Monday, June 23, 2014

Grief Brief 47 - Rebuilding Oneself

Recovering from grief often entails the rebuilding of oneself.  If one has been in a marriage for fifty years or so, their identity has generally morphed into that of a couple.  Being alone after such a long period of time, may take quite an adjustment. 

 My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on 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/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

The "EX" Factor

As a funeral director, I often experience unique situations with survivors, and this past week was no exception.  The family I served was one of humble means.  The decedent had experienced interaction with the judicial system on multiple occasions.  Drugs had played a part in his life.  There was an indication of slowness of mind, and he was potentially murdered.  He was a parent with dependent children, and he had an “Ex” wife.  Other issues existed as well, but the details are too gruesome to mention, and out of respect to this family, they are better left unwritten.  

My motivation for this article is the existence of his “Ex” wife and the discrepancy between her perception of herself, and her legal standing within his estate.  My experience and knowledge are based on Texas law and may differ from other states. 

Due to the decedent’s lifestyle, he did not have an estate, yet his “Ex” wife was very interested in any dependency funds available for her upon his death, and desired to be recognized and respected as his wife.  

As I left the cemetery and reflected back upon the week’s experience, I thought to myself, how very odd that this woman did not understand her severance from this man, as stipulated through the courts in their divorce decree.  Interestingly, this woman is not unique in her misconception of her legal standing within the “Ex” husband’s estate.  I meet women almost weekly who are under one or more misconceptions regarding their legal status within the estate of a particular male decedent. 

It seems as though the popular phrase of the 1960’s “It’s only a piece of paper,” has diluted the legal importance of the marital contract within the minds of many couples.  This mere piece of paper is a legal and binding contract, issued through the state which establishes, combines and protects one’s  legal next of kinship within an estate.  If a couple is married, each party is legally recognized as the other’s next of kin.  As such, each has power, rights and responsibilities within the combined marital estate.  Their legal document (marriage certificate) places them in this important position.  Individuals who choose to reside together without this legal contract, are not in the next of kinship position, and, therefore, have no legal standing within the estate. 

In such a case, a woman who has never been the decedent’s legal wife, or who has given up her place as his legal wife, forgoes her rights and considerations as kinship, along with anything else she may consider as combined property and estate.  She may therefore find herself evicted from her residence without legal rights to any insurance funds or estate properties.  A man however faces far graver consequences.  In addition to the previously stated losses,  a man who has not married the mother of his children, and has failed to secure his name on their birth certificates, may find that on the dreadful day of losing his pseudo wife, he stands without parental rights.  Not only might he lose what he thought was community property, without expensive testing and court battles, he will most likely see the guardianship of his children fall to their maternal grandparents.

The “Ex” wife this weekend wanted the decedent’s social security benefits and payouts for her children, as well as for herself.  Although her dependent children are possibly eligible for social security funds, she most likely is not.  When the marital contract was severed, her privileges and rights were severed too.  One hopes she listed her “Ex” husband as the father of her children on their birth certificates; otherwise, they as their mother may be without support. 

The key to understanding your position in an estate as spousal next of kin is to understand that there must be a legal and binding contract, a.k.a. a marriage certificate, in effect.  If you are an “Ex” spouse, you have been legally removed and displaced as the decedents next of kin.  Not only will you have lost all legal claims to the decedent’s estate; most probably, you will not be mentioned in the obituary, nor asked to sit with the family at the services.  Moreover, if you have forgone the marriage contract altogether, you are not, nor will you ever be, the spousal next of kin. 

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.

Grief Brief 46 - Developing New Skills

Many survivors resent having to develop new skills that were once performed by their deceased love one.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on 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/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Caskets - Exterior Construction 1

A casket is a vital component of every funeral service. It expresses dignity, respect and integrity, yet serves a more practical purpose as well. A casket is, “a rigid container which is designed for the encasement of human remains and which is usually constructed of wood, metal, or like material, and ornamented and lined with fabric.” (Federal Trade Commission, FTC)
The FTC, as a definition for a casket, publishes the previous statement. There are often misconceptions regarding caskets. In an attempt to clarify these misconceptions, this article will address the outer or main construction materials that make up a casket, and the purposes thereof.
Caskets are simply boxes that hold human remains. While it is true that different caskets have varying options and levels of functionality, they all share the same basic purpose, encasing human remains.
Caskets are constructed of rigid materials. Rigidity is a vital component of a casket.  If the bottom and sides of caskets were not rigid, one would be unable to move the decedent from one place to another proficiently and with dignity. The rigidness of the casket allows the funeral personnel and pallbearers to transport the decedent to where it needs to be, in an adequate fashion.
The types of rigid materials used in the construction of caskets vary and each has unique qualities of usefulness. Caskets made of steel, stainless steel, copper or bronze, are very strong. There are various thicknesses of these metals used in casket manufacturing. An important fact to remember is that the smaller the gauge, the thicker the metal. One might ask, “Why does the thickness of metal matter?” I would answer, “In most cases, it does not." The cases in which it will matter depend on the weight of the decedent and the absence of a vault. If a vault is not used and the thickness of the casket is on the thin side, the casket may crush onto the deceased, under the weight of the earth as it is returned and packed into the ground or possibly at a later date as the metal decays.
Another building material used in the manufacturing of caskets is wood. Wood is beautiful, dignified and warm. Caskets made from wood are the most beautiful of all caskets. They can be carved and stained to any request. A wood casket, however, is almost certain to collapse onto the decedent as the earth is returned into the grave. If it does not, wood will be one of the quickest caskets to decay. Once decay begins, the casket will collapse onto the deceased.
A third building material commonly used in casket manufacturing is cardboard. Some companies may call this material pasteboard or corrugated fiberboard or any other combination of those words, but in reality, these caskets are made of cardboard. The same type of cardboard out of which moving boxes are constructed. It goes without saying, without a vault, this type of casket is going collapsing onto the deceased as the earth is returned to the grave.
A newer composition material used in casket manufacturing is fiberglass. This material can be strong and can last for quite some time. In some cases, fiberglass caskets may resemble steel caskets. In choosing this type of casket, one must use one’s best judgment and thoroughly inspect the craftsmanship of the fabricator.
In certain areas of the country, green caskets are gaining in popularity. Green caskets are made from a reed type of material, rather like a willow basket. Of course, one knows that baskets crumple easily; therefore, one may deduce that these caskets will readily collapse onto the deceased as the earth is returned to the grave. Green caskets are often more expensive than cardboard caskets, yet function within the same parameters. If you are green minded and want to save funds, the cardboard casket, although not nearly as pleasing to the eye, might be your casket of choice.
Perhaps you have walked through a cemetery and noticed certain graves seem to have fallen or sunken by eight or nine inches. The reason a grave collapses is that having given way under the pressure of the earth’s weight, the casket has collapsed onto the deceased. These sunken graves most likely did not utilize the stabilizing features of a grave liner or vault. Some caskets may remain intact for several days, some for several months. Copper or bronze caskets, may stay intact beyond several months. These caskets are rather expensive though, and if one is investing a great amount of money into a casket, one should probably consider protecting that investment with a vault. The fact remains, regardless of the amount of money paid for a casket, without the stabilizing strength of a vault to fortify the grave; your casket will eventually collapse onto the deceased.
Vaults are not required by law; however, some cemeteries may mandate their use. If you have forgone a vault, be aware and mentally prepare for your loved one's grave to collapse in on them, at some point in time. Although optional, a vault is a good investment if you want to preserve the integrity of your loved one’s casket.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer. I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on 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/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Grief Brief 45 - Delayed Grief

Delayed grief is usually more difficult to overcome.  Not only is depression more prevalent, the survivor is faced with a less supportive social system than would have been available at the time of loss. 

 My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on 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/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

I Love Dad

I am a member of a very large family and found this on the internet, written by one of my dear cousins.
 
“My sweet little Daddy's happy birthday!  So happy he is with Mother and all those he loves so much who have gone on.  Nevertheless, I miss him so much and wish we could have one of our big heart to hearts!  He taught me more riding along with him as we went to take care of the cows, hauling hay, going to the sale barn or just riding to town to get a so die pop!  Loved how he loved Memaw (his mother) and how he interacted with her.  Loved how he lit up when he was around his siblings.  Loved how devoted he was to Heavenly Father and his quiet devotion.  He was amazing.  I love him so much and still can't bear that he's gone!”

She continues, “Today, I fight back the tears that are so close to my heart as I miss my sweet little Daddy.  I loved him so much.”

My cousin’s father was a wonderful man and meant so much to so many.  Her tears are not a sign of weakness, they testify that the love and time she spent with her father  were, and continue to be, a great treasure.  Eventually there will come a time when holidays and special events will be easier to manage, but one never forgets their father, nor the love they shared together; nor would you want to.  Just because a loved one dies, does not mean that love has died too. 

The heart wrenching pain expressed by my cousin, can sometimes be softened by developing new traditions based on old ones shared with the deceased.  In my cousin’s little paragraph, she mentioned that she had learned so much from her father while participating in his work, caring for his cattle, hauling hay and accompanying him to the sale barn.  Now that her parents are deceased, she can develop these same special moments with her children and grandchildren by following her father’s example.  The death of a close loved one creates a wonderful opportunity to concentrate on developing those fabulous nuances that have created and molded you into the person you are today.  Honor your father by passing on his greatest parenting skill or grand parenting skill.  This would truly be a great compliment to your deceased loved one and an honor to his memory and accomplishments.

If you have the opportunity, please take this Father’s Day to openly express your love for your dad before it is too late.  In my line of work, I have seen young fathers as well as old, slip away without any warning, and at those times, I realize how utterly important it is to express your love and appreciation for all those you love, each and every moment you have with them.

Fathers are so important to the welfare and health of the family.  They play an important role in their children’s development into healthy functioning adults.  As I see families pass through my funeral home, I can immediately recognize families blessed with a strong father, from those who were not.  When parents die, realization of our own mortality, and the importance of being a strong and responsible parent, comes to the forefront of our minds. We vow to do better and regret our past shortcomings.  I believe one of the best things you can do at the loss of a parent, is to evaluate their greatest contribution to your life, magnify it and pass it on through your children.
Gratefully, my father is still living.  I tell him constantly that I love him, and how grateful I am to be able to draw upon his knowledge.  I dread the day that he will leave this earth.  When that happens, I know that I will be terribly sorrowful.  I will also know, that I have taken every opportunity to express my love to my dad.  That tiny bit of knowledge, I hope, will help me recover.

I saw on TV this morning that fathers are taking on more and more responsibility toward rearing families.  I believe this is an excellent statistic. 

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on 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/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Grief Brief 44 - Breakdown

Eventually, people who avoid all aspects of conscious grief will break down.  Due to their denial, the break down is usually brought on by some form of depression.

 My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on 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/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Trophies for Everyone

Reality is not candy; life is not always sweet. 

In the funeral business, we see as time progresses, generations are becoming less able to deal with the reality of death.  In my opinion, the unjust practice of “Everybody gets a trophy,” plays into this lack of preparation for real life issues. 

When we are children, our parents enroll us in activities to teach us life’s lessons.  Currently, there seems to be a misunderstanding of what the goal is, when participating in such activities.  One plays ball to learn good sportsmanship.  In order to learn good sportsmanship, one must, at one time or another, lose the game.  The disappointment of not winning, helps us learn and appreciate the value of good solid preparation.  We eventually grow to understand that the other team prepared better and played better, rather than were unfairly blessed with a good streak of luck.  Their win gleans the coveted trophy, while we go home empty handed.  This experience creates new resolve and greater motivation to do better, to prepare better and to work harder.  This experience develops character in our children and teaches them how to adjust to the pain of losing, overcome adversity and disappointment, and to become dedicated human beings.  In short, they have learned good sportsmanship, and it’s by product, experience in overcoming disappointment and adversity.  Their human nature has been tempered by the experience, and they have become stronger and better participants in the human race.

These small disappointments in childhood, prepare our children for larger disappointments as adults, and life in general.  Losing games as a child helps one handle the stress and disappointment of losing a job as a teenager.  In turn, this prepares one for the betrayal of a sweetheart in college, which may serve to prepare one for the responsibilities of adulthood.  We hope these experiences will give us the wherewithal to cope with the many losses we will experience and endure, traveling through life.  One of these losses will be the loss of valued and loved friends and family members.  Without the childhood experiences of losing games and not winning trophies, one will remain ill prepared for life’s future disappointments, failures and opportunities for growth.

When we shield our children from pain, they grow up as mal-adjusted, soft adults.  They are then, poorly prepared for what life will dole out to them.  We set them up for complications in coping with disappointments, stress and eventually our deaths.  In trying to protect them from pain, we set them up to experience the ultimate pain without any experience upon which to draw.  Without these essential pain experiences as they travel through life, our children are unable to process the anxiety, fear and readjustments necessary to overcome the quintessential pain of all, bereavement. 

The death of a loved one changes our identity, our social standing, our support structure, possibly our income as well as a truckload of other issues.  If our resolve is experienced and tempered through baby steps of loss and pain, we will be better prepared to face the worst times of our lives armed with the ability to overcome adversity and grief.

Reality is not candy; life will not always be sweet.  Prepare your children for the knocks and bruises that life will through their way, by allowing them to experience small disappointments and failures without trophies.  In so doing, you will have prepared them to withstand the most adverse experience known to man; the experience of losing a loved one, the experience of losing you.  
My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on 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/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Grief Brief 43 - Animal Companionship

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.  

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on 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/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Grief Disorder

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) recently added prolonged (complicated) grief disorder as an official psychiatric diagnosis, giving people who suffer from debilitating grief a name for the disorder. What does this mean for the poor soul suffering this excruciating disorder? It means that they can now identify their disorder by name, and seek out medical and psychiatric assistance for recovery.

In the past, survivors suffering debilitating grief were basically on their own to find a remedy and recover from their disorder. The work place is not obligated to accommodate grief recovery, only bereavement leave. It has been my experience that the work place has generally accepted two to three days as an appropriate time for bereavement leave. This slight recognition ignores the emotional affects of loss, and does not allow additional time to recover from the deep emotional and psychological trauma that comes with such a catastrophic experience.

If you break your limb and your doctor casts it, there is physical evidence that something is wrong, that will possibly require recuperation away from work. Your doctor might also send a note to your employer requiring that you receive a prescribed time of light duty or time off completely. In these cases, there is no question; your work is going to accommodate your needs during this time.

If your spouse or child suffers an accident severe enough to take his or her life, your employer may give you 2 to 3 days off work for funeral services. Unfortunately, they expect you back; bright eyed and bushy tailed as soon as the gravedigger covers up your loved one with earth. Fulfilling the customary ritual within our society, your co-workers and company of employment may send words and flowers of condolences for the services. The problem comes into play, when they fail to realize that although your loved one lost his or her life, you have lost your loved one. The wound to your soul, although invisible, is greater and more significant than any physical wound you will ever suffer. It appears that if your wounds are without outward marks of trauma, they are unrecognized as noteworthy. Perhaps with this new designation from the DSM, recognition is on the cusp of change.

As a funeral practitioner, I have seen a significant number of my clients; lose their jobs because they could not bring themselves to return to work after only 3 days of bereavement leave. These clients suffered significant losses of either their spouse or their child. Losses one would naturally expect would take more than three days from which to recover. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) established in 1993, provides for up to 12 weeks unpaid leave per year for employees to address serious health conditions, care for a newborn or adopted child, recovery from illness, or care for a sick family member. It fails to recognize even one day for recovery from familial loss.

Familial loss inflicts a severe wound to one's soul. The psychological effects of such trauma can be devastating, and if left untreated or unresolved, may progress into a debilitating illness. The ensuing illness may manifest itself in mental and/or physical ailments. At this juncture, the FMLA may become applicable, as the survivor potentially qualifies for leave under personal serious illness.  Isn’t it sad, however, that survivors suffer grief to such a serious level, when it could have been treated early on, possibly preventing other illnesses from manifesting themselves. Even with treatment to these new illnesses, the underlying cause remains unaddressed and may, therefore, continue to cause poor and degenerating health.

During the Victorian Era, families wore black for one full year after the loss of a significant loved one. In so doing, they were notifying others that they were in a state of grief, that they would be functioning at a lower than anticipated level of competency, that they might be inexplicably melancholy and that they might require kindness and consideration during their daily activities and responsibilities. The Victorians automatically allowed considerations for the bereaved, yet in modern society, we barely recognize it as significant. Perhaps the identification of “Prolonged Grief Disorder” by the DSM will bring new awareness, research, recognition and treatment for those who suffer the catastrophic effects of complicated grief.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on 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/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Grief Brief 42 - Traditions

Traditions are 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.  


My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on 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/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.