sympathy, memorial and bereavement gifts

Today Matters

Transcending Loss... Moving to a New Appreciation of Today

grief and loss

Grief and loss is a process—a journey that can continue for a lifetime. It’s not an event you will get over and be “back to normal” in no time. Do not let others persuade you to think differently.

When you lose a loved one, you will always and forever be grieving the loss. But you get to decide what that looks like and, believe it or not, the healing journey can be meaningful as you identify new priorities in your life.
grief and loss

The beauty of this experience is that you get to choose how you go through it. You cannot control losing those you love, but you can control how you deal with it.

Be patient with yourself as you find your way through. When the pain is so unbearable and unbelievable, you may wonder if you can go on, but you can, and will, go on with life.

The journey through grief is not a sprint—it’s a marathon. Pace yourself. Give yourself all the freedom you need to complete the journey.

We live in a world that doesn’t like pain.
We too might be tempted to turn from it, to keep the stiff upper lip.
But grief asks us to touch pain, to sit with pain and to ask it to tea.
Being with your sorrow is brave. It is counter culture courage.
~ Ashley Davis Bush
Talking About Death
It wasn’t always this way, but the 21st century culture promotes denial and avoidance of grief. Most people don’t like to talk about or think about sudden loss because they fear it. They don’t want to admit unexpected death will happen or that it is real. Western society likes to keep the thought of dying at a distance because most people don’t want to be reminded of their mortality. Our ancestors were more enlightened about death, privately and publicly. Past generations wore symbols of bereavement, used designated time periods for mourning, relied on nearby family and close-knit communities for support and experienced personal losses at young ages because of lower life expectancies. Death was part of everyday life, and families were familiar with societal rituals and practices to care for the bereaved. But today, people haven’t learned how to talk about dying or how to support the bereaved. Due to this lack of education and fear, you may not get the help you need.Well-intentioned, but misinformed friends and family may unknowingly share grief misconceptions, give misguided advice and encourage you to shorten your mourning experience. You may have unknowingly internalized the societal message that grieving should be done quietly, quickly and efficiently.

Imposing unrealistic expectations on how to grieve will deter your healing. Instead, allow all your responses and feelings, not just those you view as acceptable. Let new insights open your heart to authentic, natural healing.

By being aware of society’s lack of grief education and discomfort with death, you can be proactive and let others know it’s okay to talk about sudden death, dying and your loved one. You can guide conversations away from unhelpful information towards constructive, proactive grief education. You are the expert on your experience.

Take the initiative to start a conversation about your needs.

When a person is born, we rejoice,
and when they’re married, we jubilate,
but when they die, we pretend nothing happened.
~ Margaret Mead

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coping with loss

In an instance, sudden death changes everything in your life and world.

A piece of your heart was lost.

You suffered an unexpected loss that will define and change your existence, teach you great lessons and reveal mysteries of life.

You experienced a sudden death you wish wouldn’t have happened and one that you couldn’t control. You underwent a loss you would’ve given up everything to prevent.

You may be left wondering, “Why am I questioning my faith?”
coping with loss
You may not have thought about your faith as much as you do now given your circumstance. At the same time, you’ve likely never felt such little faith as you do now. To believe in faith is easy when everything is simple and stress-free, but when something bad happens, faith becomes confusing and complicated.

Some suffering is so extraordinary, that even the most spiritual people wonder if their higher power cares about them or even if there is such a thing. Although I believe a universal power is near, you may sense the absence and feel alone like never before. After all, you many wonder,
“How could a higher power allow such searing pain and terrible loss?”

The presence of sprit may be closer to you now than it was ever before, but in the fog of pain it is difficult to feel or believe. In retrospect, after losing my parents many years ago, I can see how the universe was providing invisible support, but I didn’t see or recognize it. Perhaps like
you, I wondered,” “How could something so terrible happen to me?”

I questioned, ‘What did I do wrong?” Now, I understand, no one is immune to death. If you are like most people, you may not want to think about or face your or another person’s mortality. So when a death occurs, you may feel even more ill-prepared, shocked and alone. You may feel your faith or religion has failed you.

Grief may force you to explore your feelings about your own spirituality, which can help you discover a very loving and magical connection. You may even find through this experience that what you thought you believed actually isn’t how you feel at all. Loss changes your outlook.

If you feel disconnected spiritually, this may be a good time for deeper reflection. Many times people find a different type of connection after loss. Some say their relationship with a spiritual power grows even stronger.

Many people feel angry with God or a higher power; that is acceptable and common. But it is important to process this anger. You can do this by talking to someone, perhaps a spiritual counselor or minister. You can even look to others who have gone through loss and see how they found strength in their divine connection.

The important thing to remember is that you have every right to practice and question your faith.

How will faith play a role in your healing?

Sorrow looks back,

Worry looks around,

Faith looks up.

~ Author Unknown

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sympathy gifts

Sympathy gifts that provide a tangible way to remember a love one serve as an ideal and appropriate way to support the bereaved as they begin the grieving process. Here are a few creative projects designed to help you support those grieving and yourself.

sympathy gifts

Keepsake Boxes

You may want to preciously stow away certain items such as a wedding ring, jewelry, old photos or memorial program. If it makes you feel more secure, safely tuck the meaningful items away in a fire-proof cabinet or safe-deposit box.

Shortly after my mother passed away, I put many items in a safe-deposit box, since I felt this was all I had left of her and didn’t want to lose it. Of course, this was not true, but I had not yet understood that. I stowed away items she treasured, many of them having to do with me, her only child. Now, more than 15 years later, I still have this safe-deposit box with the same items in it. I have only visited it two or three times. Nonetheless, I still appreciate the safe location of these objects.

For keepsakes you want close to you, think of a special place to store or display them—maybe a music box, memorabilia box, curio cabinet or bookcase?

One widower crafted three wooden hope chests for himself and his two sons. His sons placed these hope chests by their beds and carefully tucked pictures of their mother, their mother’s flannel pajamas and scrapbook pages she made. The widower safely tucked away wedding photos, a favorite blanket of his wife’s and childhood pictures of him and his wife.

What items you want to safely tuck away?

Memory Frames

Framing pictures of your loved one can therapeutic. Find a lovely place to display a group of your favorite pictures. Photos serve as eternal and tangible reminders of our loved ones. You can see their smile or be reminded of special moments.

Spend some time gathering beloved pictures and choosing just the right frames. I have a curio cabinet in my office that displays pictures of my parents and other loved ones. I like to have their pictures near to me when I am working for inspiration and divine guidance.

Frame a favorite picture of your loved one and give copies to other family members, so you all can enjoy it.

My husband and each of his brothers received two handsome pictures of their deceased brother from their mother. The pictures showed their brother doing what he loved, ice fishing.

Another couple had a family picture taken the summer before their daughter passed away. The picture is now proudly displayed in their living room and serves as reminder of their daughter’s eternal love.

What favorite photos of your loved can you frame?

Remembrance Books

Creating a remembrance photo book can be a great way to preserve family memories. If you prefer, photo book services can do almost everything for you, and the results can be stunning. Photo books can be created for any memory, whether family vacation, a wedding or an entire year of activities.

To begin, pick an online service, download the software and upload your photos. If you’re not comfortable with computer technology, recruit a teenager or young adult in your family to make a photo book. Give your recruit the chosen pictures, and he or she can also reap the healing benefits of putting together a remembrance book.

Photo books are wonderful presents for difficult milestone dates, such as holidays, your loved one’s birthday or the anniversary of loss. And they also give future generations a glimpse into their history.

Is there a certain event you would like to remember with a photo book?

Cherish your memories and they shall live in your heart forever.

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Memorial Ideas

Memorial ideas to help you make memories last will aid in grief healing. You can’t know why some things happen, but you can know that love and beautiful memories can outlast the pain of grief. And you can know that there’s a place inside the heart where love lives always and where nothing beautiful can be forgotten.

How can you continue to connect to the place in your heart where love always lives?

Memorial Ideas

Pay tribute to your loved one through a ceremony. This can be as easy as saying a prayer before Christmas dinner, lighting a candle in memory of the deceased or releasing balloons to the heavens.

A ceremony can aid your healing, whether it is held once a year or every month. The ceremony can consist of a few people or many. The purpose, however, will always be the same – to help you honor and pay respect to your loved one’s life. Plus, you will receive additional love and support from others in a ceremony.

If you did not have a memorial ceremony for your loved one, consider having one now.

TIP: Give a set of tea light candles to other family members and invite them to join you in a moment of remembrance from where they live, whether for a holiday, birthday, or anniversary of loss. Include a special poem or a few carefully chosen words that can be said, when the candles are lit. Knowing others are paying tribute to your loved one at the same time can bring comfort.

Consider a Tribute Verse. Another way to pay tribute to your loved one is to publish (at a cost) a memorial verse in a local newspaper. This can be done at any time that feels comforting, such as a milestone date—your loved one’s birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas or other significant occasion.

Typically a verse will be placed near the obituary section of the newspaper. Consider writing a short poem or choosing a meaningful quote from a book or gift item. Or ask a friend or family to help you with the selection.

Choose one of your favorite photos of your loved one to accompany the verse.

A memorial verse can be as simple as:

Forever Loved, Forever Remembered
Photo of Loved One
Name of Loved One
Our Father, Son, Brother and Friend

Give yourself enough time to choose or carefully write the verse. After publication, clip the memorial verse for your scrapbook or and make laminated copies for other family members. Acknowledge yourself for the public action of affirming what your loved one means to you.
Time cannot steal the treasure that we carry in our hearts, nor ever dim the shining thought our cherished past imparts, for memories of the one we love still cast a gentle glow to grace our days and light our paths wherever we may go.

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grieving process

The reality is that you will grieve forever.

You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it.

You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered.

You will be whole again, but you will never be the same.

Nor should you be the same nor should you want to.

~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

grieving process

In the grieving process, you may hear people ask, “Isn’t it time you let go?” or “Shouldn’t you be over it by now?” These questions reflect the misconception that there is an acceptable amount of time to grieve. However, your sorrow is unique to you and your relationship with your loved one.

There are no short-cuts or quick fixes. Sorrow doesn’t follow a linear timeline. The healing process varies.

You will learn to live with your loss. This doesn’t imply you’ll never be joyful again and not able to step forward; it simply means that your loved one will continue to be important in a different way.

Those who have not lost a piece of their heart expect sudden-loss survivors to be back to “normal” within a few weeks or months. Others may encourage you to suppress your sorrow due to their own discomfort and helplessness surrounding grief. They don’t want you to be in pain, but don’t know how to help. Thus, others may pressure you to “move on” and “get back to normal.”

But there is no benefit to speeding through sorrow. You will heal in your own time and re-enter life gradually as a changed person with a “new normal.”

Others should not expect you to be the same after grief. Life changes you, whatever the experience. For example, you are not the identical person after getting married, having a child, changing careers or getting divorced. Similarly, you are irrevocably changed and transformed by loss and will form a new understanding of life, love, meaning and purpose.

Most people expect grief to be over within a year, at the very most. Unfortunately, grief is a lifelong process. Instead, you will live beside it as you merge sudden loss into your life. Just as you will be influenced by the love of your beloved person throughout your life, you will be impacted by the loss. As Author Helen Fitzgerald so eloquently said, “At some point your grief will end, but this doesn’t mean that there will ever be an end to the sense of loss.”

You are the master of your grief journey.

You are the expert of your healing.

You are the teacher to those who don’t understand.

Be empowered to ignore the judgmental responses or inaccurate interpretations of your experience. Take the opportunity to educate others on what you need.

When you’ve lost someone, you may feel very fragile. But the many suggestions from friends and family may make you feel overwhelmed or unsure. Take heart, and think about what is right for you by listening to your inner self.

How can you respect your unique healing timeline?

For the FREE mini-class, The Art of Life – Create a Meaningful and Joyous Life You Love, visit http://www.ChelseaHanson.com

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