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Proper Etiquette for Approaching an Unexpected Death

Published: April 6, 2017

Generally, the loss of a loved one is not a welcome circumstance. However, in many cases, individuals have a chance to say goodbye or make proper arrangements. In other situations, a death may be caused by an unexpected event.
Unexpected deaths can be a great burden and create confusion for those who are left behind, so it is important to understand how to approach these very sensitive situations.

Speak of the Deceased in the Present

During funeral services, memorials and wakes for those who passed of unplanned circumstances, family and friends will often still be processing the loss of their loved one. Rather than using the past tense, referring to the individual in the present tense, such as “He is a great person,” can help ease this transition. It is also appropriate to use the deceased’s name in conversation as a way to show that while they have left, their memory lives on.

Do Not Inquire About Circumstances

In cases of unexpected death, many may wonder how an individual passed away as away to understand why the loss has occurred. However, probing about the circumstances of the death is inappropriate, as it often forces individuals to relive the details of an event, rather than focus on celebrating the life of the deceased. It is also inappropriate to ask family members about future circumstances, such as how they will move forward. Instead, simply offer support and ask if there is anyway you can help.

Offer a Sense of Normalcy

Survivors of an unexpected death often experience shock and uncertainty—feeling as if the loss has turned their world upside down. For those attending any services for the deceased, it is important to help these individuals feel supported as possible. Behaving as naturally as possible and offering a genuine sensibility can really help family and friends get through this difficult process.

New Ways to Remember the Deceased

Published: April 6, 2017

How do you remember those loved ones you have lost? For some, cherishing fond memories is sufficient. For others, something physical and tangible can be a meaningful aid to the grieving process. There are several ways in which memories can be tangibly preserved, all increasingly popular. This article will highlight just a few of them.

Many of these trends involve DNA. A DNA sample of the deceased can be taken, with the help from professionals at the funeral home—in the form of a hair clipping or a fingernail clipping, typically. This provides the family with a small remainder of the deceased’s unique genetic material.

The question is, what can be done with a DNA sample? The options are numerous—and, as the field of genetics continues to expand, more options are available all the time. For many families, though, DNA serves a simple purpose. It is effectively enshrined in a piece of original jewelry or décor, allowing the family to hold onto a tasteful, original, and physical reminder of the deceased’s life and presence.

There are other roles that a DNA sample can play, as well. DNA collection is increasingly popular among those with a zeal for genealogy. The DNA of the deceased can be stored and used down the road for ongoing explorations of family lines and histories.

Another way to physically remember the deceased is with Thumbies®. These are keepsakes that replicate the thumb or fingerprint of your loved one onto a piece of jewelry.

Sometimes these physical aids can help memories seem more real; as the options continue to abound, their popularity continues to increase. To learn more, families can contact Bradshaw Carter Funeral Home by calling 713-521-0066.

What Happens When Someone Dies Under Hospice Care, or in the Hospital

Published: April 6, 2017

What happens when a loved one dies? What are the logistical steps that you must take to ensure that their body is properly taken care of, and carefully moved to the site of the funeral home? There are different sets of protocols depending on whether the death occurs at home, under hospice care, or in the hospital. This article will look at the latter two scenarios.

For a loved one to die under hospice care is, frankly, easier to deal with than a loved one dying in other
conditions. Practically speaking, there are simply fewer steps that must be taken. The first thing to do is to call the hospice worker, who will come to the home. The hospice worker will contact the hospice physician, who will then pronounced the time of death. In addition, the hospice worker will destroy all prescription medications that the deceased was taking, and at that point the funeral home may be contacted to come and transport the body.

When someone dies in the hospital, the situation is slightly different. The procedure depends on how long the person was in the hospital. If it was under 24 hours time, then a medical examiner must be
contacted to assess the cause of death. The deceased may have to have an autopsy to determine the cause
of death. If the deceased was present in the hospital for more than 24 hours, however, hospital can more expediently release the body to the funeral home and a medical examiner’s autopsy may not be required.

A final note: In some cases, if there is even a hint of anything suspicious, then a full autopsy might be required. In particular, this is needed if the deceased was an elderly person who died due to falling.

Knowing these procedures is important for ensuring you handle a loved one’s death properly and expediently; simply calling the funeral home to transport the body is, in most cases, not enough.

Memorials that Honor Eternal Commitments

Published: April 6, 2017

With Valentine’s Day at the forefront this weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss ways that couples can honor their commitment to each other after the end of their lives. It’s true that “till death do us part” is a theme present in wedding ceremonies past and present—however, I for one know that many couples do not see that as the end, and look for ways to celebrate their love for one another for eternity.

One popular way to do this, for couples who have opted for cremation, is to co-mingle their cremains
together. What happens in this scenario is that when one spouse dies, the family will use an urn to keep the cremains at home. Then, when the surviving spouse passes, the family will either choose to use an urn that jointly combines the couple’s cremains or a companion urn will be purchased.

Companion urns have become very common in this regard, and are usually the more popular option. This is an urn that is designed to keep the couple’s cremains separate while housed together. It has two separate containers within one urn. From here, the family has the option to keep the companion urn or bury it.

For couples who have opted for traditional burial, it is possible to use a cemetery plot in a “vertical” fashion, burying one casket above the other (or side-by-side if one spouse decided to be cremated). Of course, this also depends on the cemetery’s rules of operation. If this is a possibility you and your loved one are interested in, it is necessary to check with the cemetery and ask if they are willing to reopen a grave site to accommodate the other spouse after the first member of the couple has passed.

Ultimately, all of these burial and end-of-life solutions have been designed for the couple that wants to be together forever.

What Happens when Someone Dies at Home?

Published: April 6, 2017

Many of us hope that, when we die, we go peacefully in our sleep. We desire this for our loved ones,  as well. However, dying at home brings a set of complications for the surviving family members. Who do you call? What do you do? This article will highlight some of the basics.

Contrary to popular opinion, you cannot simply call the funeral home and ask for the deceased to be transported away. Funeral homes will not come to take the deceased until after the proper authorities have been called and a full medical investigation has been made.
The first call to make is to 911—whether the person in question seems to be having a stroke or heart attack or has already passed away. Know that, if the paramedics and the police arrive on the scene and the person is still alive, perhaps experiencing a cardiac episode, they will attempt to revive the person. If the individual has a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) document, make sure it is close at hand, stored somewhere in the bedroom. The paramedics will not wait for you to retrieve a DNR from the lawyer’s office. If you do not have it on hand, they will go right ahead and try to save the person who is dying.

Next, the medical examiner will arrive to help surmise the cause of death. In many cases it will be necessary for the medical examiner to find a local physician who can make the call—a process that can often take hours. Additionally, if there is any sign of foul play or anything at all suspicious, an autopsy will be required.

If the cause of death is declared and no autopsy is required, then family members may call the funeral home. The funeral home will send a member of their staff to transport the deceased back to the funeral home or in some cases a central facility.

The Grieving Process: Helping Friends Cope with the Passing of a Pet

Published: April 6, 2017

I grew up, from kindergarten to college, with family pets. These dogs and cats were much more than merely animals – they could be described as family members. Each had a unique personality, but they all possessed some intangible quality that made me feel safe and comfortable. It never got easier to say goodbye when they passed away.

The nature of humanity gives us an unparalleled perspective among all of Earth’s creatures. We have the ability to build strong relationships with the awareness that those relationships will come to an end. Our connection to animals is no different than that of other humans because we spend years, even decades, with a loyal and sympathetic companion.

When dealing with loss, we all have our own methods of coping. Regardless of the circumstances or preferences, there are a few steps you, as a friend, can take to help someone handle the loss of a pet.
First and foremost, be available to your friend who just lost a beloved animal. The worst feeling any person can experience is reaching out to somebody who is not there. If you were unavailable when first contacted, make every effort to get in touch with and visit the grieving friend. This helps validate their feelings and make them feel appreciated.

In the time that you spend with them, I strongly urge remembering the pet with your loved one. This reminiscence should be to celebrate the joy the pet brought to you, your friend and others. If there are any pictures or videos of the pet, get them out and fondly remember the times that were spent together.

The entire grieving process regarding a pet is difficult. It is important, however, to encourage your friend to get back into a normal routine. There is no benefit for a person to hole him- or herself up at home and avoid the outside world. In fact, these behaviors often spawn depression. You need to be proactive in encouraging your friend’s routine activities and leisurely hobbies to find that normalcy in life again.

The time you spend with a friend in mourning can also incorporate more than his or her daily activities. I have witnessed amazing recovery within grief-stricken pet owners when they volunteer at a local rescue shelter. In this regard, you are not asking your friend to replace the pet, but you are getting them to care for another animal in need, which is greatly therapeutic.

The Healing Power of Volunteering

During the grieving process, we all feel helpless. However, the feeling does not necessitate that we become helpless. From the ASPCA to the Humane Society to thousands of local shelters, there are plenty of opportunities to become a part of a solution for protecting animals. By encouraging your friend, you have empowered him or her to do something valuable that immerses them in a caring environment among animals.
The volunteer work affords opportunities to interact with both new animals and new people. Providing quality companionship will help encourage someone in mourning to push forward and not allow grief to overcome their tenacity. In the process of volunteering, many volunteers are shocked by the skills they employed and the achievements they could boast as a result.

Saying Goodbye: Helping Children Cope with a Pet's Death

Published: April 6, 2017

To a child, a pet is more than an animal. A pet is a child’s best friend and confidant. Children often consider pets their “secret-keepers” and playmates.  Thinking back, there is one commercial for Iams dog food that I feel is especially poignant. The advertisement features a seemingly big, tough dog that is graciously allowing his young friend to dress him up in frilly clothes—bearing the treatment, I might add, in a noble way. This commercial is a perfect representation of what the relationship between a pet and their smallest companions can be. With this in mind, explaining the death of a beloved pet to a child can be just as difficult as explaining the death of a relative.

To begin with, much depends on how the pet dies. If the animal has been terminally ill and has to be euthanized, the method of communicating the pet’s death is different than if the animal dies suddenly, or goes missing. Realize that the phrase “putting the animal to sleep,” which is usually associated with euthanasia, can be confusing to children. A child can become confused as they apply this phrase to their everyday life and might begin to associate going to sleep with never waking up.

Communication is Key

Adults are often amazed at how well children cope with honesty. Speaking in terms that sensitively but truthfully explain the situation is the best way to convey the death of a pet to a child. Simply telling a child that their pet “went away” does not offer any details. Older children will especially ask why and want more information. Realize though that the decision of whether or not to include a child at the actual euthanasia is a sensitive one and can be troubling to children with developing minds.

Typically, any child under the age five has a harder time understanding the concept of death. Parents should consider how mature their child is, and how well they understand that their pet is not going to get better. Telling children that the veterinarian did all they could to save the animal and that this is the kindest way to take the pet’s pain away are helpful things to say.

If a pet dies suddenly, parents should calmly explain what has happened. Allowing their child to ask most of the questions and guide the conversation is beneficial. While adults may deal with death and grief differently than a child, it is something everyone experiences. Parents can draw from their own understanding of death. Simply reassure your children that their pet is no longer in any pain.

 

How to Deal with Grief

Grief is an individual journey, and every family and child copes differently. Getting your child involved with the memorial planning as much as possible helps them deal with the emotions that they are feeling. Encourage them to draw pictures of their pet which can be used during the funeral or memorial service. Also, asking them to recount happy or funny stories of their furry friend can assist in making sure they feel involved in the process.

Children that do not have a creative outlet for their grief can sometimes display their emotions more negatively. Some warning signs to look out for are disinterest in usual activities, reoccurring bad dreams, preoccupation with thoughts of death, eating substantially less than normal, or withdrawing from friends and family.

At the same time, parents should allow the mourning process to progress naturally in their children—and know that there is not any “standard” length of time in dealing with grief.   Parents should never disregard the significance of the bond between a child and their pet. Belittling their emotions or saying, “Princess was just a cat, we can get a new one tomorrow,” does not address the sadness a child is feeling. A memorial service or funeral, no matter how small, provides closure. It lets children say goodbye in their own special way.

There are also other considerations to make.  For instance, many people believe that if an animal is getting older or is terminally ill, that it is good to introduce a new puppy or kitten to the home.  Realize that sometimes this can provide companionship to an ailing pet, but it also can distract attention and care away from a pet that is in their golden years. However, if an animal dies suddenly, getting a new pet right away might seem like the family is trying to replace the lost pet. Children should be allowed to deal with their grief appropriately and parents should wait to get a new pet until the time feels right.

Unexpected Death Behavior

Published: April 6, 2017

Proper Etiquette for Approaching an Unexpected Death

Generally, the loss of a loved one is not a welcome circumstance. However, in many cases, individuals have a chance to say goodbye or make proper arrangements. In other situations, a death may be caused by an unexpected event.

Unexpected deaths can be a great burden to and create confusion for those who are left behind, so it is important to understand how to approach these very sensitive situations.

Speak of the Deceased in the Present

During funeral services, memorials and wakes for those who passed of unplanned circumstances, family and friends will often still be processing the loss of their loved one. Rather than using the past tense, referring to the individual in the present tense, such as “He is a great person,” can help ease this transition. It is also appropriate to use the deceased’s name in conversation as a way to show that while they have left, their memory lives on.

Do Not Inquire About Circumstances

In cases of unexpected death, many may wonder how an individual passed away as a way to understand why the loss has occurred. However, probing about the circumstances of the death is inappropriate, as it often forces individuals to relive the details of an event, rather than focus on celebrating the life of the deceased.

It is also inappropriate to ask family members about future circumstances, such as how they will move forward. Instead, simply offer support and ask if there is any way you can help.

Offer a Sense of Normalcy

Survivors of an unexpected death often experience shock and uncertainty—feeling as if the loss has turned their world upside down. For those attending any services for the deceased, it is important to help these individuals feel supported as possible. Behaving as naturally as possible and offering a genuine sensibility can really help family and friends get through this difficult process.

If you have a question about funerals, please email me at:
AskTripp@BradshawCarter.com

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