counselor.

Keep all of this in mind as you reach for those comfort foods. You’re not crazy to think that they work—but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best way to handle your grief.


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

How to Plan for Seasonal Grief

If you’ve ever lost a loved one, you know that grief can come in cycles. Certain events—your loved one’s birthday; an anniversary; a favorite holiday; a certain time of the year—can be all it takes to unleash a huge wave of grief.

You can’t always stop this wave from coming; if you know that certain seasons are hard on you, though, you can prepare yourself to cope.

One suggestion is to lean into your memories; rather than trying to suppress them, actively seek to honor and share them. For example, if your family is having a big holiday gathering, make your deceased loved one’s favorite dish for everyone to share, and invite loved ones to voice favorite memories.

Be proactive in taking care of yourself, physically and emotionally. Take some time to get outside and walk each day. Sunlight and fresh air can be good mood boosters. And, be sure to eat and sleep properly.

Express your feelings of intensified grief, even if it’s just by writing them down in a journal.

More than anything, avoid isolating yourself. Seek out the close friends and loved ones in whom you can confide. Don’t shy away from family gatherings, even if you know they will bring some sadness. Try to stay close to the people you love, and the people you know will support and encourage you.

Finally, consider creating some kind of a memory box or memento with which you can honor your lost loved one—remembering their life and legacy even in a busy time of the year.

Grief can be very cyclical, and some dates on the calendar may fill you with apprehension—but with these steps, you can meet that apprehension head-on.