‘Black Widow’

And A Conversation About Finding Humor In The Grieving Process

Leslie Gray Streeter is no stranger to grief. The former Palm Beach Post columnist lost her husband Scott five years ago to a sudden cardiac arrest.

She details the struggle of overcoming that grief while fighting to adopt her son Brooks, all with a sense of humor in her new memoir “Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like Journey in the Title.”

“You’ll forgive me for not thinking clearly right now because my husband very recently dropped dead in front of me while we were making out. And when I say very recently. I mean yesterday. I have to pull myself together and deal with this sometime. Well, right now, probably what I really want to do is jump on the golf cart from which my mother is nervously watching me and drive us to the nearest bar,” she writes in her book.

WLRN’s Luis Hernandez spoke with Streeter about her new book and finding humor in the grieving process.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

WLRN: You wrote this book a short time after your husband’s death. Were you finding humor in these moments as they were happening? Or were you trying to find the humor on purpose?

STREETER: I think that you’ll agree with me probably that the worst humor is [from] the ones that are there trying to be on target. When people go, “I’m going to try to be funny,” that’s usually strained and it’s labored and it’s too on the nose. I just started writing and I would go back over the sentence or the paragraph for the page and say, “was there anything funny in there?” And there usually was, because that’s just sort of the way it came. I spent a lot of time reviewing books and reading books, particularly celebrity autobiographies and memoirs. And the most irritated I ever was, was when people were holding back. The people whose books are the most fun were usually people who’d been in show business for 30 or 40 years, gone to rehab, had some bad marriages, been in and out of a cult—because they don’t care anymore.

You’re a Christian and your husband was Jewish. What role did your faiths play in your relationship?

There are some people who at whatever part of their life decide that their faith is either non-existent, it’s merely cultural or it’s something they’re still hewing to. Both of us could probably say that the faith we had at that moment was not exactly the same as when we grew up. We still both believed in God and we still both believed in a similar moral compass and moral code. We made sense of each other. He would say, “I believe in the in the original and you believe in the sequel.”

You had made the joke that if he died on you, you would pick the outfit for him to be buried in. What did he wear for the funeral?

We buried him in a Brooks Robinson jersey because my son’s name is Brooks Robinson. And he would want to be buried with something of Brooks. I know it. And that was a very, you know, special thing for him. Then a pair of dress pants, because I was not going to bury him in sweats or raven shorts, and then his raven sandals. I wanted to make it somewhat classy. And I’m sure there was some conversation back and forth when they were dressing him. But no one said anything to me about the outfit. It wasn’t an open casket anyway. There he was, he looked like himself.

What significance do you hope this book is going to have for your son, Brooks when he’s old enough to read it?

I hope that he can read it, particularly parts about Scott and about who he was, because it’s so unfair that he died when Brooks was 2-years-old. That to me is so unfair. God and I are still not cool with each other about that. But I want him to know not only how wanted he was in our entire family, but to Scott. He would have done anything for this child and being this child’s father meant everything to him. And I want him to know that Scott was also not some saint. He was a goofball. We got into fights about raven shorts and stupid crap. He was a human being. I want him to be a living, breathing person. And I hope that this book does that to him. Also, maybe in the moments when he’s a teenager and he thinks I’m insane he can read this and say, “okay, she did do some stuff. She’s not just the person who’s trying to thwart my happiness.”

Have you gotten any response from people about how this book has helped them on their own grieving journey especially during this time of a pandemic?

In this pandemic, grieving is twofold. It’s both grieving people who physically died and people who just happened to die of anything else during this time. So the way that you were able to mourn them was not the way it used to be. Now it’s Zoom funerals and memorials and that kind of thing, rather than being in person. It’s never going to be like it was. People have said to me that my book has been helpful not only because it’s about grief but because, without trying to, I just wrote a book that was about having to do it and saying my life changed. I still have to pay the mortgage and the bills. My life changed. And I still had to keep moving. There’s no one right way to do this. You cannot fail the process of mourning. Those who lost people during a pandemic and those who are just beginning to grieve or whose grieving came full circle during this time told me, “thank you just for like saying you get to be messy with grief.”

Complete Article HERE!

What’s the Best Way to Face Death?

Now There’s A Zoom Class For That.

“If we woke up each morning, knowing we only had a year to live what would change? How would we greet the day, our partner, our job? Until we are directly confronted with our own mortality most of us live life as if it will never end.”

By: Justin Nobel

Back in 2011, Digital Dying interviewed what may well have been at the time America’s only Death Education teacher, New Paltz High School teacher George Campbell. In 2012, we published a lengthy interview with Sheldon Solomon, a Skidmore College psychology professor. He has spent his career trying to understand just how humans respond to the knowledge that they will die. But the heavy words above are for a unique new type of class. They greet visitors to the website for a year-long course offered at the New York Insight Meditation Center, located in downtown Manhattan in New York City. The class is called “Life and Death – Is That All There Is?”

In the class, students write their own eulogy, plan their last day on earth, and connect intimately—or as intimately as our present Age of Zoom will allow—with other like-minded human spirits, young and old, who may be wondering about death, or perhaps trying to live in the face of it. The course is led by instructors Nancy Glimm, Rosemary Blake, Jon Aaron, and Amy Selzer, a former special education teacher who spoke with Digital Dying about the class. Amy also teaches another course at the Insight Meditation Center on aging called “Aging As A Spiritual Practice.” In the time of coronavirus, with Americans anxious, stuck in their homes or communities, and struggling for normalcy, the course is a way to ground people. Below is the conversation Digital Dying had with Amy.

Tell me a bit about what happens in the course?

The course is largely based on Stephen Levine’s book, “A Year To Live,” and Frank Ostaseki’s book “The Five Invitations,” plus other things we have read, exercises, poems. We typically do one full-day class a month. It has been very rich for us teachers, and the feedback that we get has been amazing. The students feel like it is really transforming their relationship to themselves, to their future, to their past.

In one session, we created a bucket list, and also a core values list. The idea is to move toward what is really important, what really matters if you are about to die. Another thing we talk about is regrets, our unfinished business and how to face that. Through different meditations, we talk a lot about forgiveness, forgiveness toward others, and also self-forgiveness. In one recent session, students wrote a set of three eulogies. The first eulogy was with the inner critic in mind—What kind of a eulogy would your inner critic write? The second eulogy was what their dearest friend would write for them. The third eulogy was written by them, keeping in mind that they could forgive themselves. Maybe things are perfect just the way they are. Whatever was unfinished, whatever regrets they had that led them to where they are right now in this moment, we try to teach them to hold that not as an inner critic, but just with love.

Why do you believe there is a need for this course?

There is not a lot of discussion about aging in this culture of ours, and there is not a lot about death or facing death. The students are grateful to have this space where they can talk about these topics because often their friends or family don’t want to hear about it. After a day-long class, one participant came up and said, “That was amazing, but I would have liked a different topic.” That is the attitude of so many people. It is just too scary to talk about. But the point is, we are all going to grow old, and this is part of Buddhism. There is a reflection we spend a lot of time on called, The Five Recollections, and the points they cover go something like this: I am of the nature to grow old; I cannot avoid aging; I am subject to illness; I am subject to death; I will grow different and separate from all that is dear and appealing to me; I am the owner of my actions; I am heir to my actions; I am borne of my actions; I am related through my actions.

Those certainly are powerful lines. Do young people tend to participate in the course too?

Each course is about 60 people, and it is very mixed. Everyone is welcome in this class, and it is a very welcoming group, both age-wise, diversity-wise, gender-wise. I am impressed that younger people wanted to take it. But the feedback we get is that many of them have had difficult issues around death growing up. There is a lot of fear, and they just want to see if they can work with it differently. I used to be a teacher in public education, and I do think it would be useful to bring a course like this to schools, but I think given the way our culture is there would be a lot of resistance. But, this is reality, this is our life. Everything is impermanent, everything and everybody. Anything that arises, that is conditioned, passes away, whether it is a plant, a person, an animal, or an experience. We are all about to die at some point, so what is it you want to focus on? What are the stories you choose to tell yourself?

When you say ‘stories’ are you talking about personal stories, or the stories of our culture and our society?

Both personal stories and society’s stories. A lot of our stories are habits. They are patterns, and from the time we are born, they are being conditioned by our family, our friends, and different experiences we have. Out of these stories we create this persona, and we overly identify with these stories we have about ourselves, even though this is just one thing, one part of us. Then we judge ourselves based on these stories, which makes it even worse, because this leads to a lot of self-judgment, and a lot of wanting and not wanting. One example is with aging, which we discuss quite a bit in our aging class, but it is also pertinent in the life-death class. There is so much anti-aging messaging in our culture. Many of the people who are older feel separate, feel disconnected, feel like they are of no use. And what the Buddhist teachings do is to show them that this is untrue. This is part of a system of old stories we have about ourselves.

Tell me more about yourself personally, how did you get here?

I was a public-school teacher for many years. I was in a self-contained classroom with kids who were emotionally disturbed. When I first started classes were small, special ed had become very popular and there was a lot of money for it. That was wonderful. But education goes through cycles, and as money runs out for programs, it becomes difficult to keep them going. I can say that from my own experience a lot of my life, I avoided taking risks. I thought it was too scary for me. I just couldn’t do it. As I became more involved with Buddhism and meditation, I realized that there were wonderful tools. There is no dogma attached, it is just like, ‘This is a teaching, why don’t you try it out and see if it has any value to you?’ If it does, great take it on; if not, then don’t. I still feel fear. It is not that you are not going to have pain. No, that doesn’t happen. But you can learn to respond to it differently when it arises. If you had asked me years ago if I had been in this position taking this class on, especially in my old age, I would say no way.

Do you think the coronavirus has changed the way we view the process of aging?

I know many people from the different classes I teach living in multigenerational families now. Like the grandparents, the parents, the kids, all in one place because they feel safe. I don’t know if that will continue, but there is so much unknown, there is so much uncertainty around the virus. This is something we talk of in the aging class and the facing death class. We live with uncertainty all the time, even before the virus. But we don’t like to focus on that, we don’t know from one moment to the next what is going to happen. Sometimes it is joyful, sometimes it is horrific. There is always uncertainty, but it is too scary to face. That is one of the reasons we distract ourselves so much, so we don’t have to face it.

Give us a sneak preview, what is something you plan to do with the students in an upcoming class?

December is the last class, and one of the things we are hoping to do is visit a cemetery and have a contemplation there. It just puts us in that environment we are all familiar with, because we have all lost loved ones. Some of the people in the group, even the younger ones, have gone through illnesses. To be in that environment moves us closer to actually facing death. How do you feel when you are in that space? What comes up for you, in your mind, and in your body? Do you want to be buried? Do you want to be cremated? Do you want to die at home? All of these different questions and possibilities arise. And they are all important to think about. Throughout the year we are exploring what matters most to us, and facing our own death. We are all about to die at some point, so what is it you want to focus on?

Complete Article HERE!

Orphaned in adulthood —

“Losing both your parents doesn’t get any easier”

There are painful and sometimes unexpected feelings associated with losing both parents in adulthood.

By Caron Kemp

If it’s possible to have a good death, that’s how I’d describe my mum’s. Within the unlikely surroundings of a quietly attentive intensive care unit, she went peacefully, flanked by her family. It was a mere five months after her cancer diagnosis and none of us believed that the Large B-Cell Lymphoma coursing through her blood, lungs and chest would beat her. But the chemotherapy regime was gruelling, rendering her weak and even more ill at every dose and the final bout of pneumonia proved too much.

I was just 33 and juggling three young children of my own, yet as I sat vigil at her bedside in her final hours, all I wanted was to be scooped up into the arms that once cradled me, to be looked after.

A mummy’s girl to my core, I looked like her, shared many of her quirks and, in her latter years, doted on her as she endured more than her fair share of poor health. Yes, we bickered and, yes, she drove me mad regularly – but my mum was my biggest cheerleader. Even when I failed my driving test over and over again, or felt like I was falling apart at university, she was on hand to remind me of my worth.

Her death hit me hard. However long we’d lived with the realities of hospital visits and hushed conversations, living without her wasn’t an option. The funeral passed in a daze and once everyone else’s world carried on turning, I was left fumbling in the dark for a way to carry on.

Stoic to the end – I’ll never forget the final thumbs-up sign my mum gave as she was put into an induced coma – here was my lead. She never lamented her situation, and neither would I. Her greatest riches in life were her family and I knew all she’d want was for myself and my sister to rally around my dad; her soulmate of more than 35 years, himself bereft and broken-hearted.

“I was left fumbling in the dark for a way to carry on”

So, I poured all my energy into him. I sobbed until I physically hurt, I sought her out in the feathers that landed at my feet, and I got my first tattoo in a big ‘screw you’ to the world. But my dad gave me purpose. Thus, when he was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer exactly two years after my mum died, the cruelty of the situation wasn’t lost on me.

In the seven months that followed, I watched the wisest man I knew become reduced to a shadow of himself; frail, dependant and scared. In the last four weeks – played out from a small, clinical hospital room – life existed in a vacuum, where fear was palpable.

My dad’s death was not a good one. Riddled too with pneumonia and sepsis, I was woken in the middle of the night to news that he’d had a heart attack. He died before we could get to him. It was Mother’s Day.

It was my sister who first helped me try on the title of ‘orphan’ for size. But a fully-fledged adult, juggling a career and motherhood, I felt like the proverbial square peg. Yet here I was, without the greatest anchor in my life, and somehow the shoe began to fit.

Losing both parents is not the same as losing one, twice over. When my dad died, I didn’t just lose him. I lost my identity as someone’s daughter, I lost the family and friends only connected to me through them, and I lost anything standing in the pecking order between me and my own demise.

Plus, without my dad to anaesthetise my pain, I found the wound of my mum’s death finally laid bare too. It was all too much and for weeks I couldn’t muster a tear; numb to the earthquake that had ruptured my world as I knew it.

Life since has been punctuated with plenty of difficult days, but my first birthday without either parent was the toughest yet. However hard it was receiving a card signed solely from my dad, receiving nothing stung so much more. I spent the day at home in my pyjamas, because some things can’t be fixed and at times it’s ok to feel crushed.

Before my dad died, I’d always found camaraderie in others walking a similar path. But this was unchartered territory and it was a very lonely place to be. People tried to empathise. Like the friend of my dad’s – himself in his 70s – who told me he ‘knew exactly how I felt’ having recently lost his second parent. Grief is not a competition, but I can tell you – comparing two completely different experiences hurts.

“There are so many questions that now have no answer and so much I wish I could still weave into our family tapestry”

As someone who struggles with vulnerability, being honest about my feelings is a constant work in progress, yet opening up to the rare few individuals who don’t wipe away my tears, who hear what I say and what I don’t and who share my newfound dark and often inappropriate sense of humour, has been fantastically medicinal.

There are so many questions that now have no answer and so much I wish I could still weave into our family tapestry. But no one leads a perfectly curated life; it’s what we do with our pain that makes the difference.

Losing my parents has been an incalculable, lasting blow, but it’s also been surprisingly freeing. Without anyone to be my guide, I’ve emerged into a new stage of adulthood; finding out who my truest, deepest self is, what serves me well and what really matters. At times it’s been ugly, I’ve been very angry and I’ve lost and found many relationships along the way.

I am also, though, acutely aware of how short and precious life is and I’m more motivated than ever to live mine fully – with my parents’ values and spirit carried with me in my heart.

Complete Article HERE!

Emotionally preparing for the death of a pet

The reality of having a pet is that we will outlive most of them.

By Kellie Scott

The grief when an animal dies can feel like losing a friend or family member to many of us, explains Annie Cantwell-Bartl, a psychologist specialising in grief.

“For some people it can be absolutely profound.”

Veterinarian Anne Fawcett, who has a special interest in end-of-life decision-making, says often the anticipatory grief can be worse than the experience of when the animal dies.

When you have some warning that your pet is nearing the end of their life — for example, when your pet is old or terminally ill — there are some things you can do to emotionally prepare for their death that can make the pain more manageable.

Our love for pets and disenfranchised grief

My mum Joanne Scott is a big animal lover and has given a home to many rescues over the years.

She’s had to say goodbye to dozens of pets including horses, dogs, cats, cows, guinea pigs and chickens — most of which were my family too.

A loss that stands out the most for her is horse Razie, who she had for 22 years.

“I was just so close to him. He was like my right arm.

“He understood me, I understood him. I just loved him dearly and he was a pony that was very loving.”

She had to judge the right time to euthanase Razie when his cancer was causing him too much pain.

“You feel like you’ve lost a friend.”

Dr Cantwell-Bartl says often the grief is not recognised as valid by the person themselves or others around them which can make it harder to work through. This is known as disenfranchised grief.

“There’s not those same social supports and rituals like when a person dies.

“People can feel embarrassed and guilty that they are so distraught.”

Dr Fawcett says she’s lucky to be surrounded by people who “get” the human-animal bond.

“As a companion animal veterinarian, I see people who are very bonded to their animals.

“There are often mutual tales of rescue — a stray cat who kept a person going when their spouse died of cancer; a dog that someone rescued from a pound who gave them a reason to get out of bed during a period of mental illness.”

She says while there is still room to improve, society is getting better at understanding pet grief. For example, she has clients whose bosses have granted them bereavement leave.

Ways to emotionally prepare for their death

Spend time together

Making the most of the time you have left with your pet can start the grieving process in a way you have control over, says Dr Cantwell-Bartl.

“You can spend time with them, stroke them, delight with them, and feel the sadness.”

Find a vet you are comfortable with and talk to them

Finding a vet you feel is understanding and supportive is important. There are vets who specialise in palliative care and can offer options like euthanasing at home.

Dr Fawcett says to talk openly about your concerns and the pet’s quality of life.

If you are considering euthanasia, make plans with them.

“Where will it happen? Who would you like to be present? What are the options regarding the animal’s remains; for example, burial, private cremation? If cremated, what sort of vessel do you want to keep the remains in? What are the costs you need to expect?” are some questions to consider, Dr Fawcett says.

If you do proceed with euthanasia, know it is normal to question if you did the right thing.

“That doesn’t mean it was the wrong thing,” Dr Fawcett says.

Joanne says she still struggles with some of her decisions.

“One horse I put down still haunts me. Even though everyone says you did the right thing, I still think sometimes, ‘Did I do all I possibly could?'”

Talk to people who understand

Seek out people who get what you are going through, Dr Cantwell-Bartl says.

“Find those people who can put their arms around you and walk by your side.

If you are struggling to find the support you need, consider professional counselling.

Make them comfortable and do your best

Joanne says knowing you’re doing your best by your pet can help you can have some closure.

“Making them as comfortable as possible in the time they have left shows that you love them.

“Then you know you’ve done all you could.”

Dr Fawcett agrees and says doing our best by our animals includes not prolonging suffering.

“That can mean letting them go when it is in their interests.”

Know that it’s OK to grieve

Dr Cantwell-Bartl says feeling like you should “just get on with things” can shut down your grief.

Give yourself permission to feel the hard emotions and go through the processes of grieving.

Words of comfort

Knowing she has given an animal the best life possible is what helps Joanne prepare to say goodbye.

“That is a wonderful thing because there are too many animals that don’t have a good life.

“I always look back and think about some of the kittens we only had for nine months, and a fantastic nine months is better than a shitty five years.”

Dr Fawcett says it’s important to be kind to yourself, no matter how you are feeling.

“For people who experience profound anticipatory grief, the death of an animal can be a relief.

“These owners can feel guilty for not grieving as much as they feel they should. I think the key is to be kind to yourself.”

She says the grief of losing her own animals has left a pain in her chest, but she has some peace knowing she gave them a good life.

“As one of my clients said to me, grief is the tax you pay for love — but it’s a tax worth paying.”

Complete Article HERE!

Are you prepared for death?

Seattle man launches new website to make of end of life planning easier

By Rachel Belle

Seven years ago, Seattle’s Michael Hebb launched Death Over Dinner through the University of Washington.

“With the very simple, but kind of ambitious idea to get people to talk about this taboo topic of end of life, of death, of our mortality,” Hebb said. “It scaled quite significantly; there have been more than one million death dinners since we launched seven years ago. That has been all word of mouth. People having powerful experiences, hosting their own dinners, and then sharing it with others. It’s become a bit of an international phenomenon.”

Based on that success, Hebb just launched a website called EOL.community in partnership with wellness brand RoundGlass.

“Its longer name is the End of Life Collective,” he said. “What we learned with Death Over Dinner is that people want to have this conversation, they don’t want to be in an insurance office or talking to an attorney or an oncologist. They want to be among family and friends. Once they’ve talked about their wishes, and their fears, and their goals, they want to do something. The resources for getting prepared to create an end of life plan were very thin and very scattered. So EOL was designed to be that one central place where you can get prepared and find providers and community and meet experts, et cetera.”

The website is free and offers everything from guidance on making a will and an advanced care directive to any other resource you would need to plan for your own death or to deal with a loved one’s passing.

“Whether that is a legal provider or insurance provider, or a palliative care provider if you’re at that point, we’ve made it very simple for the user,” Hebb said. “So you can find a grief therapist, an end of life doula, you can decide what you want to have happen to your body. Do you want to turn into a tree? Do you want to turn into a diamond? All of these things are now in one place, which has never happened before.”

There’s a “Death FAQ” page on the website, and each question has a tag, labeling it as “religion,” “philosophical,” “grief,” “legal,” or “terminal illness.” There are answers to hundreds of questions like, “What is an end of life doula?,” “How can I be less afraid of dying?,” and “What happens if I don’t have a will when I die?”

I have always assumed that end-of-life planning was for older people, or people with children, but Hebb says all adults should get prepared.

“I think we live in really interesting times. Before COVID, it was primarily people getting prepared as they were closer to their last chapter, or those of us on the fringe who are like, ‘Everybody should get prepared!,’” he said. “There’s a lot of terrible things that have come out of COVID, but one thing that I think is very positive is it now just seems sensible and rational for every average person to just have an end of life plan. It’s very clear that we don’t know. A death can happen in our family or our close circle of friends.”

Hebb started Death Over Dinner to remove the stigma of talking about death and to get families talking about this tough, uncomfortable topic. He says having the conversation and doing the actual planning is not as dark as you may think it is.

“It does make people feel more calm to have a simple plan. It does make people feel more anchored and centered,” he said. “It really is a great way to clarify what your priorities are, what matters most.”

Complete Article HERE!

5 Considerations For Managing an Inheritance

Integrating new money into a financial plan while navigating the loss of a loved one is often a complicated process.

by Sam Swenson, CFA, CPA

The period leading up to and shortly after losing a close relative is often one of the most emotionally demanding times we, as humans, experience. The crippling grief of loss, coupled with the toll of anticipatory grief, can make it difficult to think clearly and function effectively. When an inheritance is involved, it is especially important to be a responsible steward of the money you’ve received and do your best to integrate new funds into your broader financial plan. Below, you’ll find four considerations for managing inherited money.

1. Pause to organize your thoughts and future actions

Aside from attending immediate events such as a funeral or memorial service, it’s important and necessary to take time to grieve and reflect on the loss of your loved one. It’s also important to avoid the urge to make any sudden, large changes to your life if you’ve inherited a windfall. Once a bit of time has passed, you should have a candid discussion with other heirs to determine the full list of responsibilities at hand and who will manage each one. The pre-appointed executor, or court-appointed administrator, should spearhead this process.

2. Create a plan (and don’t forget to act)

While this can be done as a team, take a full and complete inventory of the assets in your loved one’s estate — both probate (assets without a named beneficiary) and non-probate (assets with a named beneficiary). Remember to discontinue any of your loved one’s subscription services and recurring household expenses (i.e., cable and electric) when the executor has deemed it appropriate to do so. Once you’ve paid final expenses, created an action plan, and assigned responsibilities, it’s time to act on distributing assets to heirs.

3. Integrate to avoid mental accounting

It might seem convenient to keep your inheritance separate from your existing portfolio, but new money should be integrated into your own financial plan as if it were earned income. According to a variety of behavioral finance studies, we tend to view inherited money as eligible to be spent on discretionary items — we consider this money to be “found money.” We also tend to mentally view inheritances as “separate” from previously earned money. The truth is, although it was not earned at a job or side gig, this money is very much yours and should be integrated into your existing financial plan — if you have one! If you don’t yet have a written financial plan, it’s best to meet with a fee-only financial planner who charges by the hour or on a fixed-fee basis.

4. Ensure your financial priorities are met

Consider your inheritance an important opportunity to change the trajectory of your net worth. Use it to pay off or reduce long-standing debts, such as credit cards or student loans. Work on building an emergency fund — at least six months’ worth of living expenses — that will cushion you from unforeseen circumstances, including a pandemic-era-like job loss. Ensure that Roth (or Backdoor Roth for those who exceed income limits for Roth) contributions are made for this year and last year, if you’re still within the previous year’s tax filing deadline. Investing in a taxable brokerage account is a great idea if any money remains after priorities have been addressed. Bigger goals, like paying off an entire mortgage, can be deferred if you’re young and have locked in a favorable interest rate.

5. Be creative

It may be the case that you’ve inherited non-financial assets, like a car, artwork, or antiques. Strive to be open and honest with fellow heirs — if you can truly use one of the items, say so. Separately, if you aren’t ready to part with some of the items, offer them to extended family or friends. It can be comforting to know that otherwise unused belongings are put to good use by people you know. Alternatively, inherited artwork or antiques can often be repurposed or sold, and if you can afford to insure and maintain an additional vehicle — and you want one — inheriting one is a fortunate outcome. Try to avoid storing inherited items unless there is a plan to remove them within a specified timeframe, as storage charges can add up quickly over long periods of time.

Losing a close relative is difficult enough, but the need to prudently manage any inheritance will nonetheless loom large. In a perfect world, every family would have updated estate planning documents in place, with every family member agreeing as to the contents of said documents. This is rarely how it works out in practice, and it’s important to take a deep breath, take your time, and do your best to be realistic, practical, and a bit creative in absorbing inherited assets into your own life.

Complete Article HERE!

Tips for Talking with Someone Who is Dying

By: Glen R. Horst MDiv, DMin, BA

Knowing what to say to someone who is dying and when to say it can be difficult. The following tips may be useful at any point during a serious illness, but especially when the person is not expected to live more than a few weeks or days.

Tip # 1: Follow the dying person’s lead

It is normal to feel anxious when talking about dying with someone who is nearing end of life, especially if the person is someone you love. Some people handle this anxiety by being clear and blunt. Others say little or nothing about the situation for fear they may appear to be giving up hope. One way or another, we tend to try to protect each other at this difficult time.

If you feel it is urgent to talk about end of life with the person who is dying, you may be impatient with conversation about ordinary things. Humour and laughter may be distracting. On the other hand, if you find talking about dying embarrassing or awkward, you may be relieved that the topic doesn’t come up. In either case, what is most important is what the dying person needs. Ultimately, he or she will choose if, when and with whom to discuss dying. Listen for cues that the person is ready to talk about dying – for example, a passing comment about new symptoms, not being around for an upcoming event, being tired of being sick, or wanting to go home. When you think you hear such a cue, you might ask, “Do you want to say more about that?” or, “I’m not sure I know what you mean.” Then listen and ask more questions to make sure you understand.

Tip #2: If possible, be clear that you know the end is nearing

Some people who know they are dying avoid talking about it right up until the moment of death. It’s important to recognize that this is a valid choice and to respect it. More often, however, people who are dying feel respected and supported by openness and honesty in conversations. They may talk about symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, or nausea. They may wonder what to expect when death is near. Rather than avoiding these concerns, acknowledge that they must be worrisome. You might say, “Tell me more about what you are experiencing,” or ask, “What do you think is happening?” You could add, “This would be important to discuss with your doctor. Can I help you make a list of questions for the doctor?”

Inviting the person to share information from the health care team can lead to open conversations about the progress of the illness and an opportunity to ask, “What do you now need most from me (from other friends and family members, from the health care team)?” If the person has difficulty answering this question, offer examples of the support you could provide – perhaps being present and listening, running errands for the family, or helping with housework.

When death is near, close friends and family members may want to be present. This is a tender time requiring balance between the needs of the family and the wishes of the person. Ask who the person would like to have visit and how many guests would be appropriate at one time. Keeping his or her wishes front and centre can provide a dying person with a sense of control at a very vulnerable time.

The gathering of family and close friends becomes a quiet signal to all that death may be near. If the person wonders why you or others are present, explain that you want to be with him or her during this time. Follow the person’s lead in talking about what is happening as death approaches. Direct questions deserve simple, direct responses. Use your own words to say something like, “It seems that your journey on this earth is coming to an end.”

Ask the person if there is anyone he or she would like to talk to by phone, internet, or in person. This may include a visit from a religious leader in the person’s faith community, or the spiritual care provider in the hospital or hospice.

If you feel that you still have important things to say, consider the advice of Dr. Ira Byock, a palliative care physician and author of “Four Things That Matter Most.” According to Dr. Byock, the next four tips are things that dying people want to hear from their loved ones.

Tip #3: Deal with regrets by saying, “Please forgive me.”

There is no need to fuss over small injuries or insults. However, when you are preparing to say a final goodbye, you may be bothered by regrets about hurtful words or actions, or ways you may have disappointed the dying person. Deal with your regrets by saying something like, “I’ve been feeling sorry about something that happened between us. I know I had a part in it and I’d like to apologize for it.” After describing the issue or incident in simple terms, say, “Please forgive me.”

Whatever the response, you will know that you have done what you could to address a painful part of your relationship.

Tip #4: Free yourself of hard feelings by saying, “I forgive you.”

If you ask the person for forgiveness, you may be surprised that she or he wants your forgiveness too. Saying, “I forgive you” can clear the way for a deeper sharing of the remaining time. It can also give you a sense of peace following the person’s death.

Due to defensiveness, a lack of understanding, or some other reason, the person may not be ready to acknowledge the deep hurt in your relationship. You can still, however, forgive the person in your mind and heart. This involves letting go of your anger and any wish to punish the person for the hurt you experienced. One woman did this with an older male family member who had abused her as a child by whispering “I forgive you” in his ear shortly before his death. Since he was no longer able to respond, it was not possible to know the effect it had on him. However, for the woman it was an important step in freeing herself from her burden of pain and anger.

Tip #5: Appreciate the person’s legacy by saying, “Thank you.”

Expressing thanks for the positive ways the person has touched your life is a way of letting someone know of his or her lasting significance for you. It contributes to the person’s sense of dignity at the end of life.

Rabbi Harold Kushner writes: “I am convinced that it is not the fear of death, of our lives ending that haunts our sleep so much as the fear… that as far as the world is concerned, we might as well never have lived.” Dr. Harvey Chochinov’s research into dignity in the people who are dying supports this. You can support your loved one’s dignity with a sincere and specific “thank you.” It will let your loved one know that her or his living mattered.

Tip #6: “I love you” – Say it freely; say it often.

It is never too late to say, “I love you” in a relationship. If you are not in the habit of declaring your love for a person you call a “loved one,” take a risk and surprise her or him. It could take your relationship to another level.

Tip #7: Don’t wait until the last minute to say, “Goodbye”

When your loved one is nearing death, it is important to end each conversation in a way that will be okay if it is the last time you speak. Casual goodbyes like “See you around,” or “I’ve got to run, so bye for now,” may leave you wishing you had said something different. Your goodbyes don’t need to be mushy. Just say goodbye in a way that lets the person know that he or she will always be important to you.

If you are leaving for a longer time and unlikely to see the person again, your goodbye may be more emotional. You might acknowledge openly that you don’t know whether you’ll be with each other again. Say what needs to be said. Remind the person again of what he or she means to you. Saying goodbye in a satisfying way can prevent regrets after the person is gone.

Tip #8: Touch talks too.

When you talk with a person who is dying, you touch each other with your words. When words are no longer necessary or possible, you can still connect through touch. Placing your hand gently on the person’s hand, shoulder or head can be a tender way of saying, “I am here. You are not alone.”
Continue to talk to the person even when she or he is no longer able to respond to you. The dying person will sense your presence and hear your voice.

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