The death of someone we care about can be one of the most difficult experiences of life. Words seem inadequate to describe how painful the grief we feel can be. It is often much more challenging than we expect. To help you, we have assembled local resources and links, and topical, personal messages from our owner, Michael Allen.
Local Grief Resources & Links
- CovenantCare at Home – Home health and hospice serving the city of Turlock and its surrounding communities for over 30 years.
- Jessica’s House – Provides support in a safe place for grieving children, teens, young adults, and their families.
- Community Hospice – Free grief support services for the community.
- GriefShare – Offers support grief support groups in person and online.
- 2-1-1 Stanislaus County – A program of United Way of Stanislaus County, providing comprehensive information and referral services.
Marking the Occasion – Remembering Grandfather Bill
A Message from Mike
When I think of the people who have helped me become the man I am today, I credit my grandfather for teaching me to have a sense of pride in myself, my community and everything I do. He showed me, by example, to always do the right thing; to see the bigger picture and to never be afraid to stand up for the things I believe in. He was my mentor, my role model, my friend.
Every January marks the anniversary of the passing of my grandfather, William E. “Bill” Allen.
I felt it was important to mark the occasion by celebrating his life and legacy in my own personal way. While anniversaries can bring a renewed sense of grief, the anniversary of a loved one’s death in particular is truly a time to reflect upon the gifts they have given us and to celebrate the impact they have had on our lives.
Like I have said many times before, the grieving process is unique and personal to each individual. Throughout my career, many have shared with me the special ways they honor the memories of those they love. Following are shared ideas that have worked for others:
- Plan to spend anniversary dates with a friend or family member and do something special to comfort yourself.
- Make a donation to a charity in your loved one’s name.
- Create a memory box full of tokens, memorabilia and photographs of those you have lost.
- Light a candle in remembrance of your loved one on his or her anniversary. Throughout the day/evening it will serve as a reminder.
- Make your loved one’s favorite dessert and possibly share it with friends or family.
- Take a trip to the beach, or go hiking. Choose an activity you enjoy and possibly include friends and family.
- Share photo albums with others. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words because photos tend to spark memories for many. One of the best ways to celebrate a life is to keep it alive through sharing those memories.
- At dinner, make a toast to the person who has died and invite others to join you.
Most always, I am the one sitting behind the desk guiding families through planning funerals. Like many, the anniversary of my grandfather’s passing is a time to remember. I hope that the ideas I’ve shared will help you find some comfort and direction at a difficult time. They certainly have for me.
Helping a Child Through Loss
A Message from Mike
Over the past decade of working with families at their time of loss, I have often been asked how to tell a child that someone they love has died. It seems like a tough question to answer, but actually it’s rather simple because we’ve consistently found that children understand a lot more than we think. In fact, children can and often do handle the news of death better than adults.
If someone close to a child has died, it is best to tell them as soon as possible. Because news of death travels so quickly, parents who delay telling their children run the risk that it will be heard from someone else. This will often lead to more hurt feelings and shock later. Once you have told a child that someone has died, take the time to explain what will happen next. Talk openly and gently about the visitation, the memorial service and even the burial, before these events occur. It is also a good idea to take your children to the remembrance events, but do not force them to attend as grieving is a uniquely personal process.
Like adults, children need to grieve to accept that death has occurred and then attempt to move forward with their lives. Your child will take cues from you, so do not be afraid to express your own grief. Talk to them and encourage him or her to talk as well. If a child wants to talk about the decedent, engage in an open, honest conversation and share fond memories.
It is also recommended that you and your children be allowed to cry openly. Do not encourage children to try and be brave by not crying. If you feel the need to cry, do so as children mirror trusted adults and will be more likely to feel comfortable crying. And remember to hug and hold your children to comfort them.
Help your child understand that his or her relationship to the decedent has not ended, it has changed. After the services, keep pictures and other reminders around to spark conversations with your child. This will help form a new set of emotional bonds with the person who died. Most importantly, be patient with yourself and with your children as there is no ‘normal’ or ‘correct’ way to grieve. Of course conversations about death with children can feel awkward. Therefore, find comfort in knowing that your arrangement counselor can provide you with guidance and resources to help you through difficult times.
A wonderful program for the community can be found at Jessica’s House. Jessica’s House formally opened in April of 2012 as a place where children, teens and their parents can go to learn to cope with the loss of a loved one. Currently located in a remodeled 87-year-old home on East Main Street in Turlock, they will soon be relocating to their brand new expanded location at the junction of Christofferson Road and Crowell Road, adjacent to Cornerstone Covenant Church. Trained volunteers & staff work to provide a safe environment that enables those suffering from a loss a place to find their own path through the recovery process. For more information about Jessica’s House, visit their website at www.jessicashouse.org.
Helping a Grieving Friend
A Message from Mike
In the wake of a great tragedy or personal loss we turn first to the people we trust — our friends and family; making each of us a potential resource in helping another to overcome his or her grief. But when faced with the responsibility of supporting someone in this time of need, people often find it difficult to know just what to say or how to act.
After over a decade of serving families in my community, my observations and experience have taught me that there is no “right” way to help someone who is grieving. As I am sure we all know as parents and friends, children and co-workers, no two people are exactly alike. There is, however, a common thread that runs through each personal experience with grief. It is not about knowing the perfect thing to say or do, but often the simple act of being there that helps the most.
People often feel like they don’t know what to say at a time like this. Even when you are unsure of the best course of action to support someone, it is important to simply be there for them. They will communicate to you what their needs are. Simple acts, such as listening or offering a hug or handshake will be a great show of support. Your physical presence and willingness to listen are more important than having the perfect sentiment.
The old adage about time healing all wounds is somewhat true. However, many people experience a renewed sense of grief long after the death — at the holidays or on anniversaries, birthdays and special occasions where the decedent was present before. Reach out to friends and family who have lost someone on these days to show your continued understanding and support.
Grieving is a very personal process unique to each individual. Try not to judge a person’s feelings or coping methods. Be open and ready to listen without offering advice. Do not react when someone expresses feelings of anger and bitterness but instead allow and even encourage these expressions without judgment. Remember, just as there is no right or wrong way to grieve; there is no wrong way to help someone who is enduring the grieving process.
Funerals are for the Living
A Message from Mike
Having served grieving families for over a decade I can attest to the benefits of attending a funeral after the passing of a loved one.
A funeral is the first crucial step in the grieving process, which is why it is often said that a funeral is actually for the living. The funeral provides the setting and opportunity to celebrate a life that has been lived.
When a loved one dies, it is always a difficult time. It is often hard to know just what to say, how to begin to deal with your loss, or how to say good-bye. The funeral service is a way to bring caring people together — to lend support and to help each other through this process. It allows mourners to express their grief and to share it with each other.
Another benefit of a funeral is that it stimulates conversation about the decedent, which is an important step toward accepting the death. Without this opportunity, many people experience much more difficulty resolving their grief. Yet, the reality of death needs to be accepted on an intellectual basis and an emotional level as well.
There are literally dozens of details that must be considered in order to plan an appropriate funeral. Thinking through all of these details and coordinating the service are all tasks that become very difficult in a time of crisis. Fortunately, professional funeral counselors are able to help families deal with these aspects of a loved one’s death. As a funeral counselor, on a daily basis I serve as an advisor, a supporter and a friend.
While a funeral can be a very difficult event, it is most often necessary and beneficial for the grieving process. Beginning the grieving process with friends and family present will allow you to share your feelings while surrounded with the comfort of those you love and trust.
Suicide and Grief
A Message from Mike
Suicide is a topic that none of us feel comfortable discussing. However, with suicide ranking as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, it is a fact of life we cannot ignore.
According to the American Association of Suicidology a suicide occurs every 10.9 minutes (2018 data). Unfortunately, I know those statistics too well. As a funeral counselor I have served numerous families experiencing immeasurable grief caused by a loved one choosing to end their own life. When someone close to you dies, it can be difficult to let go. An unexpected death is especially hard to accept. Yet, when someone chooses to end his or her own life, accepting the death can seem impossible.
Following the suicide of a loved one, you may experience intensified grief reactions. You may go into shock, feel numb, be unable to move or simply to communicate. This is nature’s way of protecting you and letting you slowly accept what has happened. You may deny, at first, that your loved one was the victim of suicide. It is common for family and friends to insist that the death was an accident, despite all evidence to the contrary.
You may become angry with yourself or with those close to the victim for not seeing the signs and preventing the suicide. You might even feel anger toward the deceased for committing suicide.
Guilt frequently plagues both the parents and surviving children. Parents may feel that they failed their child; surviving children may believe that they did something to make their parent or sibling want to die. As you are trying to cope with your feelings of guilt, try not to criticize yourself too harshly for your behavior toward the victim while he or she was alive.
The grieving process is difficult, but necessary. There is no “normal” time span for grieving and no two people handle grief in the same way. A first step to grief recovery is to attend the funeral. In a way, it is an affirmation that your loved one has died; a commencement of your healing process and a show of support to other family members and friends.
It is very important that you share your tears and talk about your feelings with others. Your friends may feel awkward around you for a while because they do not know what to say. Tell them when you want to talk about the decedent and do not be afraid to use the word “suicide.” Suffering the loss of a loved one to suicide can be an extremely confusing and painful time. Do not suppress your feelings of grief. Instead, speak openly with those you trust. Remember that your funeral counselor is always ready to listen and provide counsel. As a survivor of a loss, you can and will learn to live a little more normally each passing day. While you may never forget, you will learn to endure and move on.