When you are on the other side of loss, a place where you are grieving for a friend who has suffered the passing of a loved one, it is hard to know how to comfort them. Many times, we send sympathy cards to let them know they are in our thoughts and prayers. Fortunately, today there are many beautiful cards available with pre-written sentiments that express how we feel. But often, especially when it is a close personal friend, we want to personalize the message, something that be quite challenging. So what do you do when the words won't come? A good way to put your thoughts into words is to search for quotes, poems or sayings that mean something to you. You don't need to copy the quote, but it may help shape your thoughts. You can begin with a simple, "My deepest condolences to you upon the passing of..." or "You are in our prayers during this difficult time in the loss of...". Following with a memory of the individual who has passed, or citing the relationship your friend had with that individual is one of the best ways to let someone know that you understand what they are going through. For example, "I know how much your Uncle meant to you and all the memories you have from visits to his home," or "Your brother, I know, was your closest friend, may the memories of all the wonderful years you had together give you strength." The person is grieving for a loss, letting them know that you understand its depth will surely bring them comfort. The most important thing is to not to avoid sending your condolences because you can't find the words. Even if you simply send a card that has a message that expresses what you feel, knowing that you care and are keeping them close in your heart will mean more than most words can convey.
If you ask someone what was the most memorable part of a memorial or funeral service, they will often say it is the music they remember. Whether it is a beloved hymn sung by all in attendance, a performance by a solo artist or a contemporary song attached to an audio visual presentation, music plays to our souls. It is what resonates with each of us in our own individual way and has become a very integral part of how someone wants to be remembered. With pre-planning, there is a great advantage in being able to choose the musical message, or messages, that you want to convey to the love ones gathered together in your remembrance. The nice thing is, that it is your choice, your true personality and outlook on life can be conveyed after you are gone. According to statistics gathered, the current top pick for songs used at a funeral is "My Way," written by Paul Anka and most famously performed by Frank Sinatra. (The song was not used at his funeral however, he chose "Put Your Dreams Away.") If you review the portion of the lyric that reads, "I've lived a life that's full, I've travelled each and every highway, and more, much more than this, I did it my way", you can understand this popular choice. Prior to this last poll, the most often used song for memorial services and funerals was Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." Both are fitting, but create an entirely different mood. In fact, many people choose two or three musical pieces, each for a different time in the ceremony, allowing people to run an entire range of emotions. If you move forward with pre-planning your funeral, either officially by working with a funeral home, or by telling your friends and family about your preferences, remember, it is all about you and how you want to be remembered. You are free, especially in these times, to choose what is right for you, sharing a piece of yourself with those you love.
Holidays that are strongly promoted by societal expectations, such as Valentines Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day, can often bring on a myriad of emotions, not always happy. People who have experienced loss and are doing their best to deal with their grief can be hit hard by commentaries on social media and celebrations that may no longer include them. How can you get through this day, which comes around every year? Writer Allison Micco, in her 2016 article "How to Celebrate Father's Day when You're Grieving the Loss of Your Dad" for the Huffington Post, had this to say.
"One of the most healing actions we can take as we approach this day is to be willing to release the reality in which our dominant story is one of loss. Yes, my father is no longer here in the physical form, but if I attach myself to that reality it seems almost impossible to find any sense of joy in the day." Micco decided to change how she approached Father's Day.
She offers several suggestions including seeking out other family members who can offer support throughout the day. Also, starting the day with a time of remembrance of your father will begin the holiday in the right state of mind, focusing on treasured memories rather than the pain of loss. "When we really look at it, Father's Day is an important reminder of the power and beauty of keeping the ones we love alive in our hearts forever," writes Micco.
We think that is the true spirit of Father's Day and hope you can celebrate this day whether or not your father has passed on or can share the day with you.
For Micco's complete article, click here.
Planning a memorial service when you are deep in grief is difficult to say the least. The amount of things that have to be done when a loved one dies can seem insurmountable. So, if you can take some time to allow yourself to reflect on the joy your loved one brought to your life, getting through this time may be a bit easier. One of the ways to do this is to incorporate a photo/video memorial into your service. Know that it will be a lot of work, but by doing this, you will have a chance to relive the life of your loved one and the memories will allow you a final visit before you put your loved one to rest. Here are some tips to help you get started.
1. Use the cloud to help your family share photos. Set up a Dropbox or Google
photo album to allow all family members to share photos. We Transfer is also good for family members who do not have the above cloud sharing services but do have access to email. It also is a free service.
2. Now comes the fun part, sifting through the collection you've acquired. Keeping in mind how the photo will appear on a large screen pick the clearest and most animated shots. It's best to do this is stages. Pick your best, then pick your best from those. Consider putting them into a specific photo organizing system like MyLio (free plan available). Some things to watch for:
4. Find the music. This is often the most difficult part as there are so very many songs to remind you of your shared time. A favorite song, a favorite musician or genre, a song that reflects the joy of life. So many choices. You can use a collection of a few songs, but if so, be sure you have a way to fade them in and out during the show as an abrupt change of music can ruin the moment.
5. Finally, you'll need to find a way to put them all together. iMovie or PowerPoint are both good tools. Take a look online as there are several options that will work. You can also hire a company to put together the presentation. You will, of course, have to provide the photos.
6. For those who cannot attend there are also ways to duplicate your slideshow. Check for sources to assist with this online.
Be sure not to exceed more than five to six minutes.There can be too much of a good thing. This memorial tribute will be a meaningful addition to your loved one's service as a lasting treasure for all who are grieving their loss. To assist you with audio/visual equipment needs, please contact us in advance of your service at Hilgenfeld Mortuary.
Last time we shared some suggestions to help you write an obituary. Once it is written, what do you do next?
The first step is to share it with someone whose opinion you trust and who knew the individual who passed. This will be a good check, not only for grammatical and syntax errors, but also to ensure that you have achieved the spirit of what you wanted to express. Then you can proceed to share the obituary with your family, friends and the general public. Consider the number of words you use, as most publications charge by the word. Obituaries can range from 50 - 400 words, most run about 200.
1. Your mortuary should have the option of posting the obituary along with the listing of services on their website. Not only will there be a link to the obituary, but often times an online guestbook is made available.
2. When publishing an obituary in a newspaper, either for print or online submission, there can be confusion as to terminology. Technically, a death notice is written and submitted by families and obituaries are considered editorial articles, usually written by the staff when the deceased has some notoriety. However, often the terms are used interchangeably. Know that whatever you call it, there will be a charge for publication. The charge can be by the word, number of lines or number of inches.
3. In most cases, you will have the option of having the obituary/death notice run in a printed version, online or both.
4. To run the information in your local papers, contact the local writer or editor to find out the specific process for submission. If you need assistance finding where to publish, for example the hometown newspaper of the deceased, you can visit Legacy.com which works with hundreds of newspapers that publish death notices/obituaries. On this site, you can also view obituaries that are running in these publications.
5. Hilgenfeld Mortuary can submit death notices to local papers on your behalf. Please contact our staff to find out details and charges for this service.
Today we are fortunate to have access to a staggering amount of information and thus is the case of researching what you need to do with the passing of a loved one. So much information can be overwhelming, especially during this difficult time. Please don't hesitate to contact a member of the Hilgenfeld staff during the process for assistance. We are here to help.
In our last blog, we addressed the definition of obituary, as well as the history behind using obituaries to memorialize noted individuals in society, as well as loved ones who are special to our circle of family and friends. Links to the obituaries of those served by Hilgenfeld Mortuary are provided on the website along with information on funeral or memorial services. These written tributes, also called death notices, mean a great deal to those who read them and often present quite a challenge to those tasked with writing one. Here is what is usually included in a typical obituary.
1. Announcement of the Death: Provide the name and a very brief description. It is not required to list the cause of death, that is at the discretion of the writer. The age of the deceased and the day of passing are usually included.
2. General Biographical Information: Keep in mind that short and simple is always best when drafting a written piece. Tailor the biography to the things important to your loved one, hometown, education, marriage, work history or personal or professional accomplishments. Turn to others who knew the individual to find out what they think should be included. Remember, keep it simple and short.
3. Make it Personal: Whether you share a favorite poem, tell a story or anecdote, the purpose of an obituary is to remember the special life that has been lost. You might list special hobbies, an organization the individual supported or a cause that brought out his/her passion.
4. List Family Members: Most obituaries include the close family members who are grieving the loss. Include the names of a spouse or partner, siblings, children, grandchildren. It is up to you to determine aif you want to include close relatives who have passed before. You may choose to either list the name or simply the relation to the deceased.
5. Services: Listing the time and location of the services and whether they are public or private is a good way to close the obituary. You can also include a link to the mortuary's website where people can go for more information.
6. Photos: This is an option and you can decide whether or not to use a current or older photo. There will be an additional cost when publishing in a newspaper.
We also suggest that you GOOGLE information to help with drafting your obituary. There are a number of good examples and tips available.
Our next blog will cover where and how to get your obituary published.
Over the course of the next few blogs, we will focus on obituaries, answering questions that might arise when you are faced with writing one for a loved one. This first segment is some general information about obituaries, then in later blogs we'll move into more details about where to post them, how to write them and who to turn for help.
Obituaries have been around longer that you probably know. The word "obit" in Latin can be translated as "going down or setting" (as in a sunset) or more bluntly, death. Obituaries first appeared in the early days of Rome, when sophisticated society enjoyed a daily papyrus newsletter of sorts which included happenings of the day, including death announcements of important citizens. In America 's history, the purpose remains the same, which is to announce the passing of someone to the broader community. Obituaries can take many forms. Some are very official and serious, others can be sweet or funny. Poetry is sometimes included and many such poems can be retrieved today through a simple Google search. Initially obituaries were short, due to the difficult processing of printing and publishing. According to an article "The History of The Obituary" from by Frazer Consultants, the Civil War was a major turning point of the importance of the obituary in America . "As soldiers left their home states to fight in the war, obituaries became more prominent. They would have more biographical details and list genealogical information to help spread the word to as many relatives as possible."
The article also stated that historians have used the style of published obituaries to gauge the mood of the country. For instance in times of war or despair, obituaries are more sentimental and religious. In booming times, the focus is more on success, jobs and wealth. Throughout most of history, papers would hire reporters to write obituaries, in fact, it was a "beginning beat" for many newly hired reporters. Now, with so many other options for sharing the word about the loss of a loved one, find an obituary editor can be a bit more difficult. Next time, we'll cover a few things to consider when you need to write an obituary for someone you love. Thank you to Frazer Consultant's "History of the Obituary" which provided information for this and future articles.
In this day and age, we may laugh when we hear of someone who tries to bring a "support" peacock or turtle onto an airplane. But although that might be a bit over the top, pets do provide a wonderful sense of love and support to so many people. Losing one can be devastating to an individual or family. There is no need to be embarrassed or ashamed of feeling deep grief for the loss of a pet. There are ways to help you grieve and it is an important process to recognize. Here are a few ideas to help.
1. Realize that the grieving process will be slow. The feeling of loss will not go away quickly. Be prepared for the sadness to linger awhile, especially at times when you and your pet shared together.
2. Don't be ashamed or undermine your feelings of grief. Pets can become true members of our families and we can be dependent on their love to turn to when we are feeling a variety of emotions. Not having them there is a shock.
3. Find a way to memorialize your pet. Put a shadowbox or framed picture in a spot near your pet's favorite spot. You will find yourself looking there often and seeing an image or two will bring comfort.
4. Don't let others tell you how to feel. No one can understand the bond between two people or human beings and their animals. You know how you are feeling, others shouldn't tell you how they think you should behave.
5. Make sure if you have other pets, that you keep their routine the same. Actually, they will most likely be missing your pet as well and will need a little extra TLC.
6. Look after yourself. This is true for any type of loss. Neglecting your own needs, especially, time to reflect, can cause harm and it is important to make sure you take care of you.
In a future blog, we will focus on helping a child deal with the loss of a beloved pet.
So it looks like spring may finally be on its way. We've had a cold and wet winter this year which was welcome to many but was also possibly a bit trying to those who enjoy the usual mild and sunny Southern California winters. Weather can so often have an impact on our emotions, our spirits and our energy. There is something about the coming of spring, the budding of flowers, songs of the myriad of birds that serenade us throughout the day. It's uplifting and spiritually can be a time of change and growth. If the past few months have been difficult, maybe now is the time to get out into the sunshine, enjoy the blue skies and soak in the beauty of spring. Throughout the southland there are flowers galore, with super bloom locations just a short drive away. Head to the coast for a warm walk on the sand and simply watch the sun sparkle off the water. Find a park to smell the grass, sit in the shade and watch people enjoying the outdoors. Guaranteed, it will bring a spring to your step and a feeling of re-birth and new direction.
Thanksgiving, or even Halloween if you have children in your life, begins a long stretch of holidays that can be very time consuming, emotionally and even physically as we move back and forth for visits, family dinners, business gatherings, volunteer activities and holiday celebrations of all types. Christmas, New Years, a stream of government holidays with trips planned, it doesn't see to stop. However, once Valentine's Day comes and goes things seem to take a breather, a calming of social commitments and pressures from the intensity of the past months. So why not make this time a holiday for you? Use the quieter calendar to plan some ways to de-stress and celebrate calm. This is especially important for people who have come through this time mourning the loss of someone who is usually a part of the season. The best gift you can give yourself is time to recover. Here are some things you can do to help:
1. Say no to social engagements that you really don't want to attend. Sometimes a little alone time can be a good thing.
2. Consider taking 10 - 20 minutes each day for meditation or reflection.
3. Cut down on exposures to electronics - unless it is some quiet calming music.
4. Make sure you get your sleep - maybe even sleep-in on a weekend or two.
5. Reflect on the past few months and survey what you might want to eliminate from your holiday schedule next year or things you didn't do, that would would make the season more enjoyable for you.
Most importantly, use your days for reflection and relaxation. This way you'll emerge from these hectic, crazy months with a serenity and calmness that will guide you through the rest of the year.