Can a Psychic Medium Help You With Grief?

Can a Psychic Medium Help You With Grief?


Image result for grief


Spiritual mediums help bridge the gap between the living and those who have passed. 


There is no emotion as intense and painful as grief. When you lose someone close, feelings of loss, loneliness and despair are beyond anything you have felt before. Grief is primal, raw, rasping and engulfing. Emotions wash over you uncontrollably. One minute you are empty and dead inside. The next you are full of hatred for the illness, accident, perpetrator or old age that took your loved one from you. The intensity takes your breath away. Many people find comfort in the presence and services of a psychic medium;  a psychic reading can help you grieve, and how it can offer you hope… and the strength to keep going.

When we lose a loved one, our lives change. But it doesn’t have to be a long, never ending dark tunnel. After the shock, confusion, surrealism and deep sadness start to lift as we go through the grief process, there can be rejuvenation–a new lease on life. But it’s important to accept that you’re in a new reality and there is a new relationship with your loved one and a new relationship with yourself.

Meeting or speaking to a psychic medium is one way of taking the first few steps toward acceptance. A good psychic or spiritual (the terms are interchangeable) medium helps you understand your loved one is always near. Even though you cannot feel their physical presence, they are with you. Learning you are wrapped in love is comforting beyond measure. Knowing that you will always be connected is so reassuring. Somehow, you receive the strength to carry on with your life and even begin to feel good about it.




When is the Right Time for a Psychic Reading?


It’s best to wait a little while before contacting a psychic reader. At the very beginning, you might feel you need to cling to some remnant or spirit of the one who has died. Yet, now, you may not be able to listen to the message. Give it some time – how long is dependent upon how you are feeling. Once you feel ready to make contact, you will know it.

If you can wait until the rawness and shock that comes from a death has settled a little then you and the spirit communicator will be able to build a much more stable bridge of love between the two worlds and the medium’s work will be much more accurate and evidential. Try to wait at least three months before setting out on your spiritual quest. And remember that sometimes it can take a long time to get the absolute proof you need that life continues after death but persevere as you will eventually get the comforting proof you need.

One thing you shouldn’t do is become addicted to psychic readings. Some people live their lives through readings and become completely immersed in the spirit world. They are wholly focused on their next ‘fix’. Unless you are a medium yourself, you should avoid this. You still have a life to live in this world.

In the same vein, you should also avoid hopping from one psychic to another. Each will have their own style and you could become confused and disillusioned. Create a good relationship with one, possibly two, but no more than that.




Frequency of Readings


If you are wanting to touch base with your loved one; making sure all is well with them, once or twice a year is fine. Of course, it depends on the individual. Some have written books and websites about their experiences with the psychic world, so are happy to have an ongoing dialogue. As long as it doesn’t become an addiction, as described above, there’s no problem in keeping in touch as necessary.

Anniversaries, Christmas, birthdays and Valentines are good occasions to have a psychic reading. But don’t book a reading for someone else because you think it will make a great surprise gift for them. It may well be exactly what they want, but do ask them first.




Steps to Ease Your Spirit As You Grieve



We can’t control the fact that we’ve lost someone we love. And we can’t bring them back. But we can move forward into a more peaceful state of being. Surrendering is letting go of the pain (even for a moment) so you can live in the present. It knows that something bigger than ourselves is protecting us.

Whenever you feel that wave of grief, surrender to it. When you’re overwhelmed, see the word “surrender” in your mind’s eye. Say, “I surrender” to yourself.  This will act as a reminder to let go for a moment.


Forgive Yourself

You may have guilt around your loved one’s death. You may feel responsible, blaming yourself for not doing enough. We must remember that this was their life’s path. To move through the grief it is important to forgive yourself so you can free yourself to heal.


Connect With Your Loved Ones

If you are open to the idea that their spirit is alive, there are many ways to connect with your loved one. Going to a Spiritual Medium is a great way to do that. Many have found solace in the messages they receive from their loved one on the “other side.” 

You can also connect with them on your own, in your daily life. The key is to send them love and light energy. As you heal yourself through the grieving process you may find a deeper connection to your loved one. There may be signs and messages that occur. Stay open and aware. Talk to your loved one. They want to connect with you if your heart is open.


Nurture Yourself

It is so important to take care of yourself. Take time to take care of YOU. Remember you are still here and there is life ahead of you. There is joy to be experienced. Do the things that make you the happiest right now. Even if it’s something small like going for a walk, watching a favorite movie over and over, or making your favorite dish and eating it with a loved one.



There is nothing more powerful we can do than meditation. It quiets the mind, energizes the soul and creates a more peaceful state of being. It can be the anchor that gets you through your day. Find a meditation that works for you. From Passage Meditation to Transcendental Meditation. Try and practice it every day even if it’s for a few minutes. Start with 5 or 10 minutes. And work up to longer sessions or more frequent sessions.


Dream of Them

When you go to sleep ask your loved one to visit you in your dreams. Think about them. Send them love. It is thought that when we dream of our loved ones who have passed on, it is their way of communicating with us.



Keep a journal, write and recite poetry, paint a picture, take a photograph, make jewelry, sculpt, sing, act, even create a memory book of your loved one. Whatever your creative passion or interest is, tap into it. Even if it’s a very small creative project. Creating connects us to our deeper selves. That’s where the healing is.



Gardening is giving life. The process of watering and nurturing is healing. Watching a plant or a garden grow will create a peaceful state of mind. You can even grow your loved one’s favorite plant of flower. Talk to your loved one while you are gardening. Feel their presence.



When we exercise, it releases endorphins, which expedites feelings of happiness. Find an exercise you love to do. The deep breathing associated with exercise can also release pent up sadness and trigger tears that need to come out. It’s a healthy sign to emote and can help get you through the grieving process.



Creating ritual around the memory of a loved one is a powerful way to keep them with us. After all, that’s what most of us want. We miss them. We want to feel their presence. The ritual can be whatever you want it to be. It can be an altar-like corner in your home. Or you can create an “active altar” by doing an activity as you remember them. Perhaps something they loved to do. Or you both loved to do together.



Asking for guidance and support is important now. Prayer is a powerful way to attain that. Remember when you pray, don’t just say words in a rote fashion, feel your feelings. That is where the power is. Just the practice of saying a prayer can help navigate your grieving because it is an action step and a tool toward healing.


Get Support

Getting outside help from bereavement groups and therapists is important and can help you deal with the stages of grief. It’s especially important if you find yourself in an ongoing depression. This is a fragile time and it’s essential that you seek the help you need.


Final Thoughts

You will never “get over” the loss (don’t let anyone tell you that you will). This is an experience that will live with you for the rest of your life. But you can take this difficult time and create a positive outcome. You can find a way to put your loss and the memory of your loved in a special place in your heart that you carry with you from this moment on.

To move beyond your grief can be a journey of self-discovery– to see yourself and your life in a new way. But, the way to move through and beyond the grief process requires that you are open and that you take action.

Remember. This is YOUR journey. This is a time to explore who YOU are. The grief you are experiencing does ease with time. And take all the time you need to get through this life challenge. Be gentle with yourself. Surround yourself with positive, loving people and great experiences. And you may find that your heart has opened to a wonderful new life as you carry the memory of your loved one forever.


Get A FREE Reading Now!


Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope you found this article comforting and helpful. 

When you are ready to try speaking with a psychic medium to help you find peace with your loss, try a free reading at Psychic Access;  I prefer Psychic Access because their psychics are tested and verified, and because you can start with a totally free reading to see if it feels right for you.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.





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Natural Help for Sadness and Depression

Natural Options to Relieve Sadness and Depression

It’s often difficult to differentiate between sadness and depression. Each has certain qualities that frequently overlap; yet both can impact our lives dramatically.

Sadness can range from a simple momentary unhappiness to a long-term grief or sorrow. Depression is defined as gloominess or dejection, either of which can be debilitating.


With the realization or diagnosis of either sadness or depression, there is a tendency for physicians to quickly follow with a prescription for anti-depressant medications to mask and suppress negative feelings. This is not necessarily a bad thing; anti-depressants can be a life saver for some, but certainly aren’t necessary for every case.


Typical Symptoms of Depression

First we should define the typical symptoms of depression. This can assist in evaluating whether or not depression is even an issue.  There are some key areas to consider:



With respect to behavior, we generally look for changes in “normal” behavior patterns. A person may show disinterest in their usual surroundings or neglect to perform regular chores.

Signs that a change in usual patterns is occurring are when there seems to be a greater desire to be alone; the person is sleeping more than usual; or they become forgetful about special hobbies. A loss of appetite is also an important sign. This isn’t to say that other factors would not be considered, but given the following additional symptoms, depression would be a primary diagnosis.



Appearance is something that is difficult to hide. As caretaker, you should pay attention to uncombed hair, dirty clothes, facial expressions, unusual quietness, skin tone or gestures. Concealing one’s feelings may be easier for some than others, but obvious feelings may be more apparent. Look for recent signs of grief from the loss of a loved one or pet or a sense of hopelessness with unusual anger and impatience. Also look for new or unusual reactions such as self-blame or ongoing criticism of friends and relatives.


Words Being Used.

There are words and phrases that are reflective of suicidal thoughts based on underlying depression. The key is to be aware of unusual behavior or words and take action before they reach a self destructive or suicidal stage. These can include phrases like: “I wish I were dead”, “What’s the point of living”, “I have no joy in my life”, “Things will be better when I’m gone”, or “They won’t have me to kick around much longer”.

As a preliminary response, you might consider counseling or one of the following alternatives. Please bear in mind that depression is difficult to self diagnose, but the feeling that “something is not right”, with a chronic desire to continually sleep, should lead one to consider help.


Unless the sadness or depression is severe, I recommend investigating these natural remedies and combining them with added exercise, daylight and communication as your first option.



St. John’s Wort


St. John’s Wort is the most extensively researched herb as an anti-depressant, and for good reason as it is known to show significant improvement in depression, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and trouble sleeping.  Its nutrient value aids nerves and is thought to provide an alternative to Prozac as an antidepressant.

Remember that when taking any traditional drug or herbal compound, there can be unexpected side effects. In this case, St. John’s Wort can cause anxiety as it increases levels of dopamine in the brain, so avoid it if there is recurring anxiety.  Read reviews.



Licorice Root

Nature's Answer Alcohol-Free Licorice Root, 1-Fluid Ounce
Licorice Root tends to replenish the adrenals, allowing a more relaxed state. Though often not thought of as an herb for depression, it really should be.
Licorice is known to have 8 different anti-depressant compounds, known as MOA inhibitors. These inhibitors are capable of potent anti-depressant activity and show significant improvement for all types of depression.

Licorice Root is also very nourishing for burned out adrenals and is best used during times of chronic fatigue and tiredness that usually results in frequent illness.  Read reviews.

 Keep in mind that this herb is not meant for long term use, but is generally safe for use off and on.  This herb should not be used for those with hypertension or high blood pressure.



Passion Flower

For those who can’t get all of those constantly circulating, unhealthy thoughts out of our minds, Passion Flower would be you herbal ally of choice. While it doesn’t necessarily treat depression itself, it will certainly help quiet an overactive mind, especially when used before sleep.

Passion Flower is a calmative for the nerves, reducing anxiety and high blood pressure while encouraging sleep. Read reviews.





Nature's Way Valerian Root -- 180 Capsules
Valerian, or Valeriana officinalis, as it is officially called, has been in use since the time of Hippocrates. Its other variety is Valeriana dioica. Valerian is an herb that grows mostly in Europe, Asia, and North America. It has been used for centuries for the treatment of various conditions like depression, insomnia and anxiety.

Valerian is known for its calming effect without causing drowsiness. Since Valerian does not affect REM sleep cycles at night, it does not induce any sleepiness but rather produces a natural, mild calm to soothe the anxiety of patients. Studies show that Valerian provides quick and natural relief for people with poor sleep. This is a natural and safe alternative to drugs like benzodiazepines which may cause continuous dependence on the pills.





Swanson Full-Spectrum Chinese Skullcap 400 mg 90 Caps

Scullcap is another adrenal herb, but also has been very effective for nerves, high blood pressure, worry, restlessness and emotional conflict.  Skullcap is a very effective herb that has a calming yet strengthening effect on the nervous system and will help to relieve certain symptoms of depression such as poor sleep, poor concentration and headaches.

It is particularly useful for depression brought on by prolonged stress, illness or overwork. Skullcap may be taken as an infusion, capsules or tincture.






Nature's Way Rosemary (Leaves) 100 Caps

 Rosemary is believed to be very good for depression. Rosemary was one of the first herbs used in the American south in colonial times to treat women for depression after childbirth.

Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) grows primarily on the Mediterranean seashore. Fittingly, its name means “dew of the sea.” It’s built quite a reputation as a potent, natural remedy for anxiety.

Throughout history, rosemary benefits over the years include relieving depression, improving circulation, memory, digestion and easing muscle pain.

Modern technology has allowed scientists to explore the mechanisms behind rosemary’s benefits. Evidence shows that rosemary boosts blood flow to the brain, and this improves memory and helps you think more clearly.

It appears that rosemary benefits also include breaking down acetylcholine, a chemical found in the brain. This allows nerve cells to communicate with one another more effectively, which contributes to enhanced mental acuity, better memory recognition, increased concentration and a calmer disposition.



Holy Basil

ORGANIC INDIA Tulsi - Holy Basil Supplement - Made with Certified Organic Herbs (Vegetarian Capsules, 90 Count)


Holy basil, known as tulsi (also spelled tulasi) in its native India, is a revered herb in Ayurvedic medicine. Holy basis has been used to treat a variety of health concerns from headaches and stomachaches to inflammatory problems and common colds. This herb is classified as an adaptogen, a substance that increases the body’s resistance to internal and external stress. Therefore, it makes sense that holy basil would relieve panic attacks and depression.  Read reviews.

Holy basil is a relatively well-studied herb, with research that has demonstrated that it can radically and speedily improve anxiety and depression, and reduce stress – both physical and emotional. The exact mechanism of action is yet to be determined although research has shown that holy basil decreases the amount of cortisol released during stress without the adverse side-effects of prescription medications.

In addition, holy basil has the capacity to increase physical and emotional endurance thus increasing the resilience to all stressors. As already mentioned, it lowers blood sugar levels which in turn reduces cravings and stabilises moods, and thus facilitates weight loss.

Holy Basil has been traditionally used to support people through times of stress, working as adaptogen (i.e. substance that balances and protects the body by improving resistance to any type of physiological or mental stress) and anxiolytic (decreasing anxiety). One of the most strongly supported actions of this herb is that of an adaptogen, with current research supporting its traditional use in managing acute and chronic stress and fatigue. Chronic stress has been shown to increase the levels of oxidative stress and free radicals. Holy basil enhances the levels and activities of endogenous antioxidants and antioxidant enzymes including glutathione and superoxide dismutase.

In a recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial researchers evaluated the efficacy of an extract of holy basil in the symptomatic control of general stress (1). They concluded that the effect of holy basil supplementation over placebo on comparison was considerable for all stress parameters measured. The treatment showed 39% improvement in general stress symptoms over and above the placebo. The significant finding in this study was the reduced intensity of forgetfulness, reduced symptom scores of sexual problems (stress-related), and the effective relief from frequent feelings of fatigue and sleep problems.


Holy basil has been clinically trialed in treating generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) in a small, controlled 60-day clinical trial (2). The results indicated that taking the herb significantly improved anxiety, stress, depression and attention span in subjects suffering from GAD, with the greatest improvements occurring at the completion of 60 days of treatment.


As a bonus, other research has indicated that holy basil has a strong antioxidant action in the brain resulting in improved memory and slower cognition decline. Free radicals have been associated with ischaemic brain lesions, development and progression of degenerative brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, and general decline in memory and cognition due to chronic stress. Read reviews.


1) Efficacy of an Extract of Ocimum tenuiflorum (OciBest) in the Management of General Stress: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study; Ram Chandra Saxena,1 Rakesh Singh,2 Parveen Kumar,3 Mahendra P. Singh Negi,4 Vinod S. Saxena,5 Periasamy Geetharani,6 Joseph Joshua Allan,6 and Kudiganti Venkateshwarlu6; Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 894509, 7 pages
2) Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders. Bhattacharyya D1, Sur TK, Jana U, Debnath PK.; Nepal Med Coll J. 2008 Sep;10(3):176-9.





Natrol 5-HTP TR Time Release, 200mg, 30 Tablets

Generally, a product called 5HTP can be helpful for low serotonin levels, taken with B6 for absorption. Preliminary studies indicate that 5-HTP may work as well as certain antidepressant drugs to treat people with mild-to-moderate depression. Like the class of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which includes fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft), 5-HTP increases the levels of serotonin in the brain.

One study compared the effects of 5-HTP to fluvoxamine (Luvox) in 63 people and found that those who were given 5-HTP did just as well as those who received Luvox. They also had fewer side effects than the Luvox group.

Read reviews.






Doctor's Best SAM-e 400, 60-Count


SAM-e is short for S-adenosylmethionine. This supplement is designed to act like a synthetic form of the body’s natural mood-boosting chemicals. According to the Mayo Clinic, SAM-e is regarded as a supplement in the United States — the FDA doesn’t consider it a medication. You shouldn’t take SAM-e along with antidepressants. You should also be aware that SAM-e can cause health effects like upset stomach and constipation if you take too much.

Read reviews.








Jarrow Formulas Inositol Powder, Supports Liver Function, 600 mg, 8 oz
Inositol is an organic, glucose-like compound that facilitates the transmission of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. People ingest about 1 gram of inositol a day from fruits and vegetables, whole grains, meat, and other foods, and it is also sold as a capsule and powder.

The evidence: The brains of people with depression and bipolar disorder have been shown to have below-average levels of inositol, which prompted researchers to investigate whether inositol supplements could help treat depression.

The initial research was promising. A small study published in 1995 found that taking 12 grams of inositol a day — an amount equivalent to a fistful of the capsules sold in health stores — improved depression symptoms more effectively than placebo.  Read reviews.




Folic Acid

Spring Valley - Folic Acid 800 mcg, 250 Tablets


Folic Acid is the synthetic form of folate, a B vitamin (B9) found in fruits, leafy vegetables, and other foods, that affects the neurotransmitters known as monoamines. Folic acid is sold in stores as a capsule or tablet.

The evidence: Folate deficiency is common among depressed people, especially those who don’t respond to antidepressants.

Folic acid has never been tested as a stand-alone treatment for depression, but it has been compared with placebo as an addition to Prozac.

In one study, patients who received folic acid responded better than those who received placebo — but only the female patients. Nearly 95 percent of the women who received folic acid responded to the combo treatment, compared to about 60 percent of the women who received the placebo.  Read reviews.







Boiron - Aurum Metallicum 200 C Md, 80 pellets


Aurum is a remedy used for depression, sadness, insecurity, anger, self-reproach, suicidal thoughts, and fears of failure, worry, tension, stress, bouts of depression from lack of sunlight and heart problems. A potency of 30c should be sufficient to determine its value. Take once, wait 4-5 days and then repeat only if no changes have occurred. Repeat only once more and if there are still no changes, consider another remedy.  Read reviews.




Boiron - Sepia 200 CK - 80 Pellets


Sepia is a Homeopathic remedy that helps with bouts of depression from loss of sunlight, but it can be differentiated from Aurum by its grief, fatigue, sarcasm and irritability aspects. The individual needing Sepia can be indifferent, weepy, angry, overwhelmed and exhausted. Read reviews.




All of these herbs, supplements and Homeopathic remedies can be used in conjunction with medications, generally, without causing any harm. But remember; stop dosing if an aggravation occurs, as there is no need to over stimulate depression. Once triggered the body finds its own way of rediscovering balance, even on the emotional level.




Final Thoughts

Although herbs and supplements show promise in treating depression, they aren’t a consistent or reliable substitute for treatments when you experience severe depression.

You should call a doctor right away if you have severe depression or thoughts of hurting yourself. Don’t try to rely on supplements as a way to pull you through these severe symptoms. Depression can be a serious disease. If your symptoms are severe, work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that fits for you.


Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope this article provided you some helpful information. 

I welcome your comments below.





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To My Friends Who Still Have Their Mothers


This will be my first Mother’s Day as a motherless mother.

For what it’s worth, my personal insight is this: as affectionate, imperfect, difficult – even dysfunctional – as your mother-daughter relationship may be, it still has a value you will only fully recognize when you are motherless.

I found this article by Jessica Wolstenhom on the Huffington Post recently, and felt like, in many ways, it could have been written by me. My story is a little different from Jessica’s in that my mother was terminally ill for two years after her diagnosis of cirrhosis of the liver (caused by non-alcoholic fatty liver).

Whether sudden or a long goodbye, whether a wonderful relationship or a difficult one; the eventual loss of your mother will change your perspective on life, and inevitably leave you with at least a few regrets.

I hope those of you who still have your mothers will take this advice to heart.



Dear friends who still have their mothers,

It came like a thief — 10 months almost exactly from the day she was diagnosed until the day she left us. Cancer has a way of doing that, robbing its victims and their families of health and freedom. One day we’re doing life together, making plans for the future — and the next we’re fighting this battle and eventually saying goodbye.

I never imagined I’d lose my mom this way or so soon. I couldn’t have planned or prepared for it. Her fate swooped in like a thief and took her away before I ever had the chance to fully realize what was happening.

And because of my faith I stand with peace and continue to hope but still…

This Mother’s Day, I am — for the first time — a mom without a mother. I will receive cards and gifts and lots of love, but I cannot give them. I cannot express my gratitude, despite her imperfections, with lavish love. I cannot thank her for all she taught me about being a mom, both good and bad. I cannot share how much she’s impacted my life, as a mom and a wife and a woman.

So dear friends who still have their mothers,

Whether you walk extremely close or there’s a valley of difference between you, reach out to your mother this week.

Whether you see eye to eye or you can’t agree on much of anything, look your mother in the eyes if you can and tell her how special she is.

Whether she’s loved you well or lacked in affection, tell her how much you appreciate her and linger in love through words or embrace.

Whether she’s been your role model or she’s shown you what not to do, tell her how much you’ve learned from her.

Whether she’s been a near perfect mother or a much less than perfect one, she’s still here and that fact alone leaves so much potential for you both.

Call her, embrace her, surround her with your love whether it comes easy or along with tons of baggage.

Reach out for reconciliation if you are estranged.

Reach out in compromise if you are indifferent.

Reach out with time and attention if you are busy.

Reach out with affection if you are reserved.

Reach out with generous love even if you already do it regularly.

This time last year, I never dreamed I’d spend Mother’s Day without my mom. Please, don’t let another day slip by without connecting with yours.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends. May you find grace to give and receive so much love.


Jessica Wolstenholm Jessica Wolstenholm is an author and freelance writer who blogs about motherhood and life at


Coping With Grief

A Hospice Reflection

Reflecting on My Experience With Hospice

by Ute Freitag


Ten years ago, as the caregiver of my father, it was a privilege for me to be present when he reached the final stage of his life. One evening while I was out, he was rushed to the hospital. When I arrived, the doctor came and told me he was stable and I could see him. When I walked into the room, the same doctor, looking at the machines my father was hooked to, realized he was dying that very moment. “Your father must have been waiting for you,” he said. My father passed away while I was sitting at his bedside, holding his hand and talking to him. The first thought that came to my mind was, “Now he knows the secret of dying.”

Maturing is a long, slow process but in time we learn to accept what we cannot change. Why do we make such a “fuss” about dying? Billions have done it before us!

Dying is probably the only real adventure we face after a fulfilled life but, of course, we don’t know how we will experience the last chapter of our lives before we get there. The quality of death matters as much as the quality of life, and it’s an issue that should be discussed before the crisis of death appears. We should learn to live in the moment and feel the inner peace within us. When we suffer pain during our later years, we should admit the truth: “TMB” (too many birthdays). Hopefully, we will reach the stage where we can enjoy life like the calmness of an evening river, looking at the reflection of the grey and blue water, before the darkness of the night ends the day.

When a loved one becomes terminally ill, we need help. When we realize that their life expectation is probably no longer than six months, what choices do we have? The person can stay at home with the family as long as possible and move to a hospital or a care home when it gets too difficult for the family to handle or, with the support of the family and a palliative care team, he or she can remain at home until the end.

In some cities, there are hospice houses where a person can choose to go for their final days, weeks or months, and which sometimes allow the caregiver to move in with them. The options of where to go should be discussed with the family members closest to the dying individual, but the final decision should be left up to them. What do they really want?

Under the care of hospice nurses, the quality of life for both the dying individual and the caregiver is enhanced. Hospice nurses guide families through the last chapter of a loved one’s life. They help the person to be as comfortable and pain free as possible, which sometimes extends their life longer than expected.


Hospice at home

What is hospice care at home? It means dying with dignity. A hospital bed can be provided and the caregiver can be instructed on how to handle pain medication. The caregiver and their loved one can enjoy their time together, including going out for a meal or a walk. They needn’t worry about symptoms they don’t understand or doing the wrong thing because there’s an emergency hospice helpline they can always call when they need it.

In the hospital, doctors abide by the Hippocratic Oath to prolong life as long as possible; but is what a doctor prescribes today still “good” tomorrow? With hospice, the person who is ill is in charge and treatment can be stopped any time he or she feels it is pointless to go on and would rather enjoy their remaining life without treatment. When a person chooses to stop treatment, there should be no fear of hurting the feelings of the caregiver or the family, who should respect the decision. We occasionally read about people who miraculously survive their terminal illness, but very few will be so lucky. We hope this will be the case with our loved one, but it’s important to prepare for a normal ending.

Even with hospice care, pain is sometimes unavoidable. But each day can still be special—waking up in the morning with curiosity, hoping for a pain-free day and being grateful in the evening for the beauty of another unique day. Remaining active is the best therapy; being active means getting away from fear and misery.


Working together

In my 20 years of volunteering, I have learned how important it is for the patient and caregiver to work together. A patient can choose to be unhappy and depressed or choose to be content and grateful for all the help and love caregivers and hospice nurses provide. How can supporters show empathy and be cheerful and warmhearted if the patient is miserable and rude?

They have to be a team, helping each other through a very difficult time. They still have their past, remembering the Easters, Christmases and birthdays with family and friends, and all the care and help they’ve given each other. It needn’t be that life is meaningless at this stage, unreal, and as though the patient doesn’t have a future anymore. They can still hold hands with those they love and revisit their lives together. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is love.

Perhaps the caregiver is waiting for the loved one to share their feelings, open their heart and talk about their fear and hope while they both feel the illness creeping out of every corner of the room.

As a caregiver, I ask myself: What does my loved one expect from me? And I ask them: What can I do while your bed is your world and you are too weak to handle your daily affairs? Is there anything I can do to comfort you or is it better to be silent? Only recently you were one of us, active and full of energy and humor. You made us laugh and sometimes we were angry with you, but now we both have only one thought: You won’t get better, this is the end. But as long as you breathe, you are still alive. When you stop breathing, you will be in a safe place. But I, as the one who still loves you and cares for you, I have to live with your death.

It can be helpful for a caregiver to write down those experiences they shared with their loved one throughout the years that shaped their life together. Then later, when the pain of loss is unbearable, they can be reread until the pain lessens. In our local hospice house, we have beautiful heart-shaped pillows that are comforting to hold and have a pocket with just enough room for a little notebook and a pen. Whenever the dying individual wants to write something important for their family or friends to read, it is there right at their bedside.

Sometimes a person who is dying has difficulty talking about their feelings. The caregiver can encourage them to write down their thoughts about what is and was important in their life, something beyond what one normally finds in the average obituary. It can be a pleasant surprise for the family to learn something about their loved one they never knew. It might be a very personal story and something they want to be read at their Celebration of Life.


Passing the time

It is important to give a person who is dying something to fill the day, something to help them feel needed. It can be very healthy to read a book together, because a good book is like a garden, it needs time to grow and develop, allowing the reader to fully relax and refresh themselves in it.

To work with paint is another wonderful tool to deal with fear and anger. When neither the dying individual nor their caregiver wants to talk about their feelings because it is too painful, they can close their eyes, pick up a brush and paint. Sometimes their subconscious speaks to them through their art. And then, like the studio of an artist, the caregiver can make the room around their loved one’s bed a sacred place where imagination can gently run free, a place for their spirit to breathe.

Those people who are painting or being creative in other ways live in the present. My friend Josh, just 55 years-old, lived his final weeks in hospice house surrounded by his three beautiful daughters. Lots of laughter erupted while they were painting together. At the end, there were over 50 paintings in his room. His last painting had two different shades of blue—water and sky—and in the middle he painted a flying bird. He died shortly after. Perhaps he wanted to tell us that he was finally free.


Stopping eating and drinking

In the final stage of life, we want to have our loved ones around us as long as possible, so we make them eat. But is it really good for them? Withholding food and water becomes a highly emotional question that many caregivers have to deal with at the end. If a person is still enjoying food, we are happy to feed them, but what about those dying individuals who want to stop eating and drinking?

When it comes to the end of life, many people don’t feel hungry and thirsty anymore. In this case, the person’s wishes should always be respected. If they want to shorten their remaining life span, stopping eating and drinking will probably accomplish that. Ideally the dying individual is able to make this decision, but often the caregiver is in charge. Common thinking is that we die in agony and great pain without food and liquid. However, scientists have found higher levels of endorphins (morphine-like chemicals) in the brain of the people who stopped eating and drinking. As a result, there should be less pain and suffering. The question of how much liquid a patient needs depends on the dryness of the mucous membrane of the mouth. The benefits of less liquid are less coughing, less throwing up, less mucous, and less chance of water in the lungs.

There will be suffering and mourning for everyone who chooses to take care of a loved one. And yet every caregiver will experience a kind of happiness nobody can take away. The greatest present caregivers can receive for all the work they do is the opportunity to say “Good bye” to the person they love so much. This closeness will be within them forever.


Ute Freitag is a former family caregiver, longtime hospice volunteer and author of the book  “It Is What It Is.


It Is What It Is gives us an inside look at hospice care through the eyes of a volunteer who has worked for the last seven years at a hospice house. Featuring the artwork of Canadian artist Francine Gravel, the stories of hospice residents are beautifully interspersed with poems and quotes.

“We all know that we have to go one day and leave everything we love and treasure behind. It is not easy to accept that the world will go on and we will no longer be part of it.

But remember. . .we are responsible for how we want to live our lives and it is also up to us to determine how we want to die. I believe that we live a much happier and more meaningful life when we make death our friend.

“The stories and poems I have collected provide comfort as we prepare for our last journey, the greatest adventure, and perhaps the only really new thing that will happen to us. The stories in this book are real. Every death is unique. There can be so much beauty in dying, we only need to be open to seeing and feeling it.” – Ute Freitag

It Is What It Is is written for families, patients, caregivers, volunteers, hospice houses, medical personnel and all those facing death one day (everyone). For those working with the dying or those who are now at this stage in their lives, It Is What It Is is a heartfelt and meaningful resource.


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Sympathy Card Messages


When you hear the news of a friend or family member passing, it is expected of you to express your condolences by writing a sympathy message. Sympathy messages are an important way of expressing condolences to someone who is grieving. Some people prefer to say it in person while others like to send their condolences in the form of a letter, email or card.


However you choose to do this, you should learn about how to write those difficult words in an appropriate manner. This post will help you express sympathy to someone who is grieving.

It’s always a good idea to jot down a few thoughts on a separate sheet of paper before you begin.

If you are sending flowers, you may want to jot an additional brief note to include with the delivery, but a separate message should still be mailed.



Though pre-printed sympathy cards are acceptable, writing personal sympathy messages is something to consider.  Personally, I think that writing your own message on a blank card or stationery is a nicer expression. Below are some blank cards I like for this purpose.

3d Rose Red Tailed Hawk Blank Cards


Remember that your words need to sound natural and heartfelt, so feel free to use the examples of a template but edit them to make them your own. Your message doesn’t have to be long. Even a brief note will be enough to let the survivor or survivors know you are thinking about them. 


The Emily Post® Institute advises you to follow one rule:

Say what you truly feel.


Sympathy cards should be written out or printed on a sympathy card, blank card, or good stationery. Some think it’s best not to send condolences in email or text messages. Use your discretion in this matter; if you know the survivor well and often communicate this way, it’s likely acceptable.


Giving condolences with sympathy messages typically begins with a note of sadness upon hearing the news of the person’s passing. Describe what you felt or how you were shocked to learn about the passing of your friend or family member. You can begin sharing your sadness with sympathy messages with a phrase like “I was shocked and deeply saddened when I heard about the sudden passing of our good friend John.”

Following that, you would want to write something to console the family and talk a little about your experience with the deceased. Write down simple things like “John was loved by all and will be deeply missed” or “Please accept my sincere sympathy for your loss”.


You might then want to continue the message with a short experience with the deceased. Put in writing about a time when he or she inspired you or when you shared a special moment. This is a nice way to show how much the deceased meant to you.

Sympathy Messages Do’s and Don’ts


  • Let the family know how much you will miss the deceased
  • Let them know how dear he or she was or how they inspired you
  • Recall a fond memory, share a lighthearted story (but keep it short)
  • Express your regrets in the card or letter if you can’t attend the services
  • Always ask if there is something specific you can do to help – run errands, make food, etc.


  • Dwell on the details of an illness or death or ask for details about it
  • Imply that death was for the best
  • Tell the family what to do – “you have to be strong,” “stay busy,” etc.
  • Make religious references unless you know those sentiments are felt by the family


Whom to Address a Sympathy Card


Here are some guidelines when sending a sympathy card or condolence:


  • Address the card to the closest relative of the deceased. If you didn’t know the family, address the card to the spouse, the oldest adult child, or parents
  • If you’re sending the card to a friend who has lost a relative, send the card directly to your friend
  • If the deceased is the parent of a friend, your note should be sent to the friend, rather than the surviving parent.
  • If you’re sending a condolence letter to children who’ve lost a parent, address their names on separate lines: Miss Ann Wolfe (the daughter), Mr. John Wolfe (the son) underneath. Your card’s salutation should say “Dear Ann and John”
  • If a friend’s ex-spouse dies, and the couple maintained a close relationship, you can write a sympathy card to your friend and to any children the couple had


Timing for Sending Condolences

A sympathy card or letter of condolence should be sent within a week after learning of the death. But it’s a wonderful idea to write again weeks – or even months – later to let the grieving family member know you are still thinking of them.

Trying to put your thoughts into words is difficult, and it’s understandable if you have put off writing the card. Keep in mind, your sympathy card doesn’t have to be very long. Just let the family know you’ve been thinking and praying (if appropriate) for them.

Best Funeral Card Messages


Your sympathy message does not need to be long or cover every emotion you are feeling. A short card is enough to tell the family that you are thinking about them and offer your condolences.

Start with a note of sadness (see above), then follow with one of these short messages (or one of your own). Finally, if applicable, offer a personal experience you had with the deceased.

1. We are thinking of you during this difficult time.

2. Please accept my deepest condolences.

3. _____ may be gone, but [his or her] memory will live on in our hearts forever.

4. I am sorry for your loss. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

5. I cannot even imagine what you must be going through in this difficult time. Please know that I am always there for you.

6. We share comfort in knowing _____ is no longer suffering. God bless you and your family.

7. Please accept my condolences and know that you are in my thoughts.

8. Our hearts go out to you and your family in your time of sorrow.

9. We were so sorry to hear about the passing of _____. We love you and are thinking about you often these days.

10. Death can take away the person from us, but not their memories. Love and memories are everlasting.

More Ways to Express Sympathy


In addition to sending a card, here are some other ways to support someone who is grieving.

Be a good listener. Sometimes the best thing you can offer to someone who is grieving is to listen.


Assure the person that it is okay to talk about his or her feelings. Although you cannot erase the pain of the bereaved person’s loss, you can provide a great deal of comfort by being there to listen.


Respect the person’s way of grieving. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone grieves in his or her own way. The sadness of loss, however, is universal.


Accept mood swings. Be aware that a grieving person will have emotional ups and downs. Grief is often described as an emotional roller coaster. Someone who has just lost a loved one may feel fine one moment and overcome with emotion the next. This is a normal part of the grieving process.

Avoid giving advice. It is best to avoid making suggestions about what the bereaved person should or shouldn’t do. Such advice is usually well meant, but it may make the bereaved person feel worse. Instead, let the person know that you recognize how great his or her loss is. For example, you might say, “What a difficult time this must be for you,” or “How painful this must be for you and your family.”

Refrain from trying to explain the loss. Words that are meant to console the bereaved can in some cases have the opposite effect. Avoid saying things like “Your loved one is in a better place,” “It is God’s will,” or “At least she or he is no longer suffering.” Listening is more helpful.

Help out with practical tasks. A bereaved person may be glad to have help with activities like grocery shopping, preparing meals or sending over some meals, making phone calls, doing laundry, babysitting, and so on. Rather than saying, “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help,” offer assistance with specific tasks you are in a position to help with.

Stay connected and available. There is no timetable for grief. People who are grieving need time to heal, so be patient. Let the bereaved person know that you will check in often. Even if he or she is not yet ready to talk or to be around others, simply knowing you’re there can be very comforting.


Golden State Fruit Gourmet Abundance Gift Basket, SympathyGolden State Fruit Gourmet Abundance Sympathy Gift Basket

 Offer words that touch the heart. It’s natural to struggle with finding the right words. Simple words are often the best. For example, say: “I’m so sorry for your loss. How can I help?” No matter how unsure you may feel about the support you are offering, what matters most is that you are genuinely concerned and want to help. The bereaved person will likely appreciate your sincere efforts to be supportive.
Send a sympathy gift.  A meal, gourmet basket or other gift is another thoughtful way to send you condolences and support to the bereaved.







Finally, remember that condolences are not just a message; they are a symbol to show that you really care for the deceased and his or her family. The death of a loved one is a time of sorrow and grief for the family and being able to show them that you sympathize and care is a symbol of true love and friendship.





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Funeral Flower Terminology

Sending sympathy flowers to a family in mourning is a great way to show your support and contribute to the funeral arrangements. However, it can be difficult to know what kind of funeral flowers to send or what each type of bouquet entails

FTD Immorata Casket Spray


This quick guide to funeral flower terms and options should help give you a clearer understanding of what kind of choices are out there—and what funeral flower etiquette dictates you should do.


Arrangement: The arrangement is what shape and style the funeral flowers will be delivered in. Some of the options include basket arrangements, vase arrangements, wreath arrangements, cross arrangements, and pedestal arrangements, just to name a few.


Blooming Plant: If you want to send something that will last longer than cut flowers, a blooming plant is a good choice. These potted plants come with a bright floral bloom.


Casket Blanket: This “blanket” of flowers is draped over the casket to provide a visually stunning effect.


Casket Scarf: Instead of an entire blanket, some families choose to decorate a casket with a smaller scarf of flowers that can be artfully arranged.



Easel: If a wreath or cross arrangement of funeral flowers will be on display, you may need a frame to hold it up and provide a visual centerpiece. These can be rented or provided by most funeral homes.


Filler: Most flower arrangements are made up of several large and beautiful flowers, surrounded by what is known as “filler.” Ferns, fronds, baby’s breath, and other less expensive items help to make the arrangement look nice and full without making it too costly.


Flower Bearer: As the name suggests, this individual is similar to ring bearer/flower girl in a wedding, and walks before or after the casket carrying flower tributes.


Flower Car: A special vehicle may be needed to transport the flowers to the cemetery or funeral home for a secondary service.


Grave Blanket: This display can be made of flowers, ribbons, greens, and other floral fillers to cover a newly laid grave. It is meant to be temporary.


In Lieu of Flowers: Some families would prefer not to receive funeral flowers, and ask instead that you make a donation to a charity or other organization instead.


Potted Plant: Not all funeral flowers have to be floral in design. Many families prefer the lush greenery of potted plants, which can be blooming or made up of ferns and other non-floral designs.


Spray: The most common type of funeral flower, a casket spray is an arrangement of florals and leafy greens that is designed to be displayed on the top of a closed casket.


For a more detailed list of what types of funeral flowers are available and what is appropriate to send to the family, you may want to contact a florist directly. Most of them have considerable experience working with funeral displays and will be able to direct you toward the best options for your relationship to the family and your budget.

Related Post: Funeral and Sympathy Flowers

About this blog

Funeral and Sympathy Flowers

It is hard to put sympathetic feelings into words and sympathy flowers can say it for you.

No words need be spoken. When you send a floral tribute to a memorial service the meaning is always understood and appreciated by the bereaved. Sympathy flowers are a way to share the burden of grief and loss and are also a symbol for community support for a life well lived.



A Brief  History Behind Memorial Flowers


Placing flowers around those who have died is almost certainly mankind’s oldest tribute to the dead. One of the earliest discoveries of funeral flowers was documented by Dr. Ralph Solecki who excavated the Shanidar Cave in Northern Iraq in 1951 and discovered several burial sites. Soil samples determined that funeral flowers were indeed placed on this now famous burial site.

To say giving flowers for a funeral is traditional would indeed be an understatement! Some scientists believe that the first flowers for funerals served a dual purpose. Firstly, flowers were thought to be the symbol of the life cycle from birth to death, the fragility of life and its temporary beauty. Secondly as a more practical application they were used to mask the smell of decomposition at a time before embalming.


1-800-Flowers - Deepest Sympathy Standing Spray-Peach/Orange/White - Small
For example, this Sympathy Standing Spray from 1-800 Flowers, in shades of peach, orange and white, is a beautiful symbol of your sympathy and support. Peach roses, orange Asiatic lilies, white carnations and more
An appropriate gift for family, friends and business associates to send directly to the funeral home.



Common Sympathy Flower Etiquette Questions


Is it okay to send flowers to the family’s home?


Most certainly. This is a wonderful way to express your sympathy and is a very common trend. Some people choose to send flowers or a plant to the home immediately, while others prefer to wait a week or more.

There are no steadfast rules. Flowers can be a very comforting reminder during the grieving process that friends are thinking of an individual during their time of loss.



When you want to express your sympathy during a time of loss, this classic dish garden is a touching choice. Fresh, beautiful blooms and a lush variety of green foliage plants are specially designed by 1-800-Flowers florists.  Appropriate for family, friends or business associates to send to the service or to an immediate family member’s home










See How to Write a Sympathy Card Message

Is it appropriate to send flowers even if the death notice mentions a charitable donation or “In Lieu Of”?


Yes. Flowers help say what is often difficult to express, they are always appropriate and in good taste.

Flowers also play a functional role, adding warmth to the service and providing the visible emotional support that the family needs during this time. In fact research has shown that receiving flowers contributes to a persons emotional well being.




If several of us want to go in together for a floral tribute, how do we sign our names so the family knows who the senders were?


When a group of individuals go in together on flowers, the arrangement can be very special and make a larger showing.



There should be room on the floral enclosure card for several names, but if there’s not enough space it is best to sign as a group, such as “The Staff in Accounting” or “The Munro Family.” Include a contact name and address on the card so the family knows who to thank.



What can I do to make my floral arrangement unique or special from the rest?


To make your floral tribute particularly special and unique, ask your florist to create an arrangement that fits the deceased’s personality, for example, a rustic basket of wildflowers to honor someone who loved the outdoors.



You could also include his or her favorite flowers or colors, or a flower that had special significance in your relationship with that person. Whatever you do, the family is certain to appreciate the extra thought and effort you put into it.



I found out about the death after the funeral was over. What can I do?


A floral arrangement received at the home after the activity surrounding the funeral can be a comforting, welcome reminder that friends haven’t forgotten. In fact, research shows that bereaved family and friends appreciate being thought of in the weeks or months after the funeral.

A personal note or ‘we are thinking of you’ message with the flowers would be especially nice. Any support you can offer will let the family know you care.


See How to Write a Sympathy Card Message



Is it appropriate to send flowers for a cremation?


A tastefully designed floral tribute adds beauty to any type of memorial service. It is common for the family to have a floral arrangement designed for display with the urn.



Is it appropriate to send a plant to the funeral home and will it be sent to the family after the service?


Yes, it is appropriate to send a green or flowering plant. Some funeral homes will deliver plants or floral arrangements to the home if specified. Otherwise, the funeral director will simply notify the family members that they may take the plants with them after the service.



Is it acceptable to send flowers in a glass vase to the funeral home?
From an etiquette standpoint this is perfectly acceptable, however I generally recommend against doing so as many funeral homes have rules about certain types of floral arrangements. This is particularly the case with vases that may be prone to tip and spill when being moved.



Here is a suggested list of items and the times they are the most appropriate:




Funeral Baskets


are appropriate for delivery to the funeral home, mortuary or church. These beautiful floral arrangements are displayed in decorative baskets or containers and make a lovely presentation. These arrangements can also be sent to the residence, but typically are sent to the funeral home, mortuary or church.


Green and Blooming Plants
Theses are appropriate for delivery to the funeral home, mortuary, church, residence or place of business. These beautiful plants are displayed in a pretty pot or in a decorative basket and are appropriate to send to any location.



Sympathy Sprays


Sympathy Sprays are appropriate for delivery to the funeral home, mortuary or church. These beautiful arrangements are displayed on a standing easel and make a spectacular presentation.




Vase Arrangements


Vase Arrangements are appropriate for delivery to the residence, or a place of business of a friend or family member who has lost a loved one. Arranged in a beautiful vase, these arrangements are a tasteful way to offer your condolences.



Wreaths and Specialty Arrangements


Wreaths and Specialty Arrangements such as crosses, bibles etc., are appropriate for delivery to the funeral home, mortuary or church. Wreaths and specialty arrangements are displayed on a standing easel and give maximum presentation.



Is it appropriate to send flowers within all religious beliefs?
The significance and use of flowers in funerals is often dependent on the religious beliefs of the deceased and the bereaved. There are some rules of etiquette to follow when sending funeral flowers, particularly in incidences where religion is a factor.


Here are some very general guidelines, however if you are uncertain it is always advised to speak to a family member:


See How to Write a Sympathy Card Message


Buddhist funerals will almost always take place in a funeral home and never in a temple. Sending flowers is considered appropriate for a Buddhist funeral.


Eastern Orthodox practitioners are strict about three days between death and burial. During this time, flowers may be sent to the funeral home. White funeral flowers are seen as especially meaningful.


Hindus hold a funeral service on the day of death,before the sun goes down if possible. Sending flowers isn’t part of the Hindu tradition, but it may still be seen as a thoughtful gesture. You can safely send a nice funeral spray to commemorate the deceased.


Jewish tradition doesn’t include the sending of flowers at death. It’s more appropriate to send gift baskets or fruit during the period of mourning.

Broadway Basketeers Kosher Shiva Gift Basket


Mormons (or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) appreciate flowers and funeral sprays at the time of mourning. Don’t send them in the shape of a cross as this may offend, and note that Mormon funerals are not held in the temple.


Muslim or Islamic cultures may have differing opinions concerning funeral flowers, depending on their ethnic origin and perhaps even on what particular branch of Islam they are from. Ask the opinion of someone close to the family, if you can.


Protestants and Other Christian faiths accept all forms of funeral flowers. However certain branches or denominations further out of the mainstream (especially in some Reformed traditions) may have particular ideas concerning simplicity and adornment.


Roman Catholics welcome flowers and funeral flower arrangements. There may be some particulars concerning delivery of funeral flowers to a church or cathedral.



Some final thoughts on funeral and sympathy flowers


Flowers are a thoughtful and appropriate way to express emotions without adding to the burdens of losing a loved one. Sending a bouquet to the funeral home means that everyone will get to enjoy the sight of the flowers you provided – oftentimes in colors and styles that the deceased may have loved throughout his or her life.  And because fresh-cut bouquets require little upkeep, they also don’t add to the cares and concerns the family is already dealing with.

Bouquets sent directly to the home are also an appropriate way to send your condolences. Oftentimes, the spaces the deceased once inhabited become fraught with memories and sadness. Fresh flowers can add incredible appeal to a space and emulate a garden setting, in which eternal life and beauty is stressed.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.



How to Plan a Funeral

How to Write Sympathy Card Messages

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Planning a Funeral


Here’s how to make well-informed choices during an emotional time


When a loved one dies, grieving family members and friends often are confronted with dozens of decisions about the funeral — all of which must be made quickly and often under great emotional duress.


What kind of funeral should it be? What funeral provider should you use? Should you bury or cremate the body, or donate it to science? What are you legally required to buy? What other arrangements should you plan?


And, as callous as it may sound, how much is it all going to cost?


Each year, Americans grapple with these and many other questions as they spend billions of dollars arranging more than 2 million funerals for family members and friends. The increasing trend toward pre-need planning — when people make funeral arrangements in advance — suggests that many consumers want to compare prices and services so that ultimately, the funeral reflects a wise and well-informed purchasing decision, as well as a meaningful one.



A Consumer Product


Funerals rank among the most expensive purchases many consumers will ever make. A traditional funeral, including a coffin and vault, costs about $6,000, although extras, like flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgment cards or limousines, can add thousands of dollars to the bottom line. Many funerals run well over $10,000.


Yet even if you’re the kind of person who might haggle with a dozen dealers to get the best price on a new car, you’re likely to feel uncomfortable comparing prices or negotiating over the details and cost of a funeral, pre-need or at need. Compounding this discomfort is the fact that some people “overspend” on a funeral or burial because they think of it as a reflection of their feelings for the deceased.




To help relieve their families of some of these decisions, an increasing number of people are planning their own funerals, designating their funeral preferences, and sometimes even paying for them in advance. They see funeral planning as an extension of will and estate planning.




Thinking ahead can help you make informed and thoughtful decisions about funeral arrangements. It allows you to choose the specific items you want and need and compare the prices offered by several funeral providers. It also spares your survivors the stress of making these decisions under the pressure of time and strong emotions.


You can make arrangements directly with a funeral establishment or through a funeral planning or memorial society — a nonprofit organization that provides information about funerals and disposition but doesn’t offer funeral services. If you choose to contact such a group, recognize that while some funeral homes may include the word “society” in their names, they are not nonprofit organizations.


One other important consideration when planning a funeral pre-need is where the remains will be buried, entombed or scattered. In the short time between the death and burial of a loved one, many family members find themselves rushing to buy a cemetery plot or grave — often without careful thought or a personal visit to the site. That’s why it’s in the family’s best interest to buy cemetery plots before you need them.


You may wish to make decisions about your arrangements in advance, but not pay for them in advance. Keep in mind that over time, prices may go up and businesses may close or change ownership. However, in some areas with increased competition, prices may go down over time. It’s a good idea to review and revise your decisions every few years, and to make sure your family is aware of your wishes.


Put your preferences in writing, give copies to family members and your attorney, and keep a copy in a handy place. Don’t designate your preferences in your will, because a will often is not found or read until after the funeral. And avoid putting the only copy of your preferences in a safe deposit box. That’s because your family may have to make arrangements on a weekend or holiday, before the box can be opened.





Millions of Americans and Canadians have entered into contracts to prearrange their funerals and prepay some or all of the expenses involved. Laws of individual states govern the prepayment of funeral goods and services; various states have laws to help ensure that these advance payments are available to pay for the funeral products and services when they’re needed.


But protections vary widely from state to state, and some state laws offer little or no effective protection. Some state laws require the funeral home or cemetery to place a percentage of the prepayment in a state-regulated trust or to purchase a life insurance policy with the death benefits assigned to the funeral home or cemetery.


If you’re thinking about prepaying for funeral goods and services, it’s important to consider these issues before putting down any money:


  • What are you are paying for? Are you buying only merchandise, like a coffin and vault, or are you purchasing funeral services as well?
  • What happens to the money you’ve prepaid? States have different requirements for handling money for prearranged funeral services.
  • What happens to the interest income on money that is prepaid and put into a trust account?
  • Are you protected if the firm you dealt with goes out of business?
  • Can you cancel the contract and get a full refund if you change your mind?
  • What happens if you move to a different area or die while away from home? Some prepaid funeral plans can be transferred, but often at an added cost.


Be sure to tell your family about the plans you’ve made; let them know where the documents are filed. If your family isn’t aware that you’ve made plans, your wishes may not be carried out. And if family members don’t know that you’ve prepaid the funeral costs, they could end up paying for the same arrangements. You may wish to consult an attorney on the best way to ensure that your wishes are followed.



The Funeral Rule


Most funeral providers are professionals who strive to serve their clients’ needs and best interests. But some aren’t. They may take advantage of their clients through inflated prices, overcharges, double charges or unnecessary services.


Fortunately, there’s a federal law that makes it easier for you to choose only those goods and services you want or need and to pay only for those you select, whether you are making arrangements pre-need or at need.


The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires funeral directors to give you itemized prices in person and, if you ask, over the phone. The rule also requires funeral directors to give you other information about their goods and services.


For example, if you ask about funeral arrangements in person, the funeral home must give you a written price list to keep that shows the goods and services the home offers. If you want to buy a coffin or outer burial container, the funeral provider must show you descriptions of the available selections and the prices before actually showing you the coffins. 
Many funeral providers offer various packages of commonly selected goods and services that make up a funeral. But when you arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy individual goods and services. That is, you do not have to accept a package that may include items you do not want.


According to the Funeral Rule:


  • You have the right to choose the funeral goods and services you want (with some exceptions).
  • The funeral provider must state this right in writing on the general price list.
  • If state or local law requires you to buy any particular item, the funeral provider must disclose it on the price list, with a reference to the specific law.
  • The funeral provider may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a coffin you bought elsewhere.
  • A funeral provider that offers cremations must make alternative containers available.



What Kind of Funeral Do You Want?


Every family is different, and not everyone wants the same type of funeral. Funeral practices are influenced by religious and cultural traditions, costs and personal preferences. These factors help determine whether the funeral will be elaborate or simple, public or private, religious or secular, and where it will be held. They also influence whether the body will be present at the funeral, if there will be a viewing or visitation, and if so, whether the casket will be open or closed, and whether the remains will be buried or cremated.


Among the choices you’ll need to make are whether you want one of these basic types of funerals, or something in between.



Traditional, Full-Service Funeral


This type of funeral, often referred to by funeral providers as a traditional funeral, usually includes a viewing or visitation and formal funeral service, use of a hearse to transport the body to the funeral site and cemetery, and burial, entombment or cremation of the remains.


It is generally the most expensive type of funeral. In addition to the funeral home’s basic services fee, costs often include embalming and dressing the body; rental of the funeral home for the viewing or service; and use of vehicles to transport the family if they don’t use their own. The costs of a coffin, cemetery plot or crypt and other funeral goods and services also must be factored in.


Direct Burial


The body is buried shortly after death, usually in a simple container. No viewing or visitation is involved, so no embalming is necessary. A memorial service may be held at the graveside or later. Direct burial usually costs less than the traditional, full-service funeral. Costs include the funeral home’s basic services fee, as well as transportation and care of the body, the purchase of a coffin or burial container and a cemetery plot or crypt. If the family chooses to be at the cemetery for the burial, the funeral home often charges an additional fee for a graveside service.


Direct Cremation


The body is cremated shortly after death, without embalming. The cremated remains are placed in an urn or other container. No viewing or visitation is involved, although a memorial service may be held, with or without the cremated remains present. The remains can be kept in the home, buried or placed in a crypt or niche in a cemetery, or buried or scattered in a favorite spot.



Direct cremation usually costs less than the traditional, full-service funeral. Costs include the funeral home’s basic services fee, as well as transportation and care of the body. A crematory fee may be included or, if the funeral home does not own the crematory, the fee may be added on. There also will be a charge for an urn or other container. The cost of a cemetery plot or crypt is included only if the remains are buried or entombed.


Funeral providers who offer direct cremations must also offer to provide an alternative container that can be used in place of a coffin.



Choosing a Funeral Provider


Many people don’t realize that they are not legally required to use a funeral home to plan and conduct a funeral. However, because they have little experience with the many details and legal requirements involved and may be emotionally distraught when it’s time to make the plans, many people find the services of a professional funeral home to be a comfort.


Consumers often select a funeral home or cemetery because it’s close to home, has served the family in the past, or has been recommended by someone they trust. But people who limit their search to just one funeral home may risk paying more than necessary for the funeral or narrowing their choice of goods and services.


Comparison shopping need not be difficult, especially if it’s done before the need for a funeral arises. If you visit a funeral home in person, the funeral provider is required by law to give you a general price list itemizing the cost of the items and services the home offers. If the general price list does not include specific prices of coffins or outer burial containers, the law requires the funeral director to show you the price lists for those items before showing you the items.


Sometimes it’s more convenient and less stressful to “price shop” funeral homes by telephone. The Funeral Rule requires funeral directors to provide price information over the phone to any caller who asks for it. In addition, many funeral homes are happy to mail you their price lists, although that is not required by law.


When comparing prices, be sure to consider the total cost of all the items together, in addition to the costs of single items. Every funeral home should have price lists that include all the items essential for the different types of arrangements it offers. Many funeral homes offer package funerals that may cost less than purchasing individual items or services. Offering package funerals is permitted by law, as long as an itemized price list also is provided. But only by using the price lists can you accurately compare total costs.


In addition, there’s a growing trend toward consolidation in the funeral home industry, and many neighborhood funeral homes are thought to be locally owned when in fact, they’re owned by a national corporation. If this issue is important to you, you may want to ask if the funeral home is locally owned.


Funeral Costs


Funeral costs include:


Basic services fee for the funeral director and staff. The Funeral Rule allows funeral providers to charge a basic services fee that customers cannot decline to pay. The basic services fee includes services that are common to all funerals, regardless of the specific arrangement.


These include funeral planning, securing the necessary permits and copies of death certificates, preparing the notices, sheltering the remains, and coordinating the arrangements with the cemetery, crematory or other third parties. The fee does not include charges for optional services or merchandise.


Charges for other services and merchandise. These are costs for optional goods and services such as transporting the remains; embalming and other preparation; use of the funeral home for the viewing, ceremony or memorial service; use of equipment and staff for a graveside service; use of a hearse or limousine; a coffin, outer burial container or alternate container; and cremation or interment.


Cash advances. These are fees charged by the funeral home for goods and services it buys from outside vendors on your behalf, including flowers, obituary notices, pallbearers, officiating clergy, and organists and soloists.


Some funeral providers charge you their cost for the items they buy on your behalf. Others add a service fee to their cost. The Funeral Rule requires those who charge an extra fee to disclose that fact in writing, although it doesn’t require them to specify the amount of their markup. The rule also requires funeral providers to tell you if there are refunds, discounts or rebates from the supplier on any cash advance item.



Calculating the Actual Cost


The funeral provider must give you an itemized statement of the total cost of the funeral goods and services you have selected when you are making the arrangements. If the funeral provider doesn’t know the cost of the cash advance items at the time, he or she is required to give you a written “good faith estimate.” This statement also must disclose any legal, cemetery or crematory requirements that you purchase any specific funeral goods or services.

The Funeral Rule does not require any specific format for this information. Funeral providers may include it in any document they give you at the end of your discussion about funeral arrangements.


Services and Products





Many funeral homes require embalming if you’re planning a viewing or visitation. But embalming generally is not necessary or legally required if the body is buried or cremated shortly after death. Eliminating this service can save you hundreds of dollars. Under the Funeral Rule, a funeral provider:


  • May not provide embalming services without permission.
  • May not falsely state that embalming is required by law.
  • Must disclose in writing that embalming is not required by law, except in certain special cases.
  • May not charge a fee for unauthorized embalming unless embalming is required by state law.
  • Must disclose in writing that you usually have the right to choose a disposition, such as direct cremation or immediate burial, that does not require embalming if you do not want this service.
  • Must disclose in writing that some funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing, may make embalming a practical necessity and, if so, a required purchase.







For a traditional, full-service funeral: 
A casket often is the single most expensive item you’ll buy if you plan a traditional, full-service funeral.


Caskets vary widely in style and price and are sold primarily for their visual appeal. Typically, they’re constructed of metal, wood, fiberboard, fiberglass or plastic. Although an average coffin costs slightly more than $2,000, some mahogany, bronze or copper caskets sell for as much as $10,000.


When you visit a funeral home or showroom to shop for a coffin, the Funeral Rule requires the funeral director to show you a list of coffins the company sells, with descriptions and prices, before showing you the coffins. Industry studies show that the average coffin shopper buys one of the first three models shown, generally the middle-priced of the three.


So it’s in the seller’s best interest to start out by showing you higher-end models. If you haven’t seen some of the lower-priced models on the price list, ask to see them — but don’t be surprised if they’re not prominently displayed, or not on display at all.


Traditionally, coffins have been sold only by funeral homes. But with increasing frequency, showrooms and websites operated by third-party dealers are selling caskets.

You can save money and avoid the funeral home mark-up by purchasing a coffin yourself and having it shipped directly to the funeral home.


The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to agree to use a casket you bought elsewhere, and doesn’t allow them to charge you a fee for using it.


No matter where or when you’re buying a coffin, it’s important to remember that its purpose is to provide a dignified way to move the body before burial or cremation. No coffin, regardless of its qualities or cost, will preserve a body forever.


Metal coffins frequently are described as “gasketed,” “protective” or “sealer” caskets. These terms mean that the coffin has a rubber gasket or some other feature that is designed to delay the penetration of water into the coffin and prevent rust. The Funeral Rule forbids claims that these features help preserve the remains indefinitely because they don’t. They just add to the cost of the coffin.


Most metal coffins are made from rolled steel of varying gauges — the lower the gauge, the thicker the steel. Some metal coffins come with a warranty for longevity. Wooden coffins generally are not gasketed and don’t have a warranty for longevity. They can be hardwood like mahogany, walnut, cherry or oak, or softwood like pine. Pine coffins are a less expensive option, but funeral homes rarely display them. Manufacturers of both wooden and metal coffins usually warrant workmanship and materials.


For cremation: 
Many families that opt to have their loved ones cremated rent a coffin from the funeral home for the visitation and funeral, eliminating the cost of buying a coffin. If you opt for visitation and cremation, ask about the rental option. For those who choose a direct cremation without a viewing or other ceremony where the body is present, the funeral provider must offer an inexpensive unfinished wood box or alternative container, a non-metal enclosure — pressboard, cardboard or canvas — that is cremated with the body.


Under the Funeral Rule, funeral directors who offer direct cremations:


  • May not tell you that state or local law requires a casket for direct cremations, because none do.
  • Must disclose in writing your right to buy an unfinished wood box or an alternative container for a direct cremation.
  • Must make an unfinished wood box or other alternative container available for direct cremations.


Burial vaults or grave liners


Burial vaults or grave liners, also known as burial containers, are commonly used in traditional, full-service funerals. The vault or liner is placed in the ground before burial, and the casket is lowered into it at burial.


The purpose is to prevent the ground from caving in as the coffin deteriorates over time. A grave liner is made of reinforced concrete and will satisfy any cemetery requirement. Grave liners cover only the top and sides of the coffin. A burial vault is more substantial and expensive than a grave liner. It surrounds the coffin in concrete or another material and may be sold with a warranty of protective strength.


State laws do not require a vault or liner, and funeral providers may not tell you otherwise. However, keep in mind that many cemeteries require some type of outer burial container to prevent the grave from sinking in the future.


Neither grave liners nor burial vaults are designed to prevent the eventual decomposition of human remains. It is illegal for funeral providers to claim that a vault will keep water, dirt or other debris from penetrating into the coffin if that’s not true.


Before showing you any outer burial containers, a funeral provider is required to give you a list of prices and descriptions. It may be less expensive to buy an outer burial container from a third-party dealer than from a funeral home or cemetery. Compare prices from several sources before you select a model.



Preservative processes and products


As far back as the ancient Egyptians, people have used oils, herbs and special body preparations to help preserve the bodies of their dead. Yet, no process or products have been devised to preserve a body in the grave indefinitely. The Funeral Rule prohibits funeral providers from telling you that it can be done. For example, funeral providers may not claim that either embalming or a particular type of coffin will preserve the body of the deceased for an unlimited time.



Cemetery sites


When you are purchasing a cemetery plot, consider the location of the cemetery and whether it meets the requirements of your family’s religion. Other considerations include what, if any, restrictions the cemetery places on burial vaults purchased elsewhere, the type of monuments or memorials it allows, and whether flowers or other remembrances may be placed on graves.


Cost is another consideration. Cemetery plots can be expensive, especially in metropolitan areas. Most, but not all, cemeteries require you to purchase a grave liner, which will cost several hundred dollars. Note that there are charges — usually hundreds of dollars — to open a grave for interment and additional charges to fill it in. Perpetual care on a cemetery plot sometimes is included in the purchase price, but it’s important to clarify that point before you buy the site or service. If it’s not included, look for a separate endowment care fee for maintenance and grounds keeping.


If you plan to bury your loved one’s cremated remains in a mausoleum or columbarium, you can expect to purchase a crypt and pay opening and closing fees, as well as charges for endowment care and other services. The FTC’s Funeral Rule does not cover cemeteries and mausoleums unless they sell both funeral goods and funeral services, so be cautious in making your purchase to ensure that you receive all pertinent price and other information, and that you’re being dealt with fairly.



Veterans cemeteries


All veterans are entitled to a free burial in a national cemetery and a grave marker. This eligibility also extends to some civilians who have provided military-related service and some Public Health Service personnel.


Spouses and dependent children also are entitled to a lot and marker when buried in a national cemetery. There are no charges for opening or closing the grave, for a vault or liner, or for setting the marker in a national cemetery. The family generally is responsible for other expenses, including transportation to the cemetery. For more information, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs’ website at To reach the regional Veterans office in your area, call (800) 827-1000.


In addition, many states have established state veterans cemeteries. Eligibility requirements and other details vary. Contact your state for more information.


Beware of commercial cemeteries that advertise so-called “veterans’ specials.” These cemeteries sometimes offer a free plot for the veteran, but charge exorbitant rates for an adjoining plot for the spouse, as well as high fees for opening and closing each grave. Evaluate the bottom-line cost to be sure the special is as special as you may be led to believe.




Solving Problems


If you have a problem concerning funeral matters, it’s best to try to resolve it first with the funeral director. If you are dissatisfied, the Funeral Consumer’s Alliance may be able to advise you on how best to resolve your issue. You also can contact your state or local consumer protection agencies listed in your telephone book, or the Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program.

You can file a complaint with the FTC by contacting the Consumer Response Center by phone, toll-free, at (877) FTC-HELP (382-4357); TDD: (866) 653-4261; by mail: Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20580; or on the Internet at, using the online complaint form. Although the commission cannot resolve individual problems for consumers, it can act against a company if it sees a pattern of possible law violations.



Planning for a funeral


  • Shop around in advance. Compare prices from at least two funeral homes. Remember that you can supply your own casket or urn.
  • Ask for a price list. The law requires funeral homes to give you written price lists for products and services.
  • Resist pressure to buy goods and services you don’t really want or need.
  • Avoid emotional overspending. It’s not necessary to have the fanciest casket or the most elaborate funeral to properly honor a loved one.
  • Recognize your rights. Laws regarding funerals and burials vary from state to state. It’s a smart move to know which goods or services the law requires you to purchase and which are optional.
  • Apply the same smart shopping techniques you use for other major purchases. You can cut costs by limiting the viewing to one day or one hour before the funeral, and by dressing your loved one in a favorite outfit instead of costly burial clothing.
  • Plan ahead. It allows you to comparison shop without time constraints, creates an opportunity for family discussion, and lifts some of the burden from your family.





Please share your thoughts and experience with funeral planning below.


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Coping With Grief (And What I Did)

How I Coped With Grief


Image result for grief


Coping with the loss of a close friend or family member may be one of the hardest challenges that many of us face. When we lose a spouse, sibling or parent our grief can be particularly intense. Loss is understood as a natural part of life, but we can still be overcome by shock and confusion, leading to prolonged periods of sadness or depression.


The sadness typically diminishes in intensity as time passes, but grieving is an important process in order to overcome these feelings and continue to embrace the time you had with your loved one.


Everyone reacts differently to death and employs personal coping mechanisms for grief. Research shows that most people can recover from loss on their own through the passage of time if they have social support and healthy habits. It may take months or a year to come to terms with a loss. There is no “normal” time period for someone to grieve. Don’t expect to pass through phases of grief either, as new research suggests that most people do not go through stages as progressive steps.


If your relationship with the deceased was difficult, this will also add another dimension to the grieving process. It may take some time and thought before you are able to look back on the relationship and adjust to the loss.


Human beings are naturally resilient, considering most of us can endure loss and then continue on with our own lives. But some people may struggle with grief for longer periods of time and feel unable to carry out daily activities. Those with severe grief may be experiencing complicated grief.  These individuals could benefit from the help of a psychologist or another licensed mental health professional with a specialization in grief.



Moving on With Life


Mourning the loss of a close friend or relative takes time, but research tells us that it can also be the catalyst for a renewed sense of meaning that offers purpose and direction to life.


Grieving individuals may find it useful to use some of the following strategies to help come to terms with loss:


Talk about the death of your loved one with friends and colleagues in order to understand what happened and remember your friend or family member.  Denying the death is an easy way to isolate yourself, and will frustrate your support system in the process.


Accept your feelings. People experience all kinds of emotions after the death of someone close. Sadness, anger, frustration and even exhaustion are all normal.


Take care of yourself and your family. Eating well, exercising and getting plenty of rest help us get through each day and move forward.


Reach out and help others dealing with the loss. Helping others has the added benefit of making you feel better as well. Sharing stories of the deceased can help everyone cope.


Remember and celebrate the lives of your loved ones. Possibilities include donating to a favorite charity of the deceased, framing photos of fun times, passing on a family name to a baby or planting a garden in memory. What you choose is up to you, as long as it allows you honor that unique relationship in a way that feels right to you. If you feel stuck or overwhelmed by your emotions, it may be helpful to talk with a licensed psychologist or other mental health professional who can help you cope with your feelings and find ways to get back on track.

(Adapted from a post by Katherine C. Nordal, PhD from the American Psychological Association)




On a personal note … as of this writing, I am one month on from my Mom’s death.  For the first two weeks following her passing, I coped by not coping.  In other words, I forced the issue out of my mind and put all my energy into maintaining control.  I did this so that I could put on a strong front for my Dad, as I was worried about his reaction and did not want to compound the family misery. 


In the last few weeks, I have allowed myself to indulge in sadness, and thankfully, it is not quite as raw as it threatened to be earlier.  I don’t know if that was the “healthy” thing to do, but it felt appropriate to me then.  I’m sure my feelings will evolve over time, and I am open to working through the process, which I will update in future posts.


Things which have helped me cope best are the support of my husband, spending time with my dogs and blogging.   Blogging has been particularly cathartic for me.  I want and need to discuss this topic, but it is not one that I can discuss easily (nor is it a topic which many people enjoy in conversation).




Writing this blog enables me to explore the topic of dying and grief through recounting my experiences with my Mom’s two years of progressive terminal illness and eventual death, as well as through researching what “the experts” say.  I feel it is my new purpose to provide help and guidance for patients and loved ones who have questions they need (but perhaps don’t really want) to ask, or who feel they don’t have the right person to ask.







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