“Would you like to view your loved one?” It’s a question very few people are prepared to hear, let alone respond to. It seems instinctual to say, “Of course not! I can’t stand to see my loved one that way!” It may seem as though taking a moment to see our dearly departed in that state only elongates and worsens the pain of their absence. We may feel that viewing them in death is time wasted, as it will not change the fact that they have indeed passed. Or perhaps, we often times simply feel the need to rush through our good-byes, that the sooner we dismiss our pain and press on with life, the sooner we might be able to heal ourselves. Regardless of what we might tell ourselves in the early moments of loss, the fact of the matter remains that there is no short cut when it comes to grief. There’s no way to expedite, rush, express mail, or fast-track our healing process.
With that in mind, it’s important and beneficial even, to be sure that you’ve given yourself an opportunity for acknowledgment, acceptance, and closure. Of course everyone is different, and there may be some rare individuals who can accept death the moment they hear of it or see it- but usually, most families need just a moment or two to see that their loved ones are indeed in a state of peace.
We don’t often get a chance to discuss just how important this step in the process can be. It’s at this time that the funeral staff can apply their craftmanship and skill to recreate a state of tranquility and rest that the deceased may have been robbed of at the time of passing. The goal of a visitation is to provide the bereaved a quiet moment to not only see their loved ones in peace, but also to physically and mentally acknowledge that they have passed. Typically a family might use this time to reflect on the life of the deceased, exchange stories, and share memories of times spent together. This can be a somber moment of contemplation or a bittersweet opportunity for celebration. Regardless of whichever way a family might do this, it’s important to realize that each situation will be different and unique. There is no one right way to say good bye to a loved one. Bereavement is one of the most intimate aspects of the human experience, and despite its painful nature, it is unwise to try to bypass or ignore it.
So- should you view your loved one? Ultimately that decision will be your own to make, as will be most decisions regarding funeral arrangements. There’s no umbrella answer to give as we all grieve in our own very different and unique ways. Perhaps the better question to ask though is, “How do I feel? Did I really get a good chance to say good-bye?” If you’re unsure of how to answer this, or perhaps feel negatively about your experience, then a private visitation or private family viewing may be your best answer. It really is okay to take a moment among family and friends to say your own good-bye on your terms and offer yourself as much closure as possible.
by, Amber Hardin
When I was in college, a portion of my final exam in Freshman English was to write my own obituary. I could be as creative and fanciful as I chose to be, after all, it wasn’t real. But even given those parameters I froze and couldn’t think of a thing to write under such stress! If you’re having difficulty writing a beautiful obituary for someone that you love don’t let the stress overwhelm you! Words may not come as quickly as you wish them to and you may be tempted to fall back on basic facts and figures, but you can find the words if you follow these suggestions.
An obituary can serve many purposes beyond the notice of death and the announcement of services. A well written obituary is a portrayal of a loved one that will not only memorialize them for generations to come but allow others the opportunity to discover the uniqueness of their individual life. It can be composed of both traditional and unique elements that celebrate your loved one. As you begin writing, decide what elements you would like to use in your obituary and organize them in outline form. A good outline might go as follows: life story, family record, service information, appreciation for caregivers, request of memorial contributions, final words. Once you have decided on the the outline it’s time to fill in the particulars.
The most important sentence is the first one written and can set the tone for the entire obituary. Imagine you are introducing your loved one to someone they have never met before. Use their entire name and any nicknames that they used, then continue to let their life story unfold in a natural progression.
- State the date and place of death. You may also include the manner of death if you wish.
- State the date and place of birth along with the names of parents.
- Describe educational achievements, military service, and employment. Remember, an obituary isn’t a resume so keep this section brief. Only describe the highlights and unique aspects of your loved one’s life.
- Describe your loved one’s values, talents, passions, and interests. Use these questions to help you determine what you would like to say:
- How would you describe your loved one in three to six words?
- What were your loved one’s favorite activities?
- What are your favorite memories of your loved one?
- What aspect of your loved one’s life would they want the world to know about?
- List the names of living family members: spouse, children (you may include their spouses if you wish), grandchildren, parents, brothers and sisters. You may also list the city relatives live in if desired. Resist the urge to list every name of every family member and in-law. It is acceptable to list family members in groups, for instance “she is survived by many loving nieces, nephews and cousins.”
- List the names of deceased family members. Keep this list down to close relatives such as parents, spouse, children, brother, sisters or grandchildren.
Describe what kind of service you will be having: funeral, memorial service, rosary, mass, celebration of life, or graveside service. Include the day, date, time and place (including the address) of each separate portion of the service.
Appreciation for Caregivers
You may feel gratitude for the caregivers that have provided service to your loved one. Even if you have already privately thanked them, it is always nice to be openly acknowledged.
Many people wish to make contributions to charities instead of sending flowers. Include the name and address (URL or physical) of the charity or organization you would like to receive contributions in your loved one’s name.
This may sound like an unusual inclusion, but remembering a loved one through their words can be extremely comforting! Does your loved one have a favorite saying that you wish to be remembered? Did they have a favorite scripture? What is the most important thing that they taught you? What would they like their last words to be?
Finalizing the Obituary
Ending an obituary is as important as beginning one. Follow these steps to ensure that your obituary is concise and ready for publication.
- Edit for length, especially if you are wanting to publish the obituary in a newspaper. The cost of an obituary can be very high so consider having a short obituary for the newspaper and a longer obituary on a funeral home website. Feel free to omit any element that doesn’t apply to your loved one’s situation. You may also add an element that is unique, however, make sure that you’re not overwhelming the reader with so much information that they will stop reading.
- Proof your work, then get someone else to proof your work paying special attention to names, dates, spelling and grammatical errors!
Once you have finished the obituary have it published online and in print if you wish. Make sure that you share it with family and friends. The poet, Thomas Campbell wrote, “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.” An obituary allows your loved one to be remembered in the heart of a reader for generations to come.
By, Judy Bulsiewicz
As we know, many of us find it difficult to talk about death. Although it is something that will eventually happen to all of us, it is still not a popular topic of conversation. Unfortunately, usually the only time we face death is when it is forced upon us when a loved one dies. Often, we as a funeral home, see families feel overwhelmed and lost when final wishes have not been discussed. End of life planning, from choosing a final resting place to writing an obituary, all while respecting the wishes of the deceased, is an exhausting and emotional process. Too often we see families have less meaningful experiences than they could have had because they feel too overwhelmed or underprepared to deal with the death. Besides educating our families in a professional and compassionate way, how can we help them alleviate some of this added stress? We encourage everyone to pre-plan!
Just like any other anticipated event in life, planning in advance can help eliminate many of the things that add further stress to the situation. Talking about your loved ones’ final wishes, or your own, may seem taboo or morbid, but it has many benefits.
Pre-planning is not a new 21st Century phenomenon. Dating back to Ancient Rome, people have made sure things are in place for themselves and loved ones upon the end of life.
What is pre-planning exactly?
Pre-planning can be as simple as expressing your final wishes to your loved ones or taking a step further and providing that same information to a trusted, local funeral home of your choice.
By visiting a local funeral home, a funeral director can walk you through the pre-arrangement process and discuss all the services they provide. Upon choosing a funeral home that you feel most comfortable with, it is smart to get some key information set aside in a pre-arrangement file. Depending on the services you select, these items may include:
- Vital information necessary in creating a Death Certificate (for all deaths)
- Obituary information
- Family contact sheet
- Preferred final disposition and service information
- Cemetery information
- Veterans discharge paperwork
- Preferred casket/urn
- Favorite flower, poem, song, color, etc.
- Scattering locations
Also, while pre-arranging, most funeral homes have an option to start paying for the funeral services and products selected prior to the actual death.
Why should I pre-plan?
Some people may feel saddened and even mortified when attempting to talk about these topics. Answering these questions for themselves and their loved one can feel awkward. However, pre-planning can be the greatest act of love.
Losing someone can be one of the most difficult experiences we go through in life. There are different processes we go through after a death has occurred, and grieving is a part of that. When we decide to set things in place, it essentially eases the burden on our family and gives them permission to grieve sooner. Without having to make stressful decisions, families can avoid the added worry of whether they are making the right choices. It could also help family members avoid quarrels.
Another reason pre-planning is helpful is simply to let people know what your wish is for your physical remains after dying. Do you prefer a traditional burial? Would you like to be cremated and scattered somewhere of significance? Does your religion have specific rituals that require special care? These are all things that can be talked about and placed in a pre-arrangement file.
The benefits of pre-planning go beyond grief, as well. If you decide to pay in full or start pre-paying for your funeral arrangements, you can alleviate the financial burden that is left on your surviving family. Just a phone call to the funeral home and your plans would be set in motion.
Talking about death and planning your own funeral doesn’t have to be creepy or scary. You can make your own wishes known and also allow your family to focus on celebrating your life- a more joyful part of the grieving process.
By, Olivia Bien
I was walking to my room one day and my mother pulled me into her room and said, “We need to talk about something important.” Many thoughts came to my mind, “Did I do something wrong?” “Am I in trouble?… Oh no.” Neither of which was the case; it was something more unexpected. “I want to talk to you about what you need to do when we die.” Oh no, this is not what I expected. As she continued to talk, I remember thinking to myself, this is not going to happen. My parents are not going to die. I was a young teenager and unprepared to discuss any plans about what would happen that inevitable day.
Well that day did come many years later. I remember bits and pieces of that conversation we had, and I wish I had listened. She had tried many times to have that conversation, even toward the end, and still I wouldn’t. I would tell her, “I don’t want to talk about it right now,” or I would just change the subject. Luckily, she had written some of her wishes down in her beautifully crooked handwriting. The truth was, I’m not sure I would have ever been prepared to have the talk.
So, how do you have the talk of a lifetime with your loved ones?
I know this is a difficult topic. I personally experienced the uncomfortableness of that conversation with my mother. Some may say I was too young, but the truth is, it is very difficult to have this conversation with your loved ones. So, how should you approach this subject? Whether you’re the one who wants to talk about your own wishes with your children or you want to have this conversation with your parents, grandparents, etc., I believe the best way to start is by sharing your own stories or stories about life in general. Don’t stress about having the talk. Relax and listen carefully with an open mind and heart. Ask open-ended questions that require them to give you more than a one-word answer and listen to the details of that conversation. If they do not want to talk about a specific topic, let it go and respect that they are not ready to discuss whatever topic you are wanting to explore.
Just talk. Create memories. Treasure those moments.
I learned more about my mother after she passed away. I sat down one day with my father and even though I felt it was difficult to discuss, he started by sharing many memories of my mother and of himself-things I never knew-and then went on to talk about how important it was for me to know his final wishes. This time I listened and having the talk with him was so rewarding. He passed away a year later and I was able to fulfill his wishes. I knew what he wanted, and the best thing was, I was able to celebrate his life with the stories he shared. So, I urge you, sit and talk with your loved ones. There is no magic time, day, or age. It’s when you want to share a story or learn about a life.
by, Angelica Bailon
Resources: FAMIC’s https://www.talkofalifetime.org/