Before mom died earlier this year, we were asked by the hospital staff if she wanted to be parted out for donation. I would imagine it was both the cancer and the chemo that coupled to make her a less than adequate donor for anything, but SightLife did want her corneas. SightLife is an amazing organization that has shown me the value in reaching out to families that we’ve served, long after a death. I will be taking a page from their book as Elemental grows.  This holiday season, they sent me a packet “Coping with the Holidays – after a loss” They are pretty fabulous.

In an aside about organ donation and funeral home ownership – This may not strike everyone as funny, but I did get a bit of a kick out of it:  When they called me to make sure that I (funeral home) didn’t do anything to jeopardize the corneas (embalming, gluing eyes shut, etc.) and to have her ready for harvesting, I answered the phone as I always do “Elemental Cremation & Burial, this is Jeff…”  The lady started out with her professional-to-professional spiel about making sure her eyes are ready for harvest, and then said… “oh… uh… ahh, is this the funer… um are you Jeff Jorgenson?” You could see her putting together 8+4 and 12 ringing like a bell. “This is your mom, isn’t it?”   I suppose it isn’t every day that they get the guy who is acting funeral director on his mom.

cornea harvest disbelief

This is…your mom?


Back to the holidays thing!  Candidly, I haven’t requested SightLife’s permission on this one, but I feel like it’s valuable enough to help you in these holiday times that I’ll run the risk of posting it in a timely fashion.

Here is “Coping with the Holidays After a Loss” from Sight Life:

SightLife logo_main

Holidays can be a difficult time for some. Society encourages everyone to join in the holiday spirit, but
the familiar sights, sounds and smells may trigger memories of your loved one. No simple guidelines
exist that will take away your hurt. We hope, however, the following suggestions will help you better
cope with feelings of sadness and the challenging situations you may encounter during this time of
the year.

Be Kind and Gentle to Yourself Emotionally and Physically

  • Sleep: Try to get adequate sleep.
  • Moderate: Be moderate in food and drink.
  • Avoid: Alcohol or medications that could be abused.
  • Exercise: Some form of exercise every day is good for the mind and the body.
  • Mindful: Be mindful of a tendency to isolate – engage at least one person each day.
  • Recognize: Your grief. It might appear as anger, depression, anxiety, or something else.
  • Talk: If possible, talk openly about your feelings with friends or relatives.
  • Journal: When possible, write out thoughts and feelings to express deep emotions.

Assess Your Needs and Let Others Help

  • Perhaps all you need in a given moment is to share a photo or story of your loved one, to experience a short visit, a cup of tea/coffee, or to have someone just listen.
  • Not all people will be able to provide what you need. Let them do what they can.
  • Enlist help from friends or family according to your energy level.
  • Learn to receive graciously without a sense of obligation.

Give Yourself Permission to Do What’s Right for You

  • Decide which family traditions you’re comfortable with and which ones you’d like to change. Maintaining some traditions can be comforting to other family members and stabilizing for grieving children. A measure of compromise will make everyone more comfortable.
  • Structure your time and activities. Structure will help you avoid just reacting to whatever happens and getting caught off guard.
  • To decorate or not is entirely up to you. Whichever you choose is fine.You might find comfort in visiting the cemetery with special decorations or sentimental tributes.
  • It’s not unusual to wish to avoid the holidays completely. Focus on what you want to do, whether it’s taking a trip to get away, or choosing an entirely different day to celebrate.
  • Inform those close to you of your new plans. You can explain later if you wish.
  • Grief is unpredictable. In accepting an invitation, it’s OK to tell your host ahead of time that  you may need to cancel at the last minute, or leave early.

Keep Things Simple

  • Try catalogs or online shopping rather than dealing with crowded malls.
  • Overspending to compensate for that “empty feeling” inside can create added debt and
    depression later on.
  • Buy prepared food instead of trying to do everything yourself. This will save you much time and energy.
  • Simplify meals by going out to eat. Accept invitations from family members and close friends.

Additional Things You Can Do:

It’s OK to include your loved one’s name in conversation. If you’re able to talk openly, then those you’re talking with may recognize your need to remember that special person.

Memories are powerful legacies that exist after death. Embrace and treasure them, or relive and release them. As you feel inclined, share them freely with family and friends.

You may find a renewed sense of faith or discover a new set of beliefs. Associate with those who understand and respect your need to talk about these beliefs. If your faith is important, you may want to attend a holiday service or special ceremony.

It is said that dealing with the death of someone we love is the most painful of all human experiences.  Sadness is not weakness; it simply means you have an enormous “hole in your heart” that cannot be filled by anyone or anything else. Treat yourself as kindly and gently as you would treat someone else who is going through this kind of pain. You’ll find comfort and strength in your ability to survive the sadness and manage successfully. It’s all right to have a good time. Enjoying the holiday doesn’t mean that you’ve forgotten your loved one or miss him or her any less. Love does not end with death. Take courage from the fact that you will survive this difficult time, even though you may feel that it will
never get better. The healing will come.

Source references: Bereavement Publishing Inc. and
For Those Who Give and Grieve, fall issue
2007; a NKF publication