Tag Archives: Death

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The Death Deck

The Death Deck: A Lively Party Game

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Have you wanted to talk about death but were afraid to bring it up with family and friends? If so, two of my friends in grief, Lori LoCicero and Lisa Pawl, just released a new party game called The Death Deck. This game that lets you explore a topic that’s always on our minds but we often afraid to discuss. The Death Deck has everything you need for a fun and memorable night of lively conversations with friends or family.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

Game box (perfectly sized for easy travel)

112 question cards (multiple choice and open-ended questions)

Instruction booklet (with sample scorecard)

Unlimited stories and laughs to share

 

HOW DO YOU PLAY?

There are 112 cards with a mix of multiple choice and open-ended questions guaranteed to spark lively discussion around the topic of death.

Play with partners to try and predict each other’s answers, or all together in a group.

No matter how you play, you’ll learn some new things about your friends, your family, and likely yourself.

HOW TO ORDER

Click HERE for more information on how to order. Note: I am not a paid affiliate, I am just excited for this wonderful new game!

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!


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Dad's Death: Life Lessons

Dad’s Death: 10 Life Lessons (Part 6)

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My Dad died on January 28th, 2017 due to complications after a fall. He would have been 85 years old this year. He and my Mom would have also celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. This is the sixth in a series of articles written about his final weeks.

Article 6, Dad’s Death – 10 Life Lessons: https://goo.gl/SXh5NX
Article 5, Dad’s Death – The Aftermath: https://goo.gl/6YILxK
Article 4, Dad’s Final Days: https://goo.gl/k4PH63
Article 3, Dad’s End of Life Dreams and Visions: https://goo.gl/x2zvqA
Article 2, Dad’s Recovery: https://goo.gl/80ZBAc
Article 1, Dad’s Fall and Surgery: https://goo.gl/M7Xm65

REFLECTING BACK

Now that it has been almost 5 months since Dad’s death I reflect back on the life lessons such an experience brings to someone’s life. To be honest, this was the first time I had really experienced death. My previous interactions had only been on the periphery. On the receiving end of a phone call. Or in the dark of night after I had seen someone for the last time.

But this time, it was up close and personal. From the day my Dad fell, through his surgery, on the roller coaster that was his recovery, to the moment he took his last breath. It knocks the wind out of you. Like they say, you don’t understand unless you have been there. I have such a deeper appreciation for anyone who has been through or is going through such an ordeal. Suffice it to say, your life is forever changed.

LIFE LESSONS (BEFORE DEATH)

So what would I tell someone who hasn’t been on this journey yet?  I could easily say avoid it or run for the hills if you see it heading your way, but that wouldn’t be practical. It hit our family one sunny day when we least expected it. Once it hit, there was no where to run. We were thrown smack dab in the middle whether we wanted to be there or not.

Instead I ask you to accept death as a part of life. Accept that you have to face it and can’t avoid it. Accept if you prepare in advance you have a better chance of  moving through it in one piece. It won’t be pain free, but by planning there certainly may be less pain. If you haven’t gotten there yet, here are some of the life lessons I learned and wanted to share:

Talk about death – This is the most important item on the list.  Talk about death with your family. Their death. Your death. Don’t avoid it. Death is a part of life. It’s normal, natural and inevitable someone you love will die. It’s normal, natural and inevitable you will die.  Why send everyone into a tailspin after you die by not talking about it beforehand? Don’t approach it for the first time while someone is dying or after their death. The grief fog rolls in putting you in a parallel universe. You have no idea what hour or day it is. You have no comprehension of what anyone is saying to you.  Why would you want to have important conversations during this time?  Make it a family topic. Article: Having Conversations About End Of Life Issues

Ask tough questions – Although my Dad had an Advance Health Care Directive, we had never really asked him what it meant to him. The end of life medical techniques in an Advance Health Care Directive usually include: use of dialysis and breathing machines; resuscitation if you stop breathing or if your heart stops; feeding tubes and organ or tissue donation after you die. Since my parent’s trust was written in 1992 and amended in 2005, the laws have changed.  My own Advance Health Care Directive, written in 2013, is much more specific about these end of life medical choices. When it came time to make decisions for my Dad, his Advance Health Care Directive indicated he did not want to be an organ donor but was really not specific on the other topics.  As a result my family had to discuss what we thought Dad wanted (not what we knew he wanted).  Fortunately, my Mom, Sister and I were all on the same page.  If we had not been not been on the same page, my Dad may still be “lingering” in some acute care Hospital while we tried to figure it out.  Ask the tough questions ahead of time so you are not trying to figure it out during such a stressful and emotional time. Article: Advance Directive – Death With Dignity

Plan ahead – Don’t assume everyone knows what you want if its never been talked about. Prolong life or don’t prolong it? Die in hospital or at home? Burial or cremation? Open or closed casket? Church funeral or Memorial service at the Mortuary? Religious or party atmosphere? My Sister and I were lucky my parents had already pre-paid for most of their arrangements. This made it so much easier for us to make the remaining decisions.  If you don’t have the resources to pre-pay, at least write it all down. This is better than someone trying to guess or having family members fight about it. Article: Don’t Let Fear Stop You From End-of-Life Planning

Get paperwork in order – Make sure there is a Will or Living Trust, Advance Heath Care Directive and Power of Attorney.  If there isn’t one and/or it isn’t affordable to hire an Attorney, at least go to somewhere like Staples and buy the necessary forms. Fill out the forms and have them notarized.  Better yet, Legal Zoom is also a great resource. There is no excuse to let anyone you know (or yourself) die without these three documents.  It’s also important to know where any important files are kept or at least have a list of everything.  My Dad had files and lists but they were hard to decipher. This contributed to the anxiety we experienced after his death. Article: 8 Smart Estate Planning Steps to Die the Right Way

Speak up with Doctors – I grew to learn during my Dad’s hospitalization that Doctors are not often very clear. On several occasions when I felt like they were dancing around  subjects I asked, “Do you think my Dad is in congestive heart failure?” or “Do you think my Dad is dying?”  This directness seemed to throw off some of the Doctors. I wanted them to know honesty was the best policy. Towards the end when no one seemed to have answers, I asked for a Social Worker so my Dad’s case could be reviewed. We wanted a better idea of what was going on and our options. Things just didn’t seem “right.” So I went with my “gut” and contacted the Charge Nurse who got in touch with a Social Worker.  Dad’s case was reviewed and a Palliative Care Team took over.  Best decision we made. Who knows how long my Dad would have been in “no man’s land” if I hadn’t asked for help. I am glad I listened to my gut.  Article: Facing Mortality – How To Talk To Your Doctor

Life after death – Over the years, especially after two of my loved ones died by suicide I really understood there is life after death. I knew this because I received messages and signs from them. However until my experience with my Dad, I had never seen anyone seem to be in “this world and the next” at the same. The story he told me about his “visit” left me in awe.  My belief in the next life was strengthened by this encounter. This was the most amazing life lesson. Article: End-of-Life Dreams and Visions

LIFE LESSONS (AFTER DEATH)

Understand everyone grieves differently  One of the most misunderstood concepts about grief is that we all grieve the same way. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Grief is a unique and individual experience. How someone grieves, or more importantly how they choose to grieve, depends on many factors: The type of relationship they have or did not have with their loss, and the types and intensity of emotions that may or may not be involved. In other words, the intensity of how someone grieves directly correlates to the uniqueness of their relationship. This is why no two people will react the same way to the same loss. For example, my sister and I have very different relationships with our parents. Because of these differences, we will react in our own distinct way to their deaths. How we grieve will also be dependent on whether we decide to face it or not. We could choose to plunge into it head on. We could choose to avoid it. Once we make that decision, each of us will grieve in our own individual and unique way.

Be gentle with yourself – Too many times, we put our own self-care on hold because we are facing grief. If you are physically, emotionally, or spiritually drained you put yourself at risk of getting sick or being in an accident. If you are physically healthy, it makes it easier to deal with your emotions. This is why it is important to try to take care of you as much as possible. Be gentle with yourself during this time. Practice self-care.

Paperwork is inevitable – No matter how well anyone prepares for death, paperwork (and lots of it) will hit you like a tsunami. For the paperwork you can control, make sure there is easy access to legal, financial and healthcare files and forms at home. For the paperwork you can’t control, know ahead of time that insurance companies, lawyers and financial institutions take great pride (it seems) in the number of ways they will ask you for the same thing. There is never just one form to complete (except for the VA which still amazes me).  Just getting my Dad’s medical records from the Hospital and Fire Department took six tries. Be prepared for this to happen. Take it slowly and if possible, have someone who can help you to keep track of everything.

Be patient – Grief is not on a timeline. Be patient with grief and the paperwork reality that follows. Don’t push to be finished or become anxious when it isn’t. The entire journey takes “as long as it takes.” Accept this fact and you are ahead of the game.

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In this Ted Talk, Judy MacDonald Johnston shares 5 practices for planning for a good end of life.

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!


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The Aftermath

Dad’s Death: The Aftermath (Part 5)

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My Dad died on January 28th, 2017 due to complications after a fall. He would have been 85 years old this year. He and my Mom would have also celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. This is the fifth in a series of articles written about his final weeks.

Article 6, Dad’s Death – 10 Life Lessons: https://goo.gl/SXh5NX
Article 5, Dad’s Death – The Aftermath: https://goo.gl/6YILxK
Article 4, Dad’s Final Days: https://goo.gl/k4PH63
Article 3, Dad’s End of Life Dreams and Visions: https://goo.gl/x2zvqA
Article 2, Dad’s Recovery: https://goo.gl/80ZBAc
Article 1, Dad’s Fall and Surgery: https://goo.gl/M7Xm65

LEAVING THE HOSPITAL FOR THE LAST TIME

We left the Hospital for the last time in a daze. Going there had become a part of our life for almost a month. Especially mine. I think there were only a few days where I didn’t go. It had become my routine. Although I felt relieved to not be going back again, it was also a reminder that my Dad was not coming home with us. The numbness began to set in. We all felt like zombies. Everything seemed so unreal.  The energy at my Mom’s house was one filled with extreme sadness. You could just feel it when you walked in. I was so thankful my children were home and we were altogether. This brought so much comfort to both my Mom and I. I wondered how would we get through this?

BABY STEPS

The first call I made was to the mortuary. We needed to make an appointment to set up Dad’s arrangements. What questions we were supposed to ask? What answers did we need to have? Dad and Mom had already paid for some of the mortuary services but what was left to do?  My Mom, sister, brother-in-law and I were went together.  This made getting through the meeting so much easier. Our arrangement director was calm, loving and understanding. We had choices to make but thankfully we all seemed to be on the same page. We let Mom take the lead and answered when she couldn’t. We learned about ordering prayer cards and death certificates. I took notes so we wouldn’t forget what we had to do. We needed to chose photos.  Make a music CD. Create the Memorial Tree. Ultimately, we arranged for Dad’s service and picked those items we felt he would want. It was all about him and we wanted it to be special in every way.

DAD’S MEMORIAL

We held Dad’s memorial on Friday February 3rd.  Even though Dad had not been cremated yet, we wanted to have it while my children were still in town. We had it at the Mortuary not at a Church. Because were are Catholic, some people thought that was weird. Shouldn’t it be at a Church? No, My Dad wanted it at the Mortuary. No judging allowed. Not today. It was exactly what Dad would have wanted. Simple yet heartfelt.

I gave the Eulogy on behalf of the family.

I finished up his eulogy by asking everyone to raise their make-believe glasses in a toast to Dad:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His Hands.

This was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do but I know Dad was with us in spirit that day.

We even were able to get the U.S. Navy to come in and be a part of the service. It was so beautiful to watch how they folded and unfolded the flag then gave it to my Mom.  If you haven’t seen the Naval Funeral Flag Presentation Ceremony before here is a video (from another service not my Dad’s):

The reception was right after the service in another room. The food was simple yet amazing.  We walked around thanking everyone for being there.  Mom held up okay but you could tell she was emotionally and physically drained.  It was a lot to deal with after almost 65 years of marriage.

After the reception was over, family and friends ended up at my sister’s house.  It was so comforting to be together.  It was the first time we had been in my sister’s house without my Dad.  It all seemed like a dream.

BACK TO REALITY

Once the memorial came and went, reality hit. Everyone else went back to their lives; we seemed to be stuck in an alternate one. We walked around in daze. After living with my parents for the last few years, I was used to Dad being around. Like all the time. Like every single day. Now he was gone but reminders of him were everywhere. His shoes by the back door. His sweater draped over a dining room chair. His Lactaid milk and other favorite foods still in the refrigerator. Mail coming in with his name. Callers asking for him on the phone. Emails for him about new books from Amazon Kindle. Reminders were EVERYWHERE.

A large portrait of Dad from the memorial service and his urn (which he will share with my Mom) became a predominant fixture in the dining room. Lighted candles formed a semi-circle around both. It’s like he was still with us but in a different way. We talked to his picture. We played the music from his memorial service. We knew he was around because of all the signs and messages we were receiving. This helped but we still felt lost.

A MOUNTAIN OF PAPERWORK

Unfortunately, there was still much to do in regards to legalities. I didn’t want my Mom to have to go through any of this alone so I tried to help as best I could. We made appointments to see the family lawyer. We stopped at the various banks to close accounts. We stood in line at the Social Security Administration. We sent off inquiries to insurance companies and benefit providers. We reached out to the family accountant.

What this left us with was more paperwork than we ever imagined.  Our “grief brains” could barely remember what to do even after we had taken copious notes.  At one point my Mom wrote a check to pay a bill from an account we had just closed.  I even took the check to the bank and deposited it for her into another account. I somehow missed the fact (even though I had been there) that the account had been closed entirely. I guess I really had no brain cells left. When the check ultimately bounced my Mom and I realized we had no idea what we were doing. It was all an out-of-body experience.  We must be living in a parallel universe.  Going through the motions but having no real idea of what was happening.  I reminded her all this was completely normal. I felt horrible I hadn’t caught it. After all I should be more aware as “grief specialist”. My Mom was depending on me. But this reminded me that no-one, not even a  “grief specialist”, is immune from the side-effects of loss.  I just had to learn to take my own advice and approach things one moment at a time.

So Mom and I started checking and double checking paperwork before sending it out.  Often it was still sent back because we had both missed something. It became more than frustrating. In those cases where we didn’t miss anything, we would receive yet more forms needing yet more information.  Everything seemed to come in waves.  It was frustrating as all heck. The only organization that was surprisingly easy to deal with was the Veteran’s Administration. Yes a bureaucratic government organization was actually the most kind and efficient. My Mom made the call, filled out the paperwork once and received the check within a few weeks.  So far, the VA has been the only organization where things went off without any issues.  We are so thankful for their competency and expediency.

I now try to get to the mail first so my Mom doesn’t see it.  That only works sometimes. When she does get to it first I can see her hold back the tears as she unleashes yet another set of forms from the envelope. When will this end?

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Sending you love, comfort and peace!


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