Planning Ahead: Why Pre-Need Contracts Protect You and Your Family

August 22nd, 2014

WalkingThe weight of determining the right type of funeral for a loved one can be overwhelming to grieving family members. There are so many decisions to make in attending to the important details of a celebration of life. And, trying to address these important matters while in the throes of grief can be unduly stressful on a family.

That is why many of us are choosing to be proactive in making important decisions regarding funeral arrangements, even in our younger adult years. Pre-planning provides numerous benefits that help protect our loved ones while maintaining clarity around our personal wishes and the type of service most meaningful to us. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why a Memorial Service Matters

August 11th, 2014

Gramer_iStock_000023730860_MediumFor many of us, the loss of a loved one is extraordinarily difficult. The emotions we experience, added to helping those closest to us cope with their grief, can make loss feel insurmountable to even the strongest among us. Because of this, it can be tempting to postpone, or simply decide against, having a memorial service for the deceased – especially when you’ve selected a cremation service. Yet the enormity of grief is precisely why you should take the time to plan a memorial service.

The Act of Grieving

Cultures across the world honor their dead by performing some type of ritual or memorial for the deceased, and our own culture is no exception. While your cultural and religious beliefs may dictate what type of memorial service you plan, the act of planning and performing the memorial service is as much for you and the grieving process of the survivors as it is for honoring the departed. Read the rest of this entry »

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The History of Gramer Funeral Home

October 5th, 2013

Our tradition of service started in 1952 when Henry Gramer first purchased our funeral home, the historic building located on Main Street in downtown Clawson. The building had been operating as a funeral home since the early 1940s. Both Henry and his brother Richard served the community for many years, offering quality funeral services. Henry passed away November 21, 2005, and Richard is now retired. Paul, Henry’s son, continues to carry on their legacy of service. Our landmark home has been preserved and remodeled extensively to create a bed and breakfast feel that is inviting and relaxing.

In 2003, Paul purchased our second location, Diener Chapel in Shelby Township. The Diener Funeral Home was founded by Dale Diener and has been serving the community for over 50 years. You may notice a name change; however, in recognition of the Diener family and our commitment to Shelby Township and Utica communities, this location is now called Gramer Funeral Home – Diener Chapel. Dale is enjoying retirement, and his daughter Dawn Diener-Drozd works in close relation with our staff.

We are proud to offer service as family-owned funeral homes. We believe this is important and meaningful to families, because we understand the importance — and the personal reward — of assisting friends and neighbors in times of need.

We also consider it our duty to preserve the landscape of the communities we serve. In 2000, we received the Clawson Beautification Award for landscaping enhancements to our original Clawson location, a well-regarded landmark with the distinction of being the town’s oldest house.

In 2005, after renovations both inside and out, our second location, Diener Chapel, was also honored with the Shelby Township Summer Beautification Award.

Welcome to the Family of Gramer Funeral Home: Large Enough to Serve You, Small Enough to Know You!

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Children and Funerals: Talking Points

September 27th, 2013

After a death of a loved one, adults are often faced with the decision of whether to include children in death rituals such as visitation, funerals or memorial services. As a general guideline, the most helpful thing we as adults can do for our children is to let them participate as fully and completely in the grieving process as possible. To “protect” a child by keeping them from attending the wake, funeral and burial (or equivalent) only closes them off from the process of grieving and healing.

The funeral ritual not only allows us to embrace and honor the life that was lived but provides us an opportunity to support each other as we go forward. By joining family members in this ritual, children are given a chance to receive grief support from others and the opportunity to say goodbye in their own way. The funeral and the time around it serve as an event everyone will refer to later as the point at which life became different.

Encourage, but don’t force:
Children should be encouraged to take part in funeral services but never forced to attend. When guided and informed of the process, most children want to attend. Children are not born with a fear of death; rather, it is often our reactions that give them this fear.

Children feel like their feelings matter when they are allowed to take part in the rituals. Some children have taken part in the services by sharing a favorite memory, reading a special poem, lighting a candle or placing a momento or photo in the casket.
Even if children do not wish to participate, you may suggest writing a note, coloring a picture or including a photograph with the deceased as a way of making a connection or saying something they may wish they had said or done before the person died. Allowing children to contribute helps them express their grief in a positive way.

Unless a child has already attended a funeral, most don’t know what to expect. It is helpful to give as many specifics regarding what will happen before, during and after the ceremony, as the child is interested in hearing. Allow the child’s questions to be your guide.

It might be helpful to describe how the room will look and who will be there. If the body will be viewed, let the child know this and explain the casket and what the body will look like. It is helpful to reassure children that death means the body is no longer working and thus can’t feel any pain.

It may also be helpful to prepare children for the wide variety of emotions people may be expressing at the services. Some may be crying and others may be laughing as they share special stories and memories. The wide variety of expressions of grief are all a normal part of the grieving process.

Although funerals are a time of great sadness, children need to know that the ritual is also a time to honor the person who died and a time for people to come together to comfort and support each other. It is also a time to say goodbye and to acknowledge that the person that we loved cannot come back. This might be an opportunity to explain what spiritual significance the ritual has for you and your family.

Being present:
Children need a time to say goodbye. They need loving adults around them to allow them to cry, to be angry and especially to remember. Grieving children especially need to know that they are not alone.

How children grieve a death and participate in the rituals of their culture determines how they will face future losses and sorrows. Allow children to do as much as they are comfortable doing. You may be surprised how well a child may cope given support and understanding and how much their presence may actually help grieving adults.

Talking with Children about Death

General guidelines:
Answer simply and truthfully.
Children will probably know in some way when they are not being told the truth. What they imagine to fill in the details is often worse than the reality.

Listen to questions closely.
As adults we often project our own anxieties onto our children’s questions. When a four year old asks, “Where is Daddy?” they may only want to know the whereabouts of the body and how it got there. They may not be asking the metaphysical question about an afterlife. Ask follow up questions to make sure you know what they are asking and why they are asking it. In other words what made them ask the question.

Only answer what has been asked.
Answer simply and truthfully, but don’t offer more than is needed. If the child wants more they will ask more questions. When children ask a question about feelings, focus on emotional answers and support. When their questions are factual, focus on informative answers.

Pay attention to their body language.
If they seem antsy, it may mean it is time to end the conversation. They will return to it if they need more as long as they know it is an allowed topic for conversation.

Answer these questions in an open atmosphere.
Use familiar expressions of comfort such as touches, hugs, smiles, and a loving tone of voice. Children need to know that what you’re saying or describing, no matter how difficult , is okay to talk about. Adults do not need to have all the answers but children do need to know that they will listened to.

Balance your own emotions.
For children to be able to hear the whole message, a warm and open approach is helpful. If you’re too emotional, they can’t understand the words. On the other hand, if you show no emotion, the words may seem too harsh.

Balance your own needs/abilities with what the children need.
It’s okay to say “I can’t talk about this right now” when you feel overwhelmed by the situation or need time to put your own thoughts together about how you want to explain things to your child. Children have a knack for asking questions at those moments when you least expect it. Better to postpone the conversation than to give an answer you may regret later. But it is critical to make sure that you do return to the conversation. It is important to remember that within a family each person may be in a different place and express themselves in a different way.

Possible questions :
What does dead mean?
In simple terms explain the physical process of death. The heart doesn’t beat, the lungs don’t breath, the persons doesn’t have to eat or go to the bathroom. Their body stops working completely. They don’t feel any pain.

Did I make it happen ?
This is a question which needs to be answered directly and clearly. Children will sometimes assume that their wish or words or thoughts caused this bad thing to happen (magical thinking). We need to unburden them of this concern, while acknowledging that we have heard it. Try not to dismiss the question. Avoid saying things like “don’t be silly” or “that’s crazy”. Rather “ I understand why you might think that but you absolutely did nothing to make this happen.”

What happened to the body?
Be as simple and truthful as possible. Use the correct terminology including casket, funeral, cemetery, cremation, burial, ashes.

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For this I am truly thankful…

November 23rd, 2011

Have you ever taken a moment to look at what you have and be really, truly grateful for it? Some Be Gratefulpeople seem to be able to maintain a positive attitude regardless of what’s happening in their lives. They can appreciate the good times, but they can also focus and appreciate the positive aspects of their negative experiences.

Here are some really great benefits of having a thankful outlook:

  • It is one of the simpler routes to a greater sense of emotional well-being, higher overall life satisfaction, and a greater sense of happiness in life.
  • People with a higher level of gratitude tend to have stronger relationships in that they appreciate their loved ones more, which in turn helps their loved ones to appreciate them more!
  • Those with an attitude of gratitude tend to be happier, sleep better, and enjoy healthier relationships which all helps them to be healthier people.

Fortunately for those of us who do not naturally see the silver lining in life’s negative events, it is possible to learn this behavior. Whenever you notice yourself feeling negatively about a stressor in your life, remind yourself of three or four related things for which you are grateful. If you’re stressed about a project at work, think about aspects of your job that you like. You can do the same with relationship stress or financial stress.

Another great way to become more positive is by keeping a gratitude journal. At the end of each day write down the events that occurred for which you are thankful. If you had a particularly hard day, force yourself to come up with at least two good things that came out of it. It will be difficult at first, but as you continue this practice you will begin to notice that you are thinking more positively in the moment, not just reflectively at the end of the day. Your positive attitude will become more automatic, and you will soon start to reap all of the benefits of a thankful outlook!

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Benefits of a Green Burial

November 17th, 2011

Green burials, or burials without the use of chemical preservatives and traditional heavy metal and wood caskets, are catching on in some areas as an alternative to traditional burial. In a green burial, un-embalmed remains are put directly into the ground, either shrouded in cloth or buried in natural caskets made of biodegradable materials such as cardboard, wicker, and pine. They are simple, often more affordable, and environmentally friendly.

Green Burial GroundThe practice of natural burial dates back thousands of years but has been interrupted in modern times by “technological advances” (vaults, liners, embalming, mausoleums, etc.) that mitigate the decomposition process. The current funeral practices of embalming a body have only been popular in the United States since the Civil War, when bodies needed to make it from the battlefield to their home for burial. So, in many ways, green burials are simply a return to the way things used to be done. The principle behind this practice is to follow the natural cycle of life by returning the body to the earth and embracing the philosophy of “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Green burials provide a reduced environmental impact over conventional burials, as well as the benefits of land preservation and affordability. Many advocates of these eco-friendly burials argue that traditional burials are a waste of resources: each year, cemeteries bury millions of feet of wood, thousands of tons of steel, copper, and concrete, and hundreds of thousands of gallons of embalming fluids which commonly contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

We are proud to be a member of the Green Burial Council and to offer respectful and dignified green burials to those who have a special concern for nature and the environment. If you’re considering a green burial but want to know more, please call us and we can discuss your options.

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National Family Stories Month

November 9th, 2011

November is National Family Stories Month in the United States. It’s a time to reflect on all of the wonderful stories, silly, funny, serious, or scary, that help to define your family.

Woman talking to her GrandmotherEvery family has thousands of stories to tell. Whether they are epic tales that changed people’s lives, or simple anecdotes that remind us of someone or someplace, they are all stories of things that have happened. Some people grew up hearing stories of the things that their grandparents and parents had done when they were younger. Others have families that are less enthusiastic sharers. But whether you grew up hearing the stories or not, rest assured, they are there. And they are all worthy of sharing.

Take this month as an opportunity to sit down with some of the older members of your family and ask them about their stories. You will undoubtedly learn something about them that you didn’t know before, and you can pass those stories on to other family members. Maybe you will create a newsletter to send to your relatives, or a personal blog that you can update with new stories as you hear them. Maybe you’ll even go so far as to trace your family tree.

When your loved ones pass on, their stories will help to keep their memory alive and can be a great comfort. Sharing family stories is a great way to stay connected to your relatives, and creates a tradition of sharing and storytelling that can last for generations.

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How to Write a Sympathy Card

November 4th, 2011

Sympathy CardA sympathy card is a nice way to offer support and express your condolences to people who are suffering a loss. You can send a sympathy card even if you did not know the deceased if you are close to members of that person’s family, or if you were close to the deceased but don’t have a relationship with his or her family members. The point of the card is to express to those who are grieving that you are there to help support them if they need it.

You should begin by addressing the card to a specific person. If you did not know the deceased but are close to someone in the family, address the card to the person who you are close to. If you were close to the deceased but did not know that person’s family, then you should address the card to the person’s spouse (if they had one), their oldest child, then to a sibling.

Keep your opening thoughts simple. You’re trying to deliver a message, not win a writing contest. Avoid flowery prose and get right to the point.  For example, “I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am for your loss” is short, to the point, and sincere. If you knew the deceased, write about a fond memory that you have of them. If you did not know the deceased, focus on the person who you are writing to. Let them know that you support them, and that you are thinking of them.

If you are offering help, be specific about what you can provide. “Let me know if there is anything that I can do to help” is a very nice sentiment, but is said so often that people are not likely to take you up on it for fear of imposing. Outlining exactly what you are able to offer, “Let me know if you need a break from cooking and I’ll bring you over a casserole” or “If you need some time alone I can watch your kids for an afternoon,” will make it easier for your friend to accept your help.

Conclude with a simple sentence that reiterates your support. “My thoughts are with you and your family.”

Be sure to write legibly so that your message is easy to read, and limit your card to 3 short paragraphs.

Don’t get too hung up on the details. The most important part of sending a sympathy card is to let someone know that you’re thinking of them while they are going through a difficult time. They will appreciate that you’ve taken the time to express your condolences and will likely be comforted that you thought of them during their time of grief.

Visit our grief support library for more ideas on how to comfort someone who has lost a loved one.

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Healthy Ways to Mourn

October 17th, 2011

Van Gogh's GriefGrief is one of the most painful emotions that humans feel. While it is healthy and natural to grieve after experiencing a profound loss, many people deal with their pain in ways that are unhealthy, or that can damage the healing process.

So how can you grieve in a healthy way?

Give yourself time to grieve

You will not get over your loss overnight, and allowing yourself an appropriate amount of time to grieve is the first step in the healing process. Allow yourself to feel the immense pain of your loss. Look at pictures of the person you’ve lost and allow yourself to cry uncontrollably. Acknowledge that your life has changed and that moving on is going to be very difficult. Trying to hide your grief, or burying it deep inside before you are truly over it, could make the healing process last for years as your emotions resurface.

Find a support system

Dealing with your grief on your own can make you feel alone and isolated from the world. Find friends, family, a trusted professional, or support group to listen to you. If you can’t find one in your area, or just prefer online support groups, try the Beyond Indigo message boards. They are filled with others who understand what you’re going through. It’s important to talk about what you’re feeling and to let the pain out.  There is no shame in seeking professional help if you find that you’re having trouble getting over your grief.

Express your feelings in a tangible way

Write about your loss in a personal journal. Write a letter to your loved one expressing the things you never got to say. Create a scrapbook celebrating their life.  Paint a picture of your emotions. Creating something new allows you to express your pain and let your feelings out.

Take care of your health

The mind and body are connected. When you feel good physically, you will start to feel better emotionally. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat right, and exercise.  When you’re feeling particularly down, go for a long walk. Exercise releases endorphins that can naturally help to reduce your pain.

Volunteer your time

When you’re mourning it can be difficult to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Try getting involved in a cause or organization that your loved one felt strongly about, or one that you feel strongly about. Helping others is a wonderful way to not only make a positive impact for others, but to help yourself see things in a more positive light.

Whatever you do, don’t bottle up your pain or try to rush yourself through your grief. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling as it comes to you without regard to how you or others may think you “should” feel.  Take the time you need to mourn, but also realize that you need to find enjoyment and happiness in your life.

For more thoughts and ideas visit our grief support library.

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Blaze of Glory

October 4th, 2011

The changing leaves remind us that as the seasons change, so do our lives. Like the beautiful, natural world around us, we, too, go through our own changes, month-to-month and year-to-year. Change for us comes with aging, moving, finding love, and losing a loved one.

The colors of the fall leaves are a beautiful testament to the change that is with all of us. Most people resist change. It’s scary, un-tested, and full of unknowns. But, change can bring renewal, refreshment, and untapped energy that we never knew existed.

This fall season, as we admire the beauty that is around us, take inspiration from the falling leaves and look within to change some of your own colors. You may be pleasantly surprised with your own personal change of season.

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