Thoughts on Grief During the Holidays and Major Events by Jessamyn Putnam
The holidays are here, and whether it is your first holiday following the loss of a loved one or not, suffice it to say, this is usually a rough time of year for those grieving the loss of someone they loved.
So what do you do? While there is no “one size fits all” approach, grief does not take a sabbatical at Christmas, or weddings, or birthdays. First and foremost, allow yourself and others the right to grieve. Everyone grieves differently, and instead of telling someone how to grieve, allow them the freedom to grieve in their own way and do not take it personally. I have twin boys, and while identical, they grieve differently. One acts out and says mean things, the other just cries and cries with very loud, heart-wrenching sobs. I acknowledge their loss and give them space and forgiveness, while also allowing myself the opportunity to step away and cry my own tears. We can also be hard on ourselves, but this is not the time. We must give ourselves grace and space to grieve. Stifling or denying grief leads to unresolved grief which can cause physiological problems and make you physically ill.
Recognize and commemorate your loved one by saving a seat. Set a place at the table, include a favorite shirt on the chair, shoes on the floor, and/or photo on the place setting. Your loved one might be physically gone but will remain ever present in your thoughts for some time to come. Encourage family and friends to share their memories or stories. While a loved one might no longer be with us, it is important to remember the good times, to laugh about funny things they said or did, and to acknowledge that he or she is missed. Yes, there is a strong possibility of tears, but it is also a time for family bonds and bonds of friendship to grow stronger.
Know you are not alone. Friends oftentimes do not know how to respond to someone grieving the loss of a loved one. They would love for you to reach out and tell them what you need. At the same time, it is important for friends to offer specific ways of assistance – cooking a meal, mowing the lawn, folding laundry, a cup of coffee. Every day tasks can often feel overwhelming when someone you loved has died. Lean on your churches, funeral homes, hospices, and social/service organizations as many offer grief programs and/or assistance with daily tasks.
Remember to breathe. Take each day at a time. And save a seat for the one you loved.
©2019 Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory
This season is about Peace on Earth, but what about Peace of Mind? Believe it or not, talking about, or even better, writing down your wishes about your care after you pass, can contribute towards one’s peace of mind, the issue is breaking through our unease when we confront the idea of death.
Ultimately the issue at the end of the day is that we do not know what we do not know. It might seem easier to just to “let your family handle your arrangements” or to “just toss you to the curb.” While in writing that seems harsh, people have been saying this to funeral directors for years. The hard truth is that this approach fails, that this approach can cause emotional harm, financial issues, and create additional stress for those you leave behind.
Did you know that a Power of Attorney expires upon death, and if you did not leave written authorization, that it falls to your next of kin (a spouse with dementia, or biological children that were disinherited or can’t get along, or someone further removed from you) to make your funeral arrangements? This can lead to days turning into weeks, sometimes month, and a judge making the decision – this can drain your family emotionally and the finances of your estate. Or perhaps a disinherited biological child will step forward and make the choices that they want and choices that probably won’t mirror what you would have wanted. Designating an “agent of disposition” will alleviate this quandary.
Did you know that cremation is more legalistic in the state of Texas than burial? You can be buried within 24 hours and without a signed death certificate in the State of Texas. However, there is a 48 hour waiting period for cremation, the doctor must sign the death certificate and has up to 10 days in order to do so, your immediate next of kin has to sign a cremation authorization, and depending on the county you die in, there could be other required permits. This means that it can take 2-10 days, or even more, to be cremated, especially if your family disagrees as to burial or cremation. And don’t forget that you must either be embalmed or refrigerated within 24 hours. However, if you provide self-authorization in writing that you want to be cremated, then your next of kin does not need to sign a cremation authorization which has the potential to speed up the process. And if you include your wishes on refrigeration or embalming, that also removes a decision from the shoulders of your grieving family.
In my experience, families that preplan give a huge gift to the ones they leave behind. Now those family members might not want to wake up on Christmas Day to a stocking stuffed with prearrangements, but when the time comes to use them, they will understand and be immensely grateful.
What is motivation? Motivation is used to describe WHY someone does something. Of course, there are a mountain of studies and theories, but simply stated, there are many different forces that guide and direct us. If you look towards literature and the arts, you can simplify it even further. From the bible to John Lennon, it appears as if “there are two basic motivating forces: fear and love.”
Let’s put this into perspective and think about weight loss. Many people start their weight loss journey at their doctor or loved one’s urging to cure or improve a medical condition, thus potentially saving their life. They are motivated by fear – fear of dying, fear of winding up in the hospital, fear of something that only loosing weight will solve. However, once they reach their weight loss goal or receive a clean bill of health from their doctor, their motivation to lose weight and stay healthy is removed and many times, they revert to their unhealthy habits and regain the weight. What has been found is that although fear can be an excellent motivator, especially following a life-threatening event, it is too uncomfortable and emotionally draining for us to stay in that mindset for very long.
In other words, fear is not sustainable.
But what happens when, while during their weight loss journey, people discover things that they love? Perhaps they can run and play with their kids without gasping for breath or without pain. Perhaps their skin clears up. Perhaps they like how they look in the mirror. What happens when they fall in love with the results of their weight loss and improved health? When people replace their fear driven motivation with love driven motivation, then they are better able to sustain their weight loss and health.
In my role as a funeral director, I have seen a world of difference when someone makes funeral arrangements out of love rather than fear. Typically, those who are motivated by love plan in advance, include their family or even their friends in their decisions, and think globally instead of selfishly. On the other hand, I have seen those motivated by fear regret their decisions or make decisions based on prior negative experiences without understanding that funerals have changed and that their loved ones need some sort of ritual to build that positive foundation for grief.
So how can you approach death with love? At its simplest, by being prepared. By writing down your wishes. By securing payment for your funeral by purchasing life insurance, prepaying your funeral, or setting aside assets designated for funeral expenses.
You can also approach death with love by understanding that you do not know what you do not know and seeking out knowledge to make informed decisions. Knowledge is power and sharing knowledge is empowering. Did you know that in the state of Texas you can be buried within 24 hours, but it can take 2-10 days to have the legal authority to perform a cremation? Or that some cemeteries will allow you to be buried without a casket? Or that a power of attorney expires upon death so if you do not have an authorized agent of disposition and your spouse has dementia or your biological children do not get along that your disposition might be determined in court? Or that you can have a meaningful service that does not include a church or a funeral home or a major expense? Or that cremated remains can be made into bullets, tattoos, jewelry, coral reefs, paintings, or go into outer space? Incomplete information creates false expectations and negative experiences. Understanding the ins and outs of what happens when someone dies will enable and empower you to make the right decisions at the right time.
Finally, you can also approach death with love by being creative in ones preplanning approach and utilizing me as a resource and guide in helping you plan your final moments with love, so that your loved ones won’t have too.
So, what is your motivation? When it comes losing weight, finding a new job, getting married, having a medical procedure, or even planning for life’s eventualities – what is motivating you to make the choices you made or are about to make? Without motivation you simply cannot achieve anything. The next time you admire someone’s accomplishment, including your own, it makes more sense to ask WHY they did what they did instead of HOW because, when the why is clear, the how is easy.
Modified from a speech given by Jessamyn Putnam at the Women Empowering Women event at the Vineyard B&B at Lost Creek Ranch on November 5, 2019. Copyright 2019 Jessamyn Putnam.
Jessamyn Putnam at the Women Empowering Women event, pictured bottom row, second from the right.
Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC, which includes Cremation Advocates by Putnam in Marble Falls and Bertram Funeral Home in Bertram, is happy to be a Healing Hearts sponsor for Camp Agape, a free summer program for children grieving the loss of a loved one.
Registration is now open for the 2019 camp, which is scheduled for July 8-11 at Camp Buckner Retreat Center in the Texas Hill Country. Children between the ages of 7 and 12 attend Camp Agape at no cost to their families. Register eligible children now at the Camp Agape website –www.CampAgapeTexas.org.
We cannot say enough good things about this organization. They are wholly committed to helping families that have experienced trauma from the loss of a loved one and we have personally witnessed how their efforts change children’s lives in the Highland Lakes area.
Most children come away from their Camp Agape experience able to process their grief and move past it. There are numerous examples of these children now serving in their organization as leaders and taking what they learned from their hardship and using their experience to grow and help others overcome death. This camp provides opportunities for experiences that can’t be found anywhere else. Many times, these children have not left their loved one’s side since the death occurred. This camp pulls them out into a “camp environment” to have fun, process their grief, learn to move forward, and also to realize they are not alone. The children see there are many other children going through what they are going through. In addition, they receive professional help from counselors and have buddy counselors that have walked the path they are walking.
After the camp is over, each child also has the opportunity to come to a Fall Retreat and process grief with their family and also meet other friend’s families. Many of the children that attend camp make life-long friendships with other children attending because they are able to bond at such an intimate level.
In addition to donating to this organization, we volunteer as well. It has been a wonderful experience. Camp Agape will change the future of a child’s life… guaranteed.
The Putnam Family of Funeral Homes (Bertram Funeral Home in Bertram, Cremation Advocates by Putnam in Marble Falls, and Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory in Kingsland) continues to win the local awards for Best In Class. We do so by going above and beyond and because we understand that we have only one opportunity to make this right. Remember our billboard – #YODO? From writing the obituary to personalizing memorial folders and celebrations of life, to introducing grief therapy dogs in training, and offering different funeral home concepts (traditional, contemporary, and familial), and even offering different funeral planning products from final expense policies to prepaid funeral contracts, we do everything we can to advocate for you before, during, and after your time of loss and help you make meaning out of an emotional time. Every employee is also a community volunteer and Putnam supports several local causes and organizations as we believe that investing in our community keeps our community strong. It also enables us to build relationships to better serve you when you need us the most. We are local and family-owned with the ONLY on-site crematory in the Highland Lakes area. Not only do we Keep Your Loved Ones Close and provide Excellence in Remembrance, but Putnam also Cares! We provide cremation and burial services, celebrations of life, and preplanning services to Horseshoe Bay, Spicewood, Lakeway, Austin, Liberty Hill, Temple, Bertram, Oatmeal, Burnet, Tow, Kingsland, Llano, Highland Haven, Granite Shoals, Cottonwood Shores, Marble Falls, Meadowlakes, Double Horn, Round Mountain, Johnson City, Blanco, Boerne, San Antonio, Fredericksburg and beyond.
Central Texas entrepreneur, leader, funeral home owner, and philanthropist Chris Putnam successfully defended his research dissertation, “A Leader’s Perspective to Retaining Millennial Workers: A Qualitative Triangulation of Job Embeddedness Theory and Leader-Member Exchange,” to earn his PhD in Business Administration with a concentration in organizational leadership from Northcentral University on November 28, 2018. Dr. Putnam also holds a MBA and BA in Business Administration from Ottawa University and a Diploma of Funeral Service from Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service.
Dr. Putnam has spent the last ten years studying generational theory. In choosing his dissertation topic, he explains that “Each generation has distinctive characteristics and expectations. Baby boomers and generation Xers who have been in leadership roles for several decades have experienced the frequent turnover of the millennial generation. Little to no research is available from the older generations’ perceptions of the younger generation, however, millennial perception is abundant. I wanted to fill a research gap from a leader’s perspective as to why millennials “job hop” more frequently than other generations. Moreover, as a small business owner, I find it essential to understand how to retain millennial workers. According to the Small Business Administration, millennial turnover costs American small businesses $64 billion dollars annually.”
Dr. Putnam’s research participants included members of the baby boomer and generation x generations who were small business owners in Central Texas and employed millennials. He found these leaders expressing frustration over a perceived lack of work ethic. Given the lack of existing information, most of the leaders did not have a specific strategy to improve relationships and increase retention; and the strategies they did employee contrasted significantly with what little literature exists that pertains to supervision and mentoring across generations.
Based on his research and conclusions, Dr. Putnam believes that there is a huge misunderstanding and communication barrier between the various generations. The millennial generation is a very ambitious and productive group that walks to the beat of its own drum. The baby boomer generation is very similar, and much can be learned about its influence. The size of both the baby boomer and the millennial generations is squeezing the smaller generation X and forcing its members to acclimate and adapt to both generations to be successful. And for those generation Xers who have waited patiently for their baby boomer supervisors to pass them the torch, they will be sorely disappointed when it is the millennial who grabs it from them.
Dr. Putnam thanks his wife Jessamyn for supporting him through his doctoral experience. The four-and-a-half-year journey was full of studying, teaching at Schreiner University and Central Texas Community College, and research engagements that came with emotional highs and lows. He also thanks his children: Liam, Connor, and Anson for the missed evenings and weekends and life interruptions his goal caused. Last by not least, he wants to recognize and thank his Putnam team: Jim Simmons, Eli Heatley, and Brittany Carrington, for picking up his slack and maintaining an extraordinary level of service at Putnam. Dr. Putnam’s research broadened the theories of job embeddedness and leader-member exchange and he plans to apply his findings to the Putnam organization and teach other business and organizational leaders how to increase employee retention by using positive relationships and encouraging a work-life balance.
Dr. Putnam launched the Putnam brand with Putnam Funeral Home in Kingsland, Texas in 2000. After adding in a crematory in 2006 that is now the only crematory in the Highland Lakes area, Dr. Putnam opened Cremation Advocates by Putnam in Marble Falls in 2017 as a contemporary and alternative approach to a funeral home and opened Bertram Funeral Home in 2018. Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC is located at 145 Texas Avenue in Kingsland, 325-388-0008, www.PutnamCares.com,; Cremation Advocates by Putnam is located at 206 Ave. H, Suite#204 in Marble Falls, 830-798-8413, www.CremationAdvocates.net; and Bertram Funeral Home is located at 1010 East TX-29 in Bertram, 512-355-8201, www.PutnamCares.com. Putnam is a member of Selected Independent Funeral Homes, National Funeral Directors Association, the Cremation Association of North America, the International Cemetery, Cremation, and Funeral Association, National Association for Grieving Children, and Business Network International.
For more information or to request Dr. Putnam as a speaker, please email him at email@example.com or call him at 325-388-0008.
Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC, announces its recent expansion into Bertram, Texas with the opening of Bertram Funeral Home at 1010 East TX-29. Bertram Funeral Home is dedicated to serving the residents of Bertram, Oatmeal, Liberty Hill, Burnet, and the surrounding areas. The goal of Bertram Funeral Home and Putnam is to invest in the community and provide exceptional and personalized service during a difficult time.
This familial funeral home concept not only provides space for services and visitations, but it also provides our Bertram families and neighbors with access to the Putnam private crematory. Putnam owns the only crematory in the Highland Lakes area and reserves its use exclusively for Putnam client families to ensure the integrity of our quality control and identification procedures while providing our families with the peace of mind that their loved one never leaves our care. Bertram Funeral Home also offers the services of the only area Certified Celebrant. Putnam is dedicated to the ones you love, and our caring and knowledgeable staff is here to remove as much stress as possible from the funeral process and to help you build a positive foundation for grief.
The staff at Bertram Funeral Home strives to provide excellence in remembrance. Everyone deserves a funeral or memorial that expresses how special they are. We at Bertram Funeral Home are committed to commemorating and honoring each person who enters our care.
Please call us at 512-355-8201 to schedule a tour of our facilities.
Bertram Funeral Home is located at 1010 East TX-29 in Bertram, Putnam Funeral Home is located at 145 Texas Avenue in Kingsland, and Cremation Advocates by Putnam is located at 206 Ave. H, Suite#204 in Marble Falls.
Meet Anubis and Anput, the newest members at the Putnam family of Funeral Homes – Bertram Funeral Home, Cremation Advocates by Putnam in Marble Falls, and Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory, LLC in Kingsland. Anubis and Anput are in training to become grief therapy dogs. Their initial training includes acclimating to various people and situations and as such, they will be rotating between the three Funeral Homes. Anubis has already shown his aptitude as a grief therapy dog as he will sit next to anyone feeling uptight or grieving and rest his head in their lap. Anput, on the other hand, prefers to sleep most of the day. As the entire training process can take 1-2 years depending on the dog, a facebook account has been created to allow people to follow their journey – https://www.facebook.com/anubisandanput/. At the end of their training, we expect Anubis and Anput to be available for pre need and at need funeral planning, visitations, celebrations of life, services, and for community outreach.
The Alliance of Therapy Dogs provides more information about how therapy dogs offer comfort at funeral services at www.therapydogs.com. Accordingly, “therapy dogs allow those grieving to receive some comfort and relieve their stress and anxiety for a bit. This is especially true for grieving children who may not be comfortable talking about their feelings with adults. Therapy dogs give them someone to talk to and comfort them during an emotional and confusing time. Death is difficult enough for many adults to understand, let alone trying to make some sense of it for children.
Not only do therapy dogs provide comfort, they also help improve overall mental and physical health. Petting a therapy dog increases serotonin and dopamine levels in our brain, which improves our mood by lowering stress, anxiety, and depression. Petting a therapy dog also lowers blood pressure and helps those who are feeling lonely, which could be the case for someone who lost a loved one.
Therapy dogs have the innate ability to sense a person’s emotional needs and act on them with unconditional love. Since those who are grieving may experience many of these emotions, therapy dogs make the perfect companion to help ease anxiety and confusion of death. It can simply be the therapy dog’s presence that distracts from stress and grief, even if for a moment or two. The power of a therapy dog to change the mood of a room is amazing, and funeral directors are discovering how to promote healthy healing in people who are grieving the death of a loved one.
According to Jessica Koth, public relations manager for the National Funeral Directors Association, “Therapy dogs have an amazing ability to put people at ease in a very emotional and difficult situation,” Jessica says. “I’ve heard of families coming into a funeral home to make arrangements for a loved one’s funeral, and when the therapy dog comes into the room, the mood changes and the family begins to open up and share their loved one’s story so the funeral director can help them understand how to plan a meaningful funeral. She adds that some funeral homes also use their therapy dogs in the grief support groups they offer.”
Anubis and Anput are rescued Labrador/Great Pyrenees mix puppies who are very laid back and gentle.