Monday, February 25, 2013

The Grieving Child...

Today's blog post comes from an article I read recently on the website for the Focus on the Family organization.  I have found several relevant articles on this website for dealing with children who are grieving, and also dealing with grief yourself.  You can see this article, and link to others with the same subject, HERE.  At Legacy Funeral Home, we want to help you to guide your children through the healing process, and give them the comfort they need during this difficult time.  Please let us know if we can help you in any way.

How to Help Your Child Grieve

Grandpa Joe has terminal cancer. Great-aunt Susie is in the nursing home hospital ward. Your child's classmate just died in a car accident. Terrorist attacks and reports of wars fill the evening news …

Death is an ever-present fact of life, yet even adults face it only with difficulty. Here are some tips to help your children through the grieving process.
  • Teach that death is part of life. Parents often avoid talking about death in an effort to protect children from unpleasantness. Instead, look for teachable moments. Wilting flowers, changing seasons or the death of a family pet provides an opportunity to show death as a part of life. Visit elderly friends or relatives to show children that aging is normal. Children will accept and confront death if adults allow it.
  • Be honest. Present the information in a straightforward manner with age-appropriate information by explaining, "Granddad died last night." Avoid saying, "He went to sleep" or "He's gone away." These terms leave children wondering if they will die when they go to sleep or if the person is coming back.
  • Don't delay telling about a death. Delaying can do more harm than good. If you wait, someone else may tell your child or he will overhear it in conversation. Learning the news from you is less frightening.
  • Answer questions. Some children are satisfied with the facts. Others will ask a multitude of questions. Allow questions and answer them, even admitting when you don't have the answer.
  • Recognize fears. Death can be a scary concept for children. If your child expresses fear about seeing the body or going to the funeral, don't force the issue. Comfort and reassure your child following a death of somebody he knows.
  • Let them see you grieve. Children need to know that grieving is acceptable. Allow children to see you cry. Emotional pain is part of losing a loved one.
  • Cherish the memories. Continue to talk about the loved one who died. Look through photo albums, talk about funny things the deceased said or reminisce about pleasant experiences.
Children take their cues from us and model their reactions accordingly. Show them that death and grief are parts of life.

Copyright © 2005 Candy Arrington.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

10 Things you didn't know about your Funeral Director...

This post is the first in a series of  "get to know our staff" posts here at Legacy Funeral Home.  When most people think of a "mortician", or a "funeral director", this picture might come to mind:
If you're too young to know who I'm talking about, that's "Lurch" from the old television show "The Addams Family".  This series of posts is meant to show you that nothing could be further from the truth.  Your friendly neighborhood funeral director is just someone like you!  He or she has hobbies, interests, and abilities that don't include death care.  Here are 10 facts you might not know about the Licensed Funeral Director, and Embalmer at our Chandler location, Todd Allen. I know him pretty well, being his wife, so these are the real facts!

1.  Todd comes from a large family of 9 children, 4 boys, and 5 girls.  All of his siblings are now married, and all but two of them live here in the valley of the sun.  In the last family picture we took, there were 45 grandchildren, and still counting!  Now that's a Legacy to be proud of!
Todd with his parents, Bob and Sue and siblings:
 The whole Allen Clan:

2.  Being a Funeral Director wasn't Todd's first choice of profession.  You can say that we happened upon the Funeral profession by chance, I like to think it was meant to be. In high school, Todd worked for Randy Bunker, a friend of the family, in the mortuary business for a short time. While he loved that work, his first choice of a profession was in the medical field.  Todd's father and two of his brothers are doctors.  That was what Todd wanted to be.  It was after failing chemistry a few times, and realizing that medical school would require 30+ more chemistry credits that Todd started to realize he needed to change his plan. He changed his major to Business and Accounting, and was admitted into the Arizona State University College of Business in 1995.  In 1997, when he had finished his Business degree, Mesa Community College announced that it would be piloting a new Mortuary Science Associates Degree program. Todd jumped on the opportunity, and was part of the first graduating class!  Yes, he did get his degrees in reverse order, but we think that his business degree was essential in helping him start and operate funeral homes successfully.  It all worked out with over 15 years in the business, and over 3,000 families served so far. 
Here is Todd with his parents on Graduation day:

3. Todd was a football legend (in his own mind) in high school. Actually, if you talk to those he played with, he really was someone to be reckoned with! Todd played football right here in the valley at Mesa Mountain View High School where he graduated in 1990. Todd was a starting full back on offense, and linebacker on defense.  I can't tell you how many times we have run into people who have said, "I've never been hit as hard as I was by Todd Allen."  At the end of Todd's senior year, he had the most rushing yards in the state until a game where he was injured.  Todd's dad, the team physician, checked him out, and asked him if he was okay, and he could go back into the game.  Todd went back in and played the remainder of the game, but afterward, was in so much pain they went to the emergency room.  It turned out, he had played the entire second half of the game with a broken jaw!  Now that's one tough guy!

4.  Todd loves 80's and 90's era rock music.  His favorite time to listen to the radio is at 10 p.m. on 93.3 FM, when they play "Mandatory Metallica".  He also loves to listen to Sirius Radio's, "Hair Nation".  His favorite band of all time is Guns & Roses. Last Christmas, we got to go see them in concert for the first time.  It was a night to remember...just picture Todd banging his head through the entire concert!  Here we are leaving for the concert:  Can you tell we were excited?

5.  Todd's favorite thing to do is spend time with his family.  He has been married to me (Tami), for almost 20 years now, and we have 6 beautiful children ranging in age from 4 all the way up to 17!  Our oldest, will be a senior next year, and the youngest will be in Kindergarten!  Here is one of our wedding pics, and the whole family: Front row (left to right)--Ashlie, Todd, Jack, Tami, Josh  Back Row (left to right) Abby, Erin, Emie.

6.  Todd's favorite vacations include WATER.  He loves the ocean, and can spend all day out body surfing.  He also loves water sports like wake boarding, and water skiing.  Some of our favorite memories have been made in Oceanside, California, or at Lake Powell.  These are our favorite vacation spots in the world.

7.  Todd loves making funny faces in pictures.  Sometimes it's hard to get a serious picture of him, and sometimes it's next to impossible.  These are some of my favorites:

 Those ones almost got him strangled!  LOL!

8.  When he was 19, Todd went for two years on a mission for his church to Japan in 1990, and is fluent in Japanese.  This skill doesn't seem to come in very handy in Arizona...but is fun to talk about nonetheless. Sometimes he manages to find someone Japanese to talk to when we go out for one of our favorite meals, sushi.  Here is Todd with his dad after returning home from his mission in 1992:

9.  Todd loves hunting!  Growing up, Todd's parents had a cabin in the Utah mountains, and one of the boys favorite past times was hunting.  As he has gotten older, some of these hunts with his brothers, and now with his sons, are some of the greatest memories of his life.  Here are Todd and his brothers on an elk hunt in Colorado:

10.  Todd is a die hard, true blue (well, maroon and gold), dyed in the wool, ASU Sun Devil Fan!  We love to go to ASU football games, and cheer on our home team!  Here's Todd after one of the games getting our baby, Jack, autographs from the players...and who else?  The cheerleaders!  Go Devils!

And there you have it!  Keep checking back, we will be featuring our other Funeral Directors in future posts, as well as our office staff here at Legacy Funeral Home.  You might learn something you didn't know about them as well!  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Five Stages of Grief...

In the internet age, there are more resources than ever for those dealing with the loss of a loved one.  One of the more helpful resources we have found for coping are at this website:  Counseling For Loss  One of the many subjects that it deals with are the five stages death or dying.  Many who have lost a loved one will be able to recognize looking back, the different feelings and emotions they had as time went on.  While it does always get easier with time, dealing with death and loss is always an emotional, spiritual, and even a physical roller coaster.  Some days, you might feel just fine, and think you are adjusting well, while other days you will feel like you can't possibly cope one more day.  These feelings are all normal, and just the way our brain copes with loss.  

In her 1969 book, On Death and Dying, Swiss-born psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross outlined the five stages of grief of someone who is dying.  These stages are also useful for those left behind, as they are also stages of grief that one passes through before finally being able to find closure.

1.  Denial and Isolation: "This is not happening to me."  Just like someone who is faced with a terminal diagnosis, a loved one can also feel denial and isolation upon the death of a loved one.  Many feel like they can't face it, they can't possibly deal with it, and therefore become numb and unable to process their feelings of grief and pain.  
Many people also feel isolated upon a spouse or loved ones death.  Friends don't know what to say, and therefore may not come around as much.  Family might seem aloof, or not really understanding of your feelings.  Many might trivialize feelings of grief, or say things like "you need to move on", or "just keep busy". This can make you feel further isolated, and alone.

2.  Anger: "How dare God do this to me."  Many who lose loved ones feel angry at the loss.  Sometimes this anger comes right away, and sometimes it creeps in after months or years with thoughts and feelings becoming more intense as time goes on.  Feelings of anger are normal, and just another way of dealing with loss and death. You might notice that you get angry at trivial things, or you lose your temper more than usual.  Taking time to meditate, or pray or talk to a trusted counselor or loved one might help you to deal with the angry feelings more effectively, and help you get past this stage of grief.

 3. Bargaining: "Just let me live to see my son graduate." Just as those who are facing death try to bargain, those who have lost a loved one might have these feelings as well.  Feelings of  "why couldn't it be me, instead of him", are common too. Many turn to religion, or the Bible for answers to help them through this difficult time, while others may do the opposite, and turn away from God and religion, believing that God doesn't love them because he took their loved one away from them.  Again, confiding these feelings in a trusted family member, clergy member, or counselor can go a long way to help you heal, and find peace.

 4.  Depression: "I can't bear to face going through this, putting my family through this."  For one dealing with a death, the feeling might be, "I can't face life without this person, or life alone."  These feelings of grief might be overwhelming and even physically and emotionally debilitating at times. This is probably the most harmful stage. Depression hurts your body and mind more than the other stages. It messes with your emotions, actions, and exterior. Your health will slowly dissipate. Those around you will watch you in self-inflicted pain. What someone says meant to help you will go through one ear and out the other. Nothing will matter. The world will be an entire shade of gray If you find yourself feeling depressed, or hopeless, please get help or counseling from a professional.  They can help you to find hope and purpose again.

5.  Acceptance: "I'm ready, I don't want to struggle anymore."  In a person who is living, this stage may never fully come.  Even years down the road, there will probably be a hole in your heart where your loved one used to be. We never fully forget, or heal from a death, but acceptance doesn't mean that we are completely healed, it means that we have accepted that the person isn't coming back, and we can acknowledge that fact.  This is an important step to take so that you can find closure and move on with your life in a productive and meaningful way.  Acceptance doesn't mean that you no longer remember.  The memories you have of your loved one will never fully die. Their legacy will live on in your heart, and you will continue to feel the love that they gave until the day that you move on to see them again.

Being aware of these stages of death and dying can help those who are grieving to better understand the feelings that they are dealing with, and also help them to recover and heal.  Here at Legacy Funeral Home, we are here to help our families to deal with their grief and pain during and after a loved ones death.  If you have questions, or need resources about dealing with grief or loss, please feel free to call us anytime, day or night.  It's part of the commitment we make to you.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Matter of Convenience...

We live in a society today that values convenience, sometimes above all else.  Instant gratification has become the norm in many aspects of our lives. Many believe that this shift in our society is what has caused the public to lean toward direct cremation as a quick and easy, "convenient" solution for families when a death occurs. Several families choose to skip the traditional viewing and funeral service, opting instead for a more convenient, quicker, and easier direct cremation. Many who decide to pre-plan their own funerals do the same, believing that their loved ones would not wish to go to the trouble of a service, where the deceased is eulogized and remembered. For some, this option seems like the perfect way to prevent their loved ones suffering further upon their death, but does it really?

Many people fail to understand that a funeral ceremony, even a quick viewing before a direct cremation, or a memorial service with the cremated remains present, is incredibly helpful to loved ones left behind.  It gives them a sense of closure, and can assist them emotionally as they struggle with the grief and finality that a death brings.  The funeral ceremony, where we acknowledge our feelings of pain and grief, goes a long way toward helping us heal.  It also helps us to make the transition to living without our loved one who has moved on. When planning this funeral ceremony, it is important to remember to personalize the ceremony, and eulogize your loved one in a meaningful, and personal way.  Many people choose to hire a pastor or someone to conduct the ceremony that may not have even met the person being eulogized.  Sometimes this can be a mistake.  Make sure that the person you choose to speak about your loved one knows them, and is close to them.  Many people regret having a service that is generic, or not personal enough.

In the book, "Funeral Home Customer Service, A-Z", it talks about this shift toward cremation as a convenient solution, and how some don't understand the need for a personalized, and intimate funeral or memorial service to help those yet living to heal.  Immediately following their mothers death, one family in Texas made the decision to hire a clergy they had never met, and proceed with a generic funeral service that ended up causing years of heartache for her daughter. Even many years later, she still had feelings of guilt and regret about the generic and impersonal funeral service they held.  She decided to write a belated obituary to the Houston Chronicle 5 years later, expressing her feelings.  This is that letter.

In Memory of Joy E. McClosky
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who grieved with us when we lost my mother five years ago, and apologize for the generic funeral we had for her.  In my state of shock and grief, I made a very bad choice with her funeral and the lack of appropriate eulogy.  I'd like to try, in a small way, to make up for it now. She was such a special person that I really don't know the right words to truly express how I feel.  All I can say is there is a hole in my heart with her gone, that no one else will ever be able to full.  And my heart hurts every day for my youngest daughter who was only seven weeks old when "Dee" died.  Sara will never know the grandmother who loved to talk, sing and get down on the floor with her grand kids to play.  She'll never taste the special meals Dee cooked, that I have never been able to duplicate.  She'll never know the comfort of talking to Dee when you're feeling bad, and the special way that Dee had for making you feel better.  She'll never know the total accepting love that Dee had so no matter what you may have done or said wrong, it didn't matter to her at all.  I can only wish that somehow there is enough of Dee in my other two kids and myself, so somehow my other daughter can feel her through us.  I pray that we'll all make the right choices in life so that one day we'll join her again and my sweet daughter will know her grandmother's love first hand.  Momma--I love you, and I miss you with all my heart.

For those who think that a direct cremation with no service, or a generic memorial service is the quick, easy, and "convenient" way to go, this letter might make you take pause.  While you might think that "no one wants to go to the trouble", you could also be wrong. It is helpful, and healing for family and loved ones to honor and eulogize those who have passed on to the next life. Whether you opt for a more traditional service or memorial, or a more modern, Celebration of Life ceremony, or informal get together;  any type of service that allows you to visit with loved ones, share memories, share your grief and pain, and publicly acknowledge their death, could end up being the difference between years of guilt and remorse, or the satisfaction of knowing that you honored them in their death, as you did while they were alive. Here at Legacy Funeral Home, we are honored to help you plan the service that is right for your family.  Please let us help you design a memorial or funeral service that will help you and your family on the road to healing.