Posts Tagged ‘bereavement’

By Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services, Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

414-651-2737    petereinl@churchandchapel.us    www.churchandchapel.com


I resolve to…

  • Grieve as much and for as long as I need to, and I will not let others put a time table on my grief.
  • Mourn this loss by fully experiencing my feelings and expressing them in healthy and appropriate ways with trusted others.
  • Ignore those who try to tell me what I should or should not be feeling, and how I should and should not be behaving.
  • Cry if I need to and/or want to, whenever and wherever I feel like crying. I will not stuff the tears of my grief.
  • Voice my loved one’s name, sharing their stories with friends, family members and others.
  • Lower my expectations of others realizing not everyone knows how I feel, especially those who have not lost someone to death. I will express my needs to others so they don’t have to guess what my needs might be.
  • Stop blaming myself for my loved one’s death, and remind myself, when feelings of guilt are overwhelming, that this is a normal part of the grief process and it will pass.
  • Seek out a support group, other resources or professional help and let go of feeling ashamed or weak in doing so. 
  • Commune with my loved one as I want, in ways that feel comfortable.


I further resolve to…

  • Eat, sleep and exercise every day in order to give my body the strength it will need to help me walk this journey.
  • Remind myself that loss of memory, feelings of disorientation, lack of energy, and a sense of vulnerability are all normal parts of the grief process.
  • Heal, even though it may take a long time and a lot of intentional grief work.
  • Stop trying to recreate life as it was before this loss and move to an acceptance that life as I’ve known it will never be the same again, nor will I ever be the same again.
  • Realize that I will not always make steady progress and when I find myself slipping back into the old moods of despair and depression I’ll remember this is also a very normal part of the grief process.
  • Be happy about something for some part of every day, knowing that at first, I may have to force myself and it may last only a moment.
  • Reach out to help someone else, knowing that helping others will help me to get through my grief.
  • Opt for life, knowing that this is what my loved one would want me to do.

Adapted from the Brooksville Spring Hill, FL , TCF Newsletter



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By Pete Reinl, Director of Grief Support Services for Church and Chapel Funeral Homes

My mom, who died 19 years ago, was one of 16 children.  Being one of the oldest she found herself cooking in the kitchen a lot. She cooked for 18 people. Imagine the amount of food she needed to help prepare three times a day.  She was trained to cook in large quantities. I’m one of five children.  Now, imagine the ‘spreads’ mom prepared for us – we had enough leftovers each meal to feed our neighborhood. No matter how hard she tried to keep the amount of food realistic for our family, it just never happened. We would’ve been awfully hungry if we didn’t acquire a taste for leftovers (which I thankfully still have to this day). My mom was quite the cook and loved being in the kitchen. I’ve picked up on her tendency in my cooking to over-do quantity – spaghetti is the worst (mounds of noodles and not enough sauce) – but have also enjoyed inheriting her love of being in the kitchen and cooking.

Oh my, stories and storytelling and story listening…I’m incredibly honored when someone who is grieving chooses to share with me a story about their loved one or a story about their journey of grief.  I believe we’re on ‘sacred ground’ when someone trusts us enough to share such stories. Storytelling is so very important throughout our entire lives, but even more so when we are grieving.

Stories hold such power for both the teller and the listener. In telling their story bereaved people pay honor and respect to their loved ones.  In a sense it is one way of keeping their loved one’s spirit alive. I can’t tell you how often I hear from the bereaved how satisfying it is for them to be able to voice their loved one’s name to others. Equally gratifying is hearing their loved one’s name from someone else telling a story about them. To know their loved one touched others and made an impact in another person’s life can be incredibly moving to a bereaved person. Hearing their name and telling stories help the bereaved shift from a relationship of physical presence with their loved one to a relationship of memory and spirit presence.

In addition, by telling their story the bereaved mark the significance of their loss and want the listener to acknowledge that significance as well. “I want you to know this person in my life…I want you to know how much this person meant to me…And, I want you to know just how significant their passing is to me.”  Often bereaved people find themselves telling their story over and over and over again. This repeating of their story is so important and so natural and so normal. Indeed, it’s in the retelling of their story that the story itself loses its power and gains deeper understanding.  Newly bereaved find themselves tearing-up just at the thought of telling their story and not being able to tell it fully.  While perhaps later – months later – they notice a lump in their throat and tears being shed in telling their story, but they can fully share the entire story. Still later, not only can they tell their story with less detail and fewer tears, but will add to the story more about themselves and how life has changed for them. And even further in their journey of grief the story is yet shorter and filled with more glimpses of how they are re-entering life again.

Mark Nepo in The Book of Awakening writes this about storytelling and story-listening:

Stories are like little time capsules. They carry pieces of truth and meaning over time…It is the sweat and tears of the telling that bring the meaning out of its sleep as if no time has passed. It is the telling that heals…

Often we repeat stories, not because we are forgetful or indulgent, but because there is too much meaning to digest in one expression. So we keep sharing the story that presses on our heart until we understand it all…

The truth is that though we think we know what we are about to say, the story tells us and saves us, in the same mysterious way that breathing is always the same but different.

So, what’s in a story? Well, most everything that’s important. Go ahead, tell the story – tell your story – tell their story. And, please, won’t you please just listen and be fully present and be patient as they share glimpses of their heart, their love, and their lives with you.

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We give our sincerest thanks to guest blogger Lisa Thompson, who shared this blog from the one-year anniversary of her father’s death. Lisa has some wonderful ideas for sharing your love before it’s too late…read on to find out more.

One year ago today my dad died.

I sat next to him while he laid in bed and took his last breath.

I can remember that moment like it was yesterday.  After realizing his body had finally given up and he was gone, I stood up and walked away toward one of the walls in his relatively small room where the close family members and friends had all gathered.

I had what I can only describe as some sort of weird out of body experience where the entire world just disappeared.  The next thing I remember is hearing this awful, loud, mournful crying.  It took me several moments to realize that the crying I was hearing was coming from me.

It was a sound I had never heard come out of my own mouth before.  I think it was a huge emotional release of some sort – after all those months of losing my dad slowly, of knowing it was just a matter of time before I lost him completely.
To read the entire blog, see photos and video and get Lisa’s DVD template, visit her site: http://blog.portraitartbylisamarie.com/2012/07/one-year-ago-today-my-dad-died-what-im-going-to-do-today/

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Round Mountain Wild Fire, Colorado

Round Mountain Wild Fire, Colorado (Photo credit: Striking Photography by Bo ( Swamped))

This morning as I was listening to the news as I got ready for work, I was drawn out to the living room by a desperate and shaken voice. It was a woman from Colorado who had been required to leave her home with only a few minutes’ notice because of the wild fires. She told the reporter that she’d grabbed a few pieces of clothing, photos and her cats before fleeing. Her parting words were, “I don’t want to leave my home.”

Weather and natural disasters often cause losses that are difficult to deal with. We hear about the fatalities and secondarily about the displaced people who lose their homes. To me, home truly is where the heart is. My home is my center, my place of balance, safety, privacy, freedom of choice – all things I value highly. To imagine losing this place, with no notice, no opportunity to ingrain it in my memory, no chance to pack or sort or identify the important things versus the unimportant – it would be terrible.

Compounded by fear, uncertainty and emotion, the loss of a home is significant. It deserves attention and time to grieve. At Horizon recently, we’ve been discussing the idea of “home” a lot. What makes a home, what people (our patients, volunteers and staff) value in a home, how to find out what home means to others. I feel personally that the essence of home, no matter who you are, is security.

I send my thoughts to those who are suffering through the fires, and wish for them some sense of security, despite being forced from their physical homes.

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Cover of "Daniel's Daughter"

Cover of Daniel’s Daughter

I watched the Hallmark Movie, Daniel’s Daughter, this past weekend. In the movie, Cate’s mother dies when she is around 9 years old. Almost immediately afterwards her father leaves her with relatives to explore work and promises that he’ll return. In his absence, he gives her a journal to write down everything that happens to her so he won’t miss a thing. However, life got the way and Cate’s father began to feel that he would disrupt his daughter’s life if he returned and therefore he stays disconnected from her until he dies. When Cate is around 30 years old, she receives notice that he has died and a request to bury his ashes next to his wife’s.

Cate expresses anger toward her deceased father because she interpreted his absence to mean that he did not love her. All she wanted during her childhood was her father to be present with her. She states that her whole life changed after the death of her mother because she lost her father as well. Although she learns from his dear friends that he never stopped loving her and was fearful of disrupting her life because he thought it was going so well, it was difficult for her to feel this. She stated that she has journals with information she wanted to share with her father but never got the chance.

This movie highlighted one deeply important truth. Children just need the adults in their life to be there for them. As adults we think security comes from money, a steady job, and a stable living situation. Children find security and stability in the adults in their life being present with them. Losing a parents is incredible difficult and emotional on children of all ages, but having the remaining parents disappear can be even more devastating because it appears to be outright rejection to that child. Sometimes the answer to a difficult situation appears too simple to work, but the answer really is play with your child, listen to them, cry with them, and just spend time with them. That’s what they’ll remember in the long run and that’s what they need to grow into healthy adults—they just need you!

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Last week, I came home from working out with the personal trainer, and I bawled my eyes out. You see, I’d been working with a really great gal who pushed me hard and “got” my challenges and gave me inspiration and goals to work towards. And when I went to my session, I found out she no longer worked there. And that I would have a new trainer, who I’d never met before. 

The week before that, my parents moved from my childhood home, and my cat (who lived with them) had to be put to sleep. I spent a whole weekend holding back tears (and letting them out) and feeling a little bit empty. 

I’ve been a little bit crabby for about a month now. I mean, who gets so upset about their trainer getting a new job? 

Sometimes all of the little losses in our lives add up, making it hard to focus, and function at a high capacity. Things change, like not knowing my parents’ address by heart, knowing that this is their home, not mine, and not having my Ginger-cat ignore me as soon as I step foot in the door. And when all of those losses piled up, a seemingly insignificant loss (my trainer leaving) put me over the edge. 

There is a quote, and I have no idea who it’s by, that goes: 

Be kinder than necessary

Everyone you meet

Is fighting some kind of battle. 

In my own defense, I ask you to remember this when you’re interacting with others. We have no idea what’s going on in other people’s lives, and what might seem like “nothing” could actually be the last straw in a series of tiny losses. And don’t ignore the little losses in your life – they might catch up to you at the gym!

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The Lord Alfred Tennyson’s famous quote has been getting me through the last few days. It describes how I feel about the loss of our beloved dog, Chewie. I never knew how painful it would be to lose her, though I am so grateful for having loved her.


Chewie was the first dog our family had. A beautiful Golden Retreiver who came into to our lives 13 years ago at the age of 6 weeks. We cried as she did, when we adopted her and took her from her parents and the loving breeder. She was one of nine, born of two stunning champion Goldens. She was a white puff ball, who quickly captured our hearts.

The boys named her after their favorite Star Wars character and she certainly had the coat to match. What did not match was the name. She never chewed a single item. The one time she found a baby booty from a guest, she walked up to me with it in her mouth with the, I have something in my mouth for you, “please take it” look.

She only retrieved in water, where she would retrieve a stick to exhaustion. On land not a lot of retrieval occurred. We always suspected that is was just to warm for a dog with her coat.

Our dog was more of a princess than a Chewie I believed. I often thought we named her incorrectly. She pranced on walks. She greeted each and every human or animal. No amount of training would change that. In puppy school she, unlike any other dog in class, would inch over to the nearest puppy like an excited kindergartner. On walks she owned the neighborhood. Neighbors knew us as Chewie’s parents long before they knew our names. I know that one of the reasons there are so many Goldens in our subdivision is because everyone hoped they would get a Chewie.

She truly became a member of our family. She shared all of the moments of our lives for 13 years. Wherever we were she was. Nothing got past her. If we were sick she sat by our side and she was in the mix for all of our celebrations.

She not only loved us; she loved everyone. She consistently answered our door, though never barked, because she was quite anxious to make new friends. We believe she thought Halloween was her special holiday.

Over the last year, her hearing worsened, her vision decreased, she stopped climbing stairs, much like a comparable human at her age. She lived well beyond the ordinary lifespan for a Golden. She lived a long healthy life. We took her on two final road trips this summer. She rode shotgun between us as she always did, she had her ice cream cone, she hung her head out of the window. We knew they were her last trips and Jim and I savored every moment. When she stopped walking her last three days our family provided hospice care.

Together we spent her finals days and hours and now together we grieve.

I had no idea how painful it was to lose a pet like Chewie, but I go back to the the sentiments of Lord Tennyson. My life was enriched by her presence and as difficult as it is to let her go, I am so grateful for having loved her.

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