Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Elephant in the Room

I am an experienced funeral practitioner, and to this day, even though I do not mean to, and I really should not, I still hesitate, when I see a friend or family member, who has recently lost a loved one. With all of the people I serve on a daily basis, one would think, I would have moved beyond that momentary awkwardness, when coming face to face, with a grieving friend.

Why do we experience awkwardness, avoid or even ignore our grieving friends? Is it because we fear inflicting further pain? Perhaps we fear our inability to console. Is it that we feel tongue-tied? Could it be we just do not know what to say? Maybe we fear making our friend cry. Whatever the reasons, we need to understand, that our awkward reactions, do not help our grieving friends. Indeed, these reactions have the opposite effect on them. Our failure to recognize and respond to our grief stricken friends actually inflicts additional pain on them. Alas, try as I might, overcoming this brief moment of hesitation, remains difficult for me, almost impossible actually, and I imagine it does for you too.

I have learned over the years that the most important thing I can do for a friend who mourns the loss of their loved one, is simply act normally. Understanding that this is impossible, I have moved beyond my weakness to do so, and have chanced upon the best alternative. “Acknowledge the elephant in the room.”

Mourners want and need most of all, to talk about their loss. They need to work through what has happened to them. Talking with someone who knows them and will not judge them, allows them to accept that death has happened, to realize that there is a new reality in which they must function, and redirects them to work out their road to recovery.

Do not be alarmed. This does not mean that every grieving acquaintance you have, will want to carry on a detailed conversation with you, about his or her loss. A simple acknowledgement is more than sufficient. “I was sorry to hear about your dad,” offers an acquaintance comfort. Those same words, spoken to a dear friend, offer an appropriate opportunity for a healing conversation.

As the year closes, and we look forward to 2014, I would suggest that you add this resolution to your list.
“Recognize the elephant in the room.”

If you will, you and your grief stricken friends will benefit from its practice. You will also find that your discomfort is greatly lessened around the bereaved.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer. I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/ and Twitter account @PushnUpDaisies, visit my website www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies” for additional encouragement and information.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Suicide Victims


Suicide is tragic and it spikes around the holidays each year.  As a funeral director, I see families suffering suicide loss year after year.  Not only are they suffering the loss of their loved one, they are suffering an internal strife of blame and guilt. 

 The holiday season is a time full of tradition and family heritage.  Depressed individuals generally complain of feeling empty inside and alone.  With the rich focus on belonging and love at this time of year, those suffering depression may not be able to endure the activities, traditions and heritage surrounding them.  The juxtaposition of their feelings or perceptions, to the merry holiday festivities, may indeed lead them to end their life.  To endure such an extreme loss at this time of year is particularly harrowing.

Nearly 750,000 individuals commit suicide yearly (Worden, 2009).  Statistics show that those who have suffered a suicidal loss may be at risk of suicide themselves.  If you have thoughts of suicide, or if you are contemplating such an action, immediately seek intervention.  Do not hint or allude to your intentions or difficulties.  Be specific and immediately reach out to a medical or suicide intervention facility.  Dial 911, tell them you need help, get yourself to the emergency room, and allow someone to intervene for you.  Remember, although you might not love yourself, you are loved by others.  Even though you cannot recognize it now, you have value, and there will be those who will sorely mourn your loss.  

Depression can be a deadly condition, but it is also preventable.  The goal in crime-prevention is to separate the criminal from the victim, before a heinous crime is committed.  In suicide, the victim and the perpetrator are the same person.  Physically, it is impossible to separate them.  Psychological and medical interventions are very effective anti-crime tools for thwarting suicide.  If an alert individual is able to identify a suicidal person, or if a suicidal person will identify him or herself and seek help, a life may be saved, a crime may be prevented, and a family may remain whole.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author, and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my websitewww.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies” for additional encouragement and information.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Grief Brief #20 - Sadness

SADNESS is the most common feeling experienced during bereavement.  Persons who block sadness with excessive activity, find that their sadness surfaces once they are exhausted. 

Exhaustion renders one less able to overcome the intensity of sadness. 


My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/ and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my website  www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies”  for additional encouragement and information. 

Road to Recovery

When a family experiences a death, almost every member of the household mourns, including the family dog. There are positive and proven ways that help one cope and recover from the loneliness and depression experienced with the death of a loved one. It is important to keep in mind however, that not everyone mourns nor recovers in the exact same way.

Exercise is good for the heart, body and soul. A 20 to 40 minute aerobic activity results in improvement in the survivor’s state of mind. A vigorous pumping heart decreases anxiety, lifts the mood and creates a positive experience that persists for several hours. Psychological benefits associated with exercise are a welcome bonus for the bereaved. They are comparable to the gains found with standard forms of psychotherapy.

Religion offers hope for the future and forgiveness for the past. It also offers likeminded support and understanding. It can be a source for counseling and re-socialization, a gateway back to recovery.

Family and friends can be a great resource for recovery. Traveling to visit loved ones in other areas or having them visit the survivor, offers companionship that is familiar, uplifting and relative to their life’s experiences.

Hobbies occupy the mind and hands. They engage our brains and keep them in good health. Hobbies create a sense of accomplishment. They propel us toward a healthier and happier recovery.

Psychotherapy is sometimes warranted. Counseling can help a survivor identify habits and encourage positive growth. It can yield a recovery plan that the survivor is unable to identify, implement and accomplish on his or her own.

A support group is a scheduled gathering of people with common experiences and concerns. It provides emotional and moral support, as well as new perspectives on life, increased understanding of grief, and close personal ties.

Traditions are also a wonderful tool for grief recovery. Observing traditions that were once enjoyed with the deceased, helps up accept that they are gone from us physically, yet with us still, through the activities and love we shared together. Such activities, now traditions, will aid your family by anchoring them securely to their heritage. Observing traditions stabilizes a family through loss, expansion and changing environments.

Animal companionship typically results in fewer migraines and less persistent fears. Fewer phobias, lower levels of panic, and less drug and alcohol intake are very positive side effects associated with our furry friends. The love and acceptance of a pet, helps us to combat depression and isolation. If you have a family pet, be mindful of their needs. Taking Fido out for a brisk walk will provide both of you healthier opportunities for exercise, socialization and companionship.

People have a strong need for communication and companionship. Through support groups, church, friends and family we are able to recall, reclaim and rekindle our most cherished memories. Moreover, through these relationships and activities, we are able to begin our recovery.

As Christmas is upon us, it is even more important that we offer our companionship to those we know who have lost a loved one this past year. Important dates are the most difficult to endure when we are bereaved. If you can find it within your heart, I would encourage you to take a moment to visit or call someone you know who is facing the holidays without the companionship of their loved one. Reflect for a moment the sadness you would feel in their situation. Be thankful for your cheer and share a moment of life with someone who has suffered the sorrows of death.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer. I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/and Twitter account @PushnUpDaisies, visit my websitewww.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies” for additional encouragement and information.

Grief Brief #19 - Grief Work

Grief is a cognitive process involving confrontation with and restructuring of thoughts about the deceased, the loss experience, and the changed world within which the bereaved must now live. (Stroebe, 1992)

Since mourning is a process, rather than a state of mind, the above statement implies that we must work to overcome the devastation of loss. This activity is known as grief work.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer. I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/ and Twitter account @PushnUpDaisies, visit my website www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies” for additional encouragement and information.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Co-Mingling

Ground burial has long been the traditional choice for interment in America. In recent years however, cremation has become a viable choice, among the adventurous baby boomers. As they prepare for their final expenses, many questions arise. One question, in particular, is asked more often than any other, “Can my pet be cremated with me?”

It is illegal to co-mingle human cremains. In other words, two humans, may not be cremated in the same chamber, at the same time. Likewise, it is illegal, to cremate an animal, where human beings are cremated. Plainly speaking, your pet may not be cremated, at the same crematorium, where you may be cremated.

As a licensed funeral director, I often witness family members slipping mementos into a loved one’s casket, immediately before it is closed. In fact, I recently observed a very young nephew, slip a little wooden box, into his Uncle’s casket. The box had a doggy paw engraved upon it, next to the name, “Love.” It was a very touching moment, and caused me to think seriously about my own pet’s living situation, when my time comes to meet my maker.

As with interment, inurnment (the process of placing cremains in an urn), offers unique choices, to achieve your final wishes. One might choose an appropriate location where their cremains, and the cremains of their pet, might be sprinkled together. An appropriate choice might be the old oak tree, at his or her family home place. If one has chosen to have their cremains buried, a double cremation vault might be an appropriate selection. A double cremation vault encases two urns of cremains. One urn might encase the master’s cremains, the other urn might encase the pet’s cremains.

If you find yourself in this unique situation, you will need to have the assistance of a very special someone to accomplish your final wishes. It may just turn out, that your very young nephew, surprisingly steps forward to accomplish this final act of “Love” for you and your pet.

My best advice: “Be kind to animals, and to your very young nephews. Sometimes even the tiniest humans turn out to be our biggest champions.”

My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer. I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/ and Twitter account @PushnUpDaisies, visit my website www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies” for additional encouragement and information.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Grief Brief #18 - Tasks of Mourning

TASKS OF MOURNING (Worden)

1. Accepting the reality of loss
2. Process the pain of loss
3. Adjust to a world without the deceased
a) internally
b) externally
c) spiritually
4. Find an enduring connection with the deceased in your new life without them.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author, and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my websitewww.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies” for additional encouragement and information.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Death Comes in 3's


As a girl, I remember hearing my mother and grandmother say, “Death comes in threes.”  I found this to be a terrifying statement.  As a funeral director, I now understand how this old saying, coincides with the risk of death multiplicity within families or friendship groups.
Bereavement is a state of sorrow over the death of a loved one.  When we are bereaved, we suffer a host of ailments ranging from appetite disturbances and sadness, to migraines and depression.  Bereavement can become complicated and extended for many survivors.  Generally, survivors will feel desolate or alone for a period of time.  Navigating back to a healthy state of living is essential for the survivor.  If this is not accomplished, difficulties, illnesses and even death may follow.

It is an interesting phenomenon that one person’s death can cause another person’s death.  As a funeral director, I have witnessed this phenomenon firsthand.  I have seen spouses die within hours of each other, siblings pass at the funerals of their brothers or sisters and sweethearts commit suicide after learning their beloved has done so. 
These deaths caused by other deaths are not the norm; however, they happen.  The elderly and the infirmed tend to be at risk due to the incredible levels of stress and sorrow induced by loss.  The mentally ill or those with mental retardation may find themselves at an even greater risk.  One’s risk is relative to their level of dependency and attachment on the deceased.  Their physical and mental health may also contribute to their risk factor.  If one is aware that they, or someone they know, fall into these categories, seeking support and medical intervention early on, might be wise.

There are also moments in time, which place the survivor at increased risk.  The moment of death notification, if unexpected, can be very stressful.  If you are notifying a family or friend of a loved one’s death, evaluate the significance of their attachment and any possible health risks.  If someone has a heart condition, or some other significant health issue, you might take precautionary measures as recommended by their physician before proceeding.
The initial trip to the funeral home can also be a very stressful moment.  Not only might the survivor be highly stressed over the financial weight of the funeral, they may not be prepared to speak so bluntly about their loss.  They may be poorly prepared for the arrangement conference and feel uneasy making legal decisions at such a vulnerable time.  Unfortunately, each consecutive trip to the funeral home generally increases the level of stress on the survivor.  Funeral week is filled with emotional turmoil, insecurities, financial hardship and even familial bickering.  All of these issues increase stress on one’s physical and mental wellness. 

Does death come in threes?  It’s possible, but now we know how to evaluate risk factors.  With this knowledge, the statement made by my mother and grandmother, is not nearly so frightening.  As an adult, I can evaluate attachment levels and health discrepancies.  I am able to deliver such tragic news to my family members with greater understanding of risk factors, and can incorporate relevant efforts to preserve the lives of those I love so dearly.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author, and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

 Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my websitewww.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies” for additional encouragement and information.

Grief Brief #17 - Phases of Mourning


Phases of Mourning (Parkes)

1.        Period of numbness  
2.        Yearning      

3.        Disorganization & despair          
4.        Reorganized behavior 

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/ and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my website  www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies”  for additional encouragement and information.

Thanksgiving Loss


I had a dear friend die this past year.  Although he passed away in a different state, I go to his social media page and leave him messages every now and then.  I miss him so terribly, because he was an amazing human being.  His heart was true and good, and he was honest with his fellow man and with himself.  He was a friend to my family, and when you met him, you loved him, because of his goodness.  My friend died smack dab in the middle of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  How like him, he died in the season of family tradition and giving, two things he revered.
It would be easy to be miserable this year, thinking of how much we miss our dear friend, but he would not want that.  Instead, we will remember all of the good that he contributed during his short life.  We will be thankful for the time we had with him, the growth he inspired in us, his kindness, his generosity and for his passion for truth. 

 I read his obituary today, for the first time.  It spoke volumes about my friend.  It mentioned his accomplishments, which were many; and then, there was a paragraph that told who he was.  “Preston always stood up for correct principals.  He was a scriptorian, loved music, upheld the Constitution, big on self-sufficiency and was courageous and undaunted.” (Richfield Reaper, December 2012) I am thankful for so many things, and although I may shed a tear that he is gone, I will forever remain grateful for the influence of my dear friend, and the example he set for me. 

 The holidays can be a very difficult time for someone who has lost a loved one, especially if this is his or her first holiday season since the loss.  Even though we try to focus on how much better our lives are for having had our loved one, we miss them so terribly, that it is difficult to experience the cheer of the season.

If you know someone suffering through his or her first holiday season after loss, please be mindful of him or her.  This is a particularly difficult time and they may feel lonely and isolated.  Take a moment to remember with them, the wonderful moments of life they shared with their loved one.  Participate in family traditions and create new ones that honor their deceased.  Your blessings will be great, and you will have helped someone through a time, when your good acts of kindness were priceless.
That is what my friend Preston would have done. 

 My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 
Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/ and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my website  www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies”  for additional encouragement and information.