Friday, January 24, 2014

Coping With the Death of a Child...

My husband has been on thousands of death calls over the years, but if you ask him what calls are the most difficult, he will tell you--it's when he has to face parents who have lost a child. No matter what the age, or circumstances, these are the most heart wrenching moments for him as a Funeral Director. Being a parent, it's hard to imagine how we would deal with the death of one of our children.  It's truly every parent's worst nightmare. Whether it's an infant death, young child, teenager, or even an adult child in their 20's or 30's...parents have a difficult time dealing with the reality that they will outlive their child.  It is truly heartbreaking for any parent who has walked this path.

Remember that those who have lost a child never really "get over" that loss.  We can't expect them to! If you know someone struggling, just be there for them, listen, offer your support, and most of all, don't be afraid to mention the child they lost!  Most parents are more than happy to share stories or memories, or to talk about their child they lost too soon.  It gives them comfort that they haven't been forgotten or ignored, and could be just the thing that helps them to heal most! I was reading an article recently on, by Carol Staudacher, and I wanted to share that article here in hopes that it would help those who are grieving the loss of a child, or know someone who is.

When a Child Dies:
Surviving the Death of Dreams 
By:  Carol Staudacher

"It's not supposed to be this way," the mother of a dying teenager cried. "I wasn't meant to live longer than my daughter. But now I have to."
How do you survive the death of your child? As a parent, you're supposed to be the provider, the nurturer, the protector, the mentor, the guide. You invest love and hope and certain beliefs in your son or daughter. But most of all, you do not outlive your child.
When tragedy strikes and you do bury a child, you're faced with reconstructing a life that has been suddenly robbed of its parental responsibilities and joys. The source of a certain kind of reciprocal love in your life is now absent. Your child may have loved openly or buoyantly, or been reserved and quietly affectionate. He or she may have been a typical teenager--aloof, moody, even a bit defiant, loving reluctantly. Your adult child may have doubled in the role of your sister, brother, friend, or caregiver. In any case, the place you reserved in the center of your heart and soul for your unique son or daughter is now aching.
Parents who lose a child to miscarriage or infant death experience a different, wrenching loss--often made more painful by people's awkward efforts to suggest that the brevity of a child's life should limit the extent of grief. But parental bonds begin with the dreams and hopes we carry for our unborn children. You probably enjoyed months of anticipation. You may have set up a nursery, had showers, enjoyed the eagerness of potential grandparents. For you and all who shared your joy, the loss and grief are very real.
Regardless of the age of the child, when you lose a son or daughter, part of your self is gone. In the case of mothers, part of your physical self is gone--the body that grew and quickened within you. For both fathers and mothers, your sense of family has undergone severe change. There are hopes to abandon, expectations to dismiss, and a whole array of profound emotional responses that both confuse and weaken the strongest and most determined of adult survivors.
Often parents have severe feelings of anger directed at others they see as having some direct responsibility for their son or daughter's death. These may include members of the medical community, relatives, the child's friends, even organizations or institutions.
It's crucial to talk about your strongest emotions with someone you trust. Avoid friends and relatives who do not have the capacity to acknowledge your feelings of despair, sadness, longing, regret--or even guilt. You do not have any obligation to listen to someone tell you that you are lucky because you have other children, or that you can get pregnant again, or that there must be some way your child's accident was "part of God's plan," or that your child's illness could have been cured or averted. You have lost your child, and you need to talk to others who have done the same, those whose pain parallels yours, whose understanding will be deep and supportive.
You can find groups for grieving parents by contacting the pastoral care office of the largest hospital near you or by inquiring at the closest hospice. They should be able to direct you to local, specialized support, such as a group for women surviving neonatal death, or for parents surviving the loss of a child to AIDS. Consult the "resources" attached to this article for other national organizations that are likely to have local chapters in your area.
There will be times when you feel especially fragmented, as if the challenge of getting through the day is beyond your capabilities or beyond your desire. When you feel this way, let your heart dictate your direction. Rest and reflect and allow your feelings to come forth without censoring or resisting them. Don't hold back tears. It's not just a myth that crying makes you feel better--it actually does.
During these times of release and reflection, you might begin a project you can work on quietly, slowly, and lovingly--a scrapbook of photos, a letter or poem to your daughter, a piece of prose that describes your son--emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually. Describe everything he meant to others, everything he achieved in his life. You may tape-record your own memories or experiences. Some parents have pieced together clips from their videos and those of friends or relatives to make a composite of their child's life.
More than anything, follow your own lead, do what allows you some relief. If you need to tell your story over and over, seek out those who will listen. If you need to reflect upon your child's life, privately and for great lengths of time, then indulge yourself in solitude.
When you begin to regain some degree of peace and strength, consider contributing some part of yourself--your knowledge, affection, or skills--to a child or an adult in need, someone who could experience self worth as a result of your attention, guidance, and kindness.
Regardless of the brevity of your child's life, you can build a legacy out of the love you hold by allowing it to spill over into the lives of those you don't even know yet. As one mother put it, "You can gather the love you have and use it to lighten the darkened spirit of a neglected child who has never been the source of anyone's pride."
Whether or not you choose to put your grief into action in this way will be just one of the choices you consider as you work to reshape your future. Regardless of the direction you choose, you'll continue to tap those same powerful resources that helped you to this point. "Surviving his death has brought me this far," a young father said, "now I owe it to my son to go forward with as much perseverance and vision as possible." Trust yourself to do the same, to follow the path that honors your heart.
*Carol Staudacher is an author and grief educator whose regular column for Beliefnet focuses on the adult grieving process. Her books include "Men and Grief" and "Beyond Grief: A Guide for Recovering From the Death of a Loved One".  Click HERE to go to this article on the website.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New at our Mesa Location! Grief Support Services

Grief is a natural part of life when someone we love dies.  Finding your way through the changes often causes painful emotions to arise during the days, weeks, months, and years that follow a death.  You don't have to go through this difficult process alone.

At Legacy Funeral Home, we are proud to partner with Rick Wesley, MSW, and Aegis Hospice to offer a Bereavement Support Group.  These support groups offer community members the opportunity to:

*Manage Your Loss
*Understand Grief and Recovery
*Cope with Change
*Express Your Feelings
*Receive Support
*Develop New Insights
*Share with Others who Understand Your Loss

Please join us!  The group will be held the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month.  We will begin at 6 p.m. and refreshments will be served.  The group will meet at Legacy Funeral Home Mesa, located at 1722 N. Banning St. Mesa, AZ 85205.  Legacy Mesa is located south of McKellips between Indigo and Ingram Street turning west off of Higley Road.

No registration is required.  For questions, please call Rick Wesley, MSW at 480-219-4790, or email for further information.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dealing With Grief During the Holiday Season...

Today's post comes from an article written by Amy Goyer on the AARP website.  She covers the difficult topic of dealing with the loss of a loved one during the holiday season.  For many this year, and every year, the holiday season will bring thoughts of grief and pain as they remember a loved one who passed during the year.  Amy gives some ideas about how to cope with the grief, and help you find some comfort during the holidays.  
Grieving the loss of a loved one is a deep and difficult challenge at any time. But the holiday season can magnify your sense of loss and mourning. Family gatherings and seasonal events can be painful reminders of the absence of a loved one. At the same time, they can also be comforting rituals where you spend time with family and friends, focusing on good memories and trying to recapture your sense of joy. If you are mourning a loss of a loved one this year, here are some important things to keep in mind.

1. Only do what feels right. It's up to you to decide which activities, traditions or events you can handle. Don't feel obligated to participate in anything that doesn't feel doable. Grieving takes time. You are very vulnerable right now, so all you need to do is get through the day or week or season — in a healthy way. Try not to think much beyond that.
2. Accept your feelings — whatever they might be. Everyone takes his or her own path in grief and mourning. Some may try to avoid sad feelings; others will be bathed in tears. Some feel bad that they aren't up for enjoying a holiday; others feel guilt because they are feeling joy. However you feel, accept it. And accept the inevitable ups and downs: You may feel peaceful one moment and gut-wrenchingly sad the next. Try to stay in tune with your own highest truth and you will know how to get through the holiday without judging yourself or others.
3. Call on your family and friends. Talk with loved ones about your emotions. Be honest about how you'd like to do things this year — if you want to talk about those who have passed, then do so, and let others know it's OK. Take a buddy to events for support and create an "escape plan" together in case you need to bow out quickly. Read books about getting through the holidays after loss, and seek out support groups, lectures or faith-community events. Seek professional support from a therapist. Stay in touch with others who are grieving via online groups and connections with friends.
4. Focus on the kids. Many holidays place special attention on children, and it often helps to focus on their needs. Realize that your choices around getting through the holidays may affect the children in your family. If you withdraw, they may not understand why you don't want to join family festivities. Perhaps you can participate in the family rituals or gatherings that are most important to the kids, and excuse yourself when you reach your limit

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Legacy Funeral Home--Sun City

Legacy Funeral Home is happy to finally have our own freestanding building in the West Valley! We have been out in Peoria for a year, but we were leasing a small space until we could find the perfect home.  We found it about a mile away in Sun City, on the North West Corner of 107th Ave. and Peoria Ave. The new location is up and running, construction has ceased (thanks to those who had to put up with the noise and hammering while we finished the remodel).  We couldn't be happier with the new building, and the opportunity it gives us to provide our customers with better services.  We wanted to share some pictures of our new location:
The outside of the Funeral Home with the traditional brick exterior, and beautiful tall white arches gives it a traditional, welcoming feel.  We have a large parking lot, that can accommodate those larger services.
Entrance, looking right, toward our chapel.  We found this beautiful metal "family tree" that matches our logo tree.  On the wall is our motto:  "Honoring a life well lived, and the Legacy left behind."

Our lobby is warm and inviting, with beautiful artwork, comfortable traditional furniture and gorgeous warm colors.  You will feel right at home.

Our coffee room, or kitchen area is perfect for enjoying a nice cup of coffee, or a treat during your visit to our funeral home.  This area can also be used for serving refreshments, or drinks during or after viewings or funeral services.  There is room for 10 people to sit comfortably.
Our beautiful handmade custom florals, add rich colors and bring the decor together.

 Our chapel can accommodate both large gatherings, and smaller more intimate services.  We can fit up to 100 people for any funeral or memorial service. The rich colors, and dark wood blinds along with the elegant, beautiful draperies and floral sconces, make our chapel the perfect place for your family to gather and remember your loved one.

Feel free to stop by at any time and see our new building.  We welcome anyone in the neighborhood to come on by anytime and we would be happy to show you around. We are open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.--Saturday and Sunday by appointment only.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Never too Old to Stop Learning...

I had the opportunity again this week to tag along with my husband as he performed a funeral for a family in Lodi, California. It amazes me that even though Todd has done thousands of funerals, you would think that this was among the first by the care and attention given to the family.  He really has a way of making them feel at ease, even in the worst time of their lives.  I watched him as he interacted with this particular family, who was seeing their mom and grandma for the first time, as she had died in Arizona, and these relatives lived up in Northern California where their loved one was to be buried.  He talked with them about how beautiful she was, how she looked so peaceful, and even happy.  She just looked to be sleeping, at rest, and at peace. One of the relatives came to the funeral quite distraught, but then saw Todd standing there, and because he knew him from another service he did for someone else in the family, he felt comfortable enough to come over to Todd and embrace him and cry on his shoulder for quite some time. As I sat and watched him, I knew that this is where my husband is supposed to be.  This is where he is meant to spend his days, and sometimes his nights.  This is his calling in life, to help, to comfort, to guide people as they find their way through this difficult time.  He has a gift of healing, and a way with people. Even though being married to a funeral director is difficult at times, as the profession is very physically, mentally, and emotionally draining, I know that families love him, and appreciate the care and attention he provides each of them. It is a demanding profession, but one that gives so much back in the way of satisfaction, for both of us.

It is fascinating to me how each funeral service is different, yet similar in its own way.  It doesn't matter what religion people belong to, or even if there is no religion at all, the underlying purpose of the funeral service is always to bring hope and healing to an otherwise dreary situation.  At this particular service, I had the pleasure of listening to Pastor Steve deliver a beautiful and powerful sermon about hope and human nature.  He talked about how as humans, we are imperfect beings.  Our human nature sometimes causes us to falter, and many times we fall short and are not our best selves.  He talked about how we need to forgive, and be patient and kind and loving to each other.  He talked about how sometimes, it takes something like the death of a loved one to bring people together, and bring about the circumstance where we can finally forgive and fully love another person. Isn't that sad that sometimes we don't realize how deeply we feel about a person until they're gone? So many people have regrets that they needn't have at the death of a loved one.  He also shared something that another Pastor had told him as a boy, and something that he had remembered, and kept with him all of his life.  He said it was one of the most important life lessons he had ever learned.  That lesson was this:

"If people KNEW better, they would probably DO better, but most people don't KNOW better."

His point was, that as we go through life, often we judge people harshly because of their actions toward us or someone close to us.  Sometimes, these actions can be hurtful, or just plain ignorant, but if we can think about, and apply the saying above, it could help us to stop judging, stop being offended, stop being frustrated with people, and just LOVE them despite their flaws.  Human nature is such that we are all flawed.  Whether we realize it or not, if we take opportunities to judge people harshly--we better be prepared to be judged the same way by others.  On the same note, if we are forgiving and loving toward others, that type of treatment will be returned ten fold in the way others treat us.  Life is hard, and none of us know how long we really have to live here on this earth.  It seems to me that the more time we spend being judgmental, harsh, and unforgiving, the less time we leave ourselves to really LIVE, and after all, isn't that what we're all here to do?  His sermon reminded me of one of my very favorite quotes from Maya Angelou:

“I've learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life. I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life." I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one. I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I've learned that I still have a lot to learn. I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

I've learned that we never get too old to stop learning.  Thank you Pastor Steve, for teaching me another fabulous life lesson, at a funeral of all places.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sun City Funeral Home GRAND OPENING!

We are proud to announce that our new Legacy Sun City location is up and running!  We will be holding an Ice Cream Social to celebrate the Grand Opening of our beautiful new building on Wednesday, May 15, and Thursday, May 16 from 3-6:30 p.m.. Anyone in the community is invited to come on out, enjoy an ice cream cone, and take a look around.  We are located at 10702 W. Peoria Ave. in Sun City.  We are on the North West Corner of 107th Ave. and Peoria Ave.  Come celebrate with us!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Healing after the loss of a spouse...

For today's post, I found an article written by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, dealing with how to heal after the loss of a spouse. Few things in life are harder than losing someone that you love.  Whether the death was sudden, or more gradual in the case of a terminal illness, it is never easy to lose a spouse.  I hope that these suggestions can help you on your road to healing and comfort you in your loss.  The most important thing to remember is that your journey is unique.  No one grieves in the same way.  Be patient with yourself, and give yourself time to grieve and heal.  Each day will be better than the last.

Helping Yourself Heal When Your Spouse Dies

Few events in life are as painful as the death of your spouse. You may be uncertain you will survive this overwhelming loss. At times, you may be uncertain you even have the energy or desire to try to heal.
You are beginning a journey that is often frightening, overwhelming and sometimes lonely. This article provides practical suggestions to help you move toward healing in your personal grief experience.

Allow Yourself to Mourn

Your husband or wife has died. This was your companion, the person you shared your life with. If right now you are not sure of who you are, and you feel confused, that is appropriate because you have lost a part of yourself. When you experience the death of someone you love, live with, and depend on, feeling disoriented is natural.
You are now faced with the difficult but important need to mourn. Mourning is the open expression of your thoughts and feelings regarding the death of your spouse. It is an essential part of healing.

Recognize Your Grief is Unique

Your grief is unique because no one else had the same relationship you had with your spouse. Your experience will also be influenced by the circumstances surrounding the death, other losses you have experienced, your emotional support system and your cultural and religious background.
As a result, you will grieve in your own special way. Don't try to compare your experience with that of others or to adopt assumptions about just how long your grief should last. Consider taking a "one-day-at-a-time" approach that allows you to grieve at your own pace.

Talk Out Your Thought and Feelings

Express your grief openly. When you share your grief outside yourself, healing occurs. Allow yourself to talk about the circumstances of the death, your feelings of loss and loneliness, and the special things you miss about your spouse. Talk about the type of person your husband or wife was, activities that you enjoyed together, and memories that bring both laughter and tears.
Whatever you do, don't ignore your grief. You have been wounded by this loss, and your wound needs to be attended to. Allow yourself to speak from your heart, not just your head. Doing so doesn't mean you are losing control, or going "crazy." It is a normal part of your grief journey.

Expect to Feel a Multitude of Emotions

Experiencing the death of your spouse affects your head, heart and spirit, so you may experience a variety of emotions as part of your grief work. It is called work because it takes a great deal of energy and effort to heal. Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt, relief and anger are just a few of the emotions you may feel. Sometimes these emotions will follow each other within a short period of time. Or they may occur simultaneously.
As strange as some of these emotions may seem, they are normal and healthy. Allow yourself to learn from these feelings. And don't be surprised if out of nowhere you suddenly experience surges of grief, even at the most unexpected times. These grief attacks can be frightening and leave you feeling overwhelmed. They are, however, a natural response to the death of someone loved. Find someone who understands your feelings and will allow you to talk about them.

Find a Support System

Reaching out to others and accepting support is often difficult, particularly when you hurt so much. But the most compassionate self-action you can take at this difficult time is to find a support system of caring friends and relatives who will provide the understanding you need. Seek out those persons who will "walk with," not "in front of" or "behind" you in your journey through grief. Find out if there is a support group in your area that you might want to attend. There is no substitute for learning from other persons who have experienced the death of their spouse.
Avoid people who are critical or who try to steal your grief from you. They may tell you "time heals all wounds" or "you will get over it" or "keep your chin up." While these comments may be well-intended, you do not have to accept them. Find those people who encourage you to be yourself and acknowledge your feelings-both happy and sad. You have a right to express your grief; no one has the right to take it away.

Be tolerant of Your Physical and Emotional Limits

Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you fatigued. Your ability to think clearly and make decisions may be impaired. And your low energy level may naturally slow you down. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. Lighten your schedule as much as possible.
Ask yourself: Am I treating myself better or worse than I would treat a good friend? Am I being too hard on myself? You may think you should be more capable, more in control, and "getting over" your grief. These are inappropriate expectations and may complicate your healing. Think of it this way: caring for yourself doesn't mean feeling sorry for yourself; it means you are using your survival skills.

Take Your Time With Your Spouse's Personal Belongings

You, and only you, should decide what is done when with your spouse's clothes and personal belongings. Don't force yourself to go through these things until you are ready to. Take your time. Right now you may not have the energy or desire to do anything with them.
Remember that some people may try to measure your healing by how quickly they can get you to do something with these belongings. Don't let them make decisions for you. It isn't hurting anything to leave your spouse's belongings right where they are for now. Odds are, when you have the energy to go through them you will. Again, only you should determine when the time is right for you.

Be Compassionate With Yourself During Holidays, Anniversaries and Special Occasions

You will probably find that some days make you miss your spouse more than others. Days and events that held special meaning for you as a couple, such as your birthday, your spouse's birthday, your wedding anniversary or holidays, may be more difficult to go through by yourself.
These events emphasize the absence of your husband or wife. The reawakening of painful emotions may leave you feeling drained. Learn from these feelings and never try to take away the hurt. If you belong to a support group, perhaps you can have a special friend stay in close contact with you during these naturally difficult days.

Treasure Your Memories

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after your spouse dies. Treasure those memories that comfort you, but also explore those that may trouble you. Even difficult memories find healing in expression. Share memories with those who listen well and support you. Recognize that your memories may make you laugh or cry. In either case, they are a lasting part of the relationship you had with a very special person in your life.
You may also find comfort in finding a way to commemorate your spouse's life. If your spouse liked nature, plant a tree you know he or she would have liked. If your spouse liked a certain piece of music, play it often while you embrace some of your favorite memories. Or, you may want to create a memory book of photos that portray your life together as a couple. Remember-healing in grief doesn't mean forgetting your spouse and the life you shared together.

Embrace Your Spirituality

If faith is part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you are angry at God because your spouse died, accept this feeling as a normal part of your grief work. Find someone to talk with who won't be critical of whatever thoughts and feelings you need to explore.
You may hear someone say, "With faith, you don't need to grieve." Don't believe it. Having your personal faith does not mean you don't have to talk out and explore your thought and feelings. To deny your grief is to invite problems to build up inside you. Express your faith, but express your grief as well.

Move Toward Your Grief and Heal

Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself. Be compassionate with yourself as you work to relinquish old roles and establish new ones. No, your life isn't the same, but you deserve to go on living while always remembering the one you loved.