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How to Return Human Remains to the U.S. | About.com Death & Dying

How to Return Human Remains to the United States
The steps you should take if your loved one dies while traveling overseas

By Chris Raymond
Updated January 21, 2014


Planning a funeral service following the death of a loved one can prove challenging enough without the added burden of also arranging for the return of his or her body home from another country. Unfortunately, whether traveling or living abroad for business or pleasure, people do die unexpectedly far from home, and the next-of-kin must arrange for the repatriation of the body/human remains from the country in which the death occurred. This article details the steps you should take to return a deceased body to the United States for burial/interment if your loved dies while traveling overseas.

Help is Available
Whether you are traveling abroad with your loved one when the death occurs, or remain back in the United States and learn of it afterward, the first step is for the next-of-kin to contact a consular officer at the closest U.S. embassy or consulate in the country in which the death occurred. The “next-of-kin” is the person who possesses the nearest degree of relationship to the deceased, such as a spouse or domestic partner, a blood relative, or someone legally appointed to handle the affairs of the deceased.

Visit the U.S. State Department website, USEmbassy.gov, to find the necessary contact information for the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country in which the death occurred. Keep in mind that many countries are home to more than one U.S. embassy or consulate. The U.S. Department of State maintains four embassies in Russia, for example, nine embassies in China, and 13 embassies in Mexico, so you should contact a consular official in the city located nearest to where your loved one died for assistance. (And don’t worry: if the consular official you contact thinks a different embassy or consulate should help you, then he or she will redirect you.)

If the next-of-kin is located in the United States, he or she can also contact the U.S. State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services toll-free at 888-407-4747, or locally at 202-501-4444, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Time. For help outside of those hours, such as weeknights, weekends and/or holidays, the next-of-kin should call the U.S. Department of State at 202-647-4000 and ask to speak with the Overseas Citizens Services Duty Officer.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs
Once the next-of-kin has contacted an official at the Bureau of Consular Affairs, this individual will immediately offer various forms of assistance that will prove invaluable to the grieving family. Foremost, a U.S. consular official can provide information about the options and potential costs associated with repatriating the remains of the deceased to the United States. Navigating the often-complex regulations and laws governing the transport of human remains from one country to another can feel overwhelming for those grieving a death; the consular official can help make this process easier by conveying a family’s instructions to the appropriate individuals/offices abroad.

In addition, a U.S. consular official can inform you about how to transmit/transfer the funds necessary to return your loved one to the United States. Please understand that the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the embassy or consulate located in the country in which your loved one died, and the U.S. Department of State do not provide money to pay for the expenses incurred when repatriating the remains of your loved one to the United States. The surviving family must pay all expenses.

Next, when the deceased has no next-of-kin or legal representative present in the country in which he or she died, the U.S. consular official will assume responsibility for the deceased’s personal estate. Acting as a temporary “personal conservator,” the official will first collect the items owned by the deceased, such as clothing, jewelry, documents and paperwork, etc., and then create an inventory of these objects. After communicating with the next-of-kin or legal representative, the consular official will process these items per the instructions he or she receives.

Finally, as you might imagine, repatriating human remains to the United States from another country is subject to a myriad of laws and regulations. The disposition of the deceased individual is subject to both U.S. law and those of the country in which he or she died, as well as the customs requirements of both countries. An essential duty performed by a U.S. consular official is the preparation of the necessary paperwork to facilitate the shipment of the body/human remains to the United States.

Chief among these documents is the “Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad,” which is also called a “Consular Mortuary Certificate.” Based upon the death certificate issued in the country in which the death occurred, the “Consular Mortuary Certificate” provides, in English, essential information about the cause of death, and the disposition of the body/human remains and the deceased’s personal estate. The consular official can provide up to 20 certified copies of this document to the next-of-kin at no charge. Not only does the “Consular Report of Death of a U.S. Citizen Abroad” help ensure a smoother shipment of the body/human remains back to the United States, but U.S. courts also recognize this official document when settling estate cases.

Filed under death dying how to tips how to transport human remains funeral

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Talking to Children About Death | About.com Death & Dying

Talking to Children About Death

Suggestions to help your child understand and cope with the reality of death

By 

Updated December 04, 2013

Father holding daughter

Explaining death to a child is never an easy task.

Photo © altrendo images/Getty Images

Because of this, many parents and guardians wonder how to discuss the topic of death with a child when necessary, whether due to the loss of an immediate family member, close relative or a friend — or else caused by a tragedy elsewhere in the world that receives significant media coverage. Here are several suggestions to help your child better understand and cope with the reality of dying and death.

Be Honest and Direct
While you might feel tempted to use “softer” terms with your child when explaining the concept of death, you should avoid using euphemisms, especially with kids around age six or younger. Any parent who’s regretted telling a child sitting in the back seat of the car that they would arrive “soon” — only to hear “Are we there yet?” 60 seconds later — understands that young children often interpret what they are told literally. Thus, explaining the death of a grandparent by telling a child that he or she is “sleeping” or “went away on a long trip” will likely trigger additional questions, such as “When will he wake up?” or “When will she come back?”

In addition, being indirect about death can actually complicate your child’s grief responseby causing unnecessary fears as children continue to process what they are told. Using a euphemism such as “We lost Grandma,” for example, might make your son or daughter later worry that another loved one will disappear every time he or she hears someone is going away. Likewise, telling a child that a deceased family member is “taking a long nap” might make your child fearful whenever you tell him or her it is naptime.

Listen, Then Explain, Then Answer
Whether a loved one died following a long illness, for example, or perhaps unexpectedly because of a traffic accident, you should first ask your child what he or she knows about the situation. Children often perceive or sense surprisingly more than adults realize. By listening to what your child knows, or thinks he or she knows, you can then offer a brief account of the death that provides only as much detail as you feel your child needs or can absorb, while also addressing any of his or her initial questions or misperceptions.

A child’s ability to understand the concept of death varies with age, so you should explain death in an age-appropriate but honest manner. Generally, it should prove sufficient to tell a child aged six or younger that a person’s body “stopped working” and “could not be fixed.” Six- to 10-year-olds usually grasp the finality of death to some degree by now, but will often fear that death is a “monster” or somehow “contagious,” so your explanation should include reassurance that this will not occur. Those nearing their teens, or teenagers, will usually begin to understand the forever-nature of death, but also begin to ask life’s “big questions” about their mortality and the meaning of life.

After listening to your child and then offering an honest explanation of the situation, you should allow your child to ask you questions — if he or she feels like it. Younger children will typically ask questions of a practical nature, such as where the loved is right now or if pets also go to heaven. You should answer such questions honestly and patiently, and be prepared for your child to ask similar questions in the days and weeks ahead. Older kids, such as preteens and teens, might not ask any questions initially, but you should make it clear that you are available to talk if/whenever he or she wants.

Be the Parent, But Let Your Kids be Kids
Finally, it’s important to remember that parents (and adults in general) often focus too much on their worries and woes, and can lose sight of the fact that children are not “mini versions” of themselves. In other words, just because you have been thinking continually about the death of a loved one, do not assume your child is continually thinking about the loss, too. Children — particularly younger ones — possess the remarkable ability to focus on something serious one minute and to laugh or play with complete abandon the next.

Therefore, as a parent, you should avoid projecting your grief response onto your child. Regardless of how you’re feeling, try to make an honest assessment of how news of the death is affecting your child. Watch for changes in mood or behavior, such as acting out, a need for more touching or hugging, problems sleeping, panic attacks, or complaints of physical ailments, for instance. These could be signs that your child is not coping with the loss effectively.

Filed under death dying children explanation end of life how to about death

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How to Write a Condolence Letter: 5 Suggestions | Kathleen Buckstaff

How to Write a Condolence Letter: 5 Suggestions

Posted: 11/06/2013 4:58 pm
After my book The Tiffany Box, a memoir was released, I received many emails from readers expressing how grateful they were that I included several condolence letters that were sent to me after my mom passed away in my book. Each reader liked seeing examples of sympathy cards.

Who knows what to say when someone dies? Often, not knowing what to say, we put off writing the note and eventually don’t say anything. The intention to write is there, but what to say isn’t easy or obvious.

I decided to write a blog post on writing a condolence letter. This is a list of suggestions. I know each loss is specific and personal in tiny ways and big ways, and that it is impossible to capture the specificity of loss in a template condolence letter. I also know that it is far better for friends to say something to someone who is grieving than to not say anything.

Silence from friends can hurt too. Reaching out by writing a condolence letter is important to do, even if it feels awkward, even if you don’t know what to say.

I want to share with you that for me, it always feels awkward and hard to reach out to someone who has lost a beloved. The unthinkable has happened. Even if someone knew a beloved was dying soon, loss is profound. No one can know what pain someone else is in. But we all know enough about pain to want to stay away. This response is the opposite of what most people need. Reaching out through a note or a letter is a way of saying, I witness your loss and I see you. Often, when someone is in a dark hole, being seen is enough. An act of kindness is enough. A few sentences are enough. I’m thinking of how gentle rain can feel kind on hot skin.

1. Because of this, the first thing I say to myself when I sit down to write a condolence letter is that it’s important that I get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Sometimes I get up and get a piece of chocolate and make tea, but then I remember that it’s hard and important to do and so I take a breath and I begin. I date the letter. I start with “Dear” and then I write.

2. I try not to say that I am sorry someone has died. Instead, I say that I am sorry for the person’s loss.

I want you to know that I am sorry for your loss.

I may even say something like — This is a hard note to write, but I want you to know that I am thinking of you even though I don’t know what to say.

3. Then I bring to mind the person who has passed and remember them in a joyful way. What was something I saw them doing that made me smile? What was something I saw them doing that made them smile? I begin a sentence with the phrase,

I will always remember…

Here’s a list of ideas and memory prompts:

*Retell how they made us smile.

*Retell a story of what they did that they loved.

*Remember quirky details that made them uniquely them — that one paper snowflake that no one else can replicate. This is exactly what makes the loss so hard and yet it is also what makes the loss poignant, specific, real, and irreplaceable.

That’s the word I’m looking for, irreplaceable. What about that person was irreplaceable? This is the diamond at the center of grief, why it hurts so much and why we are richer for having been touched by that person.

If I don’t know the person who passed, I may something like:

I will always remember your stories about ______ with ______. “

If I don’t know stories, I will say, ”I will always remember how much you loved ____.”

Remembering someone who has passed doing something they love is my way of cheating death. In my heart of hearts, I try very hard to put aside as well as I can how someone died. I think we as a culture and people focus a lot of energy on illness or disaster. We retell and retell and retell how someone died. I am tired of that. I believe it is far more important to retell and retell and retell how someone lived.

4. I always end a condolence letter by telling the person that:

My thoughts and prayers are with you and I wish you peace.

5.The last thing I do is write the address on an envelope, pick out a pretty stamp and mail the condolence letter. I acknowledge to myself that there is absolutely nothing I can say that takes pain away, but that small acts of kindness are eventually how we make our way out of the dark hole into daylight — hopefully carrying a diamond.

I hope these ideas help you write a sympathy letter. I like to focus on the joyful spirit of the person who passed and on offering kindness and love to the one who is grieving. The heaviness of grief is softened by small acts of kindness.

Be sure to comment on any phrases you have found helpful that I might have missed, and please share this article with your friends. Thank you.

Filed under how to condolence writing a letter funeral sympathy death

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5 Ways to Honor a Veteran Today | eFuneral

5 Ways to Honor a Veteran Today

 November 11, 2013  0 Comments


Today is Veteran’s Day — which is a day to celebrate and honor those who have made unfathomable sacrifices in order for U.S. citizens to live freely.

While every day should really be a day where Veterans are given the respect and admiration that they deserve, today of all days is one in which each one of us should go the extra mile. Not sure where to start?  Here are five simple ways that you can honor an active or retired veteran in your neighborhood:

1.  Pick up the tab unexpectedly.

If you decide to eat out today, keep your eyes open for signs that there’s a veteran nearby.  Certainly, an active-duty uniform will stand out, but retired veterans might decide to wear hats or other clothing that might tip you off that they’ve served in the past.  Ask your waitress to include their meal on your tab.  This could be just the surprise that they needed in order to know that their service is being recognized.  Don’t have a lot of money to spare?  Hang out at your local busy cafe.  Even buying a drink for a couple of dollars can go a long way.

2.  Call a veteran family member.

You likely don’t need to look any further than your own family to find an active or retired veteran.  So give them a phone call.  Let them know that you’re thinking about them.  Even if the conversation is only a few minutes, the sign of respect that you’re showing them will likely not be forgotten any time soon.  And who knows — perhaps you’ll learn something about that person that you never knew before.

3.  Shop at a veteran-owned business.

Do you know a local business owner who also happens to be a veteran?  Shop at his or her business today and let them know that you’re thinking about them.  Not only will your purchase support that particular veteran and their business, but it will do its part in helping the local economy as well.

4.  Spread the word about veteran causes.

You might find out about veteran causes today that otherwise never would have heard about.  For instance, did you know about this crowdfunding campaign that was designed by Degage Ministries to help disadvantaged veterans?  Let others know about this veteran-related cause and others by sending messages through Twitter, Facebook, or any other social channel you’re a part of.

5.  Say “Thank You.”

Sometimes, it’s better to just keep things simple.  When you see a veteran or active military member today — just simply say, “Thank you for your service.”  You might be surprise by how a simple expression of thanks can go a long way.

Filed under veterans day vets how to honoring memorial thanks

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Funeral Caskets: How to Select a Funeral Casket | eFuneral

From a Funeral Director: Understanding and Selecting a Funeral Casket 


Tom Rybicki, Funeral Director for Rybicki Funeral Homes

It can be difficult to select a casket for your loved one. Understanding the differences in materials, construction, and aesthetics inherent in each casket can make the selection process easier.

Selecting a casket is always a difficult experience. But when you are faced with buying a funeral casket for a loved one, do it in an informed and balanced manner.

The term “casket”, though originally defined as a small container to hold something valuable, is now commonly understood to refer to the large, four-sided, rigid container meant to hold the remains of a deceased human being (a real ‘valuable‘).  Frequently (but incorrectly), the term “coffin” is used interchangeably with “casket;” an actual coffin differs from a casket in that it is a large, six or eight-sided container meant to hold the dead (imagine the funeral boxes from old Western movies). Regardless of the terminology, it’s helpful for those planning a funeral to understand that there is a HUGE variety of casket/coffin options available.  Understanding the value of each of these options can go a long way to help families make sound, comfortable decisions about selecting the right products for their funeral needs.

Ultimately, the casket is designed solely to contain and display the deceased’s body for funeral services and ceremonies, burials, and other types of disposition. Whenever the body is to be displayed or the body is moved for funeral ceremonies, a casket is going to be involved.  Nearly all burials and entombments require caskets; ‘green’ or ‘natural’ burials are the exception.

Selecting a casket that is appropriate for your needs will be easier for planners if they understand the differences in materials, construction, and aesthetics inherent in each casket.  In general, caskets are made of either metal or wood (coffins are almost exclusively made of wood).  Metal caskets can be made from steel, copper, or bronze; and each of these types have variations in the thickness and quality of the metal used.  The finish on the exterior can be painted, polished, or ‘brushed.’

Metal Caskets

Steel caskets are usually described as 20-gauge (thinnest), 18-gauge, or 16-gauge (thickest) steel.  The differences in thickness mainly reflect the overall quality of the casket in relation to the durability of the product. Steel caskets can also be made of differing levels of stainless steel, which is more corrosion-resistant than standard steel.

Copper and bronze are non-ferrous metals (they don’t rust); caskets made from these metals are described by the amount of the metal in each square foot of the casket exterior (usually 32 oz. or 48 oz. per square foot).  These caskets tend to run on the more expensive side of available options, but their additional durability may be the right match for some consumers.

Well-made metal caskets will usually be carefully welded and structurally reinforced to accommodate weight-load requirements and to maintain the integrity of a “protective” casket. Protective caskets use a rubber gasket between the box and the lid to basically keep what is outside, out and what’s inside, in.

Wood Caskets

Wood caskets (my personal preference due to their warmth and beauty), are made from a variety of hardwoods and softwoods. The actual specie of wood used will be a major determinate in the price of the casket, as will the construction; walnut, mahogany, and cherry are going to be more expensive than oak, pecan, or pine, and a solid wood casket is more expensive than a casket made with multiple kinds of wood or veneers.  The stain color and finish of the wood are not usually major price factors, but they do influence the overall look of the product.

Other Considerations Around Caskets

The overall look of a casket is clearly one of the factors the family uses in making a buying decision.  The color, the design, the finish, the ‘theme’ all play a part in selecting what’s right for the family.  The trend towards ‘personalization’ of caskets has provided even more options to the family; special corner pieces, interior panels, and plaques can help customize a standard casket to more truly reflect the life of the deceased.  True customization (such as personal photographic panels surrounding the entire casket exterior) is available, but producing and delivering these products will take more time than most families are willing to wait.

Consumers also need to be aware that caskets come in fairly standard sizes; most caskets will accommodate a body that is less than 250-300 pounds and shorter than six feet, five inches tall.  An individual whose weight or height exceeds these standards is likely to require a specialty casket that is designed for larger folks.  These special caskets will be significantly more expensive than a comparable standard casket and are almost always made of metal. Our growing obesity problem in this country is reflected in a significant increase in the use of these larger caskets over the last twenty years.

Funeral homes will usually have a casket display area, picture book, or a digital catalogue of caskets they sell, and these will help you understand the options available to you. Caskets are available from other sources, though, and the Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to accept third-party products without charging handling fees.  These other providers may offer caskets at a ‘lower’ price than many funeral homes, but I would caution any consumer to carefully check and compare the quality of the exterior and interior materials, the quality of the overall construction, and the origin of these materials and manufacturing.

Purchasing a casket is always a difficult experience; no one WANTS to buy a casket! When you do have to go through this experience, though, do it in an informed and balanced manner.  This is a large purchase, often made under difficult emotional circumstances with little time available for research or rumination. Be educated about cost and quality factors, pre-plan the purchase if you can, and choose wisely when under the stress of the death of a loved one.  Remember that this is a very personal choice that must take into account what is right for you, your family, and your budget.

This article is part of the eFuneral Resource Center and was written by Tom Rybicki, President and Funeral Director for Rybicki & Son Funeral Homes. Tom was raised in the funeral business, and for the last 25 years, he has been working as a funeral director at the funeral home his grandfather started 73 years ago. Those thinking about end-of-life should visit eFuneral.com for help researching, planning, and arranging a wide variety of funeral-related services.

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CONFESSIONS OF A FUNERAL DIRECTOR » Tips for Helping Your Children Grieve

Tips for Helping Your Children Grieve

In the Western world, death is one of the last taboos.  Death has become so sterile … so unspeakable … so frightful … so improper … that we assume we MUST protect the innocent souls from it’s darkness.  In many parental minds, those “innocent souls” who need the most protection are our children.  So we shield them from death, and keep them away from funerals, viewings and the dead.

Death, though, isn’t something that we CAN protect our children from.  As much as we want to give our children security and answers to their questions, death, by it’s very nature, takes away security and only provides questions.  The desire to protect our children from death is understandable, but it is a part of life that — if ignored — only becomes more difficult, more frightening and more harmful.  It’s a part of life that may provide some of the best teaching moments for your children.  Teaching moments where you can share that:

Life has an end.

Love continues on.

We have to live and love as much as we can because we don’t know how long we have.

All of us will die, so we must pursue our dreams and enjoy the life we’ve been given.

Not only should we recognize that death confrontation provides our children with incredible teaching moments, we should also realize that children do indeed grieve.  They are connected.  They love.  They feel.  And so when death comes, they grieve.  Depending on their developmental stage, they will grieve differently than adults.  But as long as they are apart of our family, of the community of the deceased, they have the right to grieve with us.

Here are a few helpful tips that I’ve gathered from three separate Counseling journals about how to help your children grieve:

  • When death happens, have a close relative, preferable a parent, tell the child about it immediately.
  • Stay close to the child, giving them physical affection.  Instead of pushing them farther away from the community during death, draw them closer into it.  
  • Children grieve in cycles. For example, they may be more inclined to play and divert their focus from the death when the death is recent and parents are grieving intensely. More than adults, children need time to take a break from grief. It is important to know that it’s okay to take a break. Having fun or laughing is not disrespectful to the person who died; this is a vital part of grieving, too.
  • Avoid euphemisms such as, “passed on,” “gone away,” “departed”.  In and of itself, the concept of death is difficult enough for a child to understand; using euphemisms will only add to the difficulty.
  • Advise the child to attend the funeral, but do not force him or her to go.  The funeral and viewing is the community expression of grief.  As a part of the community, it’s valuable for the child to take part in that expression.  Questions will arise.  But, those questions are necessarily.  And it’s okay if you don’t have the answers.  Part of the reason why many of us DON’T take children to viewings and funerals is because we’re afraid of our children seeing us grieve … we’re afraid of our children seeing us in a state of weakness.  
  • Let the child see you grieve; it gives them permission to grieve on their own.  “It will help the child to see the remaining parent, friends and relatives grieve.  Grief shared is grief diminished…if everyone acts stoically around the child, he or she will be confused by the incongruity. If children get verbal or nonverbal cues that mourning is unacceptable, they cannot address the mourning task.”
  • Gently help the child grasp the concept of death.  Avoid vague explanations to the child’s questions, but answer each question as honestly as possible.
  • Keep other stressing situations, such as moving or changing schools to a minimum; after the ceremonies, continue child’s regular routines.
  • Be honest with the child about the depth of the pain he or she will feel.  “You may say, ‘this is the most awful thing could happen to you.’ Contrary to popular belief, minimizing the grief does not help.

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Writing a Eulogy That's Meaningful - With Sympathy Gifts | With Sympathy Gifts

When faced with the task of writing a eulogy, it’s hard to know where to start. There’s so much to think about and you want to make sure that it does justice to the type of person your loved one was. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this task, it can help to break it up into smaller parts. Follow these 5 steps to help guide you through the process of writing a meaningful, heartfelt eulogy.

1. Decide on a Theme

When organizing your thoughts, be on the lookout for a theme that you could use to weave throughout your eulogy. Reflect back on your loved one’s life, the things they did, the places they went, and think about possible metaphors that could be used to describe your loved one. Having a theme to keep coming back to helps to keep the eulogy on message and gives your message a deeper meaning.

2. Take Time to Introduce Yourself

One of the first things you should do is to introduce yourself to the members of the service. Let everyone know who you are and talk a little bit about your history with your loved one. If you are delivering the eulogy it means that you were a very significant part of your loved one’s life.

3. Share a Story

Once you’ve taken the time to explain who you are and your history, share a positive story about your loved one. It should be a memory that people will relate to. Even if it’s not one that everyone was a part of, people should hear that story and think, ‘that sounds like something ‘Anne’ would do.

4. Talk About Their Character

What one word do most people use to describe your loved one? Some people are defined by their family. If your loved one was a wonderful father, incorporate that into your eulogy and address his children or his wife. If your loved one was devoted to his career, make it a point to talk about her professional achievements.

5. Tie it All Together

When you’ve said all you need to say, find a way to tie everything all together. Try to find a quote, song lyric, or religious verse that relates to the theme you chose.

If you’ve been asked to deliver a eulogy, take it as an honor to be able to share a few words on behalf of the one you loved and lost. I know it will be overwhelming at first, but follow this guide to help alleviate the anxiety and facilitate the process. If you get stuck, turn to someone you trust to help you along the way.

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In the Shadow of Grief. ~ Clare Newman | elephant journal

child's pose

Who am I and why am I here?

I believed, up until a short while ago, I knew the answers. With great pride and confidence, I would ask my students the same, as if to imply I knew who I was; why couldn’t they do the same.

Shielding myself with protective armor, I was hiding behind a persona I had created in the hopes of one day becoming. In reality, I wasn’t there.

I began to sit.

One word, one shift, one moment: grief.

My mom died in less than two weeks; although sick for more than 10 years, her sudden illness became a huge awakening. Knowing her health was deteriorating, I had convinced myself for years that I had accepted her death at some point. I felt she was my guide for only a short while longer.

My belief was that once her physical form left this earth, I would feel her presence and guidance and I would be surrounded with an abundance of love so strong, I wouldn’t be affected by her passing. After all, I was an insightful and intuitive yoga teacher, no?

I wasn’t prepared for the night she was taken into intensive care.

Her organs were failing and her heart, panicked, drained blood from her extremities. The images of her body shutting down and the effects of such have haunted me and continue to do so. I stroked her hands each night; the same hands she had so beautifully creamed each night had begun to shrivel. The burn unit carefully bandaged her hands, feet and legs as they worsened each night and her skin began to blister.

I watched intently as my father’s demeanor turned from courage to powerlessness and from compassion into sorrow.

I was completely present, carefully enthralled with the colorful patterns on her monitor, the beeping of the dialysis machine, the suctioning of the doors opening and closing to keep out foreign entities and the chatter from the nurses. I waited for a blink or a smile and held onto her carefully wrapped hands hoping for a gentle squeeze. Time stopped but days still passed.

Silence was met with heartfelt outbursts of tears. Regrets, guilt, sadness and hope weaved themselves together without any ending—my heart was broken and my mind felt numb.

They lifted her medication a week into her treatment and she awoke. With blurred eyes and confusion, she looked around the room carefully: at every machine before she looked to her loved ones. She scanned our facial expressions as she had done our entire lives. She smiled and nodded her head as if to say, “I’m present.” She was scared; she wasn’t ready to leave but in an instant I felt the deepest level of acceptance I have ever witnessed.

We all knew, including my mother, that had she survived, her life would change drastically. With multiple amputations and living life with the support of technology, she would have begged us to let her go that very day.  It’s as if she prepared me in the previous years, asking if it ever came to this moment, to do the ‘right thing’.

At that moment I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t let her go. 

My inner child—the one every reiki master, past life coach or vibrational healer told me to confront—finally emerged. Frightened and lonely, she stepped back, covered her face, prayed for a miracle and cried, “Mommy.”

She looked peaceful, rested and still; she had finally surrendered.

My family and I left that evening to rest. We had high hopes that the strong and mighty matriarch would make her triumphed return to life and freedom as she had done so many times before. When we returned in the morning, the machines had been removed and my mom was yet again, unconsciously conscious. She looked peaceful, rested and still; she had finally surrendered. Confusion and anger immediately set in and I went looking for answers to know exactly what had happened. When we had left that evening, my mother signaled for her specialist.

Unable to speak, she wrote out on a board, “I’m done.”

She had looked deep within our hearts and knew we weren’t strong enough to let her go; she made the decision to make the request herself.

It only took a few days for her to take her last breath. My brother, father and I waited patiently and, without refuge, stayed with her. Her suffering was finally over but ours seemed to just begin.

In shock and feeling numb, my family and I planned her funeral. I wrote and lead her eulogy not with any sense of feeling—just relying on my bodily systems and responses to get me through the beautiful story of her life and journey.

Months passed and I sunk deeper into what felt like a mild, functioning depression.

All of my passions and interests were no longer prevalent; I gave up my physical yoga practice not having energy. I taught with a huge smile and love in my heart for 90 minutes and picked up the despair on my way home. My relationships with my spouse and friends suffered greatly as all I wanted to do was to be alone; the only light in my life were my children, who, most days, allowed me a chance to see how far a parent will go to protect their children from misery and regret and our willingness to do anything necessary to shield them from pain.

I began to doubt all of my findings, readings and my purpose over the past 10 years as a teacher and educator.

I couldn’t connect to anything, not even my mother’s spirit. The only intention behind my meditation practice was to talk to my mother’s spirit and to my disappointment and frustration, there wasn’t ever a response. I became angry and withdrawn and felt duped by the entire conception of ‘yoga’.

I still taught but without a purpose or direction.

I sought after every psychic, clairvoyant healer I could desperate for a sign, direction or affirmation that my mother was happy and healthy and forgave me for my neglect the evening her body became riddled with pneumonia. Nothing.

Emotions came on heavy and I tried not to control the duration or amount of tears I released when I cleaned behind the fridge as my mother so obsessively did throughout my childhood, when I tucked a piece of kleenex in my shirt while dealing with a cold or when I witnessed my children’s milestones and wished my mother had been here for a shared experience.

Although we had our moments like most mothers and daughters and despite my vow to not be like my mother, I was and I am.

We were extremely close, spending almost every day together with my children. She was my best friend, my greatest teacher and my confidant. My son was an incandescent light to her throughout treatments and filled her life with joy and love. She thrived on her energetic days and rested when she felt the need to conserve her energy. My mom was the strong silent type but suffered by not speaking her truest feelings and emotions.

I know my path is similar, which is why I’ve now decided to share my vulnerability.

What is grief? It’s deep, it’s sticky and it’s layered with so many emotions it’s sometimes unbearable. It’s lonely, it’s exhausting and it’s filled with an overwhelming sense of fear. It’s unstable, it’s draining and it’s disgustingly human.

I decided to walk away from my practice and teachings, for now—to discover why I questioned my spirituality and how I became so detached from my heart and destructively emotionless. To be patient with the grieving process without any observances or distractions but just sit; to sit in the seed of the emotion, the loss, the emptiness and the guilt.

To confront my issues of abandonment and to reconnect with my broken heart. 

From here and only here, will I be able to fully understand the teachings of yoga. I feel like I’ve been here before after dealing with many struggles in my life, but this has been the absolute.

I no longer want to teach with falsehoods, pretending to be on the path to enlightenment while struggling with my own identity. I want to be nothing more than my authentic self in search of my “atman”. To teach this, I believe I have to undergo a transformation without judgement or expectations of others or myself. The need for external responses and ideas seem less important as I begin to rely more on my own truth and authenticity. Not to understand but to simply, see my purpose, my direction and most importantly, to see my Self.

My father told me about a conversation he had with my mother. My heart wept with joy hearing him laugh about throwing away containers my mother had hoarded 20 years previous and her obvious spiritual disgust for the waste. The other part of me became jealous; I couldn’t connect with her the same way. I soon realized my father, throughout his own grief, had stayed present and connected to his heart. His level of acceptance was like my mother’s that day she opened her eyes to say “I’m present.”

Who am I and why am I here?

At this very moment, I’m vulnerable. I’m brokenhearted and I’m disgustingly human. I’m here for the exact same reasons as you.

So, once again, I sit.

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How to Write a Eulogy - AARP

How to Write a Eulogy Deeper than an obituary, this memorial captures who the person was — and why he or she will be so missed by Christina Ianzito, AARP, March 20, 2013 Brain Health Sweeps Play fun games to keep your brain strong and have a chance to win $25,000! See official rules. (0) inShare En español | Putting into words the essence of another person — and what they mean to you — is a difficult task in the best of times. When it’s a loved one who’s just passed away, when you’re grieving and may have only a few days to gather your thoughts, the challenge can feel overwhelming. But there are things you can do to make writing a eulogy a little less daunting. See also: How a random act of kindness helped me heal When writing a eulogy, try not to focus too much on yourself, do include lively anecdotes and don’t be afraid to be funny. — Corbis The first step is to understand what a eulogy is — and isn’t. “It isn’t an obituary,” says Carol DeChant, editor of the book Great American Catholic Eulogies. Obituaries are usually mini-biographies, focused on what a person did, she explains, “but the eulogy is much deeper, more about who the person was, than just the facts. It’s meant for the select group of people who knew and cared for that person, or who care for the survivors.” “It’s the personal touch,” says Garry Schaeffer, author of A Labor of Love: How to Write a Eulogy. “It’s someone getting up and saying, ‘This is what this person meant to me.’ It’s what makes the service special and heartwarming and memorable.” Related What to do when a loved one dies The do-it-yourself obituary Write your life story — and maybe even a best-seller Join AARP Today — Receive access to exclusive information, benefits and discounts There’s no one right way to eulogize someone, the experts say. Some memorial services are more formal and have only one or two eulogies that might need to be approved by the clergy member beforehand; others are more loosely planned and might include four or five short eulogies — or organizers might welcome any number of extemporaneous eulogies. Whatever the format, it’s helpful to organize your thoughts before you share them with other mourners. Some tips: 1. Start by brainstorming: Schaeffer suggests using a form of outlining called clustering or mind-mapping. You start by drawing a circle with the person’s name in it. Then, he says, ask yourself, What are the qualities of the person? What is most outstanding about him or her? Write those down in circles around the person’s name. Cluster related thoughts together. 2. Consider reaching out to other mourners: If you’re the only family member scheduled to offer a eulogy, for example, you might ask other close relatives for their stories and suggestions. 3. Include lively anecdotes: Schaeffer says, “The biggest mistake people make is talking about the person’s qualities in a way that’s just too bland.” In other words, he explains, don’t just say, “She was generous.” Give the listeners an example of her generosity that impressed you. 4. Try not to focus too much on yourself: “You have to put yourself into it to a degree,” says DeChant, because a eulogy is from your point of view — but it’s not about you. “Have someone who loves you read it,” she suggests. “Ask them, ‘Is there too much of me in it?’ If the person cares about you, they’ll tell you.” 5. Don’t be afraid to be funny: DeChant says, “When people get up and share something that they loved about that person, there can be very healthy, healing laughter.” 6. Edit yourself: You may want to put the eulogy aside for a bit, then come back to it with fresh eyes. Keep revising until you’re happy with it and it’s at a good length. Schaeffer suggests aiming to speak for between five and eight minutes, but “I would err on the side of shorter.” 7. Don’t give up: You’re grieving, maybe struggling to think clearly, and probably have only a short time to prepare. But remember, says DeChant, that putting in the effort, then offering other mourners your heartfelt thoughts and memories, “is the greatest gift you can give.”

Filed under death dying eulogy writing tips how to funeral