What happens at the end of life?

By Rachel Schraer

[S]cientists are expecting a spike in deaths in the coming years. As life expectancies increased, the number of people dying fell – but those deaths were merely delayed.

With people living longer, and often spending more time in ill-health, the Dying Matters Coalition wants to encourage people to talk about their wishes towards the end of their life, including where they want to die.

“Talking about dying makes it more likely that you, or your loved one, will die as you might have wished. And it will make it easier for your loved ones if they know you have had a ‘good death’,” the group of end-of-life-care charities said.

Where to die?

Surveys repeatedly find most people want to die at home. But in reality the most common place to die is in hospital.

Almost half of the deaths in England last year were in hospital, less than a quarter at home, with most of the remainder in a care home or hospice.

What happens to human remains?

Dying wishes don’t just extend to where you die but to what happens to your body after death too.

Cremation overtook burial in the UK in the late-1960s as the most popular way to dispose of human remains, and more than doubled in popularity between 1960 and 1990.

Since then it has remained fairly stable at about three-quarters of the deceased being cremated, although it has been creeping up gradually year on year – in 2017 it hit 77%.

Although cremation is thought to be more environmentally friendly, it is not without its own costs. The process requires energy. And burning bodies releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

There are hundreds of “green” burial grounds in Britain where coffins must be biodegradable and no embalming fluid or headstone markers are permitted. Instead, loved ones of the deceased often plant trees as a memorial.

The Association of Natural Burial Grounds says: “Many people nowadays are conscious of our impact on the environment and wish to be as careful in death as they have been during their lives to be as environmentally friendly as possible.”

At natural burial grounds, bodies are generally buried in shallow graves to help them degrade quickly and release less methane – a greenhouse gas.

Some people want to go further than this.

A form of “water cremation” is currently available in parts of the US and Canada, and could come to the UK.

This eco-friendly method uses an alkaline solution made with potassium hydroxide to dissolve the body, leaving just the skeleton, which is then dried and pulverised to a powder.

Sandwell Council, in the West Midlands, was granted planning permission to introduce a water cremation service, but these plans are currently on hold because of environmental concerns.

In December 2017, water providers membership body Water UK intervened and said it feared “liquefied remains of the dead going into the water system”.

Cremation by fire or burial remain the two options for most people, but those that want to do something a bit different could opt to have their ashes turned into a diamond or vinyl record, displayed in paperweight, exploded in a firework or shot into space.

The cost of death

Traditional cremation is cheaper than burial, particularly as space is short, driving up the cost of grave plots. But the cost of funerals in general has been rising.

Insurance firm SunLife, which produces an annual report on the cost of funerals, says prices have risen 70% in a decade.

It put this down to lack of space and the rising cost of land as well as fuel prices and cuts to local authority budgets leading to reduced subsidies for burials and crematoria.

A survey of 45 counties, conducted by the Society of Local Council Clerks, found half of respondents’ local council run cemeteries would be full in 10 years and half of Church of England graveyards surveyed had already been formally closed to new burials.

The same problem faces Islamic burial sites.

Mohamed Omer, of the Gardens of Peace cemetery in north-east London, says the problem is compounded by a growing population and by the fact that Muslims do not cremate their dead.

The Jewish community also do not traditionally practise cremation. David Leibling, chairman of the Joint Jewish Burial Society, says all of the four largest Jewish burial organisations have acquired extra space in recent years.

However, he says it’s not such a problem for the community since synagogue members pay for their burial plots through their membership. This means the organisation can predict how many people it is going to have to bury.

“As we serve defined membership we can make accurate estimates of the space we need,” he says.

What about our digital legacy?

There are growing concerns over what will happen to people’s social media profiles after they die.

The Digital Legacy Association is working with lawyers to produce guidelines on creating a digital will, setting out people’s wishes for what happens to social media profiles – and “digital assets” such as music libraries – after death.

Three-quarters of respondents to the DLA’s annual survey say it’s important to them to be able to view a loved one’s social media profile after their death.

But almost no-one responding to the survey had used a function to nominate a digital next of kin, such as Facebook’s legacy contact or Google’s inactive account manager functions.

Both Facebook and Instagram allow family and friends to request the deceased’s account is turned into a memorial page, while Twitter says loved ones can request the deactivation of a “deceased or incapacitated person’s account”.

Complete Article HERE!

Is the cemetery dead?

Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

[I]N 1831, ARCHITECT Jacob Bigelow built a radically new kind of cemetery at Mount Auburn in Cambridge. It was much larger than its forebears, located on what was then the suburban fringes, and designed to create a romantic space of death that also served as a horticultural, sculptural, and even recreational place. Mount Auburn and the many cemeteries that followed were a rousing success, making the American cemetery a major tourist site for much of the 19th century.

However, in the 20th century, Americans medicalized and privatized dying and death, creating a death taboo that isolated cemeteries. The dying were put in hospitals or nursing homes, visiting hours were moved to funeral homes, and cemeteries were professionalized and standardized. While Mount Auburn remained a popular spot with locals because of its natural and artistic beauty, even it could not retain the cultural prominence that it and the other great urban cemeteries, like Green-Wood in New York and Spring Grove in Cincinnati, had had in the previous century.

Today, American funerary practices are undergoing dramatic and sudden change. This year, cremations surpassed burials for the first time on record. By 2030, cremation may reach 70 percent. That’s shifted the locus of the rituals associated with death from cemeteries to corners of the world that hold particular meaning to the departed or their survivors, from backyards to bodies of water. At the same time, social media are changing the way we deal with grief — once a deeply private affair, it has increasingly become a public process online.

As customs change, cemeteries are trying to keep up.

Events such as the Run Like Hell 5K in Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery and the beer baron tour in St. Louis’s Bellefontaine show how these places are becoming more accessible to the public. Hollywood Forever’s Life Stories where a family can submit photographs for a remembrance video suggest their new digital savvy. And, at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, a family can scatter their loved one’s ashes, something cemetery operators have opposed including for decades.

In 2014, Mount Auburn Cemetery began offering “natural burials” that do not include embalming and other popular procedures. It was an iconic moment, for an esteemed, yet very traditional institution to adopt a practice popularized by the contemporary death reform movement. But it was actually not so contradictory. Cemeteries, even ones as august as Mount Auburn, have been trying to adjust and renew their connection to the broader public even as reformers either question the very need for a cemetery or convince them to adopt such reform measures.

Cemeteries face a sort of life-or-death crisis. The increasing popularity of cremation has meant that cemeteries are no longer critical to storing remains, while mourning on social media has removed the necessity of cemeteries as a primary place to mourn. Public mourning also has re-emerged with the widespread acceptance of roadside shrines, ghost bikes (white bikes placed on the roadside where a cyclist died), memorial vinyl decals for the back windows of cars, and memorial tattoos. While zombies roam the big and small screen, real death has returned to our streets, building walls, vehicles, and even bodies.

While these new practices relocate mourning and remembrance out of the cemetery, other trends, such as natural burial, provide new opportunities for cemeteries. Natural death advocates promote the practice as a more environmentally sensitive mode of burial that eschews embalming, hardwood caskets, and steel or concrete vaults as pollutants. Reformers have succeeded in getting widespread notice, though relatively few Americans have chosen green burial thus far.

Green advocates have often met cemeteries halfway. Some cemeteries offer natural burial adjacent to conventional sections, but have to maintain their whole cemetery without pesticides and herbicides. As a result, cemeteries such as Mount Auburn see an opportunity to offer consumers choices.

Confronting death is painful and upsetting. We lose a person we love in an act of finality which has no comparison. Yet how we did things before may not be how we will do them in the future. Consumers just need good, unbiased information, and a willingness to overcome any family hesitancy about unconventional choices.

Cemeteries can embrace change — even radical change, as the founders of Mount Auburn demonstrated. The signs of successful adaptation are mixed so far. But there are glimmers of hope.This fall, Mount Auburn will host Death Salon, a festival of alternative approaches to death and mourning, including lectures and a demonstration of green burial. That Death Salon is coming to Mount Auburn suggests cemeteries can remain beautiful, natural, historic, and artistic places, even as they embrace new practices that allow them to attract new lot-owners and reconnect them to a broader public.

Complete Article HERE!

I Embalm Dead Bodies For A Living — Here’s What It’s Like


 
By Annie Georgia Greenberg

[T]he building that houses Milward Funeral Directors in Lexington, Kentucky has been around for 193 years. It’s a three-story maze that starts with a light-soaked, stone-floored entrance hallway. The hallway is home to an awfully regal cage of tiny, yellow-breasted finches, and they greet you as you walk in through the funeral home’s front doors. Even when they’re out of sight, you can hear their occasional, lively chirps, particularly if you’re in any of the nearby pastel-hued rooms on the first floor. Say, the powder blue chapel, the pink viewing room, the green family meeting room, or the front office where office associate Elaine Kincaid has found a way to answer the ever-ringing phone with a pressing sense of compassion.

By contrast, it’s nearly pin-drop-silent in the upstairs casket showroom, where, if you were preparing to bury a loved one, you would arrive to find a selection of 30-plus casket models in every variation of wood and steel. Should you be cremating your loved one, there’s an adjoining hall where you could select an urn, each one of them unique in presentation and name — “White Orchid” for the porcelain vase and “Solitude” for the simple, gold rectangle. You could also turn loved ones’ cremated remains into jewelry, a keychain, a bench or, in the words of Miranda Robinson, Milward’s youngest mortician, “pretty much anything you want.”

Like Milward funeral home, Miranda Robinson is polished and professional. Yet, at 30-years old, she both embodies and defies the stereotypes often associated with morticians. Yes, she has a fascination with death and dying. Yes, she loves the skeletal system, owns a black cat, and displays a ouija board on her apartment’s living room table — but she’s anything but morose. In fact, her bubbly Kentucky drawl is often interrupted by a burst of up-swinging giggles, even while discussing death. She used to be a cabaret performer and closely follows RuPaul’s Drag Race. Her most-used word is “lovely” and her retro-feminine personal aesthetic matches that same description.

At around 5 feet, 4 inches tall with an obvious flair for vintage, Miranda pays almost as much attention to her own presentation as she does to those on her embalming table. Robinson clips in hair extensions that she curls every morning. Her arms, which remain covered while at work, are decorated with tattoos. One of them is of a bottle of embalming fluid.

Still, at first blush you’d never guess that Robinson works with the dead on a daily basis. And, perhaps, you’d never guess how many women her age are actively entering the field, either. Frustrated by nursing school and looking for a change, Robinson shifted gears from aiding the living to preserving the dead, and enrolled in mortuary school in Cincinnati, Ohio. In doing so she joined the ranks of young women now outnumbering men in the mortuary education system. In fact, the National Funeral Directors Association reports that, “While funeral service has traditionally been a male-domination profession…today, 60% of mortuary science students in the United States are women.”

Once a male-dominated industry, after-life and funeral care is now becoming not only a budding, female-centric space but also one ripe for disruption. And no one knows this better than Miranda. “Even in mortuary school, I was taught that [funeral service] was still a different, difficult field for women.” She explains, “Women, so I’ve heard, were expected to wear skirts and heels still, so it seemed, before I got into the funeral home, that [the] funeral service [industry] hadn’t come a long way for women… but now that I’m here, I feel like I’ve made my mark and I’m really seeing women in funeral service emerge.” They’re emerging and they’re excelling, bringing with them calm, care, and attention to detail that may have long been lacking.

While embalming, Miranda says she feels like “both an artist and a scientist,” because her work combines aspects of both. Made prevalent during the Civil War, when bodies of fallen soldiers were shipped back home for viewings and funerals, embalming is a technique used to preserve the deceased by replacing a portion of their blood with chemicals (including formaldehyde). The body is also made up to look as it did in life — lipstick and all. But, while this method may long be favored in the United States, a new wave of green burial options seeks to challenge the traditional funeral industry. In fact, for the second year running, cremation is now more popular than burials, and the National Funeral Directors Association only expects this trend to continue.

That’s because green burials, alternative and eco-friendly practices are popularizing. Some of these green practices, like home funerals and vigils, pre-date the popularization of embalming, while others like bio-urn cremation (when the body’s cremated remains are buried and grow with the seeds of a plant) or aquamation (a proposed way of breaking down a body using water rather than fire) are brand new. Whether the increased options in funeral care signify an impending end of the traditional funeral industry that Miranda is a part of is a matter that may only be answered in time. For now, what it does mean is that this freshly energized attention to death care is bringing light to a space that, despite touching every single life on Earth, has largely been kept in the shadows.

Ultimately, it is not the method of end-of or after-life care that concerns women like Miranda, but rather the instinct to talk about death in a meaningful way, early and often. Miranda loves her job because what she does helps bring peace to grieving families. She explains, “The most beautiful thing about my job, is taking the loved one into my care from a removal, especially when family is gathered, just that intensity of how much they love that person. It’s an absolute honor to be in the worst possible moment in someone’s life. To be there and for them to look at me and just me to try to at least give them some answers, to try to give them some peace in that moment.”

And while it may seem strange to light up while talking about death, it’s a conversation everyone will someday need to have, regardless of personal preference or spiritual beliefs. Miranda has this conversation every day — at work, at home, with her 1,859 instagram followers — and in doing so helps to de-stigmatize a topic that’s long been off-limits.
As a mortician, Miranda believes that viewing the body is of the utmost importance. As she puts it, “I think it’s important to see the body because you face the reality of what’s actually happened.” But, it’s the trend toward personalization, transparency and increased discussion around death and dying that continues to be a universal priority for many women working in both alternative and traditional funerals.

For Miranda, part of this conversation means addressing the details of her own funeral. And, of course, she can’t imagine anything more fitting than a traditional embalming. Ever the enigma, while her choice to embalm may be traditional, her last look will be anything but. Robinson would like a “glitter casket” with a leopard interior. Dark brown extensions will be clipped and curled, her lips will be painted in the bright red pigment Ruby Woo by Mac. Years from now, when that day comes, Miranda may very well lay on the table that she works alongside every single day at Milward Funeral Directors, in the storied embalming room that she considers sacred. Perhaps somewhere beneath her in the entry hall, the finches will be singing.

Complete Article HERE!

Going Green After Kicking the Bucket

How to Die Sustainably

By Katie Conley

The Sustainability of Death

In their 1976 classic, (“Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” Blue Öyster Cult sang that “40,00 men and women” die every day. Today, that number is more like 151,600. That’s a lot of bodies, and frankly, we’re running out of places to store them all. Ignoring sustainability entirely, how we dispose of our deceased is becoming a big problem. In Sweden, for instance, your grave is dug up twenty-five years after burial, your corpse is pushed farther into the ground, and another body is added on top—there simply isn’t space for new bodies. The Swedes are known for their compartmentalization (I see you, IKEA! Loveyour meatballs!) but when it comes to our final resting place, there’s got to be a better way.

Environmental activist Edward Abbey, famously buried in the desert in a sleeping bag, stated that “[After] the moment of death . . . we should get the hell out of the way, with our bodies decently planted in the earth to nourish other forms of life—weeds, flowers, shrubs, trees, which support other forms of life, which support the ongoing human pageant—the lives of our children. That seems good enough to me.” And today, you can do just that. Although cremation remains the number one choice of disposal in North America, and traditional burial a close second, green practices are quickly catching up.

Cremation does indeed create less waste than a traditional casket and land plot, but the “natural gas that goes into a cremation is [equivalent to] two full tanks of an SUV, or a 500-mile car trip,” as mortician, author and “Good Death” advocate Caitlin Moran told Jezebel. Perhaps more disturbing is the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere during cremation due to…brace yourself…our dental fillings. You don’t see a pamphlet about thatat the dentist’s office. Bestselling author Mary Roach notes in Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadaversthat “the average amount of mercury released into the atmosphere” is “three grams per cremation.” Maybe we all should have flossed more?

If you lived your life sustainably, why wouldn’t you die sustainably? We’ve provided an intro to green burials, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can be buried on a funeral pyre, thanks to the help of organizations like the Crestone End-of-Life Project; you can donate your body to science, perhaps at The Body Farm, where your decomposition will help forensic scientists solve crimes; or you can go full-on Edward Abbey and decompose back to the earth. (The legality on that last one is iffy, but hey, chase your bliss). We’ve all got to go sometime. Know your options, create a plan with your loved ones and research, research, research. Make your memorialization an eco-conscious testament to the way you lived your life.

What Constitutes a Green Burial?

To be considered “green,” according to Ellen Newman of the Good Green Death Project and TalkDeath, a burial must adhere a few basic standards:

For the Body:

-No embalming fluid.

-Natural shrouds or compostable/recyclable “basket casket” are utilized. Youcanhave a casket, but it must be made from biodegradable materials. Remains (if in powder form) must be in a biodegradable container.

For The Gravesite:

-No grave markers. Naturally occurring markers like trees or stones are fine.

-No vaults or grave liners.

-No non-native species planted on burial grounds; no maintenance for the plants or grounds.

Complete Article HERE!

Back to the Earth with Green Burials

The oldest traditions might be best for protecting our environment

by

[A]s individuals, communities and businesses continue to shift their priorities to become more ecologically responsible, some opportunities to protect the planet can come from unexpected practices. Green burials are gradually gaining traction as the most conscientious way to return oneself to the earth. This funeral process uses the least amount of unnecessary energy and resources compared to contemporary casket burials and cremation.

All steps in a green burial are optional, but key choices include: rejecting the use of added chemicals through embalming or cosmetizing the body, selecting a biodegradable casket made from unfinished wood or reinforced cardboard materials and foregoing the use of an outer burial container if permitted by the cemetery. There are a growing number of cemeteries that strictly serve individuals who opt for a certified green burial, but many cemeteries will accommodate requests to mix green burials with non-green burial plots. Cemeteries that exclusively serve green burials take additional steps to maintain the natural landscape.

Goodman-Bensman, a Jewish funeral home in Whitefish Bay that serves people of all faith, (4750 N Santa Monica Blvd.) has been offering green burial services for about a year under the official “green burial” name. Debra Watton, president of Goodman-Bensman explains: “Conceptually, we’ve always offered green burials, but not under the [green] name. In the Jewish faith, burial rites were very modest and natural.”

According to Watton, green burials are often included in the final wishes of the deceased. “It’s respectful and dignified, but it’s not what families are used to,” she says. Often the family fears they may not be doing enough to honor their loved one if the funeral is too simple, especially since green burials are more cost-effective than a conventional funeral. Goodman-Bensman recommends that like any final wishes, individuals officially document their desire to be remembered with a green burial, if they choose.

No one wants to plan a funeral after losing a loved one, especially if they aren’t sure how the deceased prefers to be remembered because no arrangements have been made. Watton has received feedback that planning green burials has given some families a sense of peace “because it became a natural process that eased the discomfort of an otherwise difficult topic.”

The usual practices of American funeral homes often date to the 19th century. Embalming wasn’t common until the Civil War as a way to preserve bodies of fallen soldiers in order to return them home for funerals. Now, because of refrigeration, the embalming isn’t necessary in order to make time for planning and having a ceremony. However, without embalming, the traditional wake cannot be factored into funeral planning. In these cases, families can choose to have a final private viewing before the funeral ceremony and burial.

Green burials are another way to make a minimal impact on the earth for the generations that follow. Above all, Watton urges that before someone dies, “People should talk about it. It’s OK to talk about it. It’s OK to talk about it in advance with loved ones and to ask questions before the time of need arises so that clear decisions can be made.”

Complete Article HERE!

How to Pay Your Respects when Someone You Know Dies

Sometimes a death occurs when you aren’t particularly close to the person, but you still want to pay your respects. If a teacher, friend’s parent, or other person in your community dies, it’s nice to express sympathy to the family and honor the deceased. Pay respects by attending any memorial services for the person and offering condolences to their loved ones. Afterwards, it can be helpful to follow a few practices to remember the person.

 

METHOD 1  Attending the Memorial

Get the important information. Find out from family members, close friends, or members of the community when the memorial service will be held. If the person who died was a pillar in the local community, information about their services may be posted in the local newspaper.

  • Make sure you know when and where the service will be held. Review the directions ahead of time to avoid getting lost and arriving late.

Send flowers. Across many cultures and religions, a common way to pay respects is to send flowers. Plus, if you are unable to attend the memorial, sending flowers lets the person’s loved ones know that they are in your thoughts.[1]

  • Look online or visit your local florist to choose a nice arrangement. Have them sent to the funeral home so that they are there prior to the memorial.
  • If you are sending flowers from a long distance, it may be helpful to contact florists in the person’s area to have them send over your flowers.
  • Local and online florists can guide you on choosing and ordering arrangements that are designed specially for memorials.
  • A donation can be an alternative to flowers. Making a donation in the deceased’s name to a cause they cared about is a nice gesture. Check the obituary, as this is sometimes specified there.

Ask someone to join you for support. If you have never attended a funeral, or if you are a bit shaken by the death, it may be a good idea to bring someone with you. A parent, sibling, or friend can accompany you to the memorial and offer comfort if you need it.

  • Another good option is to go with someone who has a similar relationship with the deceased as you. For instance, you might go with another classmate, if a teacher has died. Or, you might attend a friend’s parent’s funeral with another mutual friend.

Arrive on time and dressed appropriately. Be respectful and proper by arriving to the memorial service on time. Aim to arrive at least 15-30 minutes before the service begins. Also, dress appropriately. It used to be common practice to wear black. That’s no longer necessary, but you should wear subdued clothing.[2]

  • Do some research before you dress. If the person followed a certain religion, you might look to see if there are general expectations for clothing in that place of worship.
  • Go for solid-colored clothing choices in mute shades like navy, burgundy, or grey as a rule. Avoid bright colors and busy prints or patterns. Also, try to be modest—don’t wear anything too revealing, such as low-cut tops or mini skirts.
  • If you are attending a wake or viewing, the attire might be more relaxed or casual. Still, stick to subdued colors. Also, if you are going to a viewing, you can arrive at any time and approach the casket. Just make sure you greet the person’s loved ones before viewing the body.

View the body, if you want. It is typical for everyone at the memorial service to pay their respects by viewing the body. This may take place before, during, or after the service. If you want to see the deceased one last time, you may go up when directed and view the body. If you don’t want to take part in this practice, remain seated.[3]

  • In some situations, a viewing, or wake, may be held immediately before the memorial or on a separate day. Wakes are usually more intimate but allow you to come and go as you please. The funeral itself, on the other hand, is more anonymous but requires you to be present for the entire service.

METHOD 2  Showing Sympathy to Their Loved Ones

Offer your condolences. Typically, after the service, mourners may line up to express their condolences to close family and friends of the deceased. When it’s your turn, keep it simple and straightforward. Go for something like “I am so sorry for your loss.”[4]

  • If you are attending a wake or viewing, you will typically greet and console the person’s family before viewing the body.

Skip the empty or religious platitudes. In an attempt to comfort the bereaved, some people communicate phrases like “Everything happens for a reason” or “God makes no mistakes.” Even if they are well-intended, such platitudes may offend close family, especially if they do not share the same religious or spiritual beliefs.[5]

  • Avoid phrases that minimize the person’s experience, like “I know how you feel.” Even if you have lost someone, too, this day is not about your own loss. Focus on the person who has died only instead of comparing their death to someone else’s.
  • If you know the person is religious, it may be appropriate to communicate sincere words, like “I am praying for you and your family.”

Relay a fond memory. If you want to say more, it can be thoughtful to communicate a fond memory you have of the bereaved. This reminds them of the good times the person had, or of their kindness or compassion.[6]

  • For example, you might say, “Ms. Henry, I am truly sorry for your loss. Mr. Henry was such a caring man. I’ll never forget that time he pulled over in the rain to help me with a flat tire. He was one of a kind.”

Offer your help. You can show your sympathy in a practical way by offering to help the family. When people are grieving, basic chores like cooking, cleaning, or picking up groceries may be left undone. They can be overwhelmed and too uncomfortable to ask for help. Offer to come by the family home and help out as needed if you are close to the family, or make an unsolicited gesture of aid like bringing food.[7]

  • Make your intentions to help clear, such as saying, “I’ll come by on Tuesday to help with cleaning or cooking.” Pitching in with housecleaning, chores, or yard work can be helpful during this time.
  • In addition, you might drop off prepared foods like casseroles or sandwiches to ensure the family has food to eat. Other helpful gifts might include plastic or paper utensils, trash bags, paper towels, and household items, since the family may be hosting many guests.
  • You might also ask someone close to the family what holes exist in their needs. Take the initiative.
  • Oftentimes, everyone is supportive of mourners immediately after the death, but this support fades as time goes on. For this reason, stay in touch with the family and continue to help out in the weeks after the funeral.

Be brief. After you have expressed your condolences, said something kind about the deceased, and offered to help, move along. Everyone is hoping to talk to the family, so don’t hold them up for too long.

  • You may leave your number with someone and suggest that they call you later if they’d like to talk more.

Send a card. If you are unable to attend the memorial service, it is appropriate to send a thoughtful card or note in your absence. Choose a card that offers your condolences and then add a brief message telling the family that you will come by for a visit soon.

  • You might write a simple message on your card, such as “I am thinking of you and your family during your time of grief.”
  • You might have your card mailed to the site of the memorial (with flowers) or you might send it to the person’s family home, if you are close to the family.
  • Respect the family’s wishes and space. Some might welcome a personal visit, but others may want to grieve privately and be alone for a time.

METHOD 3 Remembering the Deceased

Visit the burial site. In the days and weeks after the funeral or memorial service, you can pay your respects by visiting the graveyard or crypt where the deceased was laid to rest. It is generally acceptable to bring flowers or other mementos of the dead. This is a great way to privately honor the deceased.[8]

Reminisce with others who knew the person. If you are close to the bereaved, it may be comforting to you and others to talk about the deceased. Do this on a case-by-case basis, as some people may want to talk about the person and others may not.

  • Talk about the great times you had with the person, and relay the qualities about them you will miss. If you want, you may try to keep it upbeat by telling funny stories about experiences you shared with the deceased.

Write down your memories. You might also consider writing down your memories of the deceased or even making a journal of notebook of these remembrances. Include things like their traits and qualities as a person, things you did together, happy memories you have of them, or reminisce about funny stories that involve them.

  • Creating a journal can be a useful grieving technique for people who process things visually rather than verbally. It can also help you explore why you might be so affected by a person’s passing.

Start a new tradition to honor the person. If you want to continue to pay respects to the deceased after their memorial service, you can implement a ritual that helps you keep the person’s memories alive. For instance, if a teacher who loved chocolate chip cookies died, you might bake them each month on the anniversary of their death.[9]

  • You might also ask other mourners to join you. For instance, you might go to lunch every other Friday at the person’s favorite restaurant.

Complete Article HERE!

Honouring the dead: how cultures around the world pay their respects

A look at the traditional funerary rituals of the mainland, Asia and beyond

People paying homage to their ancestors during the Ching Ming festival in Diamond Hill.

By Hana Davis

[T]he veneration of elders holds significant standing in Chinese culture, and reverence for its rituals endures beyond any individual’s time of death. As a traditionally patriarchal religion, the celebration of lineage and ancestry is integral to what it means to be Chinese.

On April 5, Hongkongers travelled on roads and in air-conditioned trains to pay their respects for Ching Ming, a public holiday widely known as the grave-sweeping festival. At the final resting place of their loved ones, celebrants replaced wilted flowers with fresh ones, incense and paper offerings were burnt, and food was laid out before the headstones of tombs citywide. Three pairs of chopsticks get placed above a display of food, which often consists of an assortment of meats and pastries.

To the Chinese, continuing obeisance to their forebears is as symbolic as their initial burial. The bedrock of intergenerational customs, funerals are considered a normal element of family life. Amid this week’s festival of honouring ancestors, City Weekend explores traditional funerary rituals in mainland China, Asia, and beyond.

A Chinese woman prays at the grave of a loved one at the Babaoshan cemetery in Beijing to mark the Ching Ming festival.

China

The belief in Chinese folk religion is that people have multiple souls, known as ‘hun’ and ‘po’. Upon death, these souls diverge, with hun rising to the heavens and po descending into earth. Chinese funerary rituals vary with the age, cause of death, and marital and social status of the deceased, but they respond to the needs of the two souls. The primary aim is to provide comfort for the deceased and demonstrate ancestral veneration. Regional traditions and minority groups determine the precise practices, but in general, the ceremony is carried out over the course of seven days. The deceased is clad in white clothing; red, which symbolises happiness, is rarely worn. Rituals and gestures are often carried out three times in accordance with the number’s positive connotation.

Sky burial, the Tibetan tradition of disposing of the dead by feeding it to vultures.

Tibet

For thousands of years, Vajrayana Buddhists in Tibet and Mongolia have believed in the migration of spirits postmortem, the idea that the soul moves on as the body becomes an empty vessel. Because wood is too scarce for cremation and the terrain is too rocky for earthly burials, Tibetans believe the body must be chopped into pieces while Buddhist lamas chant and place it on a mountaintop – exposing it to the elements and to vultures – to return the soul to earth. The dead are placed in the fetal position and wrapped in cloth. The rogyapa, or person who breaks the body, unwraps it, saws away at the skin and strips it of its muscles and tendons, ultimately arranging it in a manner that attracts Himalayan griffon vultures to dine on the broken body. Consumption by the vultures is how the body is considered to be reunited with nature, where it can be of use again.

South Korea

Due to dwindling grave space, in 2000, the South Korean government passed a law requiring that the buried be removed from their graves after 60 years. Cremation has since become the country’s favoured form of funerary rite – breaking thousands of years of tradition. Several Korean companies offer “death beads”: turquoise, pink, or black gems made by compressing the ashes of the deceased. Traditionally, the funeral is similar to its Chinese counterpart, but infused with elements of Korean Confucianism.

Ghana

Funerals in Ghana are held to celebrate the life of the deceased and not merely mourn their departure. The approach differs from many cultures that regard the event as sombre rather than cheerful. This celebration of the dead is so revered that funerals are often the cornerstone of Ghanaian social life. As a result, they are often joyous social events with hundreds of attendees: the more, the merrier, and the more lovable the person must have been in life. Coffins are usually intricately ornamented and vibrantly coloured, adorned with items that represent the deceased’s profession or favourite things. A shoemaker’s coffin, for example, might come in the shape of a shoe.

Ukraine

Ukrainian rituals are heavily rooted in tradition. They organise banquet feasts on the third, ninth and 40th days after death, and again on the six-month and one-year anniversaries of the deceased’s passing. An even number of flowers is placed next to the coffin and expected from each funeral attendee. Water plays an important role because it is believed the soul of the dead drinks the water and uses it to wash away tears. Water is placed alongside a woven towel, with both serving as spiritual offerings. Mourners are required to avoid drinking water in the body’s presence. In accordance with ancient times, sleds are occasionally still used to transport bodies to burial sites in the mountainous Carpathian region of the country.

Open-air cremation in progress.

Colorado, USA

Colorado is home to the Crestone End-of-Life Project – billed as the only legal, public, open-air crematorium in the United States. In the town of Crestone, mourners place juniper boughs, piñon pine and spruce tree logs on the body of the deceased; they encircle the subject of cremation. The materials are chosen for their high flammability, and the mourners watch as fire overwhelms the body. Many are drawn to this funerary ritual, but residency in the small town is a prerequisite to take part.

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