There comes a time after you have lost a loved one that others want you to move on.  Some think it is unhealthy for you to continue grieving over someone who is gone.  Although misguided, at least these people have your best interest at heart.  Others are just uncomfortable with death and want you to get over it as you would a cold or the flu.  They want you to put it away in a neat little box so that they do not have to be inconvenienced or uncomfortable whenever they see you. This subject begs the question “Is there a time to move on.”

 It is important to realize that you are the authority on the subject of your recovery timeline.  No one can, nor should tell you how and when to feel better, when to get over it, or when to move on.  No one except you had your experiences with the deceased.  No one can possibly understand the depth of your experiences with the deceased.  No one knows your ability to overcome the loneliness and sometimes fear associated with your loss.  At times, you may even feel anger.  Anger at the deceased for leaving you alone, anger at yourself for something you did or did not do before they were gone, anger at others for something they did or did not do.  Feelings of anger are natural and are quite often followed by feelings of guilt.  Guilt can be destructive because it can damage self-esteem.  On the other hand, it can be motivating in that it may encourage you not to repeat such actions ever again.  Most often though, guilt feelings are actually feelings of regret.  If you realize that your guilt is actually regret, your self-esteem may recover more easily. 
If you have a friend or loved one pushing you to move on,  analyze their motives.  If their motives are purely in your best interest, take an objective look at your situation.  Has your grief become debilitating for an extended amount of time?  If so, it may be time to seek out a source for counseling.  Debilitating grief is called complicated grief.  Once things have become complicated, it might be advantageous to have someone help you regain order in your life.  Remember, the death of a loved one requires a completely new structure in your functionality.  It may take quite some time for you to adjust to your new requirements in life.  Statistically, it takes on average, 3 years for a widow to recover to a comparable level of functionality after the death of her husband.  Unfortunately, for a widower, the outlook is a little bleaker.
The most important things to remember are that you will never forget your loved one, you will never stop loving your loved one, and you will never replace your loved one.  There will most likely come a time when you will be able to overcome the devastation of your loss.  A time when you will be able to function in your daily activities without crying or withdrawing.  Nevertheless, when you love someone, they are forever a part of your existence. 
In other words, we never move on, we simply live on.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author, and freelance writer.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

Please follow my blog at and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my website or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies”  for additional encouragement and information.

Often times, when you experience the loss of a significant loved one, you feel as though you are dreaming, and that you might suddenly wake up to find that all is well. This past week, I have had two clients tell me that the passing of their loved one did not feel real to them. They were both surprised when I told them, that what they were experiencing was normal.
When you experience such a devastating loss, your body will react in such a way, that you may feel as though you are dreaming. Perhaps you feel as though the life you are living is not your own. This reaction is a safety mechanism that protects your psychological and physical well-being. If our bodies did not do this for us, the pain of such a significant loss would be too much to bear, and we might possibly perish ourselves.
The numbing of our senses, allows us to get through the immediate pain of our loss, without a complete void in our functionality. It is incumbent on us to make important decisions at this time, and we would not be able to do so, if the pain were not somehow masked. The realization of your loss, will manifest itself soon enough, and your loss and loneliness may significantly hamper your functionality for quite some time. Realizing that all of this is very normal, may help you to accept the loss, and focus on recovery.
Recovery from a loved one’s loss is difficult, and may be lengthy. Take the time to appreciate your loved one, and the joy and enrichment they brought into your life while they were living. Grief can be difficult to overcome, and it never completely goes away. Grief is the price we pay for love. You will never stop loving your loved one, so you will never stop grieving. With time however, life will get easier and return to some level of normality.
It is important to remember, that you still have others in your life, that need and deserve your love. Love brings joy back into our lives. Embrace the love you have for those around you, and allow them to help you overcome the pain you are experiencing. Although you will continue to grieve your loss, loving others will help your recovery.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a funeral director, author, and freelance writer. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.

Please follow my blog at and Twitter account @PushnUpDaisies, visit my website or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies” for additional encouragement and information.

I often hear people refer to a teenager’s poor behavior as a phase. Somehow, this interpretation or usage of the word lessens its true application. A phase as described in the dictionary is a process of change or development. This true meaning of “phase” is exactly what we are describing in the Phases of Mourning. Each phase as it is accomplished brings the survivor back to a balance in life. It allows joy, peace, and tranquility to return. It reestablishes harmony and allows functionality to exist within the survivor’s life.

Mourning is divided into four phases.

Phase 1
- A period of numbness. Numbness is the deprivation of physical or emotional sensations. The numbness experienced by most survivors, helps them to disregard that death has occurred. This short period of numbness allows them to function in a manner close to their normal level of productivity. This is particularly noteworthy, as there are very important decisions to make at this time.

Phase 2 - A period of yearning. The survivor yearns for the return of the deceased and does not yet comprehend the permanence of this new reality. Anger is generally experienced during this phase. Anger may be directed at the deceased for not being there to help out, or for inflicting loneliness and pain upon the survivor. Anger may also be directed at others for not doing something to prevent the death of the deceased. It may also be projected upon others or self, for non-factually based perceptions, affecting the cause of death. Anger is a powerful and motivating emotion. It is not always factually based.

Phase 3 - A time of disorganization and despair. The survivor is learning that things are not the same. They find it difficult to function as they once did. Each experience that was once a cooperative effort is now their sole responsibility. This is the most crucial phase of the experience to overcome. If a survivor is unable to move beyond this phase, they are in danger of entering severe depression and recovery may become extremely complicated.

Phase 4 - A reorganization of behavior. In this phase of mourning, we see the survivor change all aspects of their existence. They pull their lives together and begin to function at their normal capacity, albeit alone.

Although life has forever changed, if a survivor passes through each of these phases successfully, grief recovery will be clinically completed. They should be able to satisfactorily accomplish their daily activities and eventually participate in social activities with greater ease.

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 and Twitter account @PushnUpDaisies, visit my website or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies” for additional encouragement and information.

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. 

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. 

Strategies for Marital Bliss

Prior to our marriage, my husband had been married once before.  After his first marriage failed, he developed a strategy for marital bliss that he faithfully applies to our marriage.  The first rule in his “Strategies for Marital Bliss” is, “Never go to bed angry, upset or annoyed at your spouse.”  Seems simple enough, unless, of course, one has ever been married.  Through the years, however, anger, discontent and annoyance have never been a significant problem for us.  The reason, I imagine is directly related to his second strategy for marital bliss.

During the 1960’s, the “flower children” coined a phrase, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.”  My husband’s second strategy for marital bliss is in direct conflict with this philosophy.  His second strategy is “Regardless of fault; love rushes to say sorry, first.”

My husband’s “Strategies for Marital Bliss” actually apply to every relationship between human beings.  Whether you are sweethearts, siblings, relatives, co-workers or acquaintances, you should seriously consider incorporating his rules, into every relationship in which you participate.  While it is true that none of us is perfect, at the moment of death, imperfection is frozen.  Death robs the living of the opportunity for simple resolution and blocks the comfort of peace.

These lost opportunities for resolution and peace are unfortunate indeed.  This undesirable state of affairs creates years of complicated grief for the bereaved survivor.  The depth of stress brought on by this situation can lead to serious ailments.  My best advice is to follow my husband’s “Strategies for Marital Bliss” in one’s everyday interactions and in every relationship in which one engages.

If one finds that he or she is at odds with a loved one, or with anyone for that matter, try to incorporate my husband’s strategies into the relationship.  Even in the worst of circumstances, clearing one’s own slate of any blame, will in the end, clear one’s conscious.  I am certainly not advocating that a victim apologize to a perpetrator for any abuse or crime inflicted upon them.  What I am suggesting, is that you try to forgive.  Forgiveness will bring you the most comfort possible.  Do not continue the cycle of victimization at your own hands.  Do what is best for you, by releasing the negative stresses of anger and hate. 

Once a death has occurred, victims become the unexpected losers, giving the obnoxious or abusive acquaintance, indefinite power over them.  Due to their own inability to resolve their lives, the victim has perpetuated the negative control that will hamper their recovery until they are able to effect resolution within themselves.  This is an extremely difficult feat to accomplish.  Turn your woes into a winning scenario; deal with the abuse while your abuser remains living.  Clear your life of them and their negative control over your happiness. 

In the case of a failed marriage, no matter who is at fault, both parties lose.  The same is true in life and death.  Do not rob yourself of peace, do not rob yourself of happiness and certainly, do not rob yourself of bliss.  Follow my husband’s strategies; take care of unfinished business today before your head hits the pillow.  Your life will be better for it.

Grief's Physical Pain

Grief manifests itself in many painful facets.  There is emotional pain, psychological pain, spiritual pain, the pain of loneliness, the pain of sadness and even physical pain.  Physical pain is very often brought on through continued avoidance of the grief experience.

Not everyone suffers the same amount or type of pain once a loved one dies.  The pain intensity is usually predicated on the level of attachment the survivor experiences with the deceased.  It is nearly impossible, however, to avoid a painful experience at the loss of someone with whom you shared an attachment.  Of important note, the deceased need not be a loved one to feel pain at his or her passing. 

When I was a young woman, I joined a large corporation in a secretarial capacity.  It was not long after I began working there that one of the district managers died.  Although I worked in a different office building, and had only seen this man at regional meetings, I was affected by his loss.  My attachment to the company included this man as an integral part of my newly acquired associated network. I pondered my pain at his loss for many years, and truly did not understand it until I entered funeral service.  Although, I did not know him very well at all, our work overlapped.  I relied on his reports to compose my reports.  I had an attachment to him because I had a reliance on his work.  His passing created a structural defect in the security of my newly acquired income.  The stress, though short lived, was very unnerving. 

If grief is left unresolved or ignored, it will eventually surface in one’s life as physical ailments.  Grief shifts into medical conditions as an underlying cause.  If you find that you are developing unexplained physical or mental conditions, you might discover that if you will address your grief issues, your other conditions might actually resolve themselves.  Grief affects the body and soul the same way stress does.  If you continue to ignore your grief, other conditions will develop that are avoidable by allowing the pain of grief to present itself and working through it.

I hope that if you have experienced unresolved grief that you will find the courage to face it and overcome the ill effects it creates within your physical and mental health.  If you can muster up the courage to do it, you and those around you will benefit immensely.  Your health will be better, and your life will be better too.

Embalming, Scientific Process

Embalming is a scientific process that serves one purpose over its many others.  That purpose is to prolong a decedent’s presentational integrity, or in other words, to delay decomposition of the dead for a brief period of time.

 As a funeral practitioner, I am often asked about embalming.  Some clients want to know what it entails scientifically; some are spiritually concerned, while others have a morbid interest in the details.

“Except in certain special cases, embalming is not required by law…”  (Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Funeral Rule, Disclosure No. 2)  This statement begs the question, “What are the certain special cases and do they apply to my loved one?”  Embalming is not required if a loved one is going to be cremated or buried without services, as in Direct Cremation or Immediate Burial.  Services include viewings, visitations, funerals and graveside services where the body will be available for others to see.  Without embalming, the body may not be present at any type of service where the public may be exposed to it.  In some cases, a family may choose to have a visitation with a closed casket or a funeral with a closed casket, and in these cases, embalming may not be required.

Generally, without embalming, the service must take place within 24 hours of death.  There are extenuating circumstances, however.  If your loved one were brutally murdered and sent for autopsy, the funeral home would not have your loved one for a number of days.  Quite often, brutal murders negate the opportunity for viewing due to extensive damage to the deceased, rendering the body unembalmable.  The family may still have a visitation and funeral with the body present with the added services of refrigeration and Mylar encasement.  Viewing, however will not be lawful or possible. 

Embalming does not extend the decedent’s presentational integrity indefinitely.  Although decomposition has been chemically impeded, it has not been stopped; it merely continues to decompose on a slower schedule.  How long the decedent’s presentational integrity is preserved is dependent on a multitude of factors.  The condition of the body at death, the illnesses suffered by the deceased and the span of time between death and embalming.  In most cases, if the body is in good condition before embalming and if embalming takes place within a few hours of death, the decedent’s presentational integrity is extended for three to five days.  If additional time is required and your embalmer is pro-actively working on the body daily, eight days may be possible.  In rare cases, if the embalmer is diligently exercising restorative measures, one might be able to press an additional day or two more.

Funeral Practitioners are trained in the arts of restoration, however, if a deceased individual were brutally murdered, even restoration may not be what the family wants to see.  If you ever suffer such a tragic experience, discuss it as openly as possible with your funeral practitioner, they will be honest about the esthetic possibilities of the restorative work.

Embalming is required with any funeral that includes services where the casket may be opened.  Other situations requiring embalming are those that require transportation of the body.  In some states and counties across America, a body may not be transported across county or state borders without embalming.  Air travel and dangerous or contagious diseases also require embalming.

Dying from a Broken Heart

Many have said, “She died of a broken heart.”  Seriously, is it possible to die from a broken heart? 

Grief creates a mountain of stress and sorrow.  Once we have lost a significant loved one, our world is suddenly no longer, as it was, and never will be again.  The happiness, security and love we enjoyed yesterday have slipped away, and we are left to reconstruct our existence without the assistance and companionship of our loved one. 

Studies show that, after one year of bereavement, 13% of survivors suffer from panic disorders and 39% suffer from anxiety.  Of those suffering anxiety disorders, 55% also suffer from depression.  Once a survivor enters into a state of depression, an open door invites other debilitating stressors to take root.

Grief should not be taken lightly.  Some people might think, after a period of time, we should return to our normal selves.  One hopes this is the case; however, not everyone passes through grief so smoothly.  In fact, you may pass through one grief experience quite smoothly, yet suffer greatly from another.

When we think of grief, we associate depression as the culprit that interferes with our recovery.  We should not, however, discredit the ravages of loneliness on one’s ability to return to a healthy state of mind and physical health.  Loneliness severely attacks the functionality of our immune system.  If one already suffers from autoimmune disease, precautionary measures should be explored with their physician. 

Persons suffering loneliness are more susceptible to increased inflammation in the body, atherosclerosis, learning and memory problems, higher rates of cancer, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and viral invaders.  (Biological Effects of Loneliness, Cacioppo)  Typical loneliness is experienced when one is temporarily isolated from what is normal and comfortable.  An example of typical loneliness might be experienced when one begins a new job, starts college or moves to a new town.  Typically, feelings of loneliness subside by themselves within six months or less.  Loneliness associated with death is not typical.  Death is not a temporary reality; it is a permanent one.  When loneliness becomes chronic, it moves into isolation.  Isolation negatively affects humans psychologically and physiologically.  This affect can be severe, yet has a rather simple remedy. 

In his study “Biological Effects of Loneliness,” Cacioppo discovered that there are two profound methods for recovery from loneliness.  The first is to retrain the survivor’s social abilities and skills, and the second is to reintroduce them into social activities.  It seems the less social we are, the more socially inept we become.  Bringing people together to share good times should be familiar and comforting to the survivor.  Small gatherings of close friends might be the best method of social reintroduction.  As the survivor rediscovers the benefits of socialization and becomes stronger and more comfortable, small social gatherings will eventually graduate into social events. 

If you find that someone you care for has become isolated after suffering the loss of a loved one, earnestly seek him or her out.  A visit once each week will not kill you, but it might very well be the beginning of their recovery from life threatening isolation, and debilitating loneliness. 

Is it possible to die from a broken heart?  I believe it might be.