Sharing Your Story is What Matters

Sharing is Caring

Have you ever noticed that some people tell you everything, while others clam up? Whether it’s good news or major adversity, it turns out that there are some major psychological and emotional advantages to sharing your story with others. The process can help make you more resilient and can even improve your physical health, too. It’s just another reason why having the “Talk of a Lifetime” is so important.

Benefits of Sharing

Many people find it easier to write things down, either in a journal or in a personal essay. Or, you might prefer to talk to someone about your situation or speak in a public place. Either way, the act of giving your story away is often cathartic. And, what’s really interesting is just knowing that you might be helping others heal or giving them hope by sharing your story is enough to help many people feel better. Have the Talk of a Lifetime with your loved ones and share your story.

Research shows that there are significant benefits to storytelling:

Find your own voice – It can be hard to express yourself in a way that makes sense while also sounding like yourself. Psychologists say that it helps to create a story of your life, with a beginning, middle, and end. Random events and devastating experiences then become part of the journey to where you are going, rather than defining you. By organizing your thoughts and putting them in order, you can feel a sense of control over the events in your story and remember more details.

Remember your values and set goals – The act of sharing your story in some way provides perspective and perhaps a reminder of what’s truly important to you. Maybe you’re getting bogged down in small details and forgetting about taking steps toward your long-range goals and dreams. Telling your story in a big-picture way can help you remember what’s most important to you.

Give others hope – Telling your story can be part of your healing process, and it becomes even more powerful when you realize how much your story can help others. People often feel lost and alone when they are going through a difficult situation. Hearing that someone experienced something similar and was able to grow in some way can provide the hope that someone might desperately need.

Find your hope and peace – Finding your voice, keeping perspective, and giving hope to others will create a sense of resilience for you. It’s much easier to feel at peace once you’ve achieved those things. Remember that sharing your story is part of a process, and this process will build hope and a feeling that everything will be okay in the long run.

Sharing is Caring

Sharing your story can help you grow from your experiences, good and bad, and make you healthier in the process. This is just one of the many reasons why having the “Talk of a Lifetime” with your loved ones is beneficial. For more information on how to get started, contact us today.

Life Lessons of the Dude

The Talk With The Dude

By Donald B. Calhoun

Unfortunately, many folks have a hard time expressing their feelings, especially when it comes to emotional expressions of love. This becomes especially true for people during heightened emotional events such as grief. The great philosophers throughout history have used this topic to spin epic stories of tragedy. I was recently having a conversation with one of my colleagues about the need for understanding, developing, and expressing the importance of emotional language. Our work in the monument business has provided us with a front row seat to hearing children express, “Dad never told me that he loved me.” Who knows maybe it’s a generational thing?

My colleague is a millennial and I am a baby boomer. One day, he expressed shock when he witnessed someone saying: “I love you, Don.” He then turned around only to discover it was one of my best friends, Duane. He expressed how odd and uncomfortable he felt witnessing the exchange, especially between two male friends. Digging deeper, I asked why he felt that way. He simply said that two dudes expressing love was just odd. He told me that if he said that to his best friend he would get punched!

Have the Talk of a Lifetime is intended to be an important tool in making sure that we don’t put off expressing our love to our family and friends until it’s too late. It is indeed tragic to observe individuals who love and care for others, and yet they are not able to even begin to express it.

The truth is, love is an emotion. Love is hard to express and explain. But in its simplest form it is the feeling and the knowledge of connection, the understanding that we matter to someone, and that they matter to us. We have often heard that the highest form of love is unconditional. This means that it is not bound by rules or conditions but a gift to be given freely.

Why is it so hard for so many people to express their deep emotional feelings? If you ponder this in the manor of Aristotle, Socrates, or the Dude from the Big Lebowski, we naturally build protective walls to keep ourselves from getting hurt. They are learned behaviors that are natural, reasonable, and serve us well in daily life. Without these natural barriers to protect us the doctor, nurse, teacher, policeman, firefighter, soldier, or caregiver would not be able to function under very stressful situations. They must put aside their emotions to cope and do their assigned task.

Every teeter totter has a fulcrum. That fulcrum provides the center point or balance. We must learn to balance the ability to express feelings of the heart with a realistic level of protection of our mental state. The cost of building emotional barriers denies our true ability to express love. Herein lies the paradox of love; we can get hurt emotionally when we choose to love but we can’t experience love if we choose not to. There is a wonderful TED talk by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability that has been viewed over 26 million times and that proves that people want to crack this paradox!

The famous Pink Floyd song Comfortably Numb captures the essence of this subject in the tragic lyrics: “Hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anybody home?” This would be a true catatonic conundrum of epic proportions. Don’t let your dreams of love and affection head in the wrong direction. Don’t let your fears and anxiety of expressing your feelings of love and affection stop you. Have the Talk with those you care about, so you can live a full life with fewer regrets! The Dude abides.

Effective Ways to Keep Memories Alive

Sombody holding a keepsake book

Fading memories can be an all too common outcome when a loved one passes away:

  • “I can’t remember what Mom’s voice sounded like.”
  • “Do you remember what color Dad’s eyes were?”
  • “What was that great recipe Grandma used to make?”

You can Have the Talk of a Lifetime with treasured friends and family members today to preserve these memories with clarity so you will have fewer regrets when they are no longer around.

As you get reacquainted or better acquainted with those you love most, the following ideas can help you keep treasured memories alive.

3 Great Ways to Keep Memories Alive

As you and your loved ones talk about the things that matter most in life, these ideas can help you preserve important memories. Someday, as these friends and family members are memorialized and the lives they led are remembered, you’ll be glad you preserved so many cherished details by having the “Talk of a Lifetime”.

  • For the Record: Take time to sit down with your loved ones and make audio and/or video recordings. Get them talking about stories they remember from childhood, their favorite foods, activities or songs, funny and embarrassing moments—all those little details that add up to who they are and should be remember when they are gone.
  • Online Family Scrapbook: Go through family photos with your loved ones and take time to organize and scan them into a computer. You’re certain to find snapshots you’d forgotten about and even some you’ve never seen before. Ask your loved ones to write down (or preserve on a voice recorder) some of the stories that go along with these pictures. Use an online blog site (there are plenty of great ones on the Web that don’t cost anything) to post the photos and stories. Share the Web link with your family members near and far so they can access this virtual scrapbook, and encourage them to post their own photos and stories to add to the collection.
  • Remember When? Nothing rekindles memories and strengthens family ties like a trip down memory lane. At your next family gathering, have your relatives sit down together for a game of “Remember When?” Write each person’s name on a slip of a paper and put the names in a bowl or other container. Draw out the names one at a time and have each person in the group, in turn, share a “remember when?” memory:

    • “Remember when we snuck out of the house to go to that rock concert?”
    • “Remember when Uncle Joe crashed his car into the front yard?”
    • “Remember when we put that fake spider in Grandpa’s bed?”

Get ready for warm remembrances and lots of laughter! The younger generation of family members will also get a glimpse into the past and get to know their relatives in a whole new way.

Preserve Your Memories…and Take Time to Make New Ones

Click here for more information on how to Have the Talk of a Lifetime with the ones you love.

Connecting With the Past to Make a Difference

Family History

We all have treasured family stories that have been told to generations of children, over and over again. But have you ever asked yourself how much you really, truly know about your loved ones? As life moves faster, and the people we care about get older, we need to stop for a moment and Have the Talk of a Lifetime.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime

It’s interesting and enlightening getting to know someone in a new and different way, and life’s stories take on new importance when someone passes away. When all that’s left are memories, these remembrances make memorials and the grieving process more manageable for the people left behind. Those funny stories that make you smile through your tears, the old newspaper clippings of sports awards and retirement ceremonies, and of course, old photographs – all provide great comfort during the healing process.

Questions to Ask

It may feel awkward at first to just start asking questions, but once you get started, you’ll find that these conversations are fun and illuminating. You may even discover some juicy tidbits about your family. So next time you’re on a walk, having dinner, or just hanging out, try out a few of these questions on someone you love:

  • Tell me how your parents met.
  • Where did you grow up? What was your childhood home like?
  • What’s some advice your parents or grandparents gave you that you’ve never forgotten?
  • Do you remember any of your older relatives? What were they like?
  • Tell me about your summers growing up. What can you remember most?
  • What was school like? Who was your favorite teacher? What were your favorite subjects?
  • Did your family have holiday traditions? What were they?
  • Who were some of your childhood friends? What did you like to do with them?
  • How old were you when you started working? What was your first job?
  • How did you meet your husband or wife? 
  • Tell me about the day you got married.
  • Tell me about when your children were born.
  • What was your favorite job you ever had? Why?
  • Who have you looked up to over the years?
  • What were you doing when you heard that President Kennedy was shot (or another historical event, such as 9/11)?
  • What do you like to read? What do you like to watch on television?
  • What are your favorite songs?
  • When were you the happiest in your life?
  • What achievement makes you most proud?

Connect With the Past

There are threads that run through families, and Have the Talk of a Lifetime is a way to connect to the past and create new memories to pass down. Contact us to learn more about Have the Talk of a Lifetime today.

Growing Closer as the Year Grows Old: Creating Fall Memories as a Family

Fall leaves turning As autumn approaches, families near and far begin planning seasonal festivities. Fall outings and holiday occasions are not only events greatly looked forward to, but they are ideal opportunities to Have the Talk of a Lifetime with your loved ones. This year, as you and yours are busily creating fall memories, take the time to deepen your bond with treasured family members, show them you care, and reassure them that they’ll be remembered with love when they are gone.

Deepening Family Bonds

The Talk of a Lifetime can happen in many ways. Here are some fun ideas that will afford opportunities for families to make happy fall memories together, get to know each other better, and grow closer.
  • Family Round Table: Honor a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or other relative by having a Q&A session in which they are the principle focus of the evening. Have each family member write out questions for the person—things they don’t know about the individual or have wondered about (download our free workbook for question ideas). Place the questions in a bowl and draw them out one at a time, giving the star guest an opportunity to address each one. Have a recording device ready so their answers can be preserved. Prepare some scrumptious fall refreshments beforehand so everyone can eat, listen, and share together.
  • Outdoor Family Activities: Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy the beautiful outdoors as the leaves are changing. Coordinate a family flag football game or a family hike. A little friendly competition playing football or any other sport of your choice will surely create lasting memories. If hiking is more your style, try exploring a forest preserve or nature trail in your area that you haven’t visited before to take in the stunning fall colors. You can share these stories with loved ones after while warming up inside, sipping a cup of hot cider by the fire.
  • Family Portrait: It’s easy to let years slip by in which a family photo has not been taken. Don’t look back with regret that you didn’t take more photos with particular loved ones before they passed on. This year, make your family portrait session a merry occasion. Gather your loved ones for a harvest celebration and schedule time for a family portrait in the midst of it. Have photos taken in a fun fall setting, such as a backyard that is colorful with autumn leaves.
  • Halloween Crafts: As you get ready to decorate for Halloween, make it an occasion. Create your own decorations as a family—hanging ghosts, paper chains in fall colors, a spooky wreath for the front door, etc. Find easy craft ideas online for your little ones and more challenging projects for teens and adult family members.

Make the Most of Your Time Together

Sharing experiences and talking with your loved ones is a great way to learn what matters most to them so you can better celebrate their life when the time comes. For more information about Have the Talk of a Lifetime, contact us today.

Grief Lessened by Discussing Final Wishes

Field with clouds

By Danielle Burmeister

Marketing Communications Specialist at Homesteaders Life Company

A few months ago, I met a woman who had buried two husbands. The first died unexpectedly at a tragically young age, the second after a long, hard and well-fought battle with cancer. Kate bore the unmistakable signs of grief – strength and perseverance coupled with the quiet certainty that life is very, very precious.

As you might imagine, her first husband passed away without making any plans for his funeral arrangements. At his age, there was no reason to think he needed to talk with his wife about how he wanted to be remembered, where he wanted to be laid to rest or even where he kept their important documents and financial information. When he died, Kate was left with a mountain of decisions to make, a funeral to arrange and a life to stitch back together without any guidance from her departed spouse.

Talking about what matters most

Some months later, Kate began to Have the Talk of a Lifetime® with her children about her own final wishes – never wanting to leave them with the pain and uncertainty of burying a loved one without knowing exactly what she would have wanted.

By the time she met and married her second husband, talking about end-of-life plans and final wishes was a natural part of her family relationships. When he was diagnosed with cancer a few years later, they were able to focus their energy on treatment plans and recovery goals, knowing that if the worst should happen, she would know what to do.

When he passed away, Kate knew which church he wanted to use for his funeral, which pastor would officiate, which type of disposition he wanted and where he wanted his ashes scattered. She knew where he was born, his mother’s maiden name and his parents’ and grandparents’ birthplaces. She knew where he kept his life insurance policy and bank information and which funeral home he had used to make his final arrangements. She knew enough to be able to spend the days following his death focusing on family, not funeral arrangements.

Though no one is every truly prepared to cope with the loss of a loved one, Kate felt some relief from knowing exactly what her husband wanted.

Watch Kate’s story

When I sat down to interview Kate, I also spent some time talking with her son, who expressed his own relief that he would know what to do when his mother passed away. “It’s comforting to know those things, to know the values my family has always had and the values I bring to my own family,” Jim explained. “It makes me very relaxed to know what she wants.”

Watch the video below to hear more about how Kate has been able to share her stories and wishes with her son, and what that has meant to him.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime

Sharing stories with your loved ones is so important – especially when it comes to your end-of-life wishes and how you want to be remembered. If you haven’t yet, consider sitting down with your family to Have the Talk of a Lifetime. Not sure how to get started? Click here to download a free workbook to guide you through these important discussions.

Have the Talk of a Lifetime with Fond Sports Memories

Athletes Running Speaking with friends and family about cherished sports memories accomplishes a whole lot more than a trip down memory lane. Sharing these fond memories is an excellent way to Have the Talk of a Lifetime, ensuring that your loved ones are remembered in the way that they want. As you learn more about that state track record or that dramatic goal before the buzzer, you’ll grow an even deeper appreciation for those you care about. Have the Talk of a Lifetime with friends and family to help preserve their sports legacies for generations to come.

Sharing Sports Memories

From action shots on the field to candid selfies after the big playoff win, pictures can truly say a thousand words and can be great tools to help start the Talk of a Lifetime. Here are a few ways that you can highlight boxes of new and old photos for greater longevity:
  • Consider creating a collage of great sports memories. Photo albums and scrapbooks act as a customized sport biography for your loved one, or you can even create a poster of great shots.
  • If you prefer digital media, action shots and video clips can preserve the most thrilling moments of your athlete’s history. Upload the clips to social media to share the great times with family and friends.
  • Even less than stellar photos can be enhanced with photo editing software to create crisp, artistic shots that you will be proud to display.

Preserving Personal Memorabilia

As athletes move through their sports careers they acquire countless keepsakes, such as trophies, uniforms, and newspaper clippings. The next time you come across one of these cherished pieces, be sure to ask for the stories behind it. You may be surprised to hear the exciting tales that lie behind a worn catcher’s mitt or a pair of pompons. Not only will you get to hear these nostalgic stories, but your loved one will also get a chance to relive of his or her favorite sports memories. This can be a terrific way to Have the Talk of a Lifetime.

Start with Having the Talk of a Lifetime

Sports memories can bring you closer to the people you love, while learning more about their unique histories. Your local funeral professional is happy to provide you with more information about how to Have the Talk of a Lifetime to commemorate family and friends forever. Please contact us online for more information about getting started.

What Are Your Back-to-School Memories?

Back To School Banner Photo If we think back to our school days, most of us have some vivid memories of what it was like and how we felt. All it takes is the smell of arts and crafts supplies, or a school gymnasium to take us back in time. These are the kinds of things we should remember to share with our children by Having the Talk of a Lifetime. They love to learn about our lives before they existed, especially the little ones. Believe it or not, these are the kinds of things they’ll remember later on.

School Days

Back-to-school time is ideal for talking with your children. Your experiences can help them realize that you identify with how they’re feeling. They might be nervous and excited, but the memories you share with them can help put life in perspective. Tell them how exciting it was to go shopping with your parents for your new lunchbox and school clothes each year. Without cell phones and the Internet, maybe you had to call your friend on the home phone to plan your walk to school. They might get a kick out of the time you embarrassed yourself in front of your entire third-grade class. Or, how about the time your family had to move in the middle of the school year, and you were so nervous, you thought you were going to throw up? Then you met your new best friend that you’re still in touch with to this day. These kinds of stories help them see you as someone else besides their mom or dad. Sharing stories and Having the Talk of Lifetime can lead to a more fulfilling relationship in the future. You also may have some sweet memories of dropping them off at kindergarten for the very first time. Do they know about the tears that welled up and how much you missed them? Maybe you can remind them that you were nervous every year too, and everything will be okay.

Seize the Moment

The present becomes the past, all too soon. This time of year is perfect for deeper conversations with your kids that help them get to know you better. Have the Talk of a Lifetime today.

Not Knowing How to Honor a Loved One = Stress

Reducing Uncertainty

By Mark Allen

Executive Director and CEO, International Order of the Golden Rule

Picture three sisters at a conference table with intense expressions on their faces. Sister #1 says, “What do you think Mom would have wanted at her funeral?” Sister #2 replies, “I don’t know. What do you think?” Sister #3 responds, “I have absolutely no idea what to do!” Longer life spans and low child mortality rates have removed much of our incentive to think about an unpleasant subject like death, let alone consider what we want to happen at our funerals or end-of-life ceremonies. Death is no longer a daily part of life for most of us–or so we tell ourselves. We’re comfortable with delaying any thoughts about death as if that will make us immortal.

Lessen the Burden by Reducing Uncertainty

The death of a spouse, parent or sibling ranks as the most stressful experience a person will ever face. Many people believe that telling their families they want to be cremated or buried with no fanfare will remove a burden from their families. However, uncertainty is even more stressful than a negative outcome according to a recent UCL study. When we fail to tell survivors our authentic wishes for how we want to be remembered, we risk adding stress to those we love. After all, what could be more uncertain—and stressful–than blindly guessing how to pay tribute to another person’s life?

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead can greatly reduce the uncertainty families feel when a loved one dies. Consider making plans now to give your loved ones a roadmap that will make their journey smoother. Start by telling them your wishes. Describe your preferences in a document and let key people know where they can find it. Express your desire to be buried beneath a tree in a country cemetery. Disclose that you’d like to hold a gathering at an art gallery or have a traditional funeral in a church filled with religious symbols that hold special meaning for you. Name the songs you want played, the people you want to be involved, or poems or scripture that reflect the essence of your life.

Let a Professional Do the Heavy Lifting

The easiest way to plan ahead is to enlist the help of a professional funeral director. Funeral directors have come a long way since the days when everyone’s funeral looked pretty much the same. Today’s funeral director will help you determine how to translate what’s most meaningful to you into a one-of-a-kind tribute that helps survivors begin the process of healthy grieving. Search online for a Talk of a Lifetime expert in your area. He or she can be a tremendous resource.

How to Start an Awkward Conversation

Starting a discussion about your wishes may be awkward at first. Fortunately, several helpful tools are available through the Have the Talk of a Lifetime campaign that make these discussions easier. The Have the Talk of a Lifetime workbook is an excellent resource for capturing important aspects of your life that will lead to meaningful a funeral or end-of-life ceremony. In November, several new (and free) resources will be introduced under the theme, Time for Family, Time for Talk. Be sure to check them out. Imagine if the three sisters mentioned earlier had talked to their mother about her funeral preferences. They’d have had peace of mind knowing their mother’s tribute truly reflected her life and values. After all, the point of funerals and end-of-life ceremonies is to allow us to focus on our grief, not on our uncertainty.

Tips and Tricks: How to Create a Family Tree

One of the great benefits of having the Talk of a Lifetime is the preservation of family stories and histories. With the rise in popularity of television programs like “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Finding Your Roots,” there is a renewed interest in creating family trees and learning more about our ancestors. Have the Talk of a Lifetime® is the perfect place to start when exploring your family lineage.

Creating a family tree is a wonderful way to commemorate the past, while providing valuable information for future generations. This fun activity can also help initiate the Talk of a Lifetime that is essential to have with your loved ones. It is important to sit down with your family and talk about what matters most to you, and what you remember about your ancestors.

Family Tree Tips

There are a variety of ways to make a family tree. Here are a few starting points to consider before you begin this exciting process.

  • Record Your Family Story: Get the family together and make a list of names and correlating relationships. As you write down and list names, it is always fun to bring up memories and stories. Is there an interesting story behind a marriage or a nickname? Name everyone, and talk about how the family started. Share these important stories with those you love while you make your family lists. This is also a great time to begin the Talk of a Lifetime with loved ones gathered.

  • Turn to the U.S. Census: The U.S. Census can be a terrific resource for information about grandparents and parents. Occupations, birthdays, addresses, and much more can be verified in the U.S. census and marked down in your family tree.
  • Get in Touch with Relatives: Gather your loved ones, and ask them about cherished memories. Some of your family members may even have great pictures to share, old documents, letters, and genealogy information.
  • Take One Story at a Time: Start with a relative as far back as you can remember. It is best to take on one story at a time. It is tricky to focus on a whole tree at once, so focusing on individuals can be more personally satisfying and easier to manage.

The Talk of the Lifetime is The Talk to Remember

Your family tree is a unique story with many memories that should be remembered, recorded and shared. Download our free workbook to learn more about beginning the Talk of a Lifetime. Your loved ones deserve the best, and it’s comforting to know that you mattered in their lives, so make time for this meaningful activity, and Have the Talk of a Lifetime.