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What Is Your Motivation – Making Funeral Arrangements Out Of Love And Not Fear

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.

10 children’s books on loss and grief

When a loved-one dies, a child may be full of questions it’s difficult to know how to answer, or full of feelings they find it hard to express. Reading aloud is a wonderful way to be close and share, drawing on words and pictures for comfort and to talk about things it’s not easy to understand.

These 10 beautiful children’s books on grief and loss have been written with younger kids in mind, but explore complicated emotions with a simplicity that can be a comfort for the bereaved, whatever age you are.

The Goodbye Book

by Todd Brown (Little Brown, $17.99)

This book uses uncomplicated words and colorful pictures to describe things we think and feel when someone we loved very much dies. Among the most warm and reassuring children’s books on death to read aloud and begin a conversation with a little one, it’s told from the perspective of a pet fish who has lost his companion.

Watch Todd read his book aloud:

Waterbugs and Dragonflies

by Doris Stickney (Pilgrim Press, $18)

This classic children’s book on death has been around since 1971 and has a spiritual take the subject. It compares the underwater lives of waterbugs to our time on Earth. Each time one swims to the surface of the water, it disappears. It emerges and flies into the sunshine as a beautiful dragonfly – even though the ones that are left behind cannot see this happen.

I Miss You: A First Look at Death

by Pat Thomas and Leslie Harker (Barron’s Educational, $7.99)

This children’s bereavement book helps act as a prompt to help younger ones to talk about death with a parent or teacher and express their feelings. Author Pat Thomas is a psychotherapist and counselor and her writing introduces boys and girls to the idea that grief and loss are normal feelings to have when someone dies.

When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief

by Marge Eaton Heegaard (Woodland Press, $9.99)

Young readers can help draw the pictures for this book. It explores all about when someone dies and the questions and feelings we are left with. Besides children’s books on grief and loss, author and clinician Marge Eaton Heegaard’s other art therapy titles for kids include all about living with the first stage of a serious illness.

Sad Isn’t Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing with Loss

by Michaelene Mundy (Abbey Press, $7.95)

It’s okay to feel gloomy and it’s fine to cry, when someone’s died and you have all sorts of complicated feelings that you don’t know what to do with. Besides affirming that we can feel sad when we are missing people in all sorts of ways, this book for grieving children includes questions to ask and open up conversations.

The Heart and the Bottle

by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins, $10.50)

This story is about a little girl who begins to forget about the other things she loves, when someone special to her dies. Keeping her heart in a bottle will keep it safe from more hurt, she thinks, until she meets another little girl whose infectious curiosity reminds her about how she used to be. It’s among the children’s books on grief and loss with a touching and symbolic narrative.

The Scar

by Charlotte Moundlic, with illustrations by Olivier Tallec (Candlewick Books, $14.99)

When a little boy wakes up to find his mommy has died, he feels sad, cross and worried that he will forget her. He decides if the scratch on his knee doesn’t go away, it will keep his mom closer. When Grandma visits, she helps him find some different ways to hold onto his mom’s love. This moving story may be a comfort to grieving children finding it hard to accept a loved one’s death, but shows that moving on never means forgetting.

Missing Mommy

by Rebecca Cobb (Henry Holt & Co, $16.99)

When we say goodbye to mommy, where did she go? The author and illustrator of this children’s bereavement book welcomed the support of child bereavement experts when she created this highly-praised book for very young ones.

What Does Dead Mean?

by Caroline Jay, Jenni Thomas and Unity Joy Dale (Jessica Kingsley Publishing, $15.95)

Why do people have to die – and is being dead like sleeping? This children’s book on grief and loss addresses 17 big questions that children have about death, with simple, truthful answers and talking points of its own to prompt further thoughts and conversation.

Where Are You? A Child’s Book About Loss

by Laura Olivieri (Lulu.com, $13.94)

This book conveys in simple, yet thought-provoking ways the emotional and physical ways in which we react when someone dies, from not being able to see them anymore, to feeling sad. Comforting to listen to, as well as to read aloud, it could help you both talk about the loved one you have lost and miss.

Apps for the Grieving

After losing a loved one, you may feel you need support in understanding the emotions you are feeling, or help adjusting to a new kind of life.

Although nothing can replace the love and support of friends or family, mobile apps are among the helpful resources that may help you through the grieving process.

Here, we take a look at five grief apps which may help you understand death and the emotions you’re experiencing when adapting to life after the loss of a loved one.

1. My Grief Angels

My Grief Angels is a smartphone grief app with the objective of creating a global community, for people to be there for one another during their difficult times.

The non-profit developed app connects and supports people who have lost a loved one. There is a grief chat feature, which allows users to chat with other ‘grief angels’. The app also has a grief meetup feature which allows users the opportunity to create local events for other ‘grief angels’ to join. The Grief Support Network App is available on iPhone, Android, Amazon and HTML5.

2. Headspace

Headspace is an app aimed at promoting wellbeing through meditation and mindfulness techniques. Coping with grief is one area of mental wellbeing that you can sign up to receive helpful meditations for. You can begin with a ‘basics’ taster and choose to subscribe for regular updates.

Headspace founder Andy Puddicombe says: “You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgement.”

The app is available to download on the Apple App Store, and Google Play.

3. Lilies

Lilies is a user-friendly mobile grief app for young people which gives virtual hugs. Developed by six school girls, the app provides a safe community to share thoughts and memories, as well as grief tips.

A bereavement organisation for kids, Winston’s Wish, is supporting this grief app. It said: “The Lilies project team have created something very special with this app. They did something very few people do — stopped and thought about those children and young people who have experienced the death of someone close to them.”

4. Apart of Me

Apart of Me is a mobile gaming app developed to provide children with strength and resilience when someone is dying or has died.

Set in a colorful virtual world, the bereavement app was developed by Bounce Works, and allows children to curate memories of their loved ones in a beautiful and engaging way.

Upon opening the app, its users are introduced to a peaceful island that is theirs to explore. As they discover the various different parts of the island, they can undertake quests and puzzles. These have been especially created to help children process their emotions and also help adult carers to begin and support difficult conversations with them.

5. Nino’s Mourning Toolbox

Targeted at children aged four to 12 years old, Nino’s Mourning Toolbox tells the story of a dinosaur whose sister has died. The interactive story journeys through steps in the grieving process to help children overcome their loss and help families to support each other.

This mobile app invites children to answer death-related questions in a friendly and creative way. The activities encourage singing, drawing, inventing, speaking, thinking and listening as a means to better understand the death of a family member. The app is available for download on Android and iPhone.

Commentary: Why you shouldn’t worry about bringing children to funerals

As published in the Chicago Tribune:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/parenting/ct-children-and-funerals-20150706-story.html

by Sharon Holbrook Washington Post July 6, 2015

My children’s great-grandfather passed away last week at age 90. Just as surely as we took our 9, 7, and 4-year-olds to visit him (though not enough — it’s never enough), we took them in hand to Great-Grandpa’s wake and funeral.

 Why?

My kids got to see their extended family at its best and closest: telling stories, crying and laughing together, holding hands. The family was a strong, united One over those days, and we were part of that One. My children belong to something bigger than our little family of five.

Children provide hope. Immediately before the funeral, we made our last prayers at the casket and gave Great-Grandma hugs. As my wide-eyed 4-year-old tumbled towards her for an embrace, Great-Grandma exclaimed, “Precious girl!” and she meant it. Sometimes we need to see something whole and young and perfect when there is sadness all around us, and that’s what a (well-behaved) preschooler can offer at a funeral.

They don’t need to be protected — usually. Kids know about crying. Many of them do it every day. Usually we want them to stop, because it’s uncomfortable for us, and we very badly want our children to be happy. But hard feelings are important too, and we can learn to guide kids through feeling sorrow and discomfort and coming out okay on the other side of those emotions. I would think carefully before bringing my children to an especially tragic funeral, perhaps one for a child or a young parent — something that could be truly frightening — but the funeral of an older relative? This sadness they can manage, and it will strengthen them.

They need practice with funerals. Nobody likes them, but they have to happen. Wakes and funerals can be foreign territory with their singular requirements for etiquette, dress, and behavior. Better to get practice early, when it’s someone the child isn’t as close to, than to layer a sea of funeral-manners confusion on top of truly deep mourning. Just a few months ago, my kids stopped with us at the wake of a quiet, kind man our family knew from church, just to quickly pay our respects. The children didn’t really know Elmer, but they learned what to do and say, and because we’d gone to his viewing, Great-Grandpa’s body wasn’t the first one they’d seen in an open casket.

Funerals connect generations, past and future. Great-Grandpa was a World War II veteran, and uniformed Navy came to his graveside and performed a beautifully moving flag ceremony. It ended with a presentation of the flag to Great-Grandma, and the heart-stopping words: “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.” Afterwards, I reminded my 9-year-old that in 80 years, he will be able to tell his grandchildren the story of honoring his great-grandpa who served in that important, tragic war that will then be 150 years past. He was just as awed as he should have been by this fact.

It’s not easy going to funerals, nor taking kids to them. But it is not our job to make our children’s lives easy, and it is our job to parent and guide through the hard things, too. You can do it, and so can they.

Sharon Holbrook is a writer living in Cleveland, Ohio. You can find her at sharonholbrook.com and on Twitter @216Sharon.