You may have heard of the Mexican holiday, Diá de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and thought that it was simply a Mexican version of Halloween. The holiday is actually a multi-day celebration, coinciding with Halloween, the American holiday on October 31, All Saints' Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. Diá de los Muertos is rich in Mexican culture and is an important holiday to honor and remember those who have passed away. Up until recently, many people were not aware of the true meaning of Diá de los Muertos, which includes celebrations filled with colorful painted skeletons known as Calavera Catrinas. But recently, the Disney animated movie "Coco" gave a glimpse into the rich traditions of this holiday. If you have not seen the movie, it is a wonderful, colorful, loving look at the way families and friends gather together to remember those who have died and help them through their spiritual journey. The holiday includes celebrating by setting up altars, visiting and tending grave sites, writing poetry and decorating with calaveras. Traces of this celebration can be found back as far as the Aztec culture. How can you join in Diá de los Muertos? Find a community near you that is celebrating or simply take time to reflect on loved ones lost to you and wish them well on their journey home.
Could this be the right thing for your family?
We are so very proud to be associated with the Margie Hilgenfeld Tree Memorial Program offered through the nonprofit organization Anaheim Beautiful. The program was named after my mother Margie, shortly after her passing in 2015. A former president of Anaheim Beautiful, my mother founded this program which has brought so much comfort to so many.
This program is made possible through a partnership with the City of Anaheim Community Services Department and Anaheim Beautiful offering the opportunity to plant a tree in a City of Anaheim park on behalf of a friend or family member. The cost is $300 and provides a 24-inch box tree, a certificate and the ability to attend the tree planting with a brief ceremony. Additional funds collected through the tree memorial cost go to support the Anaheim Beautiful Thelma Jordan Scholarship, awarded annually to provide financial support for a young Anaheim resident pursuing a career in Urban Environmental Studies. A nice way to pay it forward.
Additional information on the Margie Hilgenfeld Tree Memorial Program can be found on the Anaheim Beautiful website: www.anaheimbeautiful.org.
Is There a Right or Wrong Way to Grieve?
With today's influx of information from so many avenues, there is no shortage of advice when it comes to the grieving process. Reading about grief and listening to experts or even family and friends won't necessarily guide you to the best way to get through a devastating loss. Every person is unique, with different personalities and ways of coping with stress or sadness; even culture can play a role. The important thing is to be respectful of the way someone chooses to grieve and, if it is you, be gentle with your own needs. Allowing others to provide support is generally known to have a positive impact on the grieving process. How much and how soon support should be provided will be something that is tailored by the person experiencing the loss. Give them space and time and keep a careful eye. - Excepts from MyCareletter and a reprinted article from The Centre for Grief Education, McCulloch House, Monash Medical Centre.
What is the History of Cremation?
The final disposition of the deceased depends on personal preferences as well as cultural and religious beliefs. Cremations as a method of the disposal of a body dates back to 42,000 years ago according to archaeological studies. However, in many parts of Europe the process was forbidden by law, punishable by death or even used by some religious authorities as a punishment for heretics. Advocating for cremation began in the Europe in the mid 1600's and the first official recorded European to be cremated was not until 1769, although it was an illegal cremation. In 1874, the Cremation Society of Great Britain was founded for the purpose of disseminating information on the process and adopting the best methods to perform cremations. As a result of a legal case in 1884, which stated that although the law did not state that cremation was legal, it also did not state that it was illegal, the first official cremation in Great Britain was performed in 1885. This preceded the Cremation Act of 1902 which allowed cremation in Great Britain in authorized places only. The process was infrequently used in the United States as well until the early 1900s. Today, the cremation rate is nearly 40 percent in the United States and more and more people are opting for cremation as part of their funeral services. We will address some of the reasons people choose cremation over traditional burial in future blogs.
Parable on Immortality
I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and the sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, "There she goes."
Gone where? Gone from my sight...that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says "There she goes," there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes."
Henry Van Dyke.
Family and Friends - Helping A Loved One Through the Journey of Grief
Part Two in our series of suggested guidelines to help someone you love who is grieving.
Listen and don't try to fix things. - When you listen, which is so important, try really hard to do just that - listen. Don't try to "bandaid" all the worries and woes, as you can't. The best remedy is a willing ear.
Show tender care and encouragement. - Those who grieve will be of heavy heart for a long while. You need to, if possible, be there for the long journey. Caring, encouraging and letting them know you are there beside them is one of the best gifts you can give.
Share your own memories of their loved one. - Grieving will bring back a flood of memories, ones that may be hard to suppress and become all consuming. Offering your own stories of those who have passed can shift direction and show your friend that the individual will not be forgotten.
Realize that companioning grief takes its toll. - Guiding and helping someone you love through the grieving process is emotionally draining. It steals your energy and puts your emotions in a constant low state as well, especially if you also knew the person who passed. Be sure you keep yourself emotionally and physically healthy to remain strong in support of your family and friends who are grieving.
Guidelines and tips are helpful, but are no panacea for solving or quickening someone's grief. Time, care, compassion and love are the best tools to hold close through this difficult time. Content for this article was taken from My Careletter and an article written by Reverend Mary Bredlau.
Family and Friends - Helping A Loved One Through the Journey of Grief
- Part One
Without a doubt, grieving can be a very lonely experience and at times, solitude is necessary to help get you through. But over the course of time, family and friends will play an important role in the grieving process. If you know someone who needs your support, here are a few guidelines and tips. (Part two of this article will appear in our next blog.)
Acknowledge, don't avoid. - When someone is grieving, the natural tendency is to leave them alone, giving them space until they are ready. It may take time, but your acknowledgement of the loss will help those who are grieving accept the difficult reality. Your words and presence will smooth that transition.
Serve as a willing sponge. - You job as a support provider is to listen and listen again. Listen to the story of pain over and over until the storyteller no longer needs to hear it themselves.
Validate without correcting. - When someone grieves, they need to talk. They need someone to hear them and know that what they are saying is being heard. Try to validate what they are saying without contradicting or correcting them on small details or using cliches to make them feel better.
Accept where they are in the grieving process. - There is no timetable for grief. So many factors determine how and when someone emerges from the grief over the loss of someone they love. Accept their timing and wait for them to find the right schedule to begin to heal.
Offer specific ways to help. - So many times, although well meaning, people offer their help after the death of a loved one, but give no substance behind the offer. Saying, "call me if you need me", will most likely result in no connection. Offer specific ways you can help and follow through.
We'll be addressing several other ways to be the best support you can be for family or friends who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Our next blog will detail four final suggestions. Content for this article was taken from My Careletter and an article written by Reverend Mary Bredlau.
Sometimes a stranger's words can help us heal. Here is one of our favorite poems to help process grieve and bring comfort.
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand and my grave and cry;
I am not there, I did not die.
Mary Frye, American Poet (1904-2004)
Is Pre-Planning the Right Option for You?
Thinking about and discussing funeral arrangements in advance with your loved ones can be uncomfortable and often times many people do not have the conversation for that very reason. But there are a number of things to consider when you are deciding if now is the time to move forward with pre-planning your funeral. Here are a few:
Ease the burden on your family. Pre-planning helps remove the burden of decision making at times of crisis. Letting your loved ones know your wishes in advance will help ease tensions and stress for all involved. A death in the family involves a great deal of decision making, paperwork and compromises among families. Having these choices already made makes things easier for everyone left behind.
Assume the financial responsibility. Planning ahead allows you to assume the financial costs of your funeral. This works as an advantage in many ways. It takes the financial burden off your family and also sets the perimeters of your burial and services, which can alleviate disagreements among family members. Additionally, pre-planning allows you to set the pricing of your funeral arrangements now, with no future increase in pricing.
Specify how you want your remains to be managed. Pre-planning allows you to determine preferences for the disposition of your remains and the nature of your funeral services. Working with your funeral planner, you can set the tone, choose the music, the epitaph on your headstone and all of the fine details. You may opt for no services. Pre-planned arrangements allow you to set the guidelines for your family to follow.
Have your affairs in order at the end of your life. Many of us are self-reliant in life and choose to be so at the end of our life, by assuring that our funeral arrangements do not fall onto the shoulders of someone else. Pre-planning and pre-paying for your funeral arrangements will make your passing easier on those you love. It is a fine way to leave a lasting show of your love.
Contact us now to set up an appointment with one of our Funeral Pre-Planning Associates.
Did you know about....The W Connection?
Established in 2009, the W Connection is a nonprofit organization with the goal of making life easier for women who have lost a spouse. The organization was created by widows to equip other widows with the knowledge and skills they will need to rebuild their lives, no matter the stage of life they are in when they experience the death of their spouse. Based on four components, Connection, Encouragement, Education and Empowerment, newsletters, chapter meetings, social activities and other programs and services help guide women through their grief and establishment of a new way of life.
Currently five physical chapters, mostly on the East Coast, work to connect with members and a virtual chapter is on the way which will encourage dialogue and support via online connections.
According to their website, the W Connection "supports women of all ages and at all stages of loss... and works because all members are widows who can bring their own unique experience in support of other widows."
The W Connection's website is www.widowsconnection.org. It may be a place where you, a friend or family member can find the support to help get through such a difficult time.