by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
If you don't know where to start with planning a memorial, this is part of a series of blogs on this topic.Read the first blog here: How To Ease Burden By Your Loving Preparation.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU SUFFER A LOSS
In many different scenarios, I’ve stood by to watch my family members and friends be completely and utterly unable to function when facing the loss of a loved one. Due to lack of planning, or when others were nonfunctional, I handled some challenging things.
I’ve held the sacred honor of being present enough to step up and fulfill various roles so that the grieving process and public rituals for the deceased could be honored as respectfully as possible.
From making phone calls to inform others of the sad news, planning memorial agendas, writing obituaries and creating memorial programs, to composing and performing piano or vocal music, or leading spoken eulogies, I’ve worn many hats with regard to the sad, difficult time of loss.
It was gut-wrenching for me each time. Through my personal anguish, and the torment of seeing others I care for going through their sorrow, I also saw firsthand the things that heaped more insult to this injury of the heart. Loss is something we must all endure one day. Death knocks on every door at some point.
I don’t claim to be an expert at memorial planning. There are as many different ways to handle an end-of-life situation as there are people in the world. I humbly embrace my experiences with these ending chapters, though, and want to offer help by sharing my knowledge of things to consider.
WHERE TO START WHEN DEALING WITH LOSS
Facing the suffering of loss and grief is complex, grueling and exhausting. It’s necessary to find a way through this process and manage communication to others, and a ceremony, service or ritual for closure that is comforting to you and others experiencing loss.
Even if your plan excludes a public or traditional memorial service, informing those you love about your preferences alleviates confusion and pain after you’re gone. Dealing with this can be more excruciating when you don’t have a plan.
I’ve personally witnessed tragic situations of sudden loss, where no plan was in place. Grieving people have difficulty thinking, concentrating, communicating, or even functioning. This causes tremendous angst for surviving loved ones. Communication in this context can be incomplete, chaotic, and confusing. This adds to further stress for everyone involved.
No matter how you want to handle this, it’s important to think about it before you need a plan, so that your suffering and that of others is alleviated.
When there is a plan in place, though grief is still unavoidable, there is at least a structure to follow. This takes the pressure off of you and others experiencing loss, so you may go through the motions of whatever ritual you or your loved one has in place.
Not having to figure it out or think about it or communicate with others who are grieving too, makes everything a little easier for everyone involved.
HOW TO PREPARE YOUR END-OF-LIFE STORY
People need to be informed when someone has died. Getting an obituary published in a local newspaper and/or through a funeral home’s website is a common way to make the unpleasant announcement.
Things you need to consider include having an obituary ready. If finances are an issue, there are ways to get the word out with the least expense.
HOW TO SAVE MONEY WHEN YOU NEED AN OBITUARY
A written, publicly posted obituary is especially important if you want friends and family to attend the memorial. This lessens your burden of making calls or sending messages while you are under duress.
If finances are an issue, it’s even more important to plan ahead. Writing an obituary can be stressful enough without having to worry about the cost. Be aware that having an obituary printed through a funeral business, or directly with the local newspaper, can be costly.
Though the funeral company may offer to send in the obituary, they generally will not bring this expense to your attention. Instead, you will later receive the bill from the newspaper. You should also know that if you write more than a few lines for the obituary, that will easily run the printing cost to more than $800.
WRITE TWO OBITUARY VERSIONS
You can save this cost by creating a short version. If you submit only the most basic details for newspaper publication, and specify this shortened version to the funeral business, the newspaper’s shortened obituary version will cost you nothing.
Create a short version using only the most basic details, such as the name of deceased, date of death, time and place of memorial services. Here is a simple example of a short version obituary that will cost nothing:
“Danielle (Dannie) Lewis Ford, 55, passed away June 17, 2018. Join a celebration of Dannie’s life, June 28, 6pm at Greenleaf Funeral Home. Visitation from 5pm.”
Even this minimal information could cost something if your word choices extend past a few lines. The funeral home should be able to clarify whether your wording will print free of charge. If not, consider shortening the sentences to keep things concise.
Some may feel that this brief amount of words doesn’t do justice to those we’ve lost. Fortunately, most funeral companies also allow a longer and fully detailed obituary to be posted on their company website. You may then share the link from that website with your social media, or by email or text free of charge.
THINGS TO INCLUDE IN AN OBITUARY
For the longer version, you may include as much information on the deceased as you want. You may use my example below as a template, by replacing the information with your own.
You may want to include the birthplace and date, accomplishments such as education or awards, military service, and career milestones. Surviving family and close friends are often listed in an obituary.
You may also wish to include things that were important to your loved one, like their favorite subjects, hobbies, charities, causes, religious affiliations, and so on.
You may include as much information as you desire in this longer version without incurring cost. Sharing comforting quotes or poetry, and even a photo collage may be submitted for the funeral company to upload onto your designated obituary tribute. Your words allow surviving loved ones to remember treasured memories, shared experiences, and personality traits that made this person special to all who were acquainted.
Below is an example of a longer version, suitable for the funeral home’s website. Feel free to use this as a template to prepare an obituary. Having one as a reference is a great relief to those who will be there when you’re gone.
I know this is a delicate and emotionally taxing topic for all. But if you get a few things in order well in advance of need, you and your loved ones will rest easy and at peace.
I’d love to hear from you. It means a lot to me that my content is helpful and empowers you. Please take a moment to join the conversation below to let me know if this blog is helpful or if you have questions or suggestions!
Stay tuned for my next blog: Things to consider for a memorial agenda.
Also coming soon: My Memorial Pack including: easy-to-use templates for writing an obituary, memorial programs, downloadable memorial agenda checklist, music tracks and poetry (suitable for memorials/loss).
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In my Caregiver blogs, you'll find I understand the internal struggles and daily stress as a caregiver juggling entrepreneurial life.