Grief Before Death – It Happens

Grief is a natural component of human adaptation to change. While bereavement usually refers to those who have lost a loved one, anticipatory (or preparatory) grief occurs both in the dying and in those close to them.

Anticipatory grief can develop in response to receiving a diagnosis of a life-limiting illness, as well as anywhere along the course of illness, particularly as symbolic losses accumulate. This can include loss of physical abilities, autonomy, control, predictability, mental clarity, role or status in family, future hopes and dreams, sense of belonging, and sense of purpose

  • Know that grief tends to fluctuate and experiencing joy and grief simultaneously is possible. Emotional ups and downs are a “normal” part of facing a life-limiting illness.
  • Share your thoughts and feelings with a family member or friend who is able to supportively listen, without giving advice or passing judgment.
  • Try to stick to your regular routines to maintain a sense of normalcy, making adaptations to adjust for any physical or cognitive changes.
  • Develop a strong working relationship with your medical providers so you can feel comfortable getting your questions answered and sharing your fears or concerns.

If your emotional “downs” stick with you (rather than fluctuate), or your grief is accompanied by poor self-esteem or thoughts of actively harming yourself, consider meeting with a social worker, chaplain, counselor, or psychologist for professional support. Make sure your clinician has experience working with individuals and families facing serious medical illness.

By Meghan Marty, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Transitions Professional Center

Life After Death – Facebook Let’s You Choose a Legacy Contact

Facebook Legacy Contact Feature

Facebook’s New Legacy Contact Feature

Facebook Legacy Contact Feature Released

Over 8,000 Facebook users die each day, yet Facebook’s terms and conditions haven’t kept up with the every growing issues surrounding death of social media users. Today, Facebook announced that it will now allow users to designate a Legacy Contact who can manage their account when they pass away. Proof of death through an obituary or death certificate will need to be provided and once the user’s death has been authenticated the designated legacy contact will be able to:

  • Post an announcement, memorial information or special message on the top of the person’s timeline.
  • Respond to recent friend requests from family members and friends who were not yet connected on Facebook
  • Modify the deceased profile picture and cover photo.

It is also possible for Facebook users to give their legacy contact permission to download an archive of photos, posts and profile information that had previously been shared on Facebook. Considering how much content we all share on Facebook on a daily basis, the Facebook Legacy Contact feature could be quite helpful if you’re contemplating digital legacy plans for yourself and your family.

To get started —> Open your settings. Choose Security and then Legacy Contact at the bottom of the page.

Facebook has also redesigned memorialized profiles (a user’s profile that’s no longer “active”) by adding “Remembering” above the deceased’s name and making it possible for their legacy contact to pin a post to the top of memorialized profile Timeline. This provides the community with a signal, and the opportunity to pay tribute to the deceased. View the official press release from Facebook here.

If you’ve gone down the Facebook Legacy Contact feature route, we would love to hear your thoughts. How did you find the process? Was it helpful to start a conversation?

If you find this interesting, you might find our digital afterlife blog posts helpful.


Holiday Conversation Starters


Holidays like Thanksgiving are a wonderful time to have meaningful conversation with your friends and family about what matters most.

How do I do that? Here are a few conversation starters that can help! 
  • Do you ever think about what our lives will look like 20 years from now? Where you want to live? What will you value most then?
  • My best friend is Sarah – I want her to be there for me during the good and bad times. What about you? Who comes to mind for you?
  • Oh, I love the memory of Grandpa – how would you like to be remembered?
  • Congrats grandma and grandpa on 50 years of marriage. What was the song played at your wedding? What did you love about each other when you were married and has that changed now?
  • Look at how organized Suzy and Steve to throw this wonderful party and dinner spread – I bet you are so organized you have all your “stuff” in order right?
There are so many ways to start the conversation that don’t need to bring a party down – let’s just say that we believe that meaningful conversation isn’t to talk about how to brine a turkey 🙂 Life can be truly fulfilling and meaningful if we take a moment to reflect and find the door of opportunity to start these conversations.



First Annual Party of Thanksgiving



Fall is often the season for Thanksgiving, for many it is a time to give thanks for life’s blessings, friends, family and the little things we often take for granted. For us, the season is a perfect opportunity to express our appreciation and gratitude for the community serving patients and families.

On November 11th we hosted Departing Decisions First Annual Party of Thanksgiving – to thank providers helping families with end of life planning and during the difficult moments when illness, death and grief take hold. It also happened to be Veteran’s Day so our candle lighting ceremony included a moment of gratitude and honor towards those who serve and have served our country.



Our vision was to create a warm, relaxing, and rejuvenating evening – for those who provide support and care for others to take a moment to care for themselves. Music from Sacred Flight and Threshold Choir, delicious food and drinks along with a ceremony presented by a great supporter and Departing Decisions community member, Holly Pruett – Life Cycle Celebrant. A tree of gratitude, an interactive art display was shared to give guests an opportunity write on a leaf what they were thankful for and then attach it to the tree. By the end of the evening every branch was full! What made the night even more special was the women from Threshold Choir stayed after the ceremony to invite guests to partake in a song bath— a chance for individuals to sit back, relax, and receive songs of care, chosen just for them. The beauty of the evening continued even after everyone left – we were able to donate the extra food to the Red Cross warming shelter held in the church gymnasium and the tree of gratitude was handed down to a teacher for use in her classroom – how great is that!

Here is what guests and participants had to say about our inaugural event:

“Departing Decisions Thanksgiving party was a truly wonderful event!  It was so enjoyable and encouraging to meet so many professionals whose values and mission align with what we do!”

“It was such a rich time for us; I am still digesting the nourishment of time spent talking and singing with people there.  Our singers were enlivened by the experience, joy still alive in singers I talked to today.”

“Lovely event, Angela! It truly reflected the mission, and I was delighted to be part of celebrating the success of Departing Decisions.”

We are already envisioning how grand next year’s event will be! Do you know of community members who should be included in next year’s event? Please contact us here.

Additional thanks goes to:
Nathan Williams from VanEarl Photography for capturing the evening.
Our advertisers who’s financial support enable the guide to reach thousands throughout the Portland Metro area.
Our ambassadors who share the guide in their community.
Friends of Departing Decisions for their continued support.
Imago Dei Community Church for their support and the ability to use their facility that evening.


The Meaning of Memorial Day

On this 3 day weekend many of us will partake in traditional Memorial Day BBQ’s, concerts, parades, or road trips. But how many of us really know the reason for the holiday?

Originally called Decoration Day, it was started three years after the Civil War ended on May 5, 1868. The day was set aside for the nation to decorate the graves of those who died servicing during the Civil War.  By the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion to honor all Americans who had died serving the United States through any of our wars and traditionally held the last Monday in May…historians suggest the later date in May to be chosen because flowers would be in bloom throughout the nation – giving more options to decorate the graves at the cemeteries.

What will you do to celebrate Memorial Day and the people who died serving our country?

Funeral Planning: Terms You Should Know

Description: There are a number of glossary terms that are associated with funeral services which are important to have an understanding of, should the need for the services of the funeral services homes in the US arise. The following is a list of some of the most commonly used glossary terms when planning for funeral services.

An administrator is one appointed by the court to take care of the estate of the deceased who hadn’t written a will.

An arrangement room refers to the room in the funeral home where bereaved family meets with the staff to make plans for the funeral services.

The attorney in fact refers simply to the person who is given power of attorney (the ability to make financial decisions for the deceased or incapacitated).

A beneficiary is one who receives the proceeds from the deceased’s will and/or insurance policy.

A gift of property designated in a will is called a bequest.

Bereaved refers to the members of the deceased’s immediate family.

Burial permits are documents required by certain states before being allowed to bury or cremate the deceased’s remains.

A casket is a large container designed to carry the deceased’s body or remains.

The cemetery is the burial ground used to conduct final funeral rites or services.

Cremation means burning human remains using highly intense heat, while a crematory is the building which has a furnace set aside for cremation purposes.

Death certificate refers to a legally binding document issued and signed by either medical professional or coroner allowed by the law to perform such a task.

A display room is where you can view the products in the funeral home such as caskets and urns among others.

Disposition simply refers to any methods in which the body remains will be disposed of finally.

Embalming refers to the use of chemicals to preserve human remains on a temporary basis.

Eulogy refers to speaking publicly about the praiseworthy deeds of the deceased during the funeral.

A funeral director refers to one who professionally prepares the body of the deceased for burial, in addition to supervision of burials and maintaining funeral homes for future use.

Funeral insurance is a policy designed to cover all funeral expenses and costs.

Funeral home is also referred to as a mortuary and is where the deceased’s body is preserved while awaiting burial.

A funeral service can by any ceremony, religious or not, in which the bereaved say their goodbye’s to the deceased before they are put to rest.

Green Burial is a newer term, it refers to a burial processes without the use of chemical preservatives. The body is buried in a simple container that is better for the earth.

Morgues are places where the dead are kept as they wait to be properly identified by their next of kin.

A niche refers to the inner chamber where urns are placed.

In cemeteries you get charged opening and closing fees which refer to the costs incurred in having the grave dug and refilled.

Pallbearers are family or close friends of the deceased who carry the casket.

Probate refers to the process in a court where the will’s validity has to be proven.

Remains, of human, refer to the deceased’s body.

A trust, usually in the form of a fund, is managed by one person for the beneficiary of the trust (usually a younger family member)

Urns refer to special containers designed to hold the remains of humans who have been cremated.

Usually held at a funeral home, a visitation is when a body is put on display where friends and family can visit the body and pay their respects.

Wake is an exercise carried out by the family or friends of the deceased of watching over his/her body before burial.

A will is a legal document where the deceased has stated their wishes for the dispersal of their assets, what to do with the remains, and other matters.

The Power of Death and Social Media

I thought I had prepared myself for my grandmother’s death, I mean…we had gotten those “get to the hospital quickly” calls so many times over the 5 year period since Grandpa had died. I had been mentally preparing myself for this day over several years with grandma’s dementia progressively getting worse. February 2013 was the last time we would rush to the hospital, this time it was pneumonia but she made it through….beat the odds. She was one tough cookie!

4 months later, while I was at a farewell party for a friend I took a quick glance at my phone and realized that I had missed several calls and texts from family members. I didn’t even have to listen to the voice mails to know that something was wrong. I suspected it was the common “get to the hospital quickly” message but I never anticipated  that I would be notified of my grandmothers death via voice mail.

Yeap, today’s technology provided us with ways to say “Grandma died in her sleep” without the long silence or awkward pause waiting for the person on the other end of the line to respond. That is good right?

Many people thought it was terrible to hear the news via voice mail, but I quickly realized why. One family member said “Oh Angela, I was so afraid you would have found out via Facebook…you were so close to her, I know that would have been horrible”.  Those voice mails and texts were from people wanted to protect me from what I would see on social media as other family members started to grieve via today’s communication tools. Could you imagine finding out a loved one died via Twitter or Facebook? Well sadly it happens.

4 stories share the power of death and social media:

An entirely new set of issues with social media is playing a role in the grieving process. Would you be willing to get a photo of a loved one deceased in order to “virtually” properly identify the body? A New York Times article explores the power of death and social media for today’s generation “Online Generations Redefine Mourning“.


Veteran Services: Honoring the Service of the Brave

As a veteran, you fought hard for the freedoms that this country enjoys, and as such you are owed a great deal of gratitude.  Part of the gratitude shown by this country for your service is expressed in the form of Veterans benefits.  Veteran’s benefits include a multitude of things like free health care and increased pension, but perhaps the most important benefits for you and your loved ones to be aware of are the benefits given to Veterans when they pass away.

According to the laws of the United States, families of eligible Veterans who pass away are entitled to full military funeral honors ceremony.  This ceremony includes the playing of taps by a trumpeter, the folding of an American flag, and the presentation of said flag to the widow or a family member of the deceased.  This military funeral honors ceremony is also generally attended by at least two uniformed military Veterans.

Currently there are 131 national cemeteries in the United States which serve as burial grounds for fallen Veterans.  These cemeteries offer to eligible Veterans a full military honors ceremony, opening of the grave, closing of the grave, upkeep on the grave site, a government headstone, an American flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate.  Veteran benefits come at no cost to the family of the eligible Veteran, and they provide the perfect and serene resting place the soldier in your family deserves.  Every Veteran of the United States Military deserves to be honored, and burial at one of the 131 national cemeteries is the perfect way to provide that honor to your loved one.

If you are the family member or loved one of a Veteran who has passed away, or you are a Veteran who wants to make arrangements for your funeral, nearly any funeral home will be able to make arrangements to contact the Department of Veteran’s Affairs and request this full military funeral honors ceremony.  The ceremony will be a fitting way for you to say goodbye to the fallen Veteran in your family, marking the occasion with the pride and honor they deserve.

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