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Published: February 19, 2019 by Ask The Director
Although the words "Day of the Dead" may seem disconcerting, it is important to remember that this traditional Mexican holiday actually marks a celebration. The purpose of this event is to commemorate and honor past ancestors, typically held on November 1 and 2. While this holiday follows the timeline of Christian-based All Soul’s Day and All Saint’s Day, Día de los Muertos actually dates back to ancient Aztec cultures that followed this tradition to honor the process of birth and death.
While actual practices can vary from region to region, most Mexican cultures will celebrate Day of the Dead on November 1 to honor children who have passed away, while November 2 is reserved for paying homage to deceased adults.
Many may be familiar with the bright clothing, floral arrangements and "sugar skull" painted faces that are often used by celebrants in Hispanic cultures. However, there are many more interesting practices that follow this historic holiday. For instance, many will leave gifts—also known as ofrendas—to help deceased ancestors along their journey in the afterlife. These gifts—such as food, flowers, pillows, clothing, memorabilia, photos—are typically left at gravesites or in the family home.
Those who see families decorating gravesites with marigolds and colorful sugar skulls in November should remember that while designed as a festivity, this is a deeply historic and respected tradition throughout Hispanic culture. As an inviting community-based holiday, individuals who are curious can often delight in celebrating Día de los Muertos if traveling abroad in Mexico or coming across festivities in the U.S.
Published: January 27, 2019 by Ask The DirectorSocial media has made it easier than ever to connect with people all over the world almost instantly. Facebook posts are a quick way to share the news with all of your connections at once. However, not all news is always good news. While you’re scrolling through graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, and birth announcements, you may also come across posts expressing the loss of a family member or friend.
Grief is something many people have trouble dealing with. What do you say to someone who has just lost a loved one? And more so, what is the appropriate response in an online environment?
First of all, simply acknowledging their loss is a good place to start. Click the "like" (or "sad") button to let them know you’ve seen their post. They aren’t necessarily looking for everyone to comment, but just to know they’re not alone and others know what’s going on
If you do leave a comment, make it brief yet thoughtful. Refrain from asking what happened or sharing your own stories of loss. Focus on them in their time of need. Show your sympathy through a simple statement such as:
Avoid messages such as "They’re in a better place now" or "Now they’re free from pain" – while true, they won’t necessarily make someone feel better. If it is someone you are close to, you may want to give them a call to follow up and see if there is anything you can do or anything they need.
Remember that loss is not a once-and-done event. Keep in touch and check in during the weeks and months to come to see how they’re doing and offer your support – even if it’s through a Facebook post.
Published: December 27th, 2018 by Ask The DirectorWhen a loved one dies, you’re suddenly forced to make a lot of tough decisions about cremation, burial, and memorialization. One of the biggest challenges is mastering the terminology; simply put, cremation entails a lot of "lingo" that you may be unfamiliar with. For example, what’s a columbarium?
This is a structure, typically found in a cemetery or church setting, with different compartments or niches in it for placing urns. These structures serve as mausoleums and provide a way for you to give your loved one’s cremated remains a final resting place.
Another term you might come across is cremains—and this one you can probably guess all on your own! It’s simply a portmanteau of cremated remains, that is, the "ashes" produced in the cremation process.
Disposition is the act of placing cremains in their final resting place—whether that’s in a cemetery, a memorial garden, or elsewhere. Entombment specifically refers to burial in a mausoleum. Finally, internment refers to a burial of cremated remains in the ground or in a mausoleum. This is not to be confused with inurnment, which refers to the placement of cremated remains in an urn.
An urn, of course, is simply the container in which you place cremated remains. You might memorialize this urn in your home for a season, but most of the time the urn finds its final destination in a cemetery. One final term to know is niche, which refers to the place in a columbarium where you might place your loved one’s urn.
Knowing some of these terms can help you feel more confident as you seek to make the best decisions for your loved one, or even when pre-planning your own cremation and funeral. Contact a local funeral provider for additional assistance and guidance
Published: December 13th, 2018 by Ask The DirectorWhen a loved one dies, surviving family members are faced with many responsibilities—including the responsibility to alert other friends and family members as to what has happened. In the age of social media, making a death announcement is more complicated than ever before, and it is important to approach this task with the appropriate etiquette.
An important step is to enlist the help of a funeral home director. Make sure you get planning underway before making any sort of formal announcement about the location of the funeral or memorial service. Only publish the obituary once confirmation is received about the availability of a church, funeral home, or other locations. In the obituary, you will want to specify the time and location of the memorial service, but before doing so it is critical to confirm the availability of the venue in question along with any necessary vendors, such as an officiant or caterer. This is something a funeral home director can assist in.
In addition, funeral home directors are skilled in regards to sensitivity, compassionately discussing matters related to death. During a season of grief, you may have a hard time articulating the passage of your loved one, but a funeral home director can be invaluable in helping you craft a message.
As for social media etiquette, the most important thing is to abstain from posting online until you have had a chance to speak directly with family members and other important people. Ensure that you make specific, one-on-one announcements before you make any kind of a more general update.
Telling others about the death of a loved one is never easy, but even so: Following the right protocol is important. Speak with your funeral director about any questions.
Published: December 5th, 2018 by Ask The DirectorNobody likes dwelling on mortality, and conversations about death tend to be "downers"—not least during the otherwise-joyful holiday season. And yet, talking candidly with your family members about end-of-life issues is imperative. And for many families, the holiday season is the best time to do it, simply because the whole family is actually together.
Consider: Should your parents pass away unexpectedly, do you know their wishes for a funeral or memorial service? Do you have a clear understanding of their desires for their estate? And should something unthinkable happen to you, will you be leaving your own kids with a clear plan—or simply with burdens?
For many families, end-of-life preparations go neglected and ignored—but simply having a conversation can be clarifying and even encouraging.
Over this holiday season, we encourage you to have "The Talk" with your family members. That doesn’t necessarily mean hammering out all the issues on the spot, but it does mean getting the conversation going—encouraging everyone to think sensitively yet strategically about end-of-life issues.
Included here is an insert that might be helpful to you—some quick tips and guidelines for starting this conversation, and for keeping it positive and productive.
Some brief bullet points to consider, even as you dip into the insert:
Don’t delay in having The Talk. And don’t put it off just because of the holidays. In truth, this may be the ideal time to engage your loved ones in a conversation.
Published: December 1st, 2018 by Ask The DirectorWhen someone dies, there is almost always some sort of an estate left behind—typically an estate that encompasses a few priceless treasures. In some cases, these items may hold immense monetary value. In other instances, they may hold little financial value but immense sentimental import—think of family heirlooms and other handed-down treasures.
The question that always arises is, who gets to keep these items? To which surviving family member do they go? Hopefully, a will is left behind that specifies these matters. This is seldom the case, however. Specific items are usually not addressed in a will whatsoever.
It is more likely that post-it notes or handwritten memos will be found, specifying who gets which items. The problems here are twofold. For one, such notes are not legally binding. And two, they can sometimes add to the confusion, as they are not always clear and may sometimes be contradictory.
As such, it may be mandatory to get the family together to have an open dialogue about these items—to discuss who wants what and to try to reach a consensus about the fate of each family treasure.When disputes arise, it can be helpful to consider the financial worth of each item, and to try to ensure that each family member gets roughly the same value. This may seem cold, but often this level of objectivity is helpful in sorting out complicated family matters.
Finally, remember that there doesn’t need to be a rush to distribute these items—and often, the best thing to do is to wait a little while until emotions begin to cool and more rational decisions can be made.
Published: November 20, 2018 by Ask The DirectorPaying tribute to your loved one may take on many different forms. Catholic families may choose to hold a rosary service, while other Christian denominations may opt for a wake. Depending on the background and preference of the deceased, as well as that of their bereaving loved ones, there may be a rosary service or wake planned to accompany the funeral.
In Catholic tradition, praying the rosary is a multiple-step process, including praying many well-known prayers. They include the Apostles’ Creed, the Hail Mary, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Glory Be to the Father. In some cases, it may also include the Fatima Prayer.
The rosary service is traditionally a Catholic funeral rite that is held on the evening prior to the burial of a loved one. This service is open to anyone wishing to commemorate the deceased. The family will use this time to pray the rosary and receive visitors. The ritual may be held during a vigil service or wake.
Vigil Service or Wake
These events are typically held the evening prior to a burial. They are used to offer condolences to the grieving family and share memories of the person who has passed. Such services are frequently held at a funeral home, as they often include a viewing of the deceased. However, they were traditionally held at the home of the person who has passed.
The term "wake" originally referred to a nighttime prayer vigil. But modernly, it is used to refer to the social interactions and gathering that accompany a funeral. A wake or vigil is considered a social right, which recognizes that the loss of a person greatly impacts the group as a whole.
When preparing to honor a loved one who has passed, it is important to know what to expect of services. Consider the religious or faith background of the person who has passed, as well as that of the remaining family. Be respectful of their preferences, and consider these differences when commemorating and remembering the deceased.
Published: November 12, 2018 by Ask The DirectorA military funeral service is an important way to honor a person who has bravely defended and served his or her county. Military funeral traditions can actually be traced back to ancient Greece and Rome. While today’s ceremonies still incorporate some of these ideas and principles, current military funerals also have a decidedly American feel. They are full of respect and honor, and can also be a source of comfort for surviving family members and friends.
United States law now mandates the rendering of military funeral honors for an eligible veteran at the request of the family. This funeral comes at no cost to that family, courtesy of the Department of Defense. This allows the brave men and women to receive the gratitude and honor that they deserve, and is an important way of allowing the family to mourn the loss of a loved one.
At the service, you will see a flag draped over the coffin. If you are having a chapel service, the flag will be pulled away from the head of the coffin and the coffin can be open for viewing (should you so request). There should not be a spray of flowers on top of the flag. If you wish to adorn the casket with flowers, request a crescent-shaped arrangement from the florist. This is to be placed upon the open lid of the coffin at the upper left corner.
At the gravesite, a military detail (if available) will carry the coffin to the grave and prepare for honors. The honors will include details about the individual’s service (usually given by family clergy or a family friend), military rifle salute (if available), folding of the flag, presentation of the flag, and the playing of Taps. Military honors are provided to the family at no cost.
The following people are eligible to receive a military funeral:
Published: November 5, 2018 by Ask The DirectorAs cultural norms continue to change, the way we handle the passing of loved ones also evolves. Today, there are many ways that people choose to celebrate the lives of those they care about, leading some to question the true difference between funeral services and memorial services. With the introduction of new traditions and burial practices, many professionals may use the terms "funeral" and "memorial" interchangeably. However, there are some key differences that are worth noting if you are attending or planning a funeral or memorial service.
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