10 Things You Can Do For Someone Who Has Lost a Loved One

10 Things You Can Do for Someone Who has Lost a Loved One
When a friend, colleague or family member is going through the grieving process, there is so much more you can do for them then just sending flowers.   Having the support of friends and family can make all the difference.  Here are some suggestions:
1.    Take time to Listen.  One of the most important things you can do is to make yourself available and truly listen.
2.    Send a card or letter letting them know you are thinking about them.  Holidays, birthdays and the anniversary of the person’s death can be particularly difficult.  Sending a card or note during these special times let’s your friend know they are not alone.
3.    Call or stop by to make sure the person is doing ok and offer a listening ear or a helping hand.
4.    Take the person on an inspirational adventure- what do they love to do?  Reconnect them with life and joy through the simple pleasures of life.  Do they love bike riding?  Going to the beach?  Walking through the park?  Make it simple and allow them the opportunity to talk about how they are feeling.  Validate their feelings and let them know it is ok to laugh again and enjoy life.
5.    Make them dinner or take them out for dinner or coffee.
6.     Help them put together a memory book of pictures and mementos of the person that has passed away.  This will give them a chance to connect with the special times they spent with their loved one.
7.    Help them with everyday tasks.  Show up and tell them what you are there to help with:  Take out the trash, wash the dishes, go grocery shopping, take their dog for a walk, wash their car, mow their lawn, take the kids to school, etc.
8.    When they are ready, help them go through the clothing of the deceased.  Many families will donate clothing to a charity or give items to friends and family.  This is probably one of the most difficult processes and your help will be greatly appreciated.
9.     Allow the person the opportunity to grieve and to cry.  The grieving process does not end at the funeral.   Avoid trying to solve or provide solutions but just ‘be there’.
10. Send a gift of hope, inspiration, relaxation, and rejuvenation.   Send an inspirational book, a journal, a memory book, a funny movie, a beautiful picture, a mediation CD, a day at the spa, or any gift item that helps your friend with the healing process.
Sympathy Solutions has been helping individuals receive the comfort and support from their friends and families for over a decade providing lasting and meaningful sympathy gifts which support those grieving. We know how very important it is for those grieving to receive the support and to gather strength through difficult times. This is a trust we are honored to be given and want to join with you in offering your condolences. Visit us at www.sympathysolutions.com

Navigating Estate Family Conflict

Family conflict is all too often common when a loved one dies.  Conflict can generate from hurt feelings of the past, resentments from care decisions, and disappointment in asset distribution.  It does not take a large estate to generate family conflict.  How can we best address this conflict to prevent family division?

Many attorneys believe that most family conflicts can be handled outside the courtroom and should be addressed as quickly as possible.  Not addressing conflict can keep feelings festering and generally only worsen the dynamics.

Following are some suggestions we have gathered from experts:

  • Many of the problems that arise can be caused by interference from spouses or children of the heirs, not the immediate heirs themselves.   Only immediate heirs should be involved in the division of asset process during the settlement of the estate.  All others, spouses, children, grandchildren, in-laws and friends should NOT participate.
  • Conflict can also arise from early removal of property or items from the home without the overall consent of those involved.  Early on, set some basic ground rules amongst the family to determine how the division will take place.  The more you can formalize the process the more you will avoid conflict.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Even in families that you may not anticipate concerns, feelings can easily get hurt or decisions misunderstood from lack of communication.  You might establish a regular discussion time/conference call or a routine email with the immediate family only and administrator if necessary.
  • Take time to have input from all immediate family regarding their concerns, their needs, wishes, etc.  Formalize each person’s input in a document in order to validate each one’s concerns to be addressed in a family meeting or conference call at a later date.
  • Conflict can often arise when one family member feels they are carrying more of the burden than others.  If one person is handling more of the settlement, consider paying them a specific set amount out of the assets or gifting a specific item in order to compensate for their time.    This should be arranged and agreed upon up-front, prior to a problem arising.  Always validate and appreciate their efforts as well.
  • Be hard on the problem, not the people.
    Change the nature of the fight and you’ll change the dynamic. Stop throwing stones in arguments.  Bite your tongue. Think before you respond. Those few seconds of tongue biting can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
  • Reframe your problem as a mutual problem and use “we” language.
  • Keep the conversation going. Life is a dialogue.
  • In a published study, in 63% of the cases (involving end of life), conflict arose over the decision about life-sustaining treatment itself. In 45% of the cases, conflict occurred over other tasks such as communication and pain control. Social issues caused conflict in 19% of the cases.  Communication again is critical and family discussion needs to occur with the physicians and medical staff.  Hospitals often will also provide social workers to help families navigate these tough decisions.

In all cases, there are a million reason’s conflict can occur but restoration can be achieved over time with care and understanding.  If tensions remain high or your family seems to be floundering get professional assistance as early as possible.    You may consider an attorney who specializes in mediation.  They can help in conflict assessment with the “who”, “what”, “where” and provide consultation to the family.  Mediators have their own unique styles, so it is important to ask a mediator about their processes, style and goals of mediation.  An attorney serving as a peacemaker or as counsel to a disputing party can help ensure that the client has the benefit of strategic advice before future problems or troubles appear on the horizon.

Sympathy Solutions has been helping individuals receive the comfort and support from their friends and families for over a decade providing lasting and meaningful sympathy gifts which support those grieving. We know how very important it is for those grieving to receive the support and to gather strength through difficult times. This is a trust we are honored to be given and want to join with you in offering your condolences. Visit us at

With thanks to the following: Angie Epting Morris, author of The Settlement Game, Diana Mercer, and Barb Cashman who has been a solo practioner in Denver focusing exclusively on estate and elder law and mediation.


Healing Grief after an Abortion

This is not a discussion of the pros and cons of abortion. Both sides of the argument agree that grief after abortion is real and women must be given their voices back to process the grief. – Psychcentral
Because abortion is generally surrounded in secrecy and silence many women are struggling with their grief and how to recover.

Abortion creates a situation of disenfranchised grief in women’s lives.  Disenfranchised grief is grief experienced by an individual that is not openly acknowledged, socially validated or publically observed.  The loss experienced is real, but survivors are not accorded the “right to grieve” by anyone around them.

A common effect of disenfranchised grief is depression, manifesting itself in small periods of sadness or more full-blown stints of depression.  These periods may be accompanied by crying spells and low times of “blue” days.

Unprocessed grief can also cause people to “stay stuck” in anger without even realizing the source of their anger.  Not connecting the depression with the unprocessed grief surrounding an abortion choice is typical.

Other ways to avoid “the abortion box” stashed in the corner of one’s mind are medicating the pain with drugs or alcohol, becoming dependent on people and even eating disorder behaviors.

It is this tension of emotions — relief and sadness — that disrupts a woman’s overall life and well-being.  Unless she finds a safe place to talk and cry she will probably live her life with a mask on, keeping her secret neatly tucked away out of fear, condemnation or invalidation.

We have a saying in the world of therapy. “Secrets kill.”  Thus is the path of many women after abortion.  Don’t talk.  Don’t feel.  Keep the secret.   Get on with life.

How can this barrier be conquered and grief recovery found?

  • Find a safe place to talk, share your story and even to cry.
  •  Memorialize your loss just as you would any other loss.  Wear an angel pin or memorial piece of jewelry, plant a tree, write a poem or letter and attach it to a pink or blue balloon for release.
  • Write in a journal and express your feelings of loss and grief.
  • Kim’s Tip:  The day before the 2 year anniversary of the abortion I found out about a website for The Church of The Holy Innocents. At the church they have a shrine in memory of children who have “died unborn”. It doesn’t matter how they died, and you don’t have to say. You can go to the website and have them enter your Child’s name in the book at the shrine called “The Book Of Life”. After you have asked for the name to be inscribed into the book they send you a certificate with the Child’s name that says that they are forever remembered in the book of life.  I found this to be very comforting to have something physical with her name on it, as proof to her existence and death. I hope this idea helps women who are suffering as I did. God bless.  Here is the website http://innocents.com/shrine.asp  “A candle is always lit in their memory. All day long people stop to pray. On the first Monday of every month, our 12:15pm Mass is celebrated in honor of these children and for the comfort of their families. We pray that you will find peace in knowing that your child(ren) will be remembered at the Shrine and honored by all who pray here. ” – The Church of the Holy Innocents
  •  If you are struggling with guilt due to your faith, talk with God.  Release your feelings and find a favorite verse that you can gain comfort and memorize such as Hebrews 4:16, Matthew 11:28 , Psalm 46:1, Psalm 116:1-2, Lamentations 3:22-23
  • Admit you can’t keep the secret anymore.  As in any path to healing from life altering situations, it is important that you be honest with yourself and give  yourself permission to grieve your abortion.  Consider the truth that keeping the secret is requiring much more energy than you have available to give to it any more.
  • If you feel “stuck” in your grief or if you find it debilitating seek a professional grief counselor.
  • There are many website resources, here are a few we found helpful:
  • http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/search/index.aspx   – Abortion After Care Programs by Zip Code
  • http://abortionrecovery.org/home/tabid/295/Default.aspx  – a non-profit committed to restoring lives and relationships after abortion
  • http://www.afterabortion.com/bookstore.html     – A List of Books helpful in healing from abortion
  • http://www.optionline.org/   This site lists pregnancy resource centers which many offer Post Abortion Recovery programs and support groups
  • http://www.memorialfortheunborn.org/   A national memorial for the unborn located in Chattanooga, TN  A brass plaque can be purchased and placed on the Wall of Names
  • http://www.rachelsvineyard.org/   Weekend retreats for healing after abortion
  • http://www.surrenderingthesecret.com/about-us/surrendering-the-secret-overview/  6 step biblical healing


Finding peace begins with confronting the secrecy and the pain that you have experienced.  Through open conversation with a person of trust and unraveling the grief through expression we hope you will find healing.

Sympathy Solutions has been helping individuals receive the comfort and support from their friends and families for over a decade providing lasting and meaningful sympathy gifts which support those grieving. We know how very important it is for those grieving to receive the support and to gather strength through difficult times. This is a trust we are honored to be given and want to join with you in offering your condolences. Visit us at

Portions of this text were gathered from Trudy Johnson M.A. LMFT writings in addition to many resourceful websites.


Before you say No Funeral you should Know Why Funeral

Is there a value to a funeral or is it all an unneccesary expense and event?  Clergy and pastoral care has stated that one of the most changed functions they have experienced is the change in the funeral.  Over the last 50 years our society has seen significant changes in the views as well as the service itself.  We hope you will delve a little deeper with us and see what your view is for your own funeral.

The history of the funeral service is a history of mankind. Funeral customs are as old as civilization itself.  Every culture and civilization attends to the proper care of
their dead. Every culture and civilization ever studied has three things in common relating to death and the disposition of the dead:

• Some type of funeral rites, rituals, and ceremonies
• A sacred place for the dead
• Memorialization of the dead

Researchers have found burial grounds of Neanderthal man dating to 60,000 BC with animal antlers on the body and flower fragments next to the corpse indicating some type of ritual and
gifts of remembrance.  With no great psychological knowledge or custom to draw from, Neanderthal man instinctively buried their dead with ritual and ceremony.

“But maybe with the fact that 75 million baby boomers are working their way up to the bar of mortality now, it’s dawning on them that this could happen to them. Maybe because it’s happening to their parents or their siblings and some of their friends now, suddenly I see the cultural conversation changing from “how much?” to “how come?”; from “what are we going to buy?” to “what are we going to do?” And I find that latter conversation much more compelling and much more difficult, because it’s not as easy as dollars and cents. The till doesn’t ring as precisely, and what works and where the values are require more discernment.

So I’m interested in it. I see my sons now working through this, and their generation. And the components of a funeral sometimes change. For some people it’s not the open casket and the three-day wake and the roses and the limousines and the Panis Angelicus. For more and more people it’s a trip to the crematory and some variation on the wake where people pay different types of witness. So it’s interesting times we live in that way.  I think we’re among the first couple generations for whom the presence of the dead at their funerals has become optional, and I see that as probably not good news for the culture at large.  I think we’re all complicit in the banishment of the dead to the peripheries. In some ways it is a culture that’s based on convenience and cost efficiency. It’s a culture that doesn’t like to be reminded of mortality.” — Thomas Lynch, Writer and Poet, The Good Funeral. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/undertaking/undertakers/lynch.html

The number one reminder to everyone who is reading this blog is understand the funeral is not for the person who has died, the funeral is for those left living.  Consider your final wishes as your final gift to your family and friends, giving them an opportunity to gather, to grieve and to support one another.  Commemorating a life can be done creatively but ensure there is a ritual and a gathering to loss.

“When words are inadequate, have a ritual.”

The reconciliation needs of mourning are the six needs that I believe to be the most central to healing in grief. In other words, bereaved people who have these needs met, through their own grief work and through the love and compassion of those around them, are most often able to reconcile their grief and go on to find continued meaning in life and living. – Alan D. Wolfelt


Rituals unite us.  Suffering a life transition such as the death of a loved one, needs to be processed and isn’t it interesting that often we call it a funeral “procession”.  Funerals offer us a “process” to work through and acknowledge our loss while gaining comfort and strength from friends and loved ones.  Dr. Alan Wolfelt describes in the following article “Why Rituals Help”.


We should broaden the text from here that we can gain the same healing benefits in a ritual that feels comfortable for your family and it may be a traditional funeral or it simply may be a planned gathering.  Traditional funerals often stem from one’s religious and/or customs brought up in childhood and these can be comforting remembrances.  You may seek a pastor or clergy and ask them to perform the services in the event of your death.  Providing this information to your family can be very helpful and remove one stress.  Rituals can also stem from a favorite location or hobby. Trends have shown an increased number of “life celebrants”.  Celebrants are individuals, some certified, to lead and direct a ceremony that can be as personal as the individual. Although many articles mention rituals can be done individually and certainly there are ongoing benefits of remembering special dates with a personal ritual, the true value of the initial ritual is in the gathering of support from a number of friends and family.

If you have been one saying “no to a funeral”, we hope you will consider “knowing” the value of the funeral.

Helping Your Teen Through Anticipatory Grief

Fear, lack of control, confusion and a considerable degree of unpredictability often characterize this experience.  Many children or teens lack an understanding of what is happening, because parents do not know what or how much to share.  Understanding the teen’s maturity level and their coping skills will help you determine how to share with them and companion them through this experience.  Generally speaking, the more they feel included in information, the more or less anxiety is felt.  Knowledge empowers us and provides a sense of increased control and a degree of predictability.    According to Perry (n.d.) educating and preparing a child for the anticipated loss can help ease the experience and facilitate healthy change.

Some teens can become either angry or guilty because they want to feel like they have a “normal” life.  Help them to find a balance between having normal social interactions without feeling guilty and spending time with their parent.  Discuss with them how to best support and find that balance.  Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends to give rides or get them where they need to go.  Most want to help and just need to know how best to support you and your family.

Fear is often the first emotion.  Illness creates significant challenges and changes for most families.  Be open and discuss what these changes may look like and invite others in to help you envision solutions to those tasks and challenges.  Never underestimate a child or teen’s insight in finding these solutions.

When feeling strong, write down intentional tasks or items you want to remind yourself in continuing to guide your family.  Reassurance will be critical to yourself as well as your children/teen.

Identify several people who can support you.  Let them know what you and your family needs are.  Set a regular time that you will touch base with them.  During the week, compile a list of your struggles as well as that of your teen that you can share with them.

Physical touch and love will help encourage and provide them strength.  If this is not something you have demonstrated in the past, tell them you now need it.  Promiscuity can be a risk factor.

Meet with teachers and counselors.  If a particularly difficult day  or procedure is upcoming, let them know.  Keeping the school staff well informed of the situation can allow them to better support your child.  This can also be a task you ask a friend or family member to keep others advised.

Find a supportive adult that you can vent and share your fears and concerns.  Be cautious of not utilizing your teen in this role.

Try to create fun memories, even during this time.  Take a family vacation, play games together, laugh together.

Adequate rest as well as naps can be helpful.

Help them to find creative outlets to their frustration and sadness.  Running, exercising, journaling, music.

Prayer and meditation can be calming.  Studies have even found it to be healing.  It can also provide a means of having someone to talk to when no one is around, or sharing a thought that they have been unable to express with someone else.

Help your teen to eat healthy.  Accept any offers for meals or purchase quality ready to eat prepared items from your local butcher or grocery market and have available in the refrigerator.

As best as possible, keep a regular routine.  Have others help with doctor appointments and scheduling to allow as much routine as possible.

Fund raising and illness specific charities can provide a healthy means of feeling a sense of control and a making a difference.

Help your teen give the gift of a goodbye.  This can be particularly difficult to approach but has been shown to be critical in reducing anxiety and feelings of guilt or regret.  It does not need to be a one time event near the end it can be a continual process of expression.  Encourage and model words of forgiveness and love.  Show them how they can express these feelings at any time.  Encourage your spouse to also give the gift of a goodbye by leaving words of wisdom, video or audio to be shared at future events such as graduation or a wedding.  Help them to express and encourage all their wishes and desires for their son or daughter.  www.youtube.com/watch

Help your teen to have hope in their future.  Help them to envision their future in the years to come.  Words of encouragement can be as simple as “I know how compassionate you will be as a father or mother after losing your dad/mom”.  I know how proud your dad/mom is of you.  Words of affirmation can be binding to their identity.  Let them know it will be ok to find love, laughter and joy one day again.

Sympathy Solutions has been helping individuals receive the comfort and support from their friends and families for over a decade providing lasting and meaningful sympathy gifts which support those grieving. We know how very important it is for those grieving to receive the support and to gather strength through difficult times. This is a trust we are honored to be given and want to join with you in offering your condolences. Visit us at www.sympathysolutions.com

Tackling the Tasks after a Terminal Illness Diagnosis

Each personality type is going to be reflected in how a person responds to the diagnosis of a terminal illness.  Some individuals are “taskers” and they will set to the agenda of putting all the tasks in place.  Others may turn more to the social and emotional side and value every moment with family and friends with little regard to the details.  Whatever your situation, it will be necessary to tackle multiple details and planning.  Determine who is the best person that can help.  It may be a trusted friend or advisor.  You may also consider turning to an experiencedFinancial Planner.  Reviewing your assets and options and seeking their judgment can be invaluable in helping you make the best short term and long term decisions.   What are the tasks?

Tackle the legal aspects.  Having a current will is critical to ensuring your wishes are carried out and is a valuable gift to family in preventing uncertainty and family disputes.  In addition, to having a will  there are other documents you will also want to make sure you have in place.  They are:

Living Will, which records your wishes regarding the measures that should be taken to extend your life.

Medical Power of Attorney, which empowers a trusted individual to make medical decisions for you when you’re unable.

Medical Privacy Release, which gives health care permission to keep named family and friends informed about your medical situation.

Power of Attorney, which lets you identify someone else to manage your financial affairs in the event you’re incapacitated.

Five Wishes document may also bee considered.  Five Wishes is the first living will that talks about your personal, emotional and spiritual wishes as well as your medical wishes.

In addition, to these documents, although we are linking  pages of sample documents, we highly recommend you consult with a trusted estate attorney to ensure the documents are accurate and valid (most documents we linked are the State of Colorado), as well as depending on your assets, hobbies, or situation they may have suggestions for additional documents such as a trust or ways to reduce estate tax liability.

Leave your “Wishes” in a letter of instruction.  This will be another invaluable gift to family members.  While grieving they will know exactly how to carry out your wishes.  This letter should include:
Your wishes regarding funeral arrangements, including songs, readings, who you wish to give a eulogy, etc.  Although often it is thought “I don’t want a funeral” a funeral is for those who remain and studies have shown this to be a vital part of survivors receiving the support they need to process their grief.

A listing of all your financial accounts, insurance policies, corporate benefits including restricted stock options, pension accounts.  If you have paper stock or bond certificates, deposit these into a brokerage account.  If you have “stashed” money, deposit it into an account or leave record of its location.  If you have anything of value, such as a collection, consider having it appraised and either gift it (with legal advice) or liquidate.

If you have a safe deposit box, the location and key.

The names and phone numbers of your attorney, tax professional, financial advisor, employee benefits manager.

The location of your will and other legal documents
You may consider drafting letters to friends and family, leaving them a legacy of forgiveness and encouragement.

Review your financial picture and meet with your advisors.  Educate who will be assuming these assets and make personal introductions to those you trust.  You may consider changing the investment objectives which may include a change in assets.

Review your beneficiaries.  Request a copy of the current beneficiary designation on each account as well as any life insurance policy to ensure it is accurate and reflects your current wishes.  Do not assume these are correct.  Leave these designations with your legal documents.

Check your eligibility for government benefits.  You are likely to qualify for Social Security Disability, Medicare or Medicaid.  Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits  When you start receiving disability benefits, certain members of your family also may qualify for benefits on your record. Benefits may be paid to your:spouse,

Ensure your social security and military service records are accurate.

Leave record of your military service and if you wish to receive military benefits.  Following are links to common military benefits.  In addition, funeral directors can help in the administration of these benefits provided they have military service records.   Military Burial Benefits    Ordering a Headstonefor a Veteran being buried in a private cemetery.

Leave your family a legacy with instructions for a Presidential Memorial Certificate


See if you can buy more life insurance.  Generally, a terminal illness would preclude life insurance but you may be able to purchase more through your employer’s open enrollment period.  You may also check the options on existing policies that may allow you to increase your benefits regardless of your health.  Check for insurance benefits available for credit cards and mortgages to see if you may qualify for insurance that would pay these off.  Some credit unions offer basic amounts of life insurance without qualification.

Consider taking an advance on life insurance benefits.  If you are anticipating financial hardship, you may be able to access a portion of your life insurance benefits now.

Start planning your care options immediately.  The futher ahead planning is in place the less stress it puts on everyone.  How much care will family or friends be able or willing to provide?  Will you need a third party bill paying service?  Will you be able to afford at-home care?  Visit assisted living facilities in advance if anticipating their need.  Draft a budget and a plan.

Be aware of tax deductions.  Non-spouse care givers, such as a child, may be able to claim the person as a dependant if they provide more than half of their support and satisfy other dependent status rules.  Even where caregivers share responsibility, such as among siblings, tax deductions may be available, if, as a group they provide over half the support.  You’ll want to consult with a tax professional regarding your options.

Seek a non-profit support organization for the illness you suffer.  In example, if you have been diagnosed with ALS you would contact the ALS Organization.  Tremendous resources, information and support can be gained.  Generally, there are more than one, so don’t just stop at one.
Consider Government Clinical Trials   Find information on eligibility to participate in a study, risks and benefits of study participation, the informed consent process, and questions to ask when considering whether to participate in a study.

Consider making pre-planning funeral arrangements.  Before making any decisions on preplanning or prefunding funeral goods or services, or signing a preneed funeral contract, we urge you to ask any and all questions you may have regarding the planning process.  Here is a link to the National Funeral Directors Association Bill of Rights.

If you have financial resources and you wish to reduce your estate tax liability, you may consider taking advantage of a tax free gift exclusion by the Internal Revenue Service which allows individuals to gift $14,000 tax free per individual per calendar year.  This amount increased in 2013 from $13,000 to 14,000.

Create a “support” system.  This may be connecting to a pastor or priest or a trusted friend.  Ask them if you could meet with them regularly to seek comfort, advice, and support.  You may also seek comfort and expression through journaling.

Be your own counsel.  No one, including your physician, religious counselor, spouse, or friends can understand 100% what you want and need.  It’s surprising that some people seem to “bully”  with advice when they learn of a terminal illness.  We should remember to avoid accepting someone else’s authority in place of our own powers of reason.  You can, and should ask for advice but ultimately you should decide.

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