Scott W. Bradley, MSW, NCPsyA, president and owner of Bradley Funeral Homes, has created "The Art of Mourning" monthly e-newsletter and web resource not only for families served by Bradley Funeral Homes, but also for the community at large. Here you'll find emotional support and guidance on grief and loss, as well as referrals to local services to help with your practical issues of home and finance.
For a thorough list of Community Resources related to senior care and living, funeral and memorial planning, grief and loss, click here. In addition, the Center for Life Transition offers a Living Through Mourning newsletter which is sent to families of Bradley Funeral Homes in the year after their loss. Please feel free to download and read copies here.
Please make sure to subscribe to the monthly Art of Mourning e-newsletter to keep up to date with the latest support events and information. And let us know if there's a topic or resource you'd like to see included in future issues.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Feelings
A group member asked what to do with pictures. Currently they were painful to see and made her sad. She was conflicted about seeing her beloved husband in the pictures on the wall when it caused so much pain. It brought up a lot of suggestions of what to do with them. Most wanted to clear the scene as quickly as possible and thought the pictures only exacerbated and prolonged the terrible feelings. Others had positive ideas on how to keep them around to bring good thoughts and feelings. All wanted to target the pictures as the cause of the feelings. If the pictures were removed, the feelings of grief would be reduced, but one member brought up the idea that it may not be the pictures per se that are the root of the grief, but rather that she was just feeling that way with or without seeing the pictures. Maybe she could have positive feelings about the pictures too? Upon further investigation we found out that the pictures in the past had brought her enjoyment which is why they were on the wall in the first place. What to do?
A thoughtful discussion ensued about what to do with powerful feelings such as sadness, anger and grief. The impulse of the members was to avoid the feelings and get rid of things that bring up the feelings. Taking direction from the group member who suggested that feelings could change, I asked the group what would happen if the negative feelings were cherished and embraced rather than disavowed? Give those feelings a hug rather than push them away. I wondered if accepting the negative feelings gave a person relief and freed that imprisoned feeling, which could then lead to positive feelings? I think this is Grief Work. The group member who brought up the picture question thought that this was very possible. The group liked the idea of not fearing grief, embracing their feelings and having a choice about the thoughts that arose from special objects like pictures. The pictures didn’t seem so threatening anymore.
Photographs are powerful reminders of the joy we experienced with people we love and care for. When that person dies and we are thrust into the harsh reality of loosening the ties, those photographs bring up a lot of feelings, especially painful ones. May I suggest you stick with the feelings in the moment, think about the reason they are painful, respect your grief and maybe, just maybe, feelings of love and joy will enter your mind about your lost loved one too.
Am I Doing it Right?
This may be the most common question the bereaved ask in individual and group settings. The bereaved want to know if their coping is helping or hurting them. Should they be getting out of bed even though they’re exhausted? They want to know if they should be attending customary and usual events in their life even though they cannot maintain a smile on their face and cannot muster up the interest to be social. They want to know if it’s okay to have a little more comfort food, such as ice cream, because it makes them feel better. They want to know if they should be getting through the mountain of paperwork to settle the estate faster. They want to know if they should be keeping the house cleaner than it is. There’s more, but you get the point.
What I ask back is, what makes it wrong? In other words, how does it serve the bereaved to question what their behavior is in a negative manner? What if the bereaved followed through on their wish to stay in bed, avoid some social events, eat more ice cream and delay paperwork and cleaning duties. What would that mean? Of course, there’s no one answer because everyone grieves differently. Coping with a painful loss may lead one to fall back on tried and true ways of coping, probably learned at a very young age. Some of these coping styles may give the bereaved the feeling of acting in an immature way, but in fact they may be the most mature way to treat oneself well during a time of great stress. As a young child who didn’t want to stay in bed when they were ill? Who didn’t wish for some delicious comfort food to make bad body feelings feel less bad? Who didn’t want to postpone responsibilities when you felt ill? Who didn’t long for a snow day from school responsibilities?
So, I think we have two motivations at work when the bereaved feel they aren’t doing the “right” thing and should be behaving better. First, does the wish for the deceased to come back motivate the bereaved to behave “as if” the loved one never died? If I do everything the way I used to, and be responsible the way I used to, will I see my loved one again and I won’t feel so bad? I don’t believe anyone does this consciously, but it comes from the primitive recesses of our mind… a strong wish to have our dearly departed back with us. The permanent loss of a beloved person is very hard to come to terms with. Second, do our so-called immature coping strategies disrupt the feeling that we’re grown up and in control? If these old coping styles are used, will the bereaved lose all control and slip down the slippery slope of despair and misery? Will the bereaved be berated by the ghosts of the past for such immature behavior?
What I do know is that by talking out these wishes to avoid doing the “wrong” thing, and exploring their origins, helps the bereaved better understand their needs. This in turn gives them permission to stay in bed, eat a little more ice cream, withdraw from social events and delay chores in a healthy way. It’s no longer doing or not doing something for the good of the departed or an inner demon but doing something for the good of oneself. The bereaved deserve that.
I have been wanting to produce this newsletter for a long time. My entire life has been informed by the bereaved: first as the son and grandson of the local funeral home owners, later as a third-generation funeral director, and now as a social worker and psychoanalyst working with the bereaved. My staff and I have helped over 16,000 families during my funeral service career, and I have been treating patients and leading bereavement support groups for over 20 years.
I have come to understand mourning like I understand art, hence the name of this newsletter. Having suffered the eternal loss of a loved one leaves the bereaved needing a way to express their grief, and that is called mourning. Observing over the years the different ways people mourn is like going to an art museum and looking at the different ways artists paint. Some artists paint realistically while others paint with complete abstraction. Each bereaved person is their own work of art using different techniques to cope with their loss, tell their story and express their inner world.
My aim as a funeral director is to help people express their grief through a fitting ceremony and dignified disposition of the deceased. As a psychoanalyst, my aim with the bereaved is to help them say everything about their loss. But I think there’s more to mourning than ritual and talk. Social workers accept as true that traumatic transitions in one’s life are a biological, psychological and social phenomenon, and that each needs to be attended to. That bio-psycho-social phenomenon, I believe, fits the grief and mourning experience very well, and to that end, The Art of Mourning will provide news articles, poetry, book reviews, guides to support groups and whatever else I can find that will help support your journey through mourning.
I want this newsletter to be a collective collaboration of the bereaved community and healthcare professionals that work with the bereaved. If you have a story to tell, please send it to me. If you have read a book and want to provide a book review, please send it. If you run a support group, let me know and I’ll post it. If you work with the bereaved, please tell me how. Every month will feature observations from my years working with the grief-stricken; an article from a helping professional on how they support the bereaved; a piece of poetry/short story/book review from the bereaved community; and links to support programs, grief camps, helpful professionals and tradespeople. I can be contacted by email or phone at (973) 476-7402.
May this newsletter help the bereaved gain strength and wisdom from their loss and cherish the memory of their loved one.
The death of a loved one – especially sudden death – completely resets the landscape of our lives. Nothing will ever be quite the same again. This is the price of loving another person. Given the chance, I believe 99.9% of us would make the same choice again.
However, no matter how much we love that person, few of us rejoice at the responsibility of settling their estate. I’m grieving, you think, so how can I possibly focus on contacting an attorney, going through papers and belongings, and tying up all the loose ends from my loved one’s life? Where do I even begin? We begin as with all things: with a single step.
Yes, the first day of estate work can be overwhelming. You walk into your loved one’s home and hear the echo of silence. You move slowly through the rooms, wondering how to clear the clutter, how to decide what to sell and what to keep… and why your loved one had so many boxes of tin foil! But it can be done, grieving and all, and in the end you will amaze yourself with your resilience.
Here’s what I’ve found helpful: instead of viewing your work as executor to be a burden, see it for the opportunity it is. This is your chance to perform a final act of love for the deceased, allowing for an intimacy that you will later come to appreciate. With every document you review and every object you hold in your hands, you are saying, “I will always remember you.”
The process of administering an estate is neither easy nor quick, and there are times you will feel put-upon to have been selected for the task. I’ve been there myself following the sudden loss of my parents. But given the chance, I would choose to be their executrix again.
Because, through the process, I realized how much I had forgotten: about my parents, about our family, about myself. And through this realization I found gratitude and healing. May it be the same for you.
Please feel free to reach out to Legacy Estate Organizing at (845) 200-3500 for help. A phone consultation is complimentary, and you are assured of reaching someone who has been where you are.
Eileen Moynahan owns Legacy Estate Organizing, an estate-administration business that partners with executors and attorneys to locate documents and assets after a loved one passes away. Her 2019 book “After the Funeral: A Practical Memoir for Administering Your Loved One’s Estate” is available online.
Finding Help and Advocacy through Elder Law
Life is surrounded by change. Nobody has experienced that concept more poignantly than those who have recently lost a family member. The Elder Law Department at Mandelbaum Salsburg acts as an advocate for families, helping them plan for the inevitability of death but also helping them plan for the very real possibility of living a long life. Today, we find that many people are living longer and require assistance with their activities of daily living (walking, bathing, dressing, continence, feeding and transferring) in their final years.
The Elder Law Department at Mandelbaum Salsburg prides itself on solving these issues. Our main goal as planners is to help our clients avoid the financial devastation that often results from a long-term care need. Our clients are concerned that care at home, in assisted living or in a nursing home will deprive them, their spouses or their children of the options and comfort that come with having money. We accomplish this task through time-proven methods of counseling and document drafting which are sophisticated yet delivered in a compassionate and friendly way.
Some of the common questions our clients and their families ask: What documents do I need to feel secure that my family will be able to help if something happens to me during life? How can I protect my assets in the event I need long-term care? How can I protect my assets even if I already need care? If I run out of money, who will pay for my care? How do I find the right professionals to help me at home or how do I choose the appropriate facility for an ailing parent?
The Elder Law Department at Mandelbaum Salsburg also provides litigation support when plans go awry or when families failed to plan. We help families solve problems, including: making decisions for loved ones who did not sign a valid Power of Attorney; representing a family member who feels wrongly disinherited; acting as administrator or guardian for those who failed to appoint someone due to lack of trust or having no family.
Please feel free to contact us by email or phone at (973) 228-1795. Our initial consultations are always complimentary and, at the very least, you will leave our office armed with information and peace of mind.
Eric Goldberg, CELA, Member of Mandelbaum Salsburg and Co-Chair of the Elder Law Department at Mandelbaum Salsburg.
When Seniors In Place was first introduced to Bradley Funeral Homes and the Bradley family, they found a lot of ways that the two companies, albeit very different, could benefit the families that come to them needing their services in a very meaningful way.
How does “homecare” relate to the needs of a family that has lost a loved one and is going through the grief and bereavement process?
There are a few things that occur which are very common. When there is an older couple and one of them passes away, the surviving spouse inevitably will have needs and so will their children and family members. Those needs can run the spectrum from the emotional upheaval that goes along with the loss of any loved one, to physical needs and disabilities, to cognitive impairment, such as Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or a combination of these things.
This often creates even more stress for the grieving family. Seniors In Place has been helping families create sustainability for their loved ones, especially after a significant loss, by helping them care for the living spouse, parent or sibling. Sometimes it’s providing a caregiver to give emotional support and companionship. For others it can be helping them with physical limitations and disabilities. For others it can be helping to manage a cognitive impairment, anything from minor memory loss to significant dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
In all of these scenarios, the commonality is that we have a loved one who has needs and whose life has changed dramatically and needs to find a new “normal.” For the families trying to help manage their loved one’s care and manage their own lives it can be very difficult. Help is a phone call away and there are never any costs for asking questions and seeking understanding. Case managers are available to discuss your specific situation to help you figure out what the options are moving forward and what the benefits and potential detriments are to the different options.
It can be very difficult to navigate the health care system and find out what help is available. The owners of Seniors In Place went through the very same losses and care needs with their family and know exactly what your family is going through. Please call Seniors In Place if you have any questions, help is always available at (973) 376-1600.
Vice President of Business Development
Seniors In Place, LLC
155 Morris Ave., Suite 101
Springfield, NJ 07081
A widows and widowers group meets every other Friday from 9:30 to 11am in Chatham. First meeting of the year is January 3. The general bereavement support group (all are welcome) meets every other Wednesday night in Chatham from 6 to 7:30pm. First meeting of the year is January 15.
For more information or to join either group, contact Scott Bradley at the Center for Life Transition at (973) 665-1782 or (973) 476-7402.
For a week each summer, Atlantic Home Care and Hospice sponsors Camp Clover a free, bereavement day camp designed to help children and teens in grades one through eight cope with the loss of someone close to them. Please call (973) 379-8444 to refer a child, volunteer or donate.
Comfort Zone Camp
Comfort Zone Camp is fun and safe place for grieving children. For more information, email or call (973) 364-1717.
Community in Crisis Overdose Support Group
Parents who have lost a child to substance use disorder meet one Wednesday evening a month in an intimate and supportive gathering at the Community in Crisis Hub in Bernardsville. Contact Dina for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text (908) 507-1008.
Good Grief’s mission is to provide unlimited and free support to children, teens, young adults, and families after the death of a mother, father, sister, or brother through peer support programs, education, and advocacy. They offer regular support meetings, summer camps and more.
Imagine, A Center for Coping with Loss
Imagine, a Center for Coping with Loss provides grief education workshops for families, for seniors or for the staff of organizations that serve the senior population. For more information email Connie Palmer, LCSW or call (908) 264-3100.
W2 Social Group
W2 is a social group for widow and widowers of all ages in Chatham, Madison, Maplewood, Morristown, Summit and surrounding towns. It's an opportunity to get out, socialize and connect with others, going through the same experience. Please email Gena to join the email list and check Facebook for event listings.
Book B Gone: (908) 912-6652
Chatham Booksellers, Madison, NJ: (973) 822-1361
Charles Taylor, CRPET Cleaning: (973) 444-7518; (973) 704-3120
Ed Gramigna, Drinker Biddle
Crystal West Edwards, PBN Law
Jimmy Fleming: (908) 577 6675
Air Group: (973) 887-5099
Paul Ciavarella, Allied Wealth Partners
Dallas Herold, Edward Jones
Chuck Dooley, Floor Gallery: (973) 583-5610
FREE FURNITURE PICKUP
Rick Torres: (973) 650-3061
Bob: (732) 421-7010
Frank Biank: (201) 874-9538
Adam Spiel, Go to Guy Help: (973) 906-0641; email@example.com
Mario Vignola: (908) 723-2833
JR Landscaping (Javier): (908) 451-1544
Marian: (908) 494-1390
Scheppe: (908) 400-0500
Hedy Knapp, Knapp Paperwork Partners: (908) 956-5752
Mike Palazzo: (973) 714-5241 Air Group: (973) 887-5099
Fania: (973) 361-9698
McIsaac, Bob Whitehead: (973) 270-7000; office (973) 334-0308
Novalis Roofing: (973) 635-1165
Peter Ekert: (908) 578-7420