Monday, January 28, 2013

I Still Wear Your Heart, Cyrene

August 19... should have marked as your 20th birthday. Barely two years ago, you broke my heart into pieces when we lost you to a tragic vehicular incident. I could still remember the day when we will send you away to your new world. I couldn't get across the street to watch you and we send you off to your new world... The pain was unbearable.

I, instead of going inside the funeral home, stood across the street, crying, as I have never cried so hard in my life. The tears blinded me, as I watched every second and bid my goodbye to you silently.

Then suddenly, a miracle happened, as I was about to see your coffin brought down from the stairs of the funeral home, I glimpsed on a shiny thing on the soil, setting just below on my left foot. My attention was caught on a small shiny thing, so I picked it up and it distracted me from witnessing you finally brought down and placed in the funeral car to be brought to the cathedral for your mass.

It was a final moment of bidding goodbye. Just then, I picked up that shiny little object, it turned out to be a silver pendant heart, a sign probably telling me that our tie was sealed by a heart forever.

I thank you silently in my heart for reminding me that despite the fact that you have returned to your Maker, you never failed to give me a sign of your sweet self by leaving a little white, silver pendant heart. I treasure it until today, I placed it in my silver bracelet and wore it even when I sleep, to keep you near me, all the days of my life.

Nobody could ever understand the pain I was into. I could not even describe it myself. It was so intense,that for months, I refused to believe that you are gone. I never had the courage to see you lie in your final bed.

But there are reasons for these things around us. It was the time I realized that God was so kind to me, because, even if He did not bless me with a child, and because of your loss, God made me realized that having a child and losing it afterwards was the worst pain that a parent can experience,worst than death itself. Probably, had it been my loss, I could either die too or kill somebody.

Today came an invitation brought by your mother, to remember a sweet child. Yes, I still ponder... what could have happened if you have lived at 20, a full grown young woman. God has reasons... a way to tell me that you will be an angel for us, watching us constantly.

Monday, January 21, 2013

When Should You Add A Monument To A Loved One's Grave?

In most cases, the final step of laying a loved one to rest is placing a monument on their final resting place. For many, this gives them some sort of closure in knowing that they will always have a physical location to remember them by; for others, this is the hardest part of the whole process because there is something final about the decision. So, when is the right time to add a monument to the grave of your loved one?

Firstly, you should consider the religious customs of your family or of the person who has passed away. Whilst most religions don't actually specify when a monument should be placed on a grave, some (such as Judaism) will specify that a marker must be placed on the location as soon as possible so that others can identify the final resting place. Those of the Jewish faith believe that a monument should be placed on the grave no later than a year after the burial.

Secondly, you should consider the requirements of the cemetery that your loved one has been laid to rest in. Most will actually require a certain amount of time to pass before the monument can be erected, as this will allow the dirt that covers the grave time to settle. If the headstone is placed too early, it will shift and move as the dirt around it settles, even causing the marker to sink into the earth, which will require some attention to rectify.

Thirdly, you should consider your own personal grief and that of your family and friends. The loss of a loved one can be a very painful, stressful and grief-filled time for even the strongest of people; often, those responsible for the burial will put off finalizing the monument until they are able to mentally and emotionally handle the decisions. Some people also decide to wait so that they have time to choose a headstone that really represents their loved on.

Whilst there are a number of considerations that you should take into account when making the decision of when to place a monument on the grave of a loved one, it is ultimately up to you. Once you have decided that it is the right time to place a headstone on the grave, you will need to contact the person in charge of the cemetery to arrange having it erected at an appropriate time. Hopefully you will then feel at peace with the conclusion of the process.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Expressing Yourself When Someone Dies

One of this society's most taboo subjects is death. So, no wonder people have trepidation when it comes to attending funerals and expressing grief. If you have ever wondered what to say or do when a death occurs, keep reading.

What to Say:

    Say something. Silence is very hurtful to the grieving.

    Be compassionate and kind. This is not the time to air your grievances about the deceased or anyone else. Share a good memory or experience you have about the deceased.

    Keep it simple. "I'm sorry for your loss," is often enough. Don't go on and on. Remember that grieving people feel tired and emotionally spent. They cannot take in or process your emotions on top of their own.

    Be real. There are no magic words in situations surrounding a death. Don't think you have to say the "right" words to remove someone's grief. Grieving takes time. No special words will speed the process.

    Avoid mystical words. "He's in Heaven now" might be comforting to some, but not to everyone. Remember that when a death occurs, those left behind have very heightened emotions. Even well-intended messages can seem offensive. So, unless you know that mystical words will bring comfort, stick to a hug and an "I'm sorry."

    Don't speak in cliches. "Time heals all wounds," "she lived a long life," "at least his suffering has ended," "you'll love again," "God needed another angel." Such cliches seem trite to grieving people.

    Avoid advice. "You need to get on with your life." "When my mother died, I... " These types of offerings are not helpful. You simply cannot fix someone else's grief, so do not try. Each story is unique.

    Remember the Golden Rule. Say to others what you would hope someone would say to you. Empathy goes a long way.

What to Do at a Funeral:

    Attend if you knew the deceased or one or more members of the family. The purpose of a funeral is to show support and compassion for those left behind and/or to show respect and honor to the one who died. Don't attend out of morbid curiosity, to air your grievances, or accomplish some hidden agenda.

    View the body at the visitation or funeral to help get closure and to say goodbye. Yes, it may be uncomfortable, but death is a natural part of life and something we all need to accept. If you really cannot bring yourself to view the body, then don't.

    Leave the front rows at the funeral services or all the chairs at a graveside service for family members. This is a sign of respect.

    Turn on your headlights in a funeral procession.
    Sign the register so the family will know you attended.
    Offer your respect, condolences, and affection to the family.
    Contribute to the memorial if you are able.
    Send flowers if you want to, but notice if the family requests memorial contributions instead of flowers and be respectful of that request.
    If the obituary states that the funeral is private, don't go unless you are specifically invited to do so.

What to Do Before & After:

    Send a card. Do not email your condolences. And, do not express your condolences on social media alone.

    Listen. If the bereaved seeks you out, try to offer a supportive ear. Don't try to talk them out of their grief. Just pay attention and express your compassion for them.

    Offer to house relatives if you have extra bedrooms.

    Send food and paper products. Funerals bring a host of out-of-town company. Extra groceries are appreciated. Remember things like fruits and vegetables as often times, casseroles are in abundance. Bring food in disposable and freezeable, containers, so the family doesn't have the extra burden of returning dishes. Toilet paper, napkins, and paper towels are another good idea and an added expense for the family.

    Offer help after guests leave town. Take home the towels and bedding to wash. Offer to dust or vacuum or clean bathrooms. You also can address and stamp the thank-you card envelopes.

    Mean it when you offer help. Don't just say, "Call me if you need anything." Check in a few days after the services and ask what you can do to be helpful, and even suggest a few ways.

    Invite the bereaved to join you for a movie, dinner, tea..anything that can serve as a friendly distraction and a needed break.Grieving is lonely.

    Be patient. Grieving takes time. Normal grieving can take six months to two years depending on the relationship to the deceased. It cannot be hurried.

Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Cope With the Sudden Death of a Parent

In my early months as a counsellor, a young woman came to see me for help in handling her relationships with partners. I'll call this client "Margaret". She was the elder of two girls and was extremely close to her mother, but less so to her father. Some of her difficulties with partners stemmed from the fact that she was not close to her father and lacked a strong male role model.

I received a phone call one day to inform me that Margaret's mother had died in her sleep. She was 48 years old and in good health. There had been absolutely no warning.

Two days later I saw Margaret for her regular counselling session. She behaved normally and when I asked how she was coping, she told me she was "fine". While I knew this could not be the case, I found it impossible to engage with Margaret over her mother's death. She was, of course, in a stage of denial; her mother's death was too terrible to believe, so she was denying the reality to herself.

I am using this case to illustrate how inadequately our society sometimes deals with death. While the entire family rallied to organize the funeral and support the bereaved husband, Margaret's father and closest relatives avoided talking with her about her mother. They failed to recognize that Margaret was traumatized by her death.

Sadly this is not an uncommon reaction. At a loss to know what to say or how to help a bereaved person, many people say nothing. Equally unhelpful (although the intention is good) are comments such as "I know how you feel".

Life is never the same once a parent dies and the most important thing, especially for a young person, is to identify people around you such as trusted family members or friends with whom you can talk about your parent. You need to find ways to express your feelings, whatever they are.

Different stages of grief have been documented, but in my experience when a parent dies the child can experience a vast range of emotions, in any order, and often several emotions at the same time. It is normal to feel anger and guilt as well as sadness. My suggestions for coping include:

    accepting all your conflicting and overwhelming emotions
    spending time with people you feel understand, at least in part
    taking time out, from school or work
    writing about your feelings in a journal
    as life settles down, writing a letter to your parent to say goodbye
    collecting all your special photos together and making an album

Rituals are important and I have encouraged clients over the years, when a parent has died, to consider what they would like to do to honour them. In the case of a sudden death, this is all the more important. I mentioned writing a letter to say goodbye; this has been a powerful and healing experience for many clients, even if they were reluctant to do so initially.

Finally, my advice would be to be kind to yourself and to accept that what you have experienced is a traumatic event. Your life, as you knew it, will be changed and you need to take as much time as you need to mourn and grieve, as you adjust to living without your parent.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cemetery Burial Vaults: History, Purpose and Explanation

When someone is buried, the family is often required to purchase a burial vault or liner. Unfortunately, the family is often unfamiliar with these terms, which can be a huge disadvantage when trying to make an informed buying decision. The information provided here will allow you to select the burial vault or liner most appropriate for your needs.

A Brief History of the Cemetery Burial Vaults

Burial vaults were a solution to an age-old problem of the sinking or collapsing of the earth, underneath the weight of equipment, vehicles or even persons, due to the loss of the integrity of the casket while buried underground.

Early attempts at providing some sort of protection to keep the graves from collapsing, included lining the grave walls with stone or brick and placing a piece of slate on top. Later, vaults were designed and manufactured specifically for this purpose.

You will find that different styles of vaults were used at different periods of time and in different geographical areas. In general however, many U.S. cemeteries began using six piece or sectional vaults somewhere around the early 1900's. These six piece vaults were initially cut from slate and assembled in the open grave. They consisted of a bottom, four sides and a top; hence the name "six piece". Some variations had notches cut in the end pieces to keep the sides from pushing in, but the surrounding earth provided the majority of the stability for their design. Later, these slate vaults were replaced with six piece concrete vaults.

During the 1920's and 1930"s, 2 piece concrete vaults were beginning to emerge and by the late 1930's, the six piece vault had to settle for almost a niche use. The two piece vault may have required the use of specialized equipment, but the installation time was substantially reduced and could now be completed by one person. I am aware of some sectional vaults still being used today however.

To this day, the possibility of the earth collapsing from a burial made years ago without a vault still remains and reminds us of the safety provided by such a product.

Are Cemetery Burial Vaults Required

While there is generally no state law that requires the use of cemetery burial vaults or cemetery liners, most cemeteries, require the use of a concrete vault or liner for all traditional interments, mainly for the reasons listed above. You will find cemeteries across the U.S. that have no such requirement, and make their use optional.

Many cemeteries today may also require the use of a burial vault for the interment of cremated remains, since the same principles hold true. While not as large as a traditional interment, the collapse of a grave used for cremation can have maintenance and safety concerns as well. The fact that there are numerous cremation interments in a relatively small area increases the impact on safety and appearance if vaults were not used.

Often times the cremated remains of a loved one will be buried in a shared grave, and may have to be removed for the burial of another family member and reburied with them. The use of a cremation burial vault insures the integrity of the remains during this process.

Why is a Cemetery Burial Vault Required?

When a burial is made and covered with dirt, there are certain loads placed upon the burial. A burial vault is specifically designed to withstand these loads, where as a casket alone is not. These loads are generally referred to as static loads, dynamic loads and impact loads.

A static load is the normal weight load that is placed on the burial vault by the weight of the ground that is above it. With today's burial practices, the static load on a burial can exceed 4000 pounds or two tons.

A dynamic load is a load that varies in intensity. A dynamic load can be caused by cemetery equipment, such as tractors and backhoes, passing over the grave. Today's larger cemetery equipment can weight in excess of 25,000 pounds.

An impact load can be caused by the use of a tamper during the back-filling operation, and can deliver a force that can exceed that of a static or dynamic load. Although this normally occurs for only a brief period of time, this type of load can be concentrated on a very small area.

Types of Burial Vaults

Cemetery burial vaults may be made from concrete, plastic and even metals. They may be designed as a box with a lid on top, or as a flat bottom with a dome-shaped top that seals at the bottom. Each manufacturer will extol the virtues of their design, but it has been my experience that most, quality manufactured vaults, will provide adequate protection against the loads that a burial will encounter.

Concrete vaults are generally provided in three different categories. The liner is a simple concrete box, which has no seal, and may or may not contain holes in the bottom in order to allow any water that may accumulate, to drain out. Then there is a sealed vault, which is a concrete box that may be painted or coated for aesthetics and to provide some water-resistance. The sealed vault will also have a butyl type gasket that provides a water-resistant seal between the lid and the box. Finally you have the lined and sealed vault. These concrete vaults contain the same properties as the sealed vault but add an additional inner and sometimes outer liner that is said to offer the greatest amount of protection. These inner and outer liners can be made from plastics, or metals and often time are very ornate adding to the visual appeal. Plastic and metal vaults offer similar level of protection within their product lines as well. It should be noted that the concrete vault industry makes a distinction between Burial Vaults and Burial Liners or Boxes. They only consider "vaults" as those in the lined and sealed category, everything else would be considered a grave liner, grave box or outer burial container.


Yep, you read it correctly. Some manufacturers will even offer a warranty with their burial vaults. I have read some of these warranties and they limit their liability to providing you with a replacement vault should there be any failure of the vault. Generally, the warranty is against defects in manufacturing and the intrusion of water, with some warranties extending out 80 years or more. You will have to decide for yourself if a warranty plays a role in your buying decision, as the only way you will be able to judge the quality of the vault would be by disinterment. Not something that is done on a regular basis.

Concrete vaults not only offer a measure of safety, they may also help to retain the integrity of the casket, as well as keep the earth from settling which assists the cemetery in its maintenance operations and helps to maintain a lasting beauty that would not be possible otherwise. While burial of the body or cremated remains should always be considered permanent, there are occasions when disinterment becomes necessary. The use of a burial vault when the interment was made can help ensure dignity during this process. Cemeteries generally do not require the use of a burial vault simply to sell you something, in fact there are many cemeteries that require the use of a burial vault and do not sell them at all. Burial vaults are required; to protect the integrity of the casket, for the safety of the visitor and the safety of cemetery personnel and equipment.