by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
“Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.” — Tori Amos
We meet here, on this page, because your heart is broken.
You’re hurting. You’re suffering life’s most painful experience: loss.
Whatever your loss may be, please know that I am genuinely sorry.
I’ve been a grief counselor and educator for a long time now. Doing what I can to offer compassion and hope to people who are grieving is my passion and life’s work.
As you well know, your grief is real.
I hope this article helps you honor your unique grief and begin to understand how to mend your heart.
Does mending seem impossible to you right now? If so, that’s OK. You are where you are.
Yet I assure you that not only is mending possible, it can transform you.
Life is both wonderful and devastating.
It graces us with joy, and it breaks our hearts.
Why are our hearts so breakable? Because human hearts are made to grow attached.
If we’re lucky, that is.
If we’re lucky, we love. If we’re fortunate, we become attached.
Our loves and attachments are what give our fleeting, challenging lives meaning and joy.
But—and this may be the biggest Catch-22 in all of human existence!—there’s an unavoidable flipside to the joy of connection: Whenever our loves and attachments are threatened, torn, or broken, our hearts begin to break.
When we love someone and they die, our hearts break.
When we love someone and we become separated from them, our hearts break.
When we love someone and they get seriously sick, our hearts break.
When we are powerfully attached to a place or a home, a career or a situation, that we must transition away from, our hearts break.
In the course of our decades of life, that’s an awful lot of brokenheartedness for each of us to bear.
Degrees of brokenness
How badly our hearts break each time we lose something is generally a measure of two things: the strength of the attachment bond, and the severity of the threat to the bond.
Of course, brokenheartedness can’t actually be quantified. As with all emotional and spiritual experiences, there is no objective unit of measure. We can’t weigh it on a scale or wrap it with a measuring tape.by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
When a loved one dies, many important decisions must be made.
How the person’s body will be cared for and where it will be placed are among these decisions.
Especially if you have chosen cremation, this article will help your family understand the many benefits of choosing a final resting place for your loved one.
Traditionally, people who died were placed in caskets and buried in cemeteries. In recent years, however, cremation has become the most popular choice. Today in North America, the bodies of well over half of all people who die are cremated.
After cremation, there are still decisions to be made. Many families find themselves unsure what to do with their loved one’s cremated remains.
Some families choose to have the remains placed in a niche in a columbarium or in a formal scattering garden.
Others choose to bury the remains alongside the bodies of other loved ones in a cemetery.
Still others scatter the remains in one or several meaningful locations.
And finally, many families take the remains home and put them in a place of honor.
While all of these choices have unique benefits, choices 3 and 4 also have drawbacks that could affect your family in the years ahead as well as for generations to come.
What is a final resting place?
A final resting place is a permanent, secure, sacred, and public location for the placement of a body or cremated remains. It is usually marked by a plaque or headstone with the name and birth and death dates of the person who lived.
Why choose a final resting place for your loved one
There are many reasons why you should consider choosing a final resting place for your loved one. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the most important reasons.
Most people would agree that even in death, the body of a precious loved one deserves respect. This also applies to cremated remains, of course. When we place the body or remains in a permanent, secure, sacred, and public location, we are forever honoring the life of the person who died as well as the body that animated that life.
A final resting place is a special place for you and others to visit as well as a spot for friends and family to gather and remember. Without a final resting place to know about and visit, many grieving people end up feeling adrift and lost, not knowing where to direct their grief. This often happens with inaccessible, undefined, or unmarked scattering locations.
Honoring family heritage is another essential reason to select a final resting place after cremation. The location you choose will become a place for both friends and family to pay their respects for generations to come.
Grief is what we think and feel inside us after someone we love dies. Mourning is expressing those thoughts and feelings outside ourselves. And mourning is how we begin to heal. Visiting a final resting place often helps us mourn. It’s a healthy way to give expression to our grief.
Peace of Mind
As cremation becomes more and more popular, many families are accumulating cremated remains in their homes. What will happen to all those urns and other containers 20, 30, 50 or more years from now? Choosing a secure, appropriate final resting place for each loved one is a gift to the next generation. Instead of transferring the burden to them, you take responsibility for creating long-term peace of mind.
The professionals who can help
Whether you are choosing body burial or cremation, your local funeral home, cemetery, and columbarium professionals can help you select a final resting place for your loved one. They will also assist you in creating and placing a suitable headstone or plaque. Their expertise makes choosing a final resting place simple and complete.
A final word
Keep in mind that even if you take your loved one’s cremated remains home with you initially, it is still beneficial to choose a final resting place later on. Consider holding a small ceremony on an anniversary of the death as you commit the remains to their final resting place.
Choosing a final resting place is a gift not only to the person who died but also to your family and everyone who mourns the death, including you. You will find respect, connection, legacy, expression, and peace of mind in the decision.
About the author
Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., a respected author and educator on the topic of grief. He understands that meaningful funeral experiences and permanent resting places help families and friends support one another, embrace their feelings, and embark on the journey to healing.
Recipient of the Association of Death Education and Counseling’s Death Educator Award, Dr. Wolfelt presents workshops across the world to grieving families, funeral home staffs, and other caregivers. He also teaches training courses for bereavement caregivers at the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he serves as Director. Dr. Wolfelt is on the faculty of the University of Colorado Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine. He is also the author of many bookselling books, including Understanding Your Grief, Grief One Day at a Time and Creating Meaningful Funeral Ceremonies. For more information, visit www.centerforloss.com.