Pregnancy apps and online spaces fail to support individuals grieving a pregnancy loss

– Here’s what to do about it

Social technologies perpetuate a single idea of what constitutes a pregnancy.


Approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies in the United States ends in loss. Pregnancy loss, also referred to as miscarriage, is a common reproductive health complication.

Many experience this loss as a significant life event, with a “before” and an “after.” It can cause depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Yet society largely stigmatizes and dismisses it by not treating it as a loss that deserves to be grieved.

I research the social implications of technology. For the past several years, I’ve been investigating the intersection of pregnancy loss and social technologies. Search engines, social media, online support groups and pregnancy and fertility tracking apps are some of the technologies people use to manage pregnancies, share experiences or exchange social support.

My recent research shows these technologies often do not account for pregnancy loss and, as a result, can cause re-traumatization and distress.

Harmful designs and algorithms

In a recent study, I conducted in-depth interviews with women in the U.S. who had recently experienced pregnancy loss. I found that pregnancy tracking applications failed miserably in considering pregnancy losses.

Woman faces her laptop, head in hands.
‘Oh, please stop.’

A participant told me, “There’s no way to tell your app, ‘I had a miscarriage. Please stop sending me these updates,’ like, ‘This week, your baby’s the size of a banana or whatever.’ There’s no way to stop those.”

Similarly, advertising algorithms assumed all pregnancies lead to the birth of an alive and healthy baby. Another participant told me, “I was getting ads for maternity clothes. I was just like, ‘Oh, please stop.’”

The design of mobile apps tells a similar story. I conducted an analysis of 166 pregnancy-related apps and found 72% do not account for pregnancy loss at all, 18% offer an option to report a loss without providing any support, and the remaining 10% passively link to outside sources.

Another tool people use during pregnancy and loss journeys are online support groups. While groups dedicated to loss can be sources of social support where people may find emotional validation, connect with others and feel seen and less alone, I found they can also foster invalidating and harmful experiences.

One participant reported seeing questions “like ‘Can you eat this certain thing while pregnant?’ You get some people who say, ‘Yes, I ate that all through pregnancy.’ Then you get some people who say, ‘I can’t believe you’re doing that to your body, that’s harmful for you.’”

Overall, the design features and algorithms that underpin content and interactions do real harm by perpetuating a single idea of what constitutes a pregnancy – one that is smooth and leads to a happy ending. By not accounting for pregnancy loss, I contend they contribute to its further stigmatization.

My work shows how technology design reinforces stereotypes about experiences like pregnancy loss – and sustains social inequities like marginalization and stigmatization. This, in turn, makes it hard for those experiencing loss to find the resources and support they need.

A more humane approach

If you are someone who has experienced pregnancy loss, I am sorry for your loss. Please know that you are not alone. I hope this article helps validate and make visible some of your frustrating experiences.

If you know someone who has experienced a pregnancy loss, know that the harms and challenges I described above are only some of the frustrations they may face. Acknowledge their loss. Ask how you may be able to support them. Get them meals, offer to pet sit or babysit for them, listen to them, sit in their sorrow with them. Know that holidays and anniversaries tend to be tough. Do not say “you will get pregnant again.” Finally, remember that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people also experience pregnancy and loss.

If you are a designer, developer or someone who makes decisions about products and advertising algorithms, I hope this research illustrates some of the real harms users may experience as a result of using products to manage intimate personal experiences like pregnancies. Please consider designing products that consider the full range of pregnancy and other human experiences. Remember that considering pregnancy loss as an outcome does not mean finding other ways to profit from your users’ loss and grief.

Complete Article HERE!

Meet the end-of-life angels who prepare terminally ill people for the day they die

Maggie’s counsellors help those with terminal cancer cope with fears, worries and practical issues

Mandie Malcolm was just 26 when she found lump on my breast


Lisa Punt doesn’t cry at work. She has never cried at work, even though work, for Punt, is counselling people with terminal cancer and the friends and families of people with terminal cancer.

It must be about as difficult and heart-rending as work can be. Most of us would surely feel tearful when helping people face their own death. And not just their death, but all the concomitant details associated with it, big and small. Who will look after the children? What will happen to the house? What will my spouse do without me? And who’ll water the plants?

What is required of Punt, however, is calmness. “I don’t think I’ve ever been tearful within a consultation or within that interaction. And I think the reason for that is that we [the counsellors] bring to that therapeutic relationship an element of empathy, so we can see what they’re feeling, but at the same time we try very much to step outside actually feeling that emotion that they are experiencing.”

It’s a tough job, Punt says, but it is also a meaningful one. “We see the difference we make.”

Sometimes, though, a particular case will hit a counsellor harder than usual. In those cases, Punt tells me, that counsellor can talk about it with their colleagues, unpicking the feeling and carefully managing it. This process ultimately helps them support the patients and families who need their help. “We are there in a professional capacity,” says Punt, “and we are there to deliver formal, psychological, emotional support, which is part of our training.”

Punt, 51, is the centre head and a cancer support specialist at Maggie’s Cambridge. Maggie’s Centres are places where people with cancer – and their friends and families – can come for support and advice. The centres are beautifully built, designed to be an antidote to the strip-lit hurly-burly of a typical hospital. Within them, staff offer services such as yoga classes, financial advice and, most importantly, a friendly ear.

Maggie’s Cambridge, which is where Punt takes my call after delivering a counselling session, is in the grounds of Addenbrooke’s Hospital. The centre is temporarily housed in former accommodation for hospital staff, but Punt and her colleagues are working towards building a permanent home. “It’ll hopefully be very soon,” she says.

Diagnoses of terminal illness, says Punt, affect people very differently. “When someone walks through the door, we’re trying to work out, ‘What are their major concerns?’ When they’re faced with a terminal disease, they may very much have huge levels of anxiety, fear and worry. There are things like finances, or, ‘How is my partner going to manage when I’m not here if I’ve always sorted out the car insurance or the health insurance?’”

First, the warm, down-to-earth Punt helps her visitor work through their fears around death and dying, which must be no mean feat. The visitor might then be in a better position to address their more practical concerns.

People worry about mortgages, credit cards and life insurance. They wonder whether to retire on the grounds of ill-health and take their pension, or go off sick to ensure a death-in-service payout for their next of kin. They are concerned about funeral arrangements. They might be disinclined to write a will, feeling it to be an acceptance of defeat, but if they seek guidance on that they are offered it, often being given time with a solicitor, free of charge. “Once these things are done,” says Punt, “you have more cap-acity for life, even in the face of death.”

It is breadwinners who tend to worry the most about money issues, says Punt. They are more likely than not to be male, but it is the fact that they are the main earner, rather than their gender, that seems to be the strongest determinant of concern about a family’s financial stability.

Men are less ready to be emotionally voluble, says Punt, and are more likely to attend a support group if its stated purpose is something other than just talking. That purpose can be something as mundane as gardening or sharing bacon butties, but its effect can be to encourage conversation that is as valuable to men as it is to women.

Men and women alike wonder about their partner finding someone new, and it’s not uncommon to feel anxious about being replaced. You might call this the “I bet you’ll end up with Barbara” worry. As Punt puts it: “When children are involved, that’s a very emotive situation. Perhaps a mum is dying and there are two young children who are going to be left behind. Who is Dad going to meet and who’s going to be in the shoes of Mum? That can be a real concern.

“But then, on the other hand, there may be someone who actually gives permission to their partner to go out and find somebody and to not be lonely. It’s such an individual thing. I think the beauty of what we’re able to do, and the privilege we have, is that we can sit with somebody, whatever their fears and worries and concerns are about when they have died, and we can work with them.”

Punt tells me about a family she worked with fairly recently (we have changed some details for the sake of their privacy) where a married man with a son and daughter was told he had a year to live. It was his desperate wife who came to Maggie’s first, recalls Punt. “He was totally in denial and just carrying on as normal and she was trying to sort everything out.”

The husband eventually came for counselling, too. Punt and her colleagues then supported the family in starting a range of conversations. There were finances to discuss, plans for the garden and some decorating that the man had wanted to see through. There was their children’s education, at school and at home. “He wanted to show his son how to shave,” Punt says.

Where appropriate, the children were involved in these conversations. They were given time with an art therapist, who helped them articulate their emotions in a gentle setting. They were given the option of sitting with their father till the end, and they took it.

The man died at home, says Punt, surrounded by his family. “I think the last few hours were not desperately comfortable. But I think it was as good as it could be.”

What will happen to my family after I am gone?

Mandie Malcolm, 32

I had just turned 26 when I discovered a lump on my breast. Because a lump can be any of several things, I wasn’t too worried. What a shock I got when the doctor said it was cancer. Worse, it was secondary cancer: it had spread aggressively. I was told soon after the diagnosis that I probably had a couple of years to live.

It was petrifying. My mum was with me when I got the news, but the worst thing was breaking the news to friends and family. We’re very close, and they’re all supportive, but I knew it must be hard for them as well. I was always thinking about dying and leaving them behind. At the same time, there was so much I still wanted to do, like travelling the world.

Mum started using Maggie’s Edinburgh before I did. When I went myself, I was nervous on the way over, but from the moment I walked in they were all so friendly. Thanks to Maggie’s I’ve had loads of one-to-one counselling sessions and group sessions with other people going through the same as me. I go to yoga classes at the centre, and I’ve had loads of help with my finances. There are horrible, complicated forms to fill out in order to get benefits, but the adviser from Maggie’s helped me with the paperwork and took all the pressure off. My family gets a lot of support, too.

The diagnosis was six years ago and I’m still here. I have managed to get through everything I wanted to do, and now I’m just adding things to the list. After chemotherapy, I had hormone treatment, and because it was easier on my body I was able to do things like visiting Australia. I’ve run a marathon and I’ve been writing a column for my local paper, The Falkirk Herald. After my diagnosis, I thought that I’d never get to plan my own wedding, just my funeral, but I got married last year – it was a really special day.

A lot of people say, “I know what you’re going through”, but they don’t really. Through Maggie’s I’ve made a friend, Leslie, who’s in the exact same position as me, and it’s nice to be able to speak to somebody like her. One of the worst things is that you feel out of control of what’s happening to your body, and that time’s ticking away.

My outlook on life has changed hugely. Because I’ve spent so many days in bed and not feeling great, I really appreciate feeling good. I appreciate every day I’m given and I want to be surrounded by nice people, enjoying life rather than putting things off. Just going for a long walk with my dog is something that means a lot to me.

I’ve had a lot of different treatments and am probably starting to run out of them. Things have been better than the doctors thought, but I’m still realistic. Every extra birthday is special.

Complete Article HERE!

A Comedy About Death

– KnifeRock’s ‘Moon Manor’ Official Trailer


“If I can’t be me – and I mean everything that that means – I just don’t want to be.” Good Deed Ent. has revealed an official trailer for Moon Manor, a “comedy about death” made by the filmmaking duo known as “KnifeRock” (Erin Granat & Elizabeth Brissenden). This first premiered last year at a festival, and will be dropping on VOD starting in March to watch. Today is Jimmy’s last day alive. His Alzheimer’s is worsening, so he’s decided to die like he has lived – with intention, humor, and zest. In his last day on Earth, Jimmy will show an obituary writer, his death doula, his estranged brother, his caretaker, a surreal being, and guests at his fabulous “FUN-eral”, that perhaps the art of living is the art of dying. It’s “inspired by a true-ish story.” The film also marks the first original score by Coldplay producers The Dream Team. Moon Manor stars Jim Carrozo as Jimmy, with Debra Wilson, Richard Riehle, Lou Taylor Pucci, Reshma Gajjar, Galen Howard, Ricki Lake, and Heather Morris. Looks so wacky and fun and clever and fresh! I dig it.

Sometimes learning how to live, is learning how to die. On his last day alive, Jimmy (Jim Carrozo) will show his estranged brother, a salt-of-the-earth caretaker, sharp-witted death doula, an obituary writer, a cosmic being, and the guests at his FUNeral that sometimes the art of living just may be the art of dying. An exploration of what it means to have a “good death” and inspired by the life stories of 84-year-old lead actor James Carrozo. Moon Manor is co-written and co-directed by filmmakers Erin Granat & Machete Bang Bang (aka Elizabeth Brissenden – director on the series “I.R.L.”), collectively known as “KnifeRock”, both making their feature directorial debut after a few short films previously. Produced by John Humber, Bay Dariz, Erin Granat & Machete Bang Bang. Featuring a score by Coldplay producers The Dream Team. This first premiered at the 2021 Atlanta Film & Video Festival last year. Good Deed will debut Moon Manor in select US theaters + on VOD starting March 11th, 2022 coming up soon. Drop by the film’s official site.

Complete Article HERE!

What Is Caregiver Burnout

—And How Can You Prevent It? Here’s What Experts Say

Frequent expressions of anger, sadness, and frustration are possible signs of caregiver burnout.

According to Rosalynn Carter, former first lady of the US, there are only four kinds of people in the world: “those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” As a decades-long champion for the rights of US caregivers, Carter knows what she is talking about.

There are now an estimated 53 million unpaid caregivers—individuals who care for their elderly, chronically ill, or disabled loved ones—across the country, according to the most recent data from AARP. That means one in five adults in the US acts as a caregiver.

With many families unable to pay for professional care, assuming the role of caregiver is often a necessity rather than a choice. “Families are expected to provide extraordinary care to people with serious illnesses—in most cases without access to disease education, an assessment of their own needs and abilities, [and] the skills to manage complex medical regimes or challenging behaviors and functional declines associated with, for instance, a person living with dementia,” Laura N. Gitlin, PhD, an applied research sociologist and dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University in Philadelphia, tells Health.

And that can be hard, which means that those who care for their parents, siblings, children, or partners might experience caregiver burnout.

What is caregiver burnout?

A caregiver helps their loved one with daily activities like preparing meals, running errands, bathing, and performing medical tasks such as setting up tube feedings and giving medications. And as if that’s not enough, they often bear the weight of other types of stress, like having to deal with finances and manage doctor appointments for their loved one.

This collective stress is often referred to as caregiver burnout, and it’s all too common, according to Gitlin. “It’s a real phenomenon and shouldn’t be ignored,” she says. “It’s when a caregiver reaches a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion due to ongoing (and in most cases extraordinary) and constant care responsibilities.”

Caregivers who reach this point may feel hopeless and have negative feelings about their situation. If it’s not addressed, it can lead to depressive symptoms, warns Gitlin.

What causes caregiver burnout?

The possibilities are wide—basically, anything you perceive as a stressor in your role as caregiver can lead to caregiver burnout, Martinique Perkins Waters, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at the University of West Alabama, tells Health.

The burnout could be sparked by the extra financial expenses due to the medical bills of your loved one’s care or all the factors that go into managing medical care, such as scheduling appointments, talking with insurance companies, getting to appointments, refilling prescriptions, and advocating to see specialists. The burnout could be triggered by the emotional toll of watching someone you love in pain and needing to provide constant support to them. Or, maybe the burnout stems from the frustration of feeling like you are losing your own identity as your career, hobbies, and personal goals may be shifted or even stopped due to your caregiving role.

Caregiver burnout often develops after not getting the help you need or not having an opportunity for any respite—or time for yourself—to recover from your care responsibilities, adds Gitlin. Being a caregiver for a loved one can make it difficult to switch “off” from your role, making it hard to find time for sufficient sleep and positive lifestyle behaviors like exercising.

While burnout can happen in any caregiving situation, somebody providing care for a person living with dementia may be at particular risk, Andrea Gilmore-Bykovskyi, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, tells Health. “Unfortunately, caregivers of people experiencing dementia in particular are often under-prepared and under-supported in their caregiving roles,” she says. “Knowing when, where, and how to seek help can be overwhelming, which can further compound the strain caregivers may be experiencing. It is often more challenging later in the disease course, when the needs of the person with dementia may be more challenging to meet.”

What are the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout?

Some of the signs of caregiver burnout are very clear, according to Perkins Waters. “Frequent expressions of anger, sadness, and frustration are big red flags, especially when you don’t usually react in this manner,” she says.

Other signs are less clear, as they may manifest as symptoms that look like common chronic illnesses. This may be especially true depending on race. For example, research led by Perkins Waters and published in The Journals of Gerontology found that while African American caregivers are less likely to report being burdened by their caregiving role, the group is actually more likely to have physical manifestations of their caregiving burden, such as increased blood pressure, complications with other chronic illnesses, and cardiovascular issues. “We also know that these issues occur more frequently in the African American population in general so it can get overlooked as a sign of caregiver burnout,” Perkins Waters points out.

Symptoms of depression and anxiety are also very common. “If you are experiencing hopelessness, changes in sleep and/or eating habits, loss of interest in things you usually enjoy, lack of motivation, and feelings of overwhelm or general distress, it is possible you have reached that burnout point,” Perkins Waters says.

How can you prevent caregiver burnout?

Because its repercussions can be severe, preventing burnout is crucial. Perkins Waters’s research found that caregivers who felt that they were under a lot of strain had poorer health outcomes compared to caregivers who felt little or no strain.

“A major contributor to caregiver strain, and ultimately burnout, is the lack of easily accessible systems and resources that support caregivers in these roles,” says Gilmore-Bykovskyi. “For these reasons, it is really important for caregivers to seek support early and often, and even before they feel they need them—so they get help long before the point of burnout.”

This might mean joining a support group, creating a schedule to give you time to yourself every day, seeking professional help from a counselor, or simply taking another person up on their offer of help. If you have a solid support network and regular breaks from your caregiving responsibilities, you can reduce your risk of getting to the point of complete burnout.

“Respite is extremely important,” Perkins Waters says. “If possible, ask members of your family to assist with care. Even if they’re not close enough for day-to-day respite, they can make phone calls for services, search the internet for resources, or even have food delivered to the house so you have one less thing on your to-do list. If you attend a faith-based organization, more than likely there are members or a ministry that can stay with your loved one briefly, help with transportation, assist with groceries, or just come by to talk.”

A good starting point is your local agencies that advocate for senior services. “People often think of the Department of Human Services [DHS] as mainly for child services, but there are adult service programs as well,” says Perkins Waters. The DHS may be able to connect you with resources like adult day care programs, which support your loved one for a short time while you run errands or just go back home to rest.

There may also be non-profits or community organizations in your area that offer respite care. For instance, Alabama Lifespan Respite Resource Network offers vouchers that caregivers use to pay individuals to be with their loved ones in the home for short-term relief and provides resources for mental health counseling and caregiver support groups.

Even if you get this help for your caregiver duties, you still must make it a point to care for yourself, according to Perkins Waters. This means going to routine doctor appointments, talking with a counselor, finding a support group, hanging out with friends, making time for physical activity—in short, all the physical and mental care items we know we are supposed to do.

This is particularly important for caregivers who are parents. As Perkins Waters notes, a lot of caregivers juggle raising children and caring for aging parents. “You may go into the caregiver role expecting ease, as you have raised young children,” she says. “But it is an entirely different situation when you are older yourself and you are caring for an adult who likely raised you. There is more history and experience on both sides; this is a unique journey and taking care of your health will help better prepare you for it.”

If you have the means to pay for it, Gitlin highly recommends at least one consultation with a geriatric social worker who specializes in referral and linkages. The social worker can help you assess your caregiving situation, deal with stressors, and come up with a plan. Being a caregiver is never going to be easy, but it can be easier with the right help and support in place.

Complete Article HERE!

How to Help a Loved One Through Sudden Loss

Here’s how to offer support to someone grieving after an unexpected death.


By Julie Halpert

Over the past several years, the husbands of three of my friends died suddenly at the age of 50. These experiences helped educate me on how to be supportive in the face of an unexpected loss. I couldn’t imagine that I would ever be on the receiving end of such support. But that happened when I lost my son, Garrett, to suicide in September 2017.

Since Garrett’s passing, I have been amazed at the generosity of my community. One friend paid to have my home’s gutters cleaned and windows washed. Our family’s veterinarian refused to let us pay for her pet care services for a year. Another friend gave us keys to her lake house to use when we needed to get away. Each spring, we find a hanging plant on our porch from parents of a friend of Garrett’s. As brutally hard as it’s been to walk this new path without my son, these actions have provided a glimmer of positivity amid my despair.

While people have stepped up to help after our loss, such generosity is not always a given in the wake of a sudden death — an outcome that many families are experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 800,000 people in the United States alone.

“Many bereaved people experience another secondary loss when friends and family run away after a loss due to their own discomfort,” said Sherry Cormier, a psychologist and certified bereavement trauma specialist. Being present with a friend’s grief in this situation can stir up anxiety about death, she said. “They think, ‘That could happen to me.’”

Unlike a death that occurs in an older person after a long illness, with a sudden loss, “your world is turned completely and totally upside down; you’re in complete chaos,” said Camille Wortman, a professor of social and health psychology at Stony Brook University and author of “Treating Traumatic Bereavement: A Practitioner’s Guide.

Outside of the loss itself, one of the most painful experiences for grievers is that their friends and family may not be willing to help them through their grief, Dr. Cormier said. Rather than turning away, you can offer connection. Here are some ways to help a person who has recently experienced a loss.

Take on tasks.

With a sudden loss, the bereaved find themselves immediately inundated with new and mounting responsibilities. Helping ease that burden can be invaluable. Dr. Cormier suggested leading with language like: “I’d love to help. Does anything occur to you that may be useful?” If they don’t provide suggestions, you can be specific: Ask if you can bring dinner, mow the lawn or pick up groceries. You can also provide a welcome distraction, offering to go for a walk with the bereaved or take them out to dinner.

Jerri Vance, who lives in Princeton, W.Va., lost her husband, James, a 52-year-old police officer, to Covid-19 on New Year’s Day of 2021. “He went into the hospital on Dec. 7th and I never saw him again,” she said.

Immediately following her husband’s death, people in her community threw a fund-raiser for medical bills and funeral costs that raised $29,000. Friends and neighbors provided meals for a month and a half. Other friends helped her take down Christmas decorations. The principal of the school where she teaches third grade even showed up to clean her kitchen.

Ms. Vance said she appreciated all the prayers after her husband’s death, but she was most buoyed by those who offered to lighten her load.

Continue reaching out.

A study released in August by the American Psychological Association found that the loss of a loved one in a traumatic event can cause complicated reactions for those left behind, including prolonged grief. Other studies have found that people who have endured a traumatic loss are more likely to experience severe, intense and persistent psychological reactions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, compared with those who have had an expected loss, according to Kristin Alve Glad, a clinical psychologist and the lead author of the A.P.A. study. In these situations, Dr. Wortman said, the bereaved can struggle for many years or decades.

“Time does not heal all wounds,” Ms. Vance said. “There are times when I feel forgotten. Everybody goes back to their normal lives, and, for us, there’s never going to be a normal life again.”

Dr. Wortman suggested checking in periodically and reaching out during times when those who are grieving may be particularly vulnerable, like a wedding anniversary or major holidays. She has compiled a list of helpful websites and articles that focus on offering support in these situations.

Consider adding simple “thinking of you” messages to your to-do list. Lisa Zaleski, who lives in White Lake, Mich., confronted the unimaginable, first losing her daughter, Sydney, in June 2017 at the age of 23 in a car accident, then her son Robert in December 2019 to suicide when he was 31 years old. After her daughter died, a friend she wasn’t especially close with sent her a text of acknowledgment every day for a year. “It felt like a tremendous amount of support,” she said.

Connect the bereaved with community support.

Nneka Njideka, a licensed clinical social worker in Brooklyn, N.Y., who specializes in grief, explained that those with more resources have “grief privilege.” They may be able to take an extended leave of absence from work and afford a team of professionals to cope with the loss, for example. But she said that isn’t the case for those who are low on resources — and people of color in particular — who, in addition to losing their loved one, may be faced with “living losses,” like unemployment or food insecurity.

Calandrian Simpson Kemp, who is Black and lives in Houston, was working the night shift at a homeless shelter for women in 2013 when she got the call that her only son, George Kemp Jr., had been shot dead at 20 years old. “Everything you envisioned for them has been stolen from you,” she said. It was too much to bear for her husband. When she broke the news to him, “he dropped his keys and never went back to work,” she said. The family, which includes her daughter and stepdaughter, became uninsured as a result. She couldn’t afford mental health care and at one point needed to use a food pantry.

“I felt that bullet was still killing my husband and I, because we lost everything that we had,” she said.

Ms. Njideka said in these types of situations, it’s important to help the bereaved network with the community and build a circle of supportive resources, perhaps to raise funds for bills and therapy. Ms. Simpson Kemp started a program, The Village of Mothers, to assist mothers who lost their children in finding the services they need.

Listen more than you talk.

It’s helpful to just sit with those who are grieving and let them cry, Dr. Cormier said. Allow them to tell you the story of their loss and don’t try to problem solve or give advice. After Ms. Simpson Kemp’s son was killed, a woman from her church offered to drive her to the cemetery and simply sat with her there.

“She would just wait in the back and allow me to be still and silent in that space with George,” Ms. Simpson Kemp said. She “showed me it was OK to slow down and put the pieces together to help make sense of what had just happened.”

Choose your words carefully.

Try to be mindful to avoid minimizing the loss or encouraging a quick recovery, said Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor of psychological science, public health and medicine at the University of California, Irvine. She has developed a list of “don’ts” in the event of a loss, based on her research with hundreds of bereaved people. Never suggest that you know how grievers feel, even if you’ve experienced a similar type of loss; you can’t possibly comprehend the depth of their grief, she said.

Other phrases to avoid, according to Dr. Wortman: “You’re so strong,” “You have so much to be thankful for” and “Everything will be OK,” along with religious platitudes like, “It’s part of God’s plan” or “He’s in a better place.”

Ms. Vance said it’s best not to make empty promises. Some of her friends promised her children pedicures and an outing to get ice cream, yet no one followed through. Her kids were hurt. “When you promise something, you’ve got to follow up with it,” she said.

In the case of a death by suicide, it may be even harder to know what to say or how to help, since stigma can be an issue. Doreen Marshall, a psychologist with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said loss survivors often feel an incredible amount of guilt and may assume responsibility for what happened. Dr. Marshall, who lost her fiancé to suicide, said that means friends and loved ones may be even more reluctant to offer support.

As with any other type of sudden loss, focus on providing the type of support that the griever needs, Dr. Marshall said. Avoid asking about the circumstances of the death, she said, but say the loved one’s name, ask about the person’s life and share happy memories that you have.

“We miss our kids like crazy,” said Marny Lombard, when we spoke about her son, Sam, who died by suicide in 2013 at 22 years old. If Sam comes up in conversation, it doesn’t make her more upset. “When you say the name of my child, you bring me momentary joy,” she said.

Complete Article HERE!

A Guide To Your Financial & Legal Responsibilities After Loss

Loss of a loved one is a difficult time to navigate. Learn how to obtain a death certificate, when to begin reporting the death and more.

Key takeaways:

  • Grief is a natural part of losing a loved one. Having an after-death checklist can take a tremendous burden off your shoulders when it comes time to execute final wishes.
  • Besides making funeral arrangements, you will have to determine if there was a will, report the death to various entities and close financial accounts.
  • You will need certified copies of death certificates to claim the deceased person’s assets, including life insurance policies and brokerage accounts.

Everyone experiences loss at one point or another in life. It’s natural. However, many people underestimate the amount of paperwork involved to settle their loved one’s affairs. From making funeral arrangements to obtaining death certificates, the process can be stressful if you don’t know where to start.

Having a plan in place can help you better navigate this difficult time. You should also reach out to family members and consider obtaining the help of lawyers and certified public accountants (CPAs) to ensure you don’t have to handle everything on your own.

We’ve put together a checklist to help you prioritize your tasks and delegate where needed.

After-Death Checklist: A Guide To Managing Your Loved Ones Death

It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what to do when a loved one dies. Having an after-death checklist can lessen the burden.

Here are some key steps to consider when a loved one dies:

  • Acquire a pronouncement of death
  • Alert friends and family
  • Implement burial plans (based on will or last wishes)
  • Report death to Social Security and other government agencies
  • Obtain certified copies of death certificate
  • Identify all assets and liabilities
  • File insurance claims
  • Determine if there was a will
  • Close bank and brokerage accounts
  • Send copies of death certificate to major credit agencies
  • Terminate memberships and subscriptions that are not in use
  • Terminate health insurance policies
  • Settle a loved one’s outstanding financial debts
  • Notify election office of death

Remember that timing may vary depending on your circumstances. If this was an unexpected death, it may take longer to access all the required information to begin the final arrangements. This is another reason why planning early is important.

Immediately Following The Death Of A Loved One

The first task on your list will be to obtain a legal pronouncement of death. If your loved one died in a hospital, a staff member will provide you with a pronouncement of death form.

The process is different for deaths that occur in the home. You will need to call a medical professional to pronounce them deceased.

Next, you want to alert friends and family of the death. Send out text messages or share on social media to spread the word. Remember to take a careful approach during this step. Use your judgment to determine the best way of informing those who need to know.

What To Do Within The First Week Of Losing A Loved One

The first week can be a whirlwind of emotions and roadblocks without a proper plan in place. Here are some steps you can take to better manage your priorities.

Make funeral arrangements
Your loved one may have recommended what they wish for their last requests. This may include burial and estate planning. Contact their funeral home, make the burial arrangements and determine if there was a prepaid burial plan in place.

If your loved one did not share their last wishes, it might be best to reach out to close family or friends for assistance. Research funeral prices and outline the expected costs. Then, determine how you will pay for the funeral. The Department of Veterans Affairs offers burial benefits for qualified individuals.

Report death to Social Security and other government agencies
The funeral home usually reports a person’s death. If you need to report it yourself, you’ll need to call the Social Security office at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Obtain certified copies of death certificate
You can contact the Vital Records office of the state where your loved one died to obtain copies of the death certificate. You’ll need the certified death certificate to file insurance claims and access bank accounts. You can request at least 5-10 copies of the death certificate. It all depends on the number of assets that your loved one held.

Identify all assets and liabilities
You typically need certified copies of the death certificate to claim assets that may be in your loved one’s name. Here are a few types of assets that you may need to inquire about:

  • Deeds and titles
  • Insurance policies
  • Safety deposit boxes
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Employer benefits
  • Retirement assets

You probably won’t be responsible for any outstanding debt that your loved one left behind. If you co-signed on any type of asset or debt that has gone unpaid, you may be responsible. Many in the family mistake debt as “inherited” when this is not always the case. Money from the estate is used to pay the debt. State laws on inheriting debt may vary, but liabilities commonly go unpaid if there isn’t enough from the estate to pay the debt.

File insurance claims
Reach out to your loved one’s life insurance provider to submit a claim. Here’s the standard process:

  • Contact the insurance company and inform them about the death.
  • The insurance provider will send a packet of forms and instructions to follow.
  • Submit the death certificate and completed forms.
  • The insurer usually pays claims within 30 to 60 days of receiving all requested information.

Determine if there was a will
A will can help you determine how assets should be allocated. It can also help you manage any other requests that your loved one may have had. This includes identifying the executor of your loved one’s estate. The executor is the person appointed to carry out the instructions of the will.

Here are some items to consider:

  • An executor files the will with the probate court. You can consult with an estate attorney for guidance. An executor typically has a limited number of dates to submit this. Check with your probate court for more information.
  • Wills become public record once they have been processed through the County Clerk’s office.
  • The executor must notify the appropriate authorities about the death.

If your loved one died without a will, your state law will determine how assets are managed.

Within The First Month Of Losing A Loved One

There are steps of action that should be taken within the first month following the loss of a loved one. These can vary, depending on how much was prepared initially and where the loved one passed. However, this is a great baseline to follow if you’re unsure.

Close bank and brokerage accounts.
Identify all financial accounts in your loved one’s name. Notify the institutions about the death and provide a certified copy of the death certificate. They will release the funds to the beneficiaries on the account.

Send copies of the death certificate to major credit agencies.
The three major credit-reporting agencies in the U.S. are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Report your loved one’s death to the credit agencies to prevent any fraudulent activity. You can find their contact information by visiting the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer information.

Terminate memberships and subscriptions that are not in use.
Check mail, email and bank statements to identify gym memberships or digital subscriptions that need to be canceled. Have account or member ID numbers handy to expedite the process.

Terminate health insurance policies.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to file a claim with your health insurance to ensure the policy has been closed upon the death of a loved one. Contacting the insurance agency should be the best way to get in contact with the claims department and start this process.

Settling a loved one’s outstanding financial debts.
Repaying debts falls on the deceased person’s estate. This is not the responsibility of a particular family member. However, the executor or power of attorney is responsible for paying these debts using money from the estate. This is done by selling assets or using any other funds provided by the estate.

Notify the election office of death.
Notifying the election office of a death does not fall on you directly, as a family member of the deceased. Once you’ve filed for a death certificate, this record is then used to remove deceased participants from the voter registration list.

Who Gets The $255 Social Security Death Benefit?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides a lump-sum payout of $255 to qualified individuals following the death of a loved one. In order to receive this benefit, you must first apply by calling the Social Security office at 800-772-1213. The following individuals may qualify if they meet criteria outlined by the SSA:

  • Surviving spouse
  • A widow
  • A surviving divorced spouse
  • An eligible child

What Happens To A Person’s Estate After They Die?

If your loved one has an estate plan, it can save you or a loved one from financial loss or litigation on settling an estate. The estate plan helps families determine what happens after a loved one dies. It typically includes the following items:

  • Will
  • Executor
  • Healthcare directives
  • Beneficiary designations

If there is no estate plan, you’ll need to consult state law for details on who receives assets. Generally, it passes to parents, spouse, children or other relatives.

The Bottom Line

Saying goodbye to a loved one is difficult enough without the stress of sorting through paperwork. The best course of action is to identify the most important steps in the process and move forward from there. Take time to review wills, estate plans and life insurance policies. Don’t forget to seek out help and use the resources available to you. Consult family members and experts to avoid managing the process on your own.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Where to Write for Vital Records.

Federal Trade Commission consumer information. (2021). Free credit reports.

National Conference of State Legislatures. (2021). Voter registration list maintenance

Social Security Administration. (2021). If you are the survivor. (2021). Find my state or local election office website.

Complete Article HERE!

End-of-life conversations can be hard, but your loved ones will thank you

You can start these conversations simply, like saying, “I need to think about the future. Can you help me?”


Death – along with taxes – is one of life’s few certainties. Despite this inevitability, most people dread thinking and talking about when, how or under what conditions they might die.

They don’t want to broach the topic with family, either, for fear of upsetting them. Ironically, though, talking about death “early and often” can be the greatest gift to bestow on loved ones.

As a sociologist who has studied end-of-life issues for more than two decades, I’ve learned that people know they should talk about death honestly and openly, but surprisingly few do. In fact, one recent study showed that while 90% of adults say that talking to their loved ones about their end-of-life wishes is important, only 27% have actually had these conversations.

It’s frightening to think about our own suffering, or our loved ones’ distress. But everyone should talk about and prepare for death precisely because we want to minimize our own suffering at the end of life, and soften the anguish of loved ones left behind.

No time to plan

These conversations are more urgent now than ever, as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how Americans die.

For the past several decades, most adults have died from chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer and lung disease. The time between diagnosis and death for people with these conditions can be months or even years. That gives patients and their families ample time to share their feelings, resolve unfinished business, and make practical preparations for death – including estate planning, advance care planning and even planning a celebration of life that bears the dying patient’s creative imprint.

But when the pandemic struck in 2020, COVD deaths began to occur quickly and unexpectedly, with many patients dying just days after they felt their first symptoms. Their families were robbed of final moments together and often had no documents in place to guide the patient’s health care or the distribution of their possessions. This suddenness, isolation and lack of preparedness all are hallmarks of a “bad death” for both the patient and their family.

What to cover

Advance care planning, which typically involves a living will and a health care proxy, allows people to articulate which medical treatments they want or don’t want at the end of life.

A living will formally articulates preferences for care, such as whether to use comfort measures like hospice and palliative care, or more invasive measures like feeding tubes and ventilators. Documenting these preferences when the patient is still able to make those decisions helps to ensure they die on their own terms – a cornerstone of the “good death.”

Appointing a health care proxy when still relatively young and healthy gives people an opportunity to decide who will be tasked with their end-of-life decision-making. It also clarifies loved ones’ responsibilities and can fend off arguments that could arise around the deathbed. Having these discussions early also prevents panicked choices when someone’s health takes a dramatic turn for the worse.

A woman and her older mother sit on a porch, drinking coffee.
End-of-life conversations can ease suffering for families, not just patients.

End-of-life discussions also help you to construct your own legacy. In “Death and Identity,” a classic book in death studies, sociologist Robert Fulton observed that “preserving rather than losing … personal identity” is a critical aspect of the dying process. Being treated like a “whole person” is a core component of a good death, and honest discussions are a key to maintaining your unique identity, even at the end of life.

Conversations also help us share how we’d like to be celebrated after we’re gone. This might be as simple as dictating the music, food, and photo or video displays for a memorial service; where to spread ashes; or charities for mourners to support. Some people take more ambitious steps at leaving behind a legacy, such as penning an autobiography or leaving behind videos for relatives. Creating a “post-self” that lingers years after the body has died can be a cherished gift to families.

Getting started

Broaching these conversations can be awkward or unnerving, but it doesn’t have to be. Death is a natural and inevitable part of life and should be approached as such. I have argued that the end of life is a stage, just as childhood, adolescence and old age are.

Each stage teaches lessons for the others that lie ahead.

Children learn skills in school that they’ll need to enter the workforce. Teens learn how to navigate romantic relationships as preparation for the future. Adults of all ages can learn about hospice and end-of-life medical care, make preparations for passing on their inheritance and discuss how they’d like to be honored in death. These steps can help attain an end of life marked by peace and self-directedness, rather than strife and the loss of autonomy.

An older Black woman writes as she sits at a dining room table in front of a china cabinet.
Recording memories and ideas for a memorial service can help you craft your own legacy.

Ample resources are available to guide these conversations. Organizations like The Conversation Project – not related to The Conversation – have created guides for productive end-of-life discussions. Advance care planning documents ranging from living wills to the “Five Wishes” program, which helps clarify people’s values about how they’d like to spend their final days, can be a good starting point.

A simple introduction like “I need to think about the future. Will you help me?” is a good icebreaker. And the first conversation eases the path to future chats, because changes in physical health, family relations and mental sharpness may necessitate revisions in end-of-life plans.

By discussing these issues during calm times, such as after a holiday get-together or birthday dinner, we can feel prepared and empowered as we and our families approach the inevitable.

Complete Article HERE!