You can find our latest posts on this page. Click on the blog titles below or click on the calendar to review postings from prior periods. Remember to check back here often!
Writing thank you notes is usually one of the very first “after the funeral” tasks you will undertake. You may be surprised to find that your brain/hand coordination is not working so well. You sit there with pen in hand and well-formed thoughts in your head, but somehow it all gets lost between the head and the paper. Don’t despair. This is normal and it’s all part of the grief journey. You are not thinking straight now, but you will again soon.
First, let’s tackle who gets a “thank you” and then I can give you a few wordy ideas to help you get started. Anyone who made a donation or sent flowers should get a thank you note from a family member. You will also want to send a note to people who helped. Maybe they provided food or took care of the dog for you or picked up people at the airport. All of those folks should receive a note of thanks. You do not need to send notes to people who sent condolence cards, emails, or texts.
Your words can be brief. No one expects a long letter from you at this time. It is just nice to know that the flowers arrived, or the donation was received. Your kind friends just need to hear thank you.
For some, these are written the day after the funeral. Everyone sits around the kitchen table to write the thank you notes and everyone laughs as more than a few notes are torn and tossed in the trash. This may be the first laughter heard in several days.
Let’s talk about the stages of grief. There is denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I studied them in nursing school, reviewed them when I got divorced and generally found them to be a pretty accurate and helpful bit of knowledge. And then, a family member died. Stages?
In our house it was more like we all went to the amusement park and were all on very different rides. Up and down, round and round, quiet and loud. We were definitely not that family walking together peacefully along a path through stages. We were all a bunch of nuts. Although we love each other, we were dangerously close to coming apart at the seams.
I don’t think we are the only ones. Death is the number one stressor for families. I’ve seen families break under the weight of illness and loss. Funeral directors will tell you the hardest part of their work is dealing with families who are emotionally fragmented.
We all experience grief differently. It’s a singular journey. But, you have to get along. If you don’t work it out you risk loosing your family, not just the one member who actually died. So what helped us?
Deep breathing and listening, I mean really listening to understand not just hear. Recognizing anger as an expression of fear. Seeing frenzied activity as a coping mechanism for helplessness. Making room for each other’s ways of expressing love. Accepting the prayers and the mementos even when the prayers aren’t ours and the memento is not what we would choose for a funeral.
Being tolerant of each other’s needs and expression of their personal grief. Looking for what’s motivating the behavior not just the behavior itself. Being kind and tolerant. Hugging the huggers and giving the non-huggers their space. Letting go of judgment and making room for differences. I mean really, so what if your sister cries loudly? What’s the harm?
The days before a funeral, the time during the arranging of the funeral and weeks following a funeral are not easy. You and your family can come out of it broken or stronger.
Let’s all give a big shout out for all the fathers! Boy, have they ever stepped up to the plate and embraced the changing role of fatherhood. Lots of those who are young dads today were raised by a very different kind of dad. Their dads may have never changed a poopy diaper or traveled alone with an infant. But times have changed.
Now, dads are all in. You see them on planes toting a little one in a carrier on their chest, no mom in sight, so you just know they will be changing that diaper. We have stay at home dads, dads who cook meals inside the house as well as on the grill, and dads who know where the kids’ PJs are stored. Lots of big changes in one generation.
That’s not to short-change the granddads. The generation that spawned those super adapters. They are now grandfathers and were grand fathers. A generation ago lots of dads supported the family all by themselves. They also coached, were scout masters, mowed their own lawn (with a push mower) and made pancakes on Sunday mornings. These same guys are now the grandpas who are teaching their grandchildren to fish and holding the hand of a princess in a tutu as they wander the zoo. Kudos to the Dad’s! It’s their day!
Today is the day to appreciate your dad and to say thank you. You won’t have him forever, you know.
On June 6, 2019 the world will mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion during World War II. The invasion by the Allied Forces established a foothold on the shores of France; and was the start of the Allied advance into the interior which eventually lead to victory in Europe and liberty for the millions of people living under the tyranny of Adolf Hitler. The costly battle was the most important allied victory in the second world war.
The campaign began on June 6 and ended on June 30. During that period 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded, or went missing. Many are buried in the 27 war cemeteries, ranging in size from 30 graves to 20,000, in Normandy.
The Normandy American Cemetery is the resting place for 9,387 Americans, most of whom gave their lives during the landing operations and in the establishment of the beachhead. The headstones are of white Italian marble adorned with a Star of David for those of Jewish faith and a Latin Cross for all others. The permanent cemetery is located on land France granted to the United States in perpetuity.
For those fortunate enough to visit the burial grounds, the experience is singular. Approaching alone or with a group the mood changes. Breathing slows, the chatter quiets, tones are hushed. The feeling is somber. It draws you in.
And then, there it is, pristine lush green lawn dotted by thousands of white markers in perfect formation overlooking the very beaches where those buried here fought and died.
Visitors are, at first, overwhelmed by the sheer number of markers. But as you get closer and begin to read the engravings, the reality of the cost of war begins to sink in. So many died, they were so very young, and all lost in such a short span of time.
All those lives ended before they ever really began. So many who would never find their true love, hold a new born child of their own, or buy a home. So many who never got to experience all the post war changes the rest of us take for granted. Those buried here did not live to see air travel become commonplace, a man land on the moon or watch a color television.
They were heroic and their sacrifice was great. We must never forget.
The anniversary is an opportunity to honor those lost. It is also an opportunity celebrate peace and reconciliation. In our mindfulness we become aware of the fragility of peace and the pain of war. It is that mindfulness that makes us better people.
In the words of the late John Lennon…
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one