30 Astonishing Facts About Death

By Bess Lovejoy

Death is the start of a great adventure—never mind that you might not be around for it.

  1. You can be declared dead in some states but considered alive in others. That’s because New York and New Jersey allow families to reject the concept of brain death if it goes against their religious beliefs.
  1. One of the first visible signs of death is when the eyes cloud over, as fluid and oxygen stop flowing to the corneas. That can happen within 10 minutes after death if the eyes were open (and 24 hours if the eyes were closed).
  1. Today, there are about 300 bodies frozen in liquid nitrogen in America in the hope that science will one day be able to bring them back to life. (Contrary to popular belief, Walt Disney is not one of them.)
  1. It’s a myth that hair and nails grow after death. What really happens is that the body dries out, so the nail beds and skin on the head retract, making nails, stubble, and hair appear longer.
  1. Rigor mortis is only temporary. It’s a result of certain fibers in the muscle cells becoming linked by chemical bonds, but usually goes away in a day or two as those bonds break down. How long it lasts depends on the temperature in the environment, among other factors.
A corpse flower, or titan arum, known for smelling a lot like death.
  1. Two of the gases responsible for the distinctive smell of death are called putrescine and cadaverine. They’re produced when bacteria break down the amino acids ornithine and lysine, respectively.
  1. Bodies can become covered in what looks like soap after death. Technically known as adipocere (and sometimes also called grave wax), it’s a byproduct of decomposition that happens as the fat in a body decays under wet, anaerobic (lacking in oxygen) conditions. Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum and Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian each have an adipocere-covered corpse on display.
  1. There are more than 200 corpses of failed climbers frozen on Mount Everest.
  1. The low-temperature, low-oxygen, highly acidic environmental conditions of European peat bogs can preserve bodies with remarkable detail for centuries, and even millennia. One of the most famous examples of these “bog bodies” is the Iron Age Tollund Man in Denmark. When his body was discovered in 1950, it looked so fresh his discoverers thought they’d found a recent murder victim.

  1. Scientists are currently studying the “necrobiome”—all the bacteria and fungi in a corpse—to figure out whether changes in the microbes alone can provide clues to the time of death. The concept is known as the “microbial clock.”
  1. People used to believe that the blood of the freshly executed was a health tonic, and would pay executioners a few coins to drink it warm from the gallows.
  1. “Hop the twig,” “yield the crow a pudding,” “snuff one’s glim,” and “climb the six-foot ladder,” were all once slang terms for death.
  1. Dead bodies generally aren’t dangerous just because they’re dead. But in the 19th century, there was widespread belief in “miasmatic theory,” which said that air coming from rotting corpses and other sources of decay lead to the spread of disease. This belief was more or less replaced by germ theory.

  1. Embalming is rarely required by law, except in certain situation where bodies leave state borders.
  1. The average human body produces between 3 and 9 pounds of cremated remains after being burned. The cremation chamber, known as a retort, can get as hot as 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  1. The Victorians often took photos of dead loved ones as part of their grieving process. These postmortem photographs became keepsakes that were displayed in homes, sent to friends and relatives, and worn inside lockets.
  1. In at least one version of telegraph code, LOL meant “loss of life.”
  1. In 897, Pope Stephen VI had the corpse of a previous pope, Formosus, exhumed, perched on a throne, and questioned about his “crimes” (which were mostly about being on the wrong side of a political struggle.) The event is known as the Cadaver Synod.
  1. The term mortician was invented as part of a PR campaign by the funeral industry, which felt it was more customer-friendly than undertaker. The term was chosen after a call for ideas in Embalmer’s Monthly.
A statue of Abraham Lincoln, whose embalming widely popularized the practice
  1. The embalming of Abraham Lincoln for the journey from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois, is widely credited with encouraging everyday acceptance of the practice.
  1. You’re more likely to be killed at a dance party than while skydiving.
  1. Between the 16th and the early 20th centuries, artists used ground-up mummies as paint pigment. (It was also thought to be a potent medicine.)
  1. The idea that graves need to be 6 feet deep comes from a 1665 plague outbreak in England, when the mayor of London decreed the burial depth to limit the spread of disease.
  1. No Mormon mourning is complete without Mormon funeral potatoes, a cheesy casserole that usually involves cornflakes. Other foods associated with death include pan de muerto (“bread of the dead”), traditionally eaten on Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico; ossa dei morti (“bones of the dead”) cookies in Italy, meant to represent the bones of dead saints; and Victorian funeral biscuits.
Mormon funeral potatoes
  1. Contrary to popular reports, it’s not illegal to die in Longyearbyen, Norway. But since the town has no nursing homes and only a small hospital, residents are required to move to the mainland once they become elderly. It is true that it’s so cold there bodies barely decompose.
  1. “Human composting,” in which bodies decompose into dirt in reusable “recomposition vessels,” is legal in Washington state. The results don’t smell, and are suitable for use in the garden.
  1. The Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in Nederland, Colorado, is held each year in honor of a 110-year-old corpse located in a local Tuff Shed and surrounded by dry ice (it’s a DIY cryonics set-up). The festival features coffin racing, frozen salmon tossing, costumed polar plunging, and frozen t-shirt contests.
Coffin racing at the Frozen Dead Guy Days festival in Nederland, Colorado in 2019
  1. In the 19th century, several inventors came up with “safety coffins” equipped with bells, flags, and air tubes and designed to help people avoid being buried alive.
  1. Although the etiquette guides for Victorian mourning varied widely, widows mourned for a total of two-and-a-half years, while widowers mourned for three months.
  1. In the 17th century and beyond, human skulls were soaked in alcohol to create a tincture called “the King’s drops” that was said to be good for gout, dropsy (edema), and “all fevers putrid or pestilential,” among other ailments. King Charles II of England allegedly paid £6000 for a personal recipe.

Complete Article HERE!

The Year of Postponed Grief

Sixteen months after my grandmother died, my family finally gathered to bury her.

By Elaine Godfrey

On Saturday, we buried my grandmother. Meemaw died in April 2020, during the first wave of COVID-19 casualties in America, at the age of 94. For months, her death had felt abstract; I was 900 miles away from my family, and I felt like I was holding my breath, unsure how to fathom the loss alone. Sixteen months later, I finally exhaled. We buried Meemaw’s ashes next to my grandfather in a small cemetery in central Iowa, where my grandmother had spent most of her life and where she’d raised my dad and his siblings. Six of my family members stood by her grave. My dad played guitar. Her urn was decorated with cattails and tiny squares of blue glass.

COVID-19 has killed more than 621,000 people in America so far. It has also robbed us of our ability to grieve together. Grief experts haven’t really encountered this phenomenon—this delayed group mourning—before. But lots of people have spent some part of the past year and a half like I have, fumbling their way through loss on their own.

Funerals and similar traditions exist to provide assurance and acknowledgment to loved ones; those ceremonies are delayed, sometimes indefinitely, when verification of death is impossible. Families of missing soldiers or kidnapped children tend to have a harder time with grief because their losses are wrapped in uncertainty. “If we don’t have evidence of some sort, somehow, cognitively, it’s difficult for us to realize they actually have died,” Pauline Boss, a family therapist and an author who studies these sorts of ambiguous losses, told me. Ambiguous loss applies in the case of COVID-19 too, Boss said. Those taken by the disease are gone, their deaths verified. But many of the people they’ve left behind are nevertheless unable to mark their losses with the usual traditions. The virus has disrupted our oldest rituals.

Some people have not been especially bothered by this disruption; perhaps they found relief grieving privately, and without having to host a stuffy luncheon or prepare remarks. But for many people who have lost a friend or a relative during the pandemic, the experience has been disorienting. “The last 18 months have been a time of unreality. All the physical touchstones have disappeared or been altered,” Megan Devine, a psychotherapist and the author of the book It’s OK That You’re Not OK, told me. Funerals bring a kind of reality to the experience of death that some people need. “Loss is a place beyond language, and when you gather in person, you can convey things without needing to rely on words,” Devine said. Zoom services have been meaningful for many people, but they haven’t really been the same: During a funeral, you can offer a gentle hand squeeze or pat someone’s back. You can share the same meal and meet the people who loved your loved one too. Deaths create vacancies in our lives; those rituals and quiet interactions are how we acknowledge the empty space.

Meemaw’s burial was simple and small; only six of my family members were there. (Three had been exposed to the virus and stayed home.) But it felt good. We stood in the warm sun and said the Lord’s Prayer. We laughed at the pastor’s awkward jokes, and sang along as Dad played a hymn that Meemaw loved on his guitar. We didn’t sound good, but she would have liked it.

Later, we had a family lunch at the Lutheran church, where we ate two kinds of casseroles and pillowy Norwegian sugar cookies. I hugged my uncles and showed my aunt pictures of my new dog. A friend of Meemaw’s told me how much Meemaw had loved to organize church dinners, how she gathered wildflowers and carefully arranged them in colored-glass vases on every table. During the war years, Meemaw had been a cadet nurse, part of a program launched by the U.S. government to address the domestic nursing shortage. At the luncheon, we put up a photo of her from 1944; she had a white cap and dimples. Silver-haired ladies came up to tell me they’d worked with Meemaw at the VA. They talked about my grandfather, a Navy radioman who’d met Meemaw at a VA dance. The two of them helped build the church where we stood.

People don’t need to have a funeral to grieve well; so many of us have spent the past year and a half learning this—and discovering that we’re sturdier than we think. Nothing about a memorial service cures grief or provides the ultimate closure for a loss, and with the rapid spread of the Delta variant, planning a memorial service is inadvisable in many parts of the country right now. But it’s never too late. You can wait 16 months or three years or a decade and still feel good standing in a circle and laughing, or crying over cold pasta salad.

At the cemetery, while the pastor talked, a dragonfly zipped out from behind him and swooped over Meemaw’s grave, low enough that I could make out the pattern on its iridescent wings. I don’t believe that the dragonfly was some kind of sign from God. But it was nice to watch it together.

Complete Article HERE!

Will Power

— Preparing for my death has provided me with way more entertainment than is seemly

Although confronting, the act of getting my affairs in order has provided much space for reflection – and gratitude


It’s lockdown number whatever, and this time I’m going to make it count. No sourdough therapy, no binge watching Schitts Creek, no ordering recklessly expensive artisan cakelets. This time I’m preparing for death.

A few years ago I helped my mother write her advance care plan. Now it’s my turn. I download it and work my way through the personal details to the end-of-life section. Who do I want to make medical decisions on my behalf? When do I want the plug pulled? I surprise myself with the strength of my written response.

It corresponds to the fierceness with which I guard my mother’s humanity: from well-meaning nurses who try to infantilise her, from doctors who talk to me about her as if she’s not in the room. I ask them politely to address themselves to her. Witnessing this, powerlessness and the loss of a stake in discussions about my own welfare have become the things I fear the most. I’ve seen firsthand how easily control of our destiny can slip from our grasp.

Her diary, once a daily record of her reflections, has become a hit-and-miss affair as her memory fades. A well-meaning relative has taken to recording my mother’s activities as a means of jogging her memory. She’s having none of it. Her latest entry reads: “Please leave me to write in this diary. It is beginning to look as if it has no idea who I am.” Despite her loss of autonomy, she has retained her sense of humour.

The fear of powerlessness is not the only prompt for my end-of-life preparations. I’m driven in part by the wish to make my passing easier for my children, whom I confidently expect to be inconsolable at the loss of their mother. To this end, I begin the task of gathering and storing my will, enduring powers of attorney, property deeds, birth, marriage and divorce certificates and, most importantly, the passwords to all my accounts.

Dying is a serious business. If a heart attack doesn’t kill you, the paperwork will.

In the search for the whereabouts of my will, I come upon some correspondence that has me reassessing my offspring’s expected levels of postmortem devastation. Two years ago I sent them a short email advising them where to find my will, and the spreadsheet that lists their individual advances on what we laughingly call their “inheritance”.

“Child X has as yet no entries in her column,” I write. “That’s what a life of abstemiousness and no driving licence can do.” To which Child Y, the party-boy comedian, responds: “How do I get my hands on some cash now? The email dragged on a bit so I couldn’t finish it.”

Undeterred, I dust off my “official documents” file from the cabinet under the stairs and sort the useful from the outdated, the originals from the copies. I find a useful online resource to list my bank details, assets, liabilities and funeral instructions.

Calculating your net worth can be confronting when the entry you put next to the dollar sign in the car column is “Not much”. Worse, the column is actually titled “cars”. I have very few entries in the “assets” side – nothing under “boat” and no idea what “other toys” might mean – but even fewer under “liabilities”. Freedom from debt may well be the only legacy I leave my children. Having gone through a financial settlement a decade ago, I’m determined to live within my means. So far I’ve managed to do it.

I’m taken with the Japanese concept of yutori: what Robert Dessaix describes as “just enough – time, friends, love, books – and a little bit more”. It’s giving yourself enough time after you have arrived at a destination to look around you. For me, it’s about having a comfortable life without the need for those notional “other toys” and the financial burden that comes with them.

My funeral wishes are essentially limited to the desire to be cremated and have my ashes scattered in my family’s happy place – a small coastal town. The musical component of my funeral is much more significant than the logistics.

Five years ago, I compiled a musical wish list before an extended overseas trip and surprised each child with their own vinyl copy, complete with album notes. Absolute Lizzie – The Funeral Selection was a highlight of my parenting career. It was a snapshot of the life I shared with my children, full of meaning and memories for all of us. The playlist is a chaotic combination of soundtracks and sentiment; a shameless play for laughs as well as a heartfelt homage to those long-dead musical geniuses who added so much joy to my life.

Lost in a reverie, I’ve managed to pass a long lazy afternoon in lockdown surrounded by dog-eared papers and wrapped in a warm maternal fug. I highly recommend it.

Preparing for my death has provided me with way more entertainment than is seemly. And a few ideas for a follow up album: Absolute Lizzie – The Afterlife.

Complete Article HERE!

How to Cope With ‘Disenfranchised Grief’

If others don’t understand your grief, it can feel isolating.

By Rachel Fairbank

Grief is a natural response to loss, from the death of a loved one to the dissolution of a marriage, sudden financial stability, or the end of a friendship. While grieving, people tend to feel a range of emotions—everything from anger to guilt to sadness—all of which are normal, and can take time to work through.

No matter the cause, grief is hard to process. But a particular type of grief, known as disenfranchised grief, can prove to be a particular challenge to overcome. Also called hidden grief, disenfranchised grief refers to a loss that is minimized, unacknowledged, or misunderstood by others, which can cause people to feel isolated and alone during a time when they need support the most.

“Believing that someone else can understand the basic emotions you’re feeling makes grieving less complicated, and leaves you feeling less isolated,” said Emily Simonian, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Thriveworks.

Examples of disenfranchised grief include the loss of a private relationship that others didn’t know existed, such as an LGBTQIA+ person who lost a partner but doesn’t feel safe being out; a loss that is considered ‘lesser’ by others, such as the death of a pet or a health issue; a loss that is surrounded by stigma, such as infertility or death by suicide; an exclusion from mourning, such as the death of an ex-partner; or grief that doesn’t follow societal norms, such as displaying anger or throwing yourself into work.

If people either don’t understand or actively minimize a person’s grief, then processing these emotions becomes that much harder, and can even cause a person to doubt the validity of their feelings.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing this type of grief, these are a few strategies that can help:

Know that your emotions are valid

Even if your loss isn’t well understood by others, that doesn’t make your emotions any less valid. If you are grieving, the first step is recognize that what you are feeling is valid and normal. This is the first step to healing.

Find others who understand

Even if most people don’t quite understand your grief, there will still be people who do. This can include family and friends who may have an idea of your loss and are willing to listen, or it can be found in the form of local and online support groups, with people who may be experiencing a similar loss.

“Having the emotional support of another person works to help you feel heard, validated, understood, and maybe even distracted, which can be a necessary coping tool to give yourself a break,” Simonian said.

Get to the root of your grief

Until you address your grief, it won’t go away. Whatever loss you are grieving, try and find a way to identify your feelings, so that you can process them. This can be especially hard if others don’t understand, or if society doesn’t acknowledge your grief as valid, but it’s important to do so anyway. Unresolved feelings have a way of coming back later.

Create your own ritual to mourn your loss

Rituals help people find closure. That’s why we have funerals—so that we can honor a person’s life, as well as providing some closure for their loved ones. However, rituals need not be big or public. If you are having trouble processing your grief, it can help to create your own private ritual, one with personal significance.

The right ritual will vary according to your personal preferences and the nature of your loss, and finding the right one may take a little trial-and-error. Pick a time and place that will give the alone time you need in order to feel the full extent of your loss. For example, you can visit a place that either has emotional significance to your loss or that offers the calm you need. The important part is to spend that time honoring your loss in whatever way you need.

Ask for the help you need

Even if your loved ones don’t quite understand, they should still want to support you. To help them do so, it’s important to think about what you need from them, and ask for it.

“Try to focus on figuring out what you want from others during this time,” Simonian said. “Consider allowing others to support you in their own way and let them know what you specifically need.”

Complete Article HERE!

When spouses disagree on the best course of treatment for their kids

Each parent wants what is best for their child, but their version of what that is tends to differ


When a child is diagnosed with a terminal illness, it changes the family dynamic. For parents, it is devastating news, and regardless of the outcomes, they will never be the same again.

These parents are expected to make difficult medical decisions about treatment for their child. However, they often don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to adequately deal with this heartbreaking situation. They lack an effective support system and the knowledge needed to make truly informed decisions.

In emotionally charged situations like these, I often see parents revert to ingrained beliefs systems and fear-based forms of decision making – simply because they are struggling to come to terms with the reality of what is happening to their child. Unfortunately, this is exactly what can cause disputes between parents about how to proceed with treatment.

Over my 15 years with Chai Lifeline Canada, I’ve seen this happen time and time again. Family conflict is almost unavoidable when the life of a child hangs in the balance. The truth is, each parent wants what is best for their child, but their version of what that is tends to differ. But disagreements can be resolved amicably when parents are provided with support and guidance.

I’ve also seen parents reach compromises on the best course of treatment but, unfortunately, this is not always enough to save their child. This leads to feelings of guilt and resentment. The cycle of blame and guilt can be disastrous for a marriage when both individuals are experiencing intense grief.

I will now delve into how beliefs affect the decision-making process, the most common causes of spousal disagreements, methods to resolve family conflict around treatment for a serious illness, whether a marriage can survive the death of a child, and reasons why the marriage may end anyway.

Studies show that parents tend to make medical decisions based on information provided by clinicians, but how this information is perceived differs according to their personal values and beliefs. Each parent has their own set of values and beliefs that have been formed since childhood and two different world views. This can result in disagreements and family conflict, especially during trying times.

Each parent will frame the information received in their own way to determine what they believe is best for their child. One parent may feel that aggressive or experimental treatment is the only way forward, while the other may feel that their child has suffered through enough medical interventions. Neither is right or wrong, but each wholly believes that their decision is what’s best for their child. Both individuals are simply trying to be good parents in an extremely difficult and unfair situation.

When parents disagree on the best course of action, tensions rise. Incompatible beliefs and conflicting decisions can increase negative emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt in both parents. This mental and emotional stress not only affects both parents but also has a negative impact on the child. When drawn out disagreements lead to treatment delays, the child’s best interest is no longer being considered.

But how can parents move beyond their subjective beliefs to make decisions that are truly good for their ailing child? Is it even possible?

What people believe forms them. Therefore, when contradictory information is introduced, the cognitive dissonance between their belief and reality causes an internal battle. They may logically be aware that one course of action is the better option, yet emotionally they are unable to make it. When both individuals feel this way, it can be tough to reach a resolution.

Once parents understand that their decision-making process is driven by their beliefs, it may become easier to find a compromise that appeases both individuals. However, this depends greatly on their previous ability to resolve conflict. It’s important to acknowledge the factors that cause disagreements between spouses as these tension-causing factors are enhanced during stressful times.

There are, of course, many different factors involved for parents with a terminally ill child. But the main reasons why disagreements develop between spouses in terms of treatment are:

  • A lack of communication
  • Different perspectives
  • Feelings of powerlessness

Poor communication between spouses is the single greatest source of conflict. If a couple had poor communication skills before, dealing with the stress of a seriously ill child is likely to aggravate the problem. A lack of communication between partners can quickly escalate when faced with a difficult situation. This causes a breakdown in trust, avoidance tendencies and arguments. Open, clear, and honest communication is essential for parents to resolve disagreements about medical treatment for their child.

Differing perspectives about the situation are another factor that can cause disagreements. Each person will have a unique perspective based on their internal beliefs and values. This influences how they interpret the information provided by medical professionals and healthcare workers. A person’s perspective will affect how they justify the risks and view the benefits of certain medical treatments. When parents have different perspectives about important issues, disagreements occur. Spouses need to realize that, although their opinions may differ, they still want the same thing – what’s best for their child.

There is nothing more heart-wrenching and disempowering than watching your child struggle with a serious illness. As a result, many parents deal with feelings of powerlessness. This common experience may contribute to the development of disagreements. Parents tend to feel excluded from medical discussions about their child (feeling they are the last to be consulted) or that they haven’t been given enough information to truly make informed decisions. When people feel as if they have lost control over something as important as their child’s health, they will try their best to take back control in any way possible. This can manifest as someone stubbornly sticking to their decision for treatment even though their spouse doesn’t agree or that it may not be the right choice for their child.

In cases where families disagree about treatment, a resolution somehow needs to be reached. When parents are bitterly divided about continuing or discontinuing treatment, the hospital may turn to the court for guidance. Unfortunately, this can delay matters. In the end, it is better for everyone involved if spouses could come to an agreement before a trial is required.

Although parents make many decisions about their child’s medical care, many parties are involved in the process. The child’s care team may consist of the parents, doctors, nurses, specialist physicians, other supportive family members, and in some cases, even the child (depending on age/maturity). Each of these individuals has a right to share their thoughts, voice concerns, or weigh in on treatment decisions. Therefore, if parents cannot agree on a course of action, further discussions with the entire care team are required. An impartial or objective professional could even mediate these discussions to ensure a shared decision is reached.

Since many parents feel like they don’t have adequate knowledge to make an informed decision, a mediated discussion with the medical team can be helpful. During these sessions, the healthcare providers should answer any questions the family members may have. They should also offer as much information as possible in terms of the available options, as well as the benefits and risks involved. If the ill child is old enough, they should also be included in the discussion and have a say in the decision. This may even make it easier for the parents to resolve their disagreement.

A psychological support system can also be helpful for spouses. Counselling can help parents improve their communication skills, understand the basis of their differing perspectives, and come to terms with the situation that is making them feel powerless. A trained professional can help spouses deal with the issues causing disagreements. By expressing their emotions and learning to understand their partner’s perspective, the tension may defuse and allow the conflict to resolve itself. In this manner, they can form a united front and focus their attention on their child, who needs them to be present.

Despite the effort of everyone involved and regardless of the treatment decisions made, the child may die. The death of a child is one of the hardest and most traumatic events that a family can ever experience. Both parents are changed forever after the loss of a child. This puts an enormous amount of stress on a marriage – even a healthy one.

There is a myth that most marriages (80 to 90 per cent) will fail after the loss of a child in any manner. However, the truth is that only about 16  to 20 per cent of marriages end as a direct result of a child’s death. Instead, this type of trauma tends to put a spotlight on the existing properties of the marriage. Consequently, some marriages will get worse, others will improve, some may simply continue without much change, while others will end in divorce. It all depends on the strength and health of the marriage before the trauma.

With extenuating circumstances, such as the stressful months or years that their child was sick, the risk of divorce increases. When spouses are opposed to treatment options, this can cause further tension. One parent may feel guilt that they proceeded with their choice, resulting in the passing of their child. At the same time, the other parent may feel resentful that their decision wasn’t followed and blame their spouse. A cycle of guilt and blame combined with intense grief can easily destroy even the strongest marriage.

There are many reasons why a marriage may end after the loss of a child. But three main factors will ultimately affect the outcome:

  • The different ways in which individuals grieve (specifically the differences between males and females).
  • An inability for spouses to meet the needs of their partner during the grieving process.
  • The nature and circumstances of the death (a long, stress-filled period of illness) influences the grief response.

People grieve in different ways. The very nature of grief makes it a subjective experience. Grief is a long-term process, not a once-off event. In any other situation, spouses serve to comfort each other during times of grief. But when both partners are experiencing the raw grief that accompanies the loss of a child, they may find it difficult to comfort and support each other. This is because the mode of grieving for each individual can change from moment to moment. Neither spouse will be in the same mindset simultaneously, which can cause misunderstandings and feelings of being disconnected.

Males and females also tend to process grief in different ways. Women and especially mothers will feel intense grief for longer periods. On the other hand, men usually become more task orientated as a way to manage their grief. When confronted with grief, women will show their emotions openly while men will release their emotions privately.

These differences can make each spouse feel as if they’re going through the experience alone. Essentially, problems in the marriage occur during this time because each spouse is grieving in their own way, making them unable to meet the needs of their partner. This is not intentional. Most parents can barely meet their own needs, let alone anyone else’s, after the death of their child. Grieving people turn inwards, focusing on their own emotions and leaving little energy for anything else. Even though they are grieving simultaneously, each partner will suffer from a profound sense of isolation. When people feel that their grief is not being understood or their partner can’t meet their needs, it puts additional strain on a marriage.

Finally, the nature and circumstances of the child’s death can also influence the parents’ grief responses. Generally, parents experience less guilt if the child dies an anticipated death. Unfortunately, this is not the case if they disagreed about treatment. The prolonged anticipatory grief likely exacerbated the marital relationship as well. Often, parents of seriously ill children deal with many compounding stressors such as financial issues due to medical bills or pressure from clinicians about treatment. All of this can have devastating consequences for their marriage.

Parents of terminally ill children need support systems. Open and honest communication with each other and the health care team should be established from the onset. Conflict will only be resolved if parents feel empowered to make informed decisions about their child’s well-being. Regardless of the state of their relationship, bereaved parents need to seek support from organizations such as The Compassionate Friends to overcome their grief or even save their marriage. There are many resources available aimed specifically at supporting families throughout the entire process.

With the proper support systems, open communication and a solid foundation, it is possible to move past tragedy as a united front.

Complete Article HERE!

I had no idea how to talk to my children about a loved one’s death.

I’m not alone.

By Katie C. Reilly< When I was 16, my uncle died unexpectedly — my first exposure to the death of a loved one. Upon hearing the news, my dad got on a plane and flew to the West Coast to be with my aunt and cousins. When he returned, there was no conversation beyond “Uncle Jimmy died.”

My mother died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, when I was in my late 20s and my father died of cancer four years later. Having never witnessed the grieving process up close before, I felt like something was wrong with me for the intensity of my grief on each parent’s death.

Now as a mother to two small girls, I want to speak to my children about their grandparents and also prepare them for my eventual passing. Living through the past pandemic year, and being inundated with constant news about illness and death, has only made this feeling more urgent. But like many parents, I have no idea about when or how to begin a conversation about death with a child. And apparently, I’m not alone, experts say.

Many parents — like my father — avoid speaking to their children about death because they want to protect their kids from sadness and pain, says Cara Mearns-Thompson, a licensed clinical social worker focused on grieving children and the co-founder of the Grief Club of Minnesota.

But there’s more than concern for their children that holds many parents back, says Vicki Jay, chief executive of the National Alliance for Children’s Grief. “It’s our own uncomfortableness with [the topic] that prevents us from opening up the discussion,” she says.

Yet as much as they might try, parents can’t protect children from seeing or hearing about death: about 1 in 14 children in the United States will lose a parent or sibling by the age 18, according to Judi’s House/JAG Institute. And according to a recent study in the Lancet, more than 1.5 million children worldwide — 114,000 in the United States — have lost a parent or primary caregiver due to the covid-19 pandemic, with more such losses expected.

It is never too early to speak to children about death, but in an age-appropriate manner, experts say.

“Death is a normal and natural part of our life and, therefore, there is not a specific point that a child reaches that you can say it is now okay to talk to them,” Mearns-Thompson says. “But instead it is woven into conversations throughout their life as they are learning and developing. If they are going for a walk and see a dead bird — even if it’s a 2-year-old, to talk about it, to point it out,” says Mearns-Thompson.

“It is really based on their age, their brain development, their understanding of the finality of death and the irreversible nature of that. As they go through different stages and ages in their life, they will understand death in new and different ways,” Mearns-Thompson says.

“It is important to know that kids grieve differently than adults. And oftentimes, what may appear to be a frivolous play activity for children may actually be a very worthy way that they are working through grief,” says Linda Goldman, a therapist in Maryland whose work focuses on children and grief. Goldman, who has written several books on the subject, recalls working with a 5-year-old who had lost his mother. Goldman handed him a telephone and asked him if he’d like to call her. The little boy picked up the phone and began a conversation. “ ‘Hi mommy, I really miss you. How are you? Let me tell you about my day,’ ” Goldman says.

“Using the word death is appropriate,” Goldman says. “ ‘Why do people die?’ a little child might ask. People die when they are very, very old or very, very sick or when the doctors and nurses can’t make their bodies work anymore. And you can vary that. ”

Mearns-Thompson says she would use the same principles when speaking to children from different age groups. “Telling them simple, and honest information and allowing their questions to lead to what information they may need more of,” she writes.

Goldman says it’s important to avoid euphemisms about death, which can create confusion and even complicate the grieving process.

“Society doesn’t realize just how harmful some popular cliches can be to the grieving process,” Goldman says.

Mearns-Thompson notes that saying someone has “passed away” or that the person is “sleeping” makes it hard for children to understand what has happened (and, others say, may create real uncertainty or even anxiety about what can happen when someone goes to sleep.)

That doesn’t mean you can’t speak to children honestly in an age-appropriate manner. Annie Sperling’s husband died of a virulent type of brain tumor in 2020 when her two children were ages 4 and 8. Sometimes “my [younger] daughter will say to me, ‘Is Daddy ever coming back? or ‘I would give my stuffed animal away just so I could have daddy back for one day,’ ” says Sperling, who lives near Minneapolis. “And as heart-wrenching as it is to tell her ‘no, Daddy isn’t coming back,’ I want to be honest and sometimes the truth can hurt, but I feel like by not telling her the truth it would only hurt her more in the end” by creating false hope.

Being honest with children also helps to establish trust, experts say.

For example, “if a death by suicide was kept a secret or explained in an untruthful manner, once the child figures out the true cause of death they may have mistrust for those closest to them that didn’t truthfully tell them the cause,” Mearns-Thompson writes.

Younger children, for instance, may assume the death of someone close to them was their fault because of the egocentrism of that age and magical thinking, which are common characteristics of that age group. Teenagers often want to know more details about death compared to younger children, Goldman says. For example: “What kind of cancer? Who was with Mom when she died?”

Young people have “this vivid imagination and they fill in the blanks with imagination,” Jay says. “It is important so that they don’t get misinformation or misguided, that we stay tuned into them and help them put the puzzle together by offering multiple opportunities to ask them questions and for them to ask us questions.”

When a parent loses a loved one, they also have an opportunity to teach their children how to grieve in a healthy way by modeling. “The best thing you can do for your kids . . . is model to them what a healthy grief experience is,” Jay says. “So it is okay to cry in front of your kids.”

Similarly, Sperling says, parents should encourage their children to express their emotions: “Whenever my kids are experiencing a tender moment, my words to them are, ‘Just let it out,’ ‘Just cry it out.’. . . It’s a way for them to communicate to me that they are sad and that they need me in that moment. I don’t ever want them to feel like if they are crying or feeling blue that they can’t express themselves to me.”

Naming the different emotions that you are feeling — as well as including children in remembrance rituals — are other ways to model healthy grief for children, Mearns-Thompson says.

“I always say speak your loved ones’ name because the moment you stop saying their name, the moment you stop looking at pictures and sharing stories, is the moment that that memory kind of fizzles away,” Sperling adds.

Despite how difficult that can be, I am trying to take Sperling and experts’ advice when speaking to my own children.

“These remind me of Grandpa Jack,” I said recently as I passed the Honey Nut O’s to my husband at breakfast. My dad religiously had either oatmeal or Cheerios for breakfast.

“Where is Grandpa Jack?” my 4-year-old asked. I told her Grandpa Jack died, as I had many times previously. She never reacted before.

“So . . . I’m never going to meet him?” she asked for the first time as she burst into tears.

“No, honey, you will not,” I replied.

“That’s so sad,” she said. And I nodded. And then she wiped her tears and jumped off her chair to play outside.

Complete Article HERE!

The Best Books to Help You Cope With Death and Dying

How the wisdom of Joan Didion, death doulas, and Big Bird have prepped me to dance into the void (and plan my estate).

by Mary Frances Knapp

The chillest people I know are the ones surrounded by death. I’ve spoken with a lot of them over the years: end-of-life doulas, hospice workers, embalmers; eco-coffin designers, grief counselors, and country homesteaders; all of whom look their inevitable demise square in the face. They’ve all taught me something different about death and dying, but they’ve also driven home a similar point: Death doesn’t have to be this freaky egg that gets cracked on your head out of the blue. Death—rather, dying—is a process, and that process is what you make of it.

One of my first writing gigs in college was all about death (which is why I’m on this coffin-shaped soap box in the first place). I freelanced for an end-of-life planning business in San Francisco, which was part practical, local resource for what to do after a loved one dies, and part death blog (that was my jam). We were always careful not to stew in topics related to death and dying in a macabre way—the landing page was baby blue, and blogging topics ranged from DIY crafts for memorializing loved ones to learning more about biodegradable urns. Why on Earth they let a 19-year-old with no knowledge of funeral homes write for them is beyond me, but I’m so glad they did. I learned that when you’re constantly surrounded by death, it doesn’t feel as foreign and unnavigable. Of course, those in the death and dying industry don’t become magically exempt from the emotional demands of death, and having the time and resources to live and die well is a privilege. But in the years I spent learning about estate planning, or talking to home health aides about what you can do literally moments after a loved one has died to find some peace, I learned that dying well is just like living well: You reap what you sow.

So where do you start? Books. Read what other people have been through in hospitals, at home, or with their own existential crises. While the titles below are hardly a definitive guide to death and end-of-life planning, they’re the ones that have helped me feel better prepared to dance into the void.

No one does death like le French

Simone de Beauvoir is a *chef’s kiss* great Frenchy to hold your hand through the topic of death. This is one of the author’s most beloved books from the 1960s, and it takes you through the experience of her mother’s death with an acute sensitivity to detail; it’s Beauvoir’s talent for focusing on the more “banal” moments of terminal illnesses and dying with philosophical panache that makes it so good.

A Very Easy Death by Simone de Beauvoir

Learn how physicians feel about patient care

This one reads like a diary, if diaries were super exacting tell-alls by medical professionals. Author and doctor Ira Byock is a palliative care physician, and getting insights into the strides and pitfalls of his end-of-life care experiences teaches you a lot about the kinds of questions you’ll want to ask when/if you ever end up navigating similar situations and medical institutions. It’s the kind of book that just makes you feel like you have someone on your side, even in the face of daunting health scares.

The Best Care Possible by Ira Byock

Yes, there are end of life doulas

We usually think of doulas as kindly granola folk who help bring wee babes into this world, but there are also doulas and death midwives who are trained to accompany those who are dying and usher them into whatever comes next. I’ve spoken with a lot of them over the years, but this book rec actually comes from a friend who just started pursuing a career in end-of-life care. “I picked up this book to learn more about reclaiming deathcare as a sacred, holistic, and intimate practice,” she told me, saying she’d absolutely suggest this book for those who could see themselves in a similar profession, or who just want to learn more about the above.

Anne-Marie Keppel

Death Nesting by Anne-Marie Keppel

There’s room for creativity

Overall, I think the United States has this knee-jerk reaction to sterilize the processes of death and dying. We exact our funerary ceremonies with a kind of uniformity and somberness—which is fair. Death is hard, and everyone grieves differently. But, dude. Have you ever seen the coffins in Ghana? They’re beautiful, and personal. A really celebratory labor of love.

The Buried Treasures Of The Ga: Coffin Art In Ghana by Regula Tschumi

Raise your hand if you’ve got daddy issues

A hard read, but a super cathartic memoir by Jesmyn Ward for anyone who has lost a loved one at a young age, or who tightrope-walks their relationship with their parents. The book follows the author’s relationships with five different people in that sense, and it’s also a powerful portrait of what it means to live and mourn as a Black person in the American South.

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward

That’s one way to cope

We’ve all had it happen, or seen it happen to someone else: Rather than confront our grief, we pour ourselves into a new hobby or time-suck pursuit (cc: all those quarantine sourdough loaves). And that’s OK. There’s no etched-in-stone timeline for grief, and this memoir by Long Litt Woon, written about her late husband, is a great reminder of that; it’s about all the curious, dark, and beautiful places our grief can take us, such as mushroom hunting. “Long tells the story of finding hope after despair lightly and artfully,” writes the New York Times in a review that I think really hits the nail on the head. “[She writes with] self-effacement and so much gentle good nature that we forgot how sad she (and we) are.” Then, like the narrator, we remember. But guess what? We’re still in one piece. 

The Way Through the Woods by Long Litt Woon

If you’re not spiritual…

… Then read every essay and book by Joan Didion, honestly. Her writing will spoon feed you a tough yet deeply observant love, and feels like getting a sit-down chat from your most level-headed relative about hippies, the Pioneer West, and, in this case, the death of her husband and collaborator John Gregory Dunne. So many books on death and dying are deeply spiritual or religious, but for those of us who have only ever had faith in logic and, IDK, Pokémon, Didion is your gal. No one else writes quite like her about the surreal logic of grief-brain with as much honesty and accuracy. 

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

One for the kids

Do you have Muppet Feels? (Of course you do.) You might remember the legendary Sesame Street episode where Big Bird deals with Mr. Hooper’s passing. Heavy shit, man. The children’s book adaptation of that episode brings the same nuanced tenderness of the show, and literally everything in life is better when Big Bird is by your side. Give this to a kid, or anyone going through it.

I’ll Miss You, Mr. Hooper by Sesame Street

See you in the next life.

Complete Article HERE!