Fairhaven Blog

Things of interest around Fairhaven.

No Regrets, Please

- Friday, June 20, 2014

Regret. It’s one of life’s most uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, emotions. When we wish we had done something differently, but can’t go back and change it, we are likely to feel regret. In my position here at Fairhaven, I frequently encounter people that feel regretful. Perhaps most common is the feeling that they have not spent enough time with a loved one.

But another whole category of regret involves decisions people wish they had made earlier in life. For example, I encounter widows who wish they had taken time to understand their finances before their husbands passed away. I meet widowers who regret putting off trips they always talked about, but never found time to take before their wives became ill.  For some, the regret involves not moving to a retirement community, or just downsizing into a smaller, more manageable home. The list goes on and on.

The lesson learned here is that we should not wait too long to make decisions that will shape the last years of our lives. Perhaps the best time to evaluate these decisions is when retirement is looming. This is the time when questions need to be raised about what you -- as a couple or an individual -- want to do in the years ahead. Where will you live? Is your estate plan set? Will your heirs have a huge tax burden because you didn’t do enough estate planning? Are there trips on your bucket list? Are you working with advisors to guide your decisions -- an attorney, CPA and financial advisor?

Of course, I also hear regret related to not planning ahead for funerals.  People who take the time to talk among themselves, including with their adult children, are usually much less stressed when the time comes for the arrangements. Naturally, they are grieving, but much of the stress is gone.

Many people find it difficult to talk about death, especially their own. I’ve found that conversations about funeral pre-planning are naturally prompted by attending a funeral. Actually, any ceremony, even a wedding, can lead to these kinds of conversations. And these conversations are so useful, resolving issues such as do I want to have a ground burial, entombment or cremation? Do I want a large or intimate ceremony? Do I have a passion or hobby that can be added to the arrangements that fits my own personality? For example, I have a collection of fine wines and I’ve made it known I’d like the collection to be opened and enjoyed at my funeral. Without my planning in advance, I doubt anyone would know this was my intention. But now that I’ve planned, I’m sure my farewell will be the kind of party that I, personally, would enjoy – with friends and family swapping stories and fabulous wines  flowing. 

Whenever you are ready to consider funeral pre-planning, feel free to visit our website for a little help: http://www.fairhavenmemorial.com/learn/advance-planning.htm 

Beyond The Casket: Why Mass-Market Planning May Not Be the Best Option

- Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When the time comes to say goodbye and honor a loved one, it’s never easy, especially when a death is unexpected. In such situations, families are often thrust into the harsh reality of having to make arrangements while still overwhelmed with the grief and sadness that accompany mourning the loss of a loved one.

At times, the emotional stress family members feel can be virtually unbearable, and the search for peace can be challenging. I’ve been in the funeral business for many years, and remain convinced that grief is a process people go through at various rates. It’s my belief that the grieving process is not something that can be sped up, but it can be eased, allowing the therapeutic effects of real healing to emerge with greater impact.

One way to deal with grief is to allow it to run its natural course. Family members should be fair to themselves and to one another.  They should allow for mourning. Far too often, however, I’ve seen families scurrying to make burial and other arrangements – logistical concerns that may be necessary and understandable, but don’t allow for much in the way of needed time for healing.

It may be wise to give some thought to funeral planning before the immediate need arises. Not only will you be able to address a challenging topic with great sensitivity, but you’ll do so free of the emotional turmoil that so often permeates the death of a loved one.

Clearly, planning a funeral is a complicated process – but it doesn’t have to be. Mortuaries strive to help families with the decisions and arrangements that make for a unique and meaningful remembrance. Every family’s budget and cultural traditions are different, and a trustworthy and reputable professional will make a world of difference during the grieving process. Be open with and trust your funeral director to help you make the right choice for your family, so you can focus on what’s important: reflecting and honoring the life of a loved one – as well as your own healing.

One of the many ways to honor a loved one is with an appropriate casket. I’ve noticed that some “big box” stores are suggesting the separation of a casket purchase from the rest of the funeral planning. They advertise this as some kind of cost-saver but it may actually complicate the funeral planning process. 

The casket is just one piece of a delicate puzzle and when chosen in isolation, it’s rarely a smart decision. And, contrary to the opinions of some, it’s not a more cost-effective option.

The biggest problem in buying a casket from a retail store is that the seller is not a funeral director knowledgeable about the care, preparation and burial or cremation of the deceased. He/she likely is not experienced in working with families to create the overall funeral experience. Often, retailers are not licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, which means less consumer protection for the purchase of these caskets.

I caution families about “ordering” funerals from a la carte menus. Each part of the process – from the casket and preparation, to the service and burial or cremation – needs to be developed together. It’s ideal when the process is pre-planned. But even families who must make decisions suddenly and quickly will do best by viewing the process holistically, not individual components to piece together.

In the end, saying goodbye is never easy. A meaningful service can help bring closure and comfort to a grieving family. Seek a warm and caring funeral director to help you create a perfect service. He or she understands the complexities of the funeral-planning process, which, when done correctly, can allow family and friends to celebrate and honor a loved one’s life.

Now Serving...Compassion

- Friday, March 30, 2012

Today's post is by Fairhaven Service Director Kristina Kindred. Every day, Kristina is on the front lines assisting families with their services and helping them within that context with whatever they may need to ease the loss of their loved one. She sees firsthand how grief affects people and how what we do at Fairhaven helps them through a difficult time. She truly understands and exemplifies Fairhaven's core values of integrity, fairness, compassion and excellence and applies them when working with families every day. ~ Charity Gallardo, Blog Coordinator

In the almost eleven years that I have been a licensed Embalmer and Funeral Service Director with Fairhaven Memorial Park and Mortuary, I have met hundreds of people at a very difficult transitional time in their lives. Through these experiences, I developed my own personal mission statement when working with grieving families. As a Service Director, I strive to bring comfort and closure to my families by facilitating the funeral ceremony in a professional and thorough manner. I do this through coordinating and accommodating all types of funeral traditions with a heart and attitude of service.

Amongst the Directors, we have a saying, “Funerals are just like weddings… we only have one opportunity to make it perfect." In reality, we can get married many times, but usually we are only buried once as funerals are a one time affair. Creating the perfect service entails a few key areas that the Service Director must be diligent about.

Meeting with the Family Service Counselor to go over the families’ expectations and basic service details in regards to the funeral arrangement is always our first priority. We often discuss such aspects as the proper religious affiliation and funeral set-up, musical selections for preludes and postludes, whether there will be live music or pre-recorded cd, soloists or bagpipers. Will there be a DVD memorial presentation or video taping of the ceremony? Other important details that impact the flow of the service are Military Honors, memorabilia displays, guest speakers, reception invitations and processionals. All these things must be managed and coordinated in order for the service to run smoothly. Then there are the minute details of visiting the gravesite prior to the service to determine the best route and proper placement of floral tributes.

Each of these things may seem insignificant by themselves, but if you don’t properly identify ALL of the aspects of each service, and any single detail is out of whack, the family may be unintentionally dismayed. In this respect, all my efforts come down to making certain that each of my families are pleased with the ceremony that they have designed to honor their loved one and in turn helping them along their grief process.

Upon my first meeting with the family, I try to express my concern and offer my support. It’s common to feel awkward when trying to comfort those who are grieving. Many times it is difficult to find the right words, even in my position. I have often been asked by guests attending a funeral, “What is the right thing to say to the family?” I’ve learned that there is nothing we can say to make it all better; we can only be present to offer our support, a kind word or a sweet memory.

Not knowing the deceased or the family personally may seem problematic at first look but in all honesty, I feel as though it has been much more difficult to keep up professional appearances when directing a service for someone I know. We are not robots and on many occasions I have shed a tear during services for those that I have not known. My goal is always to make my family comfortable and I have found that the best way to accomplish this is by going over the order of service with the main family contact before the guests begin arriving. This way, I can make any necessary changes and put our family at ease. Knowing the series of events and how they are going to happen is the best way to relieve the stress associated with the planning and execution of the funeral ceremony.

After quickly breaking down the service it is important to ask the family if there is anything else we can do for them. I offer simple things like a bottle of water, a box of tissues or give out the location of the restroom facilities. These simple gestures can easily make an enormous difference to someone experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions associated with the grief process.

 Helping our families to arrange the memorabilia displays that have become so popular in the last few years is probably the highlight of my work. Looking through the photo collages and memorial DVD presentations along with the particular items that the family has selected to memorialize their beloved helps us to get to know our guest of honor in a small way. On occasion, these items have been unusual and extremely large. We have displayed giant 10 foot tall framed collage of decades old love letters from the World War I era. I’ve helped to guide a top fuel dragster through the side doors of our chapel to display in front of the casket. But the largest and most memorable item I have personally assisted in displaying had to be an entire life size hang glider inside of our Waverley Chapel. The hang glider was the epitome of their loved one’s adventurous life. It was very important for it to be present at the service so measurements were taken, logistics discussed and a team of friends carried in and re-built the hang glider inside our chapel. All of the guests were shocked and amazed to see the actual glider in all of its glory right in front of them.

At the conclusion of this service, as the Director, I had to go forward to the podium to make several important announcements and begin the dismissal. The wing of the glider protruded into the sound booth and essentially blockaded me inside this area. There was no way around it as I needed to operate the DVD system to show a memorial video which included wonderful home videos of the adventurer and hang glider in flight.

When the time came to make the necessary announcements, in front of an overflowing crowd of more than two hundred attendees, I got down on my hands and knees and crawled underneath the wing of the hang glider with as much dignity as I could muster. I stood up and paused to re-adjust my jacket and unexpectedly received a raucous round of applause for my efforts. During the dismissal, many of the guests sought me out to express their appreciation and how much it meant to them to be a part of such an unforgettable memorial service for their friend and loved one. After the glider had been taken apart and hauled away, and all the guests had departed, the family expressed to me how pleased they were with all that we had done for them and thanked me with hugs all around.

Sometimes I still gauge the satisfaction of my families on whether they want to hug me or not. I know not all folks are huggers and many of my friends will tell you that I am not considered a “hugger”, but in our line of work, often a hug is the simplest expression of support or gratitude. Essentially, doing my job to the best of my abilities by creating the perfect service is the way I can make an impact in the lives of our families and help them along their journey through the grief process.

Taking Back the Holidays -by Cynthia Adair

- Friday, November 25, 2011

The first year after the loss of a loved one is the most difficult…it is a year of “firsts”…the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first birthday, without that person.

The first year after the loss of my mother we struggled to maintain family traditions…my sister and I tried our best to recreate the holidays that my mother loved so much…but without her there, they seemed lacking.

The next year was a little better…as we began to combine the best of my mother’s customs with some of our own…this was the year we added Blue cheese and bacon to the Thanksgiving mash potatoes and had Mimosas on Christmas morning.

This past year we were able to find humor in remembering things my mother did…her 4th of July themed tables and the jars of peanuts she put in our stockings. My sister and I can now laugh at each other as we are “becoming our mother”…I show up at her house with dessert and always bring holiday plates and napkins even though I know she has a stockpile of them from years past and she puts labels in the dishes on the Thanksgiving table so we know what to put where…and both of these things are exactly what my mother did.

I know that there are things that we will always do…things just like our mother did…but now the holidays are once again a time to celebrate as well as to remember.

This year as my family gets together…we will be embracing our old traditions and incorporating some new ones…there will be good food, family, and lots of laughter…as those are the things my mother loved best about the holidays!

Funeral Planning, Your Budget, and You

- Tuesday, August 23, 2011

For many families, the need to plan a funeral comes unexpectedly. Complex decisions must be made at a most difficult time, and the cost of funeral services plays a large role in the planning process. Not surprisingly, most people are under the impression that funeral services cost more than they really do.

How much does a funeral actually cost?  What is a reasonable price range for a dignified, appropriate tribute for the person who has died?

No two funerals are alike, and your personal preferences might make the cost higher (or lower) than average. Overall, your final cost will be determined by three important considerations:

1. The services you select

2. The cost of caskets, vaults, urns and other items

3. Clergy, honorarium, obituary costs, flowers and other incidentals that can add to the services.

We offer many services that help make a funeral a personalized, dignified and healing experience. Some families choose one or two of these, while others choose more. You might prefer a traditional funeral, or an alternative type of service. Memorial services are available at our funeral home, or at a place that has special meaning. There are choices concerning burial or other forms of interment, including cremation. Your decisions will determine the final cost, but you may be assured that we will give you detailed estimates for any of the options you choose.

The funeral products we make available give you a wide range of choices in style, and in price. Your tastes may lean toward simplicity, or something more elaborate. For example, if you choose a traditional funeral with interment, you will need to purchase a burial vault and casket.  Families who prefer cremation will usually purchase an urn to hold the cremated remains. These may then be retained, interred, scattered, or placed in a columbarium niche. Various costs are associated with each of these options.

If you have preplanned the funeral, the choices we have discussed above will already be made, and you will have received a complete list of all costs involved. For this reason, we encourage families to consider funeral preplanning, because you will make these important decisions at your leisure, when you have time to reflect on just the kind of funeral you want, and just how much you wish to pay. Prepaying the funeral service also protects your family from those unanticipated expenses we mentioned earlier.

How much does a funeral really cost? To assist in your planning, we can provide a list of prices for many of the basic services that most families select. Please be assured that we welcome your questions about our services and prices. Do not hesitate to discuss funeral costs with us. We believe you have a right to know exactly what costs are involved in the services you choose.

What Would Your Funeral Look Like

- Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I know that people tend to plan their funeral in advance when they have been to a good funeral or a very bad funeral. Yes, there is such a thing as a bad funeral. Not the right things done, said, planned.

I remember sitting with a family once and the minister asked if the family had any words they wanted to say about their loved one. No one had planned what to say and therefore no one got up to speak. I knew that there was much to say about this man who had lived a full life and was deeply loved by his family. His death was unexpected and they were not prepared. They did not know what he wanted for a funeral.

I have seen many great funerals where families came together and used what the decedent had planned or had the ability to focus on creating a great funeral. There is no one way to define a great funeral.  A quiet person who does not like parties and does not socialize much would not typically plan a funeral with loud music and a reception afterward. I, on the other hand, would like Led Zeppelin, a bag piper, a dove release, Good and Plenties (my favorite candy) and a reception with a lot of wine at my funeral. And, by the way, I've written some of my Eulogy. Hopefully, there will be much more added.

I encourage everyone to write down their wishes and let their family know what they want. You can pay for the funeral in advance. Typically funeral homes will help you with this and help you put the money in either a trust or funeral insurance. Set aside pictures that you would like people to see at the funeral and let people know what kind of music you want. Planning your funeral will help your family and make difficult choices much easier.

Coping in the Holidays - NFDA article

- Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year can be both joyful and stressful. While we often find warmth and comfort in our family traditions, for someone who has recently experienced the death of a loved one, family traditions can make their grief all the more poignant, and tackling the season’s “to dos” can seem an impossible chore. But there are things that can be done to help those that grieve cope with the holidays.

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) offers the following suggestions for those grieving this holiday season:
Take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. The pace of the holiday season can wear anyone out, but carrying the weight of loss on your shoulders can amplify your stress. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating properly, and taking time for yourself.

Unburden yourself when and where it’s possible. If participating in traditions brings you comfort, by all means do so, but don’t be afraid to curb how much you take on this season. For example, perhaps you can be a guest at the family holiday party rather than hosting it this year.

Create a holiday plan. Decide which family traditions you want to take part in this year and plan out your participa¬tion. A plan can help you avoid getting caught off guard by unexpected activi¬ties or tasks.

Share your memories with others. The holidays surround us with fond memories. Don’t be reluctant to talk about those memories, and the special person who died by name. Sharing memories of your loved one with others can help ebb the loneliness you may be feeling.
Above all else, do what’s right for you. Your family and friends care about you and will most likely offer advice on what you should do. However, you are the only one that can fully understand what you need to make it through the holidays. Take time to outline your needs, then share your plans with your family and friends. Keeping your expectations realistic and letting yourself rely on family and friends will help you through your holiday grief.

For additional information visit www.nfda.org or contact a local NFDA funeral director about holiday aftercare programs. NFDA funeral homes around the country are participating in a national consumer education campaign, For A Life Worth Celebrating™, in an effort to help consumers make wise and informed decisions related to funeral service.

NFDA is the leading funeral service association, serving more than 20,300 funeral directors who represent more than 12,200 funeral homes in the United States and other countries.

Grief Support Groups - Why or Why Not?

- Friday, January 22, 2010

“I didn’t want to go to a grief support group,” a young lady who lost her husband in a car accident admits to the group.

“You know, I didn’t want to go either,” this time from a dignified woman in her sixties, who had lost her husband several years ago.

The rest of the group is quiet, yet they are all nodding their heads, as if in agreement. All of the group seems glad to be part of the group. They all share, and they all get an affirmation of their feelings.

I am confused by the fear or avoidance of a grief support group, however. I hear these types of comments so frequently. Why would you not ask for help? Most groups are either free or some nominal dollar amount. So what is the reason? I started to think about all of the reasons I have heard from people to avoid this type of help;

"I didn’t want other people to see me cry."

"I did not want to be reminded of my feelings, because it hurt too much."

"I thought I should be able to figure this out on my own."

"My family will help me to get through this."

"I will get over this eventually."

There are probably many other reasons for not going to a grief support group. However, I look at these reasons and my heart goes out to all of the people not getting help for their grief. There is no cure, no magic solution or any words that will make the pain stop. However, there are people out there who will listen to your story, share their story, and help you through a difficult time with their support and caring. So, I will give my arguments to all of those reasons I listed for why you would not go to a grief support group.

1) It is okay for people to see you cry. They will probably be crying also. Sometimes, there is nothing better than to have a good cry with someone else who understands.

2) Suppressing your feelings can be very harmful to your health, and can keep you from going through the grief process, which is a natural process for all of us. Acknowledging your feelings, and expressing them can be helpful.

3) I thought I should be able to figure this out on my own. If we broke our leg, we would go to a doctor. Why shouldn’t we seek help when our heart is broken?

4) My family will help me to get through this. Sometimes your family is trying to get through their own grief, and can’t help you. It is not their fault. Grief is a difficult emotion, and can affect us in many different ways.

5) I will get over this eventually. Sometimes we never do, for many reasons. While I have been at Fairhaven, I have received many unusual calls. I will never forget a call from a young lady who’s mother died seven years before this phone call. She wanted to be sure that there was a marker on her mother’s grave. She had been unable to visit the cemetery for all of those years. I wanted to help her with her grief, however, she did not seem to be reaching out to help herself.

So many people minimize the impact that grief can have on our lives. It is a very powerful emotion. The closer you were to the person you’ve lost, the greater the impact. There are usually so many wonderful people who can help you. Reach out, and grab a hand. Go to a grief support group. There are so many to pick from. If one is wrong for you, try another. You may meet some nice people, as well. Ask for help. You will be glad you did.

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