19 05, 2016

Forget About Closure: A New Way to Look at Grief

By | 2016-05-19T07:31:55-07:00 May 19th, 2016|News, Perspective, Self-Help|1 Comment

  The word “closure” is a tricky and usually misused word. Taken from it's Latin root "clausura," literally meaning "to close," the word is often used to signify what we expect or hope people are feeling at the end of a funeral - but in my experience, very little is truly closed for the family, except the lid of the casket. The most common places I hear the word "closure" pop-up are: Funeral ceremonies are often designated as closure-bringing events, when the truth is, most of these ceremonies follow just days after the death. Great losses like these ought not to be thought [...]

3 02, 2016

How Long Does Grief Last? The Surprising Answer

By | 2016-02-03T07:00:16-08:00 February 3rd, 2016|News, Perspective, Self-Help|2 Comments

We all want to know how long something terrible is going to last, knowing gives us a sense of control over the unknown and comforts us with the confident knowledge of an end. But grief is very different. We know that a trip to the DMV or a root canal at the dentist will end, but grief, grief exists because of an end ... an end we never, ever wanted to know about. Ever since I heard Dr. Bill Hoy, a few years ago, talk about the portrayal of bereavement on television I've started paying attention to how long it is [...]

17 09, 2015

Seeing is Believing: The Empty Caskets of 9/11

By | 2015-09-17T06:00:07-07:00 September 17th, 2015|Ceremonies, News, Perspective|5 Comments

There's the age old phrase, "seeing is believing" and for so many of us, it rings true. At O'Connor we've seen families testify to this truth over and over, telling us that seeing their loved one at peace helped to bring home their new reality. Seeing gave them a physical object and an image to process in the future as a mental touch point and marker of what has happened. It doesn't seem like looking at someone who has died should be comforting, but so many people describe it that way and my own personal experience tells the same story. But what [...]

8 05, 2015

Mother’s Day Without Mom

By | 2015-05-08T17:31:26-07:00 May 8th, 2015|Ceremonies, Inspiration, Perspective, Self-Help|5 Comments

Mother's Day without Mom, it changes everything. What do you do? How do you "celebrate" the day? It is my mom's first Mother's Day without her mom. None of the usual, sweet birthday cards came from my grandma last month when we celebrated 3 family birthdays. Since she died a few months ago, small things have changed in my world, but much bigger things have changed in my mom's world. Talking to my mom the other day she said, "I'm just really missing her. I feel like I should call her because I haven't in a while - and then [...]

25 03, 2015

There was Glitter in Her Hair When Grandma Died: The Construction of a Death Story

By | 2015-03-25T06:00:20-07:00 March 25th, 2015|News, Perspective|10 Comments

I was speeding by cars on the freeway driving like a maniac; my mom needed me at the hospital. My grandma had just been admitted, maybe had a heart attack – no one knew – but my mom had simply texted “come” and so I was. I’m still not sure exactly where I was on the 405 when I got a text message that at a glance looked like an update on grandma’s situation. I asked Siri to read the message to me since I was driving. She read the words, “… Grandma died a little while ago …” without [...]

12 02, 2015

Grieving Non-Death Losses

By | 2015-02-12T09:06:37-08:00 February 12th, 2015|News, Perspective, Self-Help|8 Comments

Last year I attended a conference where the topic of a panel was the significance of grief connected to non-death losses. The researchers focused their sites on college campuses and found that many students were ranking break-ups, friendship changes, divorces and stress over poor grades as more painful than deaths they had experienced. This study was fascinating. Not only were these students connecting grief specifically to a non-death loss, they were saying that they were more significant than their prior experiences with death. Grief accompanies many, many experiences and nearly every change we encounter. We may experience grief when we [...]

20 11, 2014

Laughing About Tombstones: Living in Focus

By | 2014-11-20T00:12:20-08:00 November 20th, 2014|Inspiration, News, Perspective, Planning Ahead|14 Comments

Last week, at one of our workshops, we were asked to take a minute to think about and write down our epitaph. We were told that we could include the year we wanted to die (why not?) and were reminded to keep our text brief as only so many characters will fit.  This is the second time I've been asked to do this. I don't remember what I wrote the first time (not a good sign) so I was eager to participate in this exercise again. If I couldn't remember my epitaph, it had to have been bad. When we [...]

22 10, 2014

An Interview with a Cancer Patient: Kori and Breast Cancer

By | 2014-10-22T21:30:55-07:00 October 22nd, 2014|News, Perspective|18 Comments

  I've known Kori for a LONG time. Her story is one that can only be described as miraculous on steroids. For a long time Kori's story was drug addiction, alcoholism, theft, and prison. Change began happening in her and soon treatment and recovery were added to her story. At last, this year saw opening up before her a life of integrity and freedom that she began living with a tenacity and grace that amazed me. Then, 134 days ago, she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I sat down with her the day after her last chemo treatment to see [...]

8 10, 2014

How to Talk to Grieving People … Never Saying “At Least…”

By | 2014-10-08T22:31:45-07:00 October 8th, 2014|Community, Perspective|11 Comments

Last month I wrote about the power of responding to people in grief with memories. So many of us don't know what to say to a grieving person and even if we do manage to say something as simple as "I'm so sorry," very often our discomfort makes us feel the need to keep speaking and, if we're not careful, our rambling can lead us into dangerous words. One of the worst things we can say to someone in grief is a phrase that starts with "At least ..." For example, At least he had a long life ... (most [...]

1 10, 2014

Taking the Urn Out of the Closet

By | 2014-10-01T16:43:54-07:00 October 1st, 2014|Inspiration, News, Perspective|26 Comments

A short story: Mary spent that last 3 years of her life in an Alzheimer's home. As the memory of her friends and family faded from her mind, so the number of her visitors dwindled down to just one; her daughter, Joan. Joan tried to check in every few months but the visits weren't easy and usually she left feeling more guilt than when she had walked in. Mary and Joan had never had an easy relationship and for both of them, Alzheimer's signaled the doom of their secret, but mutual hope that someday it might be easier. When Mary [...]