Perspectives on Afterlife: What We Can Learn from Buddhism

seeking-nirvana

While Buddhist ideology has become a familiar trope in entertainment and popular culture, the idea of reincarnation is anything but a current trend. The Buddhist belief in an afterlife guided by the deeds of mortal existence is both intriguing and enticing as food for thought. Whatever your personal beliefs, there are many common threads that bind the varied interpretations of life beyond death, many of them offering valuable lessons. So what can we learn from Buddhist ideas on reincarnation? Continue reading

The Past Unveiled: A Brief History of Cremation

Viking cremationAlthough cremation has gained popularity in recent years, it is hardly a new practice. In fact, historians date the earliest cremation ceremonies all the way back to the 8000 B.C. in China. The Chinese were not the only ones employing the method; cremation was widespread among the Vikings in Scandinavia, the Greeks in the Hellenic heyday, and among the Romans during the height of the Roman Empire. Continue reading

5 Creative Ways to Memorialize Your Loved Ones

Memorialize a loved one with a named starLosing a loved one is never easy; there is little anyone can say or do to help alleviate the pain of the loss. However, many people find that the best way to work through their grief is to remember the person they lost in a meaningful way. While there is no single best way to do this, here are five creative memorials that can give comfort and allow for a safe space to grieve and regroup:

1. Make a Memory Space

There are numerous ways to do this and the exact way in which you choose to memorialize your loved one will differ based on your own preferences as well as what may have been significant to them. For some people, planting a tree provides the opportunity to see their loved one live on and take comfort in caring for this new life. Others find that naming a star after their person offers them the ability to re-connect whenever they look up into the night sky. If financially feasible, you may dedicate a bench or create a plaque in a public space where you can always spend time with the one you’ve lost. Whatever the outcome, the space you create will inspire memories and offer comfort.

2. Support Their Cause

Chances are, your loved one had at least one cause that they were passionate about—maybe it was a love of animals or a crusade against child abuse, maybe they were a staunch environmentalist or hoped to see women receive equal pay. Take up that worthy cause by organizing a charity event in your loved one’s name, or spend a day volunteering, or set up an annual donation to the cause of their choice. Your contribution will commemorate the person you loved and you will receive the added bonus of making a meaningful contribution to something they loved.

3. Create a Day of Remembrance

This may be their birthday or the anniversary of their death—but setting aside a day to remember your loved one and celebrate their life will go a long way towards healing your wound. On this day, make their favorite meals, listen to their favorite songs, look over old photo albums and spend time with family and friends, telling favorite stories and reliving favorite memories.

4. Create a Facebook Memorial Place

If your loved one already had a Facebook page, you may consider leaving it active; if, on the other hand, your loved one disliked Facebook, you may find that creating a website is more appropriate. Either way, create a virtual space where you and others grieving can continue talking to and about this special person. By posting photos, quotes, songs and even videos that remind you of your loved one, you can keep them present in your daily life.

5. Live (With Them in Mind)

Consider this sad event your call to action—you still have the chance to do all the things that you want to do and accomplish what you want to accomplish, so do all that in your loved one’s name. If you know of something that they wanted to do but did not get the chance, do it! It will make you feel closer to the one you’ve lost and it will likely challenge you and maybe inspire a new chapter in your life.

Whatever you choose to do to memorialize your loved one, keeping them in your thoughts and in your life is the best way to heal.

5 Traditions of Mourning from Around the World and How They May Help You Grieve

Vietnamese ShrineWhile we all grow up knowing that death is a part of life, the grief that comes with losing a loved one is surprising and inescapable. Death and mourning, although universal, are treated differently across the world. Take a look into how other cultures say goodbye to their deceased; there may just be solace to be found here.

  1. Hindu Passing – While death may not carry the same finality for Hindu people due to their belief in reincarnation, mourning is still very real. A common Hindu tradition involves cooking an elaborate meal, particularly liked by the deceased, and bringing that meal to temple to be shared with the priest and the community. The ritual of sharing a meal, especially one that was a favorite of your loved one, may offer both a nice memory of the past as well as a reaffirmation of continuing life.
  1. Vietnamese Passing- the Vietnamese people believe in continuing communion with their ancestors and as such create elaborate shrines dedicated to those whom they have lost. These shrines include photographs, beloved items, incense and candles. Whether or not you hold the belief of an afterlife, creating a special space with items and pictures of your deceased loved one can be a distinct comfort.
  1. Native American Passing - Native American tribes have varying traditions and rituals surrounding death and grieving, however one that holds true across a number of groups is that of burying items of special meaning along with the body of the deceased. It may be difficult to part with items that your loved one cherished, but it could also be cathartic and a way to attain some level of closure.
  1. Irish Passing - In Ireland, funerals and wakes are a very musical affair; there is usually a variety of both religious, mournful ballads as well as more cheerful songs geared at remembering good times instead of bad. Card games are also not unheard of. Grief is absolutely a necessary part of the process, but remembering the importance of continuing life cannot be stressed enough—embracing music and fun may be an important step in that direction.
  1. Chinese Passing - During a Chinese funeral, families are given red envelopes filled with money that must be spent. Again, the idea here is that life must go on and new acquisitions might just move you into that near future where you can look beyond your loss to a lifetime of remembrance.

Despite our many differences, all cultures share the burden of death—in looking at the variety of traditions surrounding the passing of loved ones, we can take comfort in our essential commonalities, all the while finding new ways of alleviating our pain.

Cremation vs Burial: What is Right for You?

Cremation or BurialAfter a loved one has passed away, there are many decisions to be made. Not the least of these is how to deal with the remains in a respectful manner. While in many cases the deceased may have expressly made their wishes known, there are certainly situations where the bereaved family has to decide how to proceed; should you go with cremation or burial? The answer may not come easily, but considering the points below may just lead you to the choice that is right for you.

Cremation

Cremation has seen a rise in popularity lately for a number of reasons, the top ones being:

Cost

Cost is frequently a big concern for a family dealing with a loss. Funerals can be a significant financial burden and there is no question that cremation offers a sizable cut in price. While cremation can cost anywhere between $1,500 to $3,000, some burials can cost more than $10,000.

Flexibility

It may be that you have a special way in which you would like to remember your loved one; maybe this is not embodied with a visitation to a gravesite. Nowadays there are a variety of ways in which a deceased person may be memorialized and cremation offers an easy way to make this happen. Ashes may be sprinkled at particularly special spot, mixed in with seeds to grow a tree or even made a fixture in the family home.

No Ties to Particular Location

If a loved one is buried, his or her remains are forever interred in a particular place. With families so frequently living spread out across the country or even the world, this may not be the ideal situation. Additionally, a burial site does not typically have much meaning to either the deceased or their family. Cremation allows the family to decide how their loved one is remembered and also where their remains will rest—offering the best possibility for family members and friends to visit and reconnect with the one they’ve lost.

Burial

Despite certain appeals of cremation, burial remains the time-honored, traditional choice for a large number of families. Here’s why:

A Concrete Way to Say Goodbye

The power of ceremony should not be discounted. Saying goodbye to a body may offer more meaning than doing the same to an urn of ashes. For some, the last act of seeing their loved one descend into their eternal rest is significant and offers a great deal of closure that cremation may not be able to match.

More Environmentally-Friendly

Most people would be surprised to hear that a burial can actually be far more environmentally friendly than cremation; this is because a great deal of energy and fossil fuels are expended when cremating. Burial on the other hand has the potential to be the most natural way to return a body to its natural state. Although embalming fluids and metal caskets present a challenge to natural decomposition, there are now greener alternatives, such as biodegradable containers and replacement oils that can ensure that your loved one returns to the earth safely and naturally.

Alleviates Religious Concerns

In many religions, cremation is either forbidden or not recommended. Even if you or your family do not share this belief, it would be important to consider whether your loved one may have held similar concerns.

It is important to note that regardless of which process you choose, the opportunity for saying goodbye, in the form of memorial services or family gatherings, remains the same. Take the time to think the time to think through your and your family’s wishes and concerns before making an informed decision with which you can feel at peace.

We’re honored to have been involved in “Wreaths of Boscawen”

Veteran's grave with wreath

Sayr Hurley, a member of Phaneuf Funeral Home had the honor of attending the annual wreath-laying ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, Dec. 12.

Veteran's grave with wreathThe Blue Star Mothers of NH began the “Wreaths at Boscawen” event as a way to honor the veterans buried at the cemetery. Each year the sections are rotated, so all veterans and their families are honored. The idea started with a Gold Star Family in 2007, inspired by the wreaths placed at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Blue Star Mothers of NH support patriotism, assist veterans’ organizations, and support active-duty service personnel. They provide a place for parents of currently enlisted soldiers to get the support they need while their son or daughter is serving in our military.

Through hard work, donations, and spreading the word, approximately 1,500 wreaths were placed in the cemetery. For more information, go to http://www.bluestarmothersofnh.org/WreathsBoscawen.html

Some FAQs About Final Arrangements

Flowers at a cemetery

If you’re lucky, you’ve never had to make funeral or cremation arrangements. For most people, however, the time will come when final arrangements will need to be made for a family member or friend and there are several things you’ll need to know. To help, we’ve taken some frequently asked questions about final arrangements and provided the answers:

My loved one just died. Now what do I do?

If the death is unanticipated, call 911. The police will take appropriate steps depending upon the situation. In the case of a non-suspicious death of an apparently healthy individual, the police call the State Medical Examiner’s office and await instructions. If the death was suspicious in nature, then the Medical Examiner will most likely order an autopsy.

When is it time to call the funeral home?

A family member should call the funeral home as soon as possible. The staff at the funeral home understands the stress you’re going through and will make sure to make the process as simple and smooth as possible. We will ask some specific questions, such as the name and location of the family member who passed away, the name of the attending physician and the name of the next of kin.

Who makes the funeral arrangements?

The person who has legal authority to authorize the funeral service, such as an executor or designated next of kin, makes the arrangements. Immediate family members and close friends may want to help. However, the person who authorizes the service accepts financial responsibility for the arrangements.

 How much does a funeral cost?

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral and burial is $7,181. The final cost depends on a variety of factors, includes what services you want and which merchandise (flowers, casket, etc.) you buy. We will work with you to give you the funeral you want within your budget. And we’re transparent about pricing: You can find all of our rates and charges on our website.

What does cremation cost?

The NFDA reports that the median cost of a funeral with viewing and cremation is $6,078. However, we have simple packages starting at $1,295. As with funerals, the final cost depends on the service and merchandise that you desire. Again, all of our prices can be found on our website.

Can you have a funeral if you’re cremated?

Just because someone is cremated does not mean that the family cannot have a viewing and funeral service. All of the customs and ceremonies associated with a traditional funeral can still be performed prior to the cremation taking place. For these occasions, we offer economical cremation caskets and rental caskets.

Does the funeral home handle cemetery arrangements?

If a burial plot has not been purchased, the person making the arrangements will have to work with the cemetery to purchase a burial or entombment space. Some funeral director can make these arrangements on behalf of a family.

Do I need to order a casket from the funeral home.

You do not have to buy a casket from the funeral home. Federal law requires the funeral provider to accept one you provide from another source. So shop around; it may be that the funeral home has the best price. But if you’re looking for something they don’t carry, you can look  elsewhere.

Does the body have to be embalmed?

No, in New Hampshire embalming is not required by law. However, embalming is required if the family has selected a funeral service with a public wake or viewing. Embalming is also required if the deceased is to be transported from one state to another by common carrier. For example, if an individual passes away in Florida and is to be transported by airplane to New Hampshire for burial, embalming would be required.

Do I need a death certificate and where do I get it?

Official death certificate copies are typically required for multiple legal purposes, including:

  • Notifying Social Security
  • Notifying insurance companies (life insurance, vehicle insurance, etc.; 1 for each policy held)
  • Notifying mortgage and/or title companies (1 for each property or company)
  • Notifying banks, credit card companies, and/or investment companies (1 for each account)
  • Applying for Veterans benefits, if your loved one was a Veteran
  • Changing vehicle registration and/or titles
  • Probating an estate.

You can order death certificates right on our website. They cost under $25.

What will I need to bring to the funeral home when making arrangements?

Some of the things you’ll need include:

  • Birth certificate
  • Military discharge papers (form DD 214)
  • List of surviving relatives and their cities of residence
  • Recent photograph for cosmetizing and hair styling
  • Insurance papers (if used to pay for the funeral)
  • Pre-arrangement funeral data (if any)
  • Cemetery deed
  • Clothing
  • Personal items, such as jewelry, eye glasses and religious items.

If you have any other questions, our staff will be happy to answer them. Just call us toll-free at 1-800-PHANEUF or at (603) 625-5777. Or request our free brochure and planning guide that  explains our burial and cremation services, package options, veterans services and packages, and provides full disclosure of all of our prices. You can request it to be sent by mail or you can download it.

Dealing with grief during the holidays

Sad woman at Christmas

Because the holidays are so entwined with the concept of friends and loved ones in our minds, they can be anything but merry when someone has lost a loved one, whether to death, separation or divorce. For the grieving, the holidays are a reminder of who and what has been lost and the season can end up being more hurtful than happy.

If you’re grieving, don’t try to put on a brave face. Be honest about your feelings and don’t beat yourself up because you’re blue when everyone else seems happy. Allow yourself to grieve whether the loss is a week, a month or a year old. Plan to spend time with people who will understand what you’re going through. If you don’t have a friend or family member you can talk to, seek counseling. And don’t force yourself to celebrate the holiday as usual and put on a happy face if you’re not feeling it.

“For some, the framework of holiday traditions provides comfort, but if it’s torture, know that you are entitled to cancel your plans. Take a year off. The holidays will come around again. Do nothing more than what you want,” says loss specialist David Kessler.

Perhaps you can “include” your loved one in your holiday by saying a prayer for him or her before holiday dinner; share stories about your loved one and invite others to share theirs; light a candle; write a tribute; or make a donation to a cause that was important to him or her in life. Don’t feel you have to adhere to old traditions if they’re too painful; feel free to start new ones that allow you to remember your loved one in a way that’s meaningful and healing.

There’s no magic formula to help you “get over” your feelings of grief and loss, so be patient with yourself. As an anonymous author once wrote, “Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith… it is the price of love.”

If you know someone who is grieving during the holiday season, don’t avoid them because you’re afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing; ask if you can help or, better yet, just help. Be there for them and be supportive, knowing that they are suffering. If he or she wants to talk, listen. And never tell them to “get over it.” Grief is a process that everyone handles differently. It takes some people more time than others to go through that process. The best gift you can give to someone who is grieving this holiday season is the gift of yourself.

 

Discuss final arrangements when your family gathers for the holidays

Family discussion

You might think addressing final arrangements over the holidays is grim, but what’s really grim is not making your wishes clear by planning in advance;  when the time does come, your family not only has to deal with an emotional loss, they also have the added stress of trying to make difficult decisions about what you would have wanted. By preplanning and taking care of finances ahead of time, you can save them from additional stress and an unexpected and potentially expensive funeral bill.

Why the holidays? It’s the time most families gather: Having everyone involved present makes sure you – and all of them – are on the same page about your wishes and where to find the necessary documentation when needed. While it may seem difficult now, it will make everyone more comfortable later. Just think, once a loved one dies, there are about three days to consider, decide and plan a funeral.

“It’s a heck of a lot better to discuss thoughts about advance medical directives and funeral plans over the kitchen table or during a long walk than over an ailing patient in a hospital emergency room,” said Gail Rubin, aka The Doyenne of Death, a death educator and author.

Perhaps tell your family ahead of the holiday that when everyone is together, you would like to discuss final arrangements. While they may protest at first,  advance notice may give them more time to become comfortable with the idea.

Here are some things you may want to talk about with your spouse, partner or children:

  • Whether you want to be buried or cremated (or have a green funeral or even donate your body to science);
  • If you want a traditional funeral or a memorial service;
  • If you have a specific church or cemetery you want for the service, or a special place where you’d like a memorial service held;
  • If you choose cremation, whether you want your ashes interred or scattered (and where);
  • How you want to be remembered;
  • Who you want the family to contact about funeral or other plans;
  • Whether you want donations in lieu of flowers;
  • If there’s specific music you’d like played or a poem you’d like read;
  • Any advance plans you’ve made with a funeral home and whether you have prepaid. (Learn more about preplanning here);
  • Where to find any paperwork, including final arrangement plans, will, estate information and more. For help, see, “Important documents to prepare before you die.”

Only 17 percent of people under age 65 pre-plan for their final arrangements, according to a 2015 survey by the National Funeral Directors Association. After age 75, the percentage climbs to 34 percent. Think of planning as a gift you give to your family and consider having the conversation sooner rather than later.

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If you would like help with the preplanning process, request a free planning consultation online or call us toll-free at 1-800-PHANEUF (or at 603-625-5777).

Why I Am Thankful

Giving Thanks

As a funeral director, Thanksgiving is an especially meaningful day when I get the time to spend with my family, reflecting on the past year and taking the opportunity to appreciate all that we have: friends, family, a home, food, and safety are just a few of the things I have to be thankful for. Here are some other things that I, as a funeral director, am thankful for.

I am thankful for my profession, because although others may not realize it, being a funeral director isn’t all about death. It’s also about making people’s lives better.

I am thankful to have the opportunity to serve the community.

I am thankful for being in a position where I can help ease the stress during one of the hardest times in anyone’s life – the death of a loved one.

I am thankful I can help families create unique services that celebrate a loved one in a positive and memorable way.

I am thankful I have a company with a staff dedicated to helping make final arrangements as easy and pain-free as possible.

I am thankful I can help change people’s thinking about death and help them through their grief.

I am thankful I can make a difference in people’s lives.

I am thankful – not just on Thanksgiving, but on every day of the year – for every moment I have on Earth.

What do you have to be thankful for? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of the people in the Phaneuf family and in our community.

Buddy