By O'Connell Funeral Homes
Good GriefMar 09, 2021
Breaking Down Organ and Body Donation Misconceptions
In this episode, Amber and Pete dive into the topic of body and organ donation, debunking myths and addressing common concerns. They begin by highlighting the importance of discussing donation throughout the year. Pete raises the misconception about open caskets for organ donors, questioning whether they are allowed.
They also tackle the myth surrounding autopsies and how funerals look like when the deceased has chosen to donate their body to science. Amber explains the typical funeral process in such cases and emphasizes the value of body donations to professionals in various fields, especially medicine. Lastly, they discuss how tissue and organ donation can impact the appearance of the deceased, addressing concerns often expressed by families.
By dispelling myths and sharing insights, Amber and Pete provide a comprehensive understanding of the donation process and its implications for funeral arrangements.
- Body and organ donation is an important topic that should be talked about.
- Body donations make significant contributions not just to the field of medicine but also to different professions such as those involved in the embalming process.
In this episode:
[2:07] Amber talks about April as the National Donate Life Month and explains the importance of talking about body and organ donation year-round. Pete starts the discussion on myths by asking if organ donors are not allowed to have open caskets in their funeral.
[06:53] The duo talk about the myth on autopsies and whether they are conducted for free when requested by the family of a deceased who donated their body.
[10:56] Pete asks Amber what funerals look like when the deceased had decided to donate their body to science. Amber explains how the funeral process usually goes and how valuable these body donations are to the professionals in their field and in medicine.
[14:09] Pete and Amber discuss tissue and organ donation and how it may alter the appearance which is often a major concern for the family of the deceased.
Debunking Myths on Embalming & Cremation
In this episode, Amber and Pete delve into the world of embalming and cremation myths. They discuss the fate of jewelry, metallic teeth fillings, and implants during these processes, debunking misconceptions along the way. From how embalming doesn't grant permanence or produce odors to debunking the myth that remains are directly set on flames during cremation, the duo provides insightful information on these often misunderstood topics. They also shed light on the alternative techniques used by embalmers to create a natural appearance without sewing lips and eyes shut.
This engaging episode provides an enlightening and fun exploration of these intriguing topics, promoting a better understanding of embalming and cremation practices.
- This enlightening and engaging discussion promotes a better understanding of these practices and encourages listeners to approach embalming and cremation with more accurate knowledge.
In this episode:
[1:25] Pete brings up the YouTube video sent by Amber a few months ago which prompted the idea for the episode’s topic–embalming and cremation myths.
[2:50] Amber and Pete talk about what happens to the jewelry, metallic and gold teeth fillings, and implants of the deceased when they are being embalmed or cremated.
[7:04] The duo tackle the myths about how embalmed bodies last forever and that embalming makes the remains smell. Amber debunks both myths and explains how the process just delays the decomposition of the remains.
[10:48] Pete and Amber talk about a popular myth that embalmers sew the lips and eyes shut when necessary. Amber shares how embalmers actually employ alternative techniques to create a natural and peaceful appearance during the embalming process.
[13:17] The two talk about the myth that embalmers remove all the organs during the process.
- “We use flames to heat up the crematory itself. But I think a lot of people feel that the misconception is 'Oh, my loved one’s body is going to be lit on fire,' that is not how the cremation process works.” - Amber Miller
The Price of Saying Goodbye: Insights from a Funeral Director
In this month's episode, Amber and Pete explore the often-misunderstood topic of funeral costs and the crucial role of funeral directors in managing the intricacies of the funeral process. They discuss the perception of families regarding the costs and how funeral directors handle this sensitive issue.
Amber provides insights into the professional needs that contribute to the costs, such as their time, education, and overall expertise. They also highlight the significance of a funeral director's presence in alleviating stress and maintaining respect throughout the process.
Additionally, Amber shares about the post-funeral aftercare services they offer, ensuring families have the necessary resources to navigate their grief.
Join them for an enlightening conversation on the mission of funeral directors and the complexities of funeral costs. Takeaways:
- There are a lot of factors that contribute to funeral costs, including the time, education, and expertise required by funeral directors.
- The presence of a compassionate funeral director can greatly reduce stress for grieving families and ensure a respectful and meaningful funeral process.
In this episode:
[1:30] Amber and Pete talk about the main mission of funeral directors in handling all the details of the funeral process and how they deal with the perceptions of the families regarding the costs.
[3:09] Amber provides an insight into the costs they have to deal with, highlighting the professional needs. She expounds on the time, education, and expertise their profession entails which contribute to the costs involved in providing comprehensive funeral services.
[7:30] Pete asks Amber how many people usually work on the whole funeral process. Amber explains how everyone in their team of six directors, pre planning specialists, and office administrators get highly involved in the intricacies of the process.
[11:10] Pete talks about how the presence of a funeral director can take away the stress from the grieving families and make the process more respectful. Amber adds that there are cremation services that do not proceed with the process without the guidance and involvement of a funeral director.
[12:59] Amber shares about the post funeral aftercare services they offer such as sending out cards, text messages, inviting the families to grief support groups, and making sure they have all the resources they need to process their grief peacefully.
- “We’re diligent about trying to take everything off your plate so you can focus on your own grief and healing.” - Amber Miller
Sacred Grounds: Unveiling the Significance of Cemeteries in the Grief Process
In this episode, Pete and Amber are joined by Mike Miller of the Willow River Cemetery in Hudson, WI. Mike shares his personal journey, recalling how his fascination with the cemetery began when he worked there as a 15-year-old summer job worker. As the discussion unfolds, Mike opens up about the challenges and rewards of meeting with grieving families, emphasizing the fulfilling responsibility of assisting them through the burial arrangements process. The trio dives into the intricacies of the sale process and the careful consideration given to selecting burial spaces in collaboration with the families. They also explore the significance of maintaining the cemetery grounds and the growing trend of families seeking a designated place, like a cemetery, for solace and remembrance.
Throughout the episode, the hosts and Mike emphasize the profound role cemeteries play in initiating the grief work process and providing individuals with a means to find solace and commemorate their loved ones.
- Cemeteries should not be seen merely as burial places, but rather as significant spaces for grief work and commemoration.
- The role of a cemetery caretaker goes beyond administrative tasks, as they provide crucial support to grieving families during the burial arrangements process.
In this episode:
- O'Connell Family Funeral Homes
- Amber Miller
- Willow River Cemetery
- Daily Affirmations
- Read Show Transcript
- “It’s a big responsibility, but there’s also some reward that goes with that if I feel like I (kinda) got them through the process of burial arrangements…little as painful as they thought it might have been.” - Mike Miller
- “Time is the best healer.” -Mike Miller on grief
Carrying the Load: Roles of Pallbearers
In this episode, host Pete Waggoner and Amber Miller of O’Connell Family Funeral Homes discuss the role of pallbearers in funeral services. They explain the origin of the term “pallbearer” and its evolution to refer to individuals carrying the casket during a funeral procession. The hosts explore the process of choosing casket bearers, including age and gender requirements, and the benefits of involving loved ones in the selection process during pre-planning. The conversation also covers how the tradition of urn-bearers applies to cremated individuals and how it can be personalized to honor the wishes of the deceased and their loved ones. This episode also looks into the importance of personalizing the funeral service to reflect the wishes of the deceased and their loved ones.
- Pallbearers play an essential role in the funeral service by carrying the casket and honoring the deceased. Choosing pallbearers can be a thoughtful way to involve loved ones in the funeral planning process and ensure that the deceased's final wishes are carried out with care and respect.
In this episode:
[1:27] Host Pete Waggoner jumps right into the interesting topic of pallbearers. Amber discusses the origin of the word and its practice. They talk about how in the middle ages, pallbearers used to carry the pall instead of the actual casket.
[3:23] Pete and Amber explore what it means to be a casket bearer and how they are chosen. Amber shares how some clients would request to assign their grandchildren as the pallbearers during the preplanning process.
[6:37] The two discuss how the tradition works for cremated individuals. Amber explains how certain loved ones may carry the urn, although having pallbearers in such cases is optional.
[9:01] Pete and Amber discuss the age and gender requirements for pallbearers. Amber shares how they would discuss the specifics with the deceased's family.
[11:44] Pete and Amber talk about the interchangeability of the terms ‘pallbearer’ and ‘casket bearer.’ They also emphasize how identifying one’s casket bearers during preplanning can greatly show appreciation for the loved one.
- O'Connell Funeral Homes
- Amber Miller
- 10 Things You Need To Think About Your Funeral - Worksheet
- Read Show Transcript
- “I think this is a great exercise where you can reach out to people and say you’re really important to me in my life. I like you to be part of this, and this is what I want you to do. What a great way to cement that in.” - Pete Waggoner on identifying one’s casket bearers during the funeral pre-planning process
Heartwarming Ways to Honor Your Mom This Mother's Day
In this episode, host Pete Waggoner and O’Connell Family Funeral Homes’ Amber Miller discuss the importance of remembering and honoring moms on Mother's Day. They highlight the various ways people can pay tribute to their mothers–from setting up an altar in their homes to participating in charity works or doing acts of kindness. They also explore the role of grief and loss in Mother's Day celebrations and how these can be a good way to build on the legacy and traditions created by the deceased. Ultimately, the episode emphasizes the significance of showing love and appreciation to our mothers who left us with cherished memories and a lasting legacy this Mother’s Day.
Remembering and honoring our moms on Mother’s Day can be a healing experience, especially for those who have just recently lost their mothers or who are struggling with the grief of their absence.
Building on the legacy left by our deceased loved ones can be a meaningful way to continue their memory and honor their impact on our lives.
In this episode:
[1:42] Pete and Amber open the discussion by talking about the things one should be aware of when honoring their moms on Mother’s Day. They discuss how being proactive and prepared and seeking companionship can help make grief triggers more manageable.
[3:54] Amber and Pete explore the different ways people can remember and celebrate their moms, such as writing a letter, buying flowers, and preparing their mother’s favorite meals for the family to enjoy together.
[10:13] Pete shares how his mother enjoyed doing volunteer work and supporting different causes. Amber talks about how doing acts of kindness or participating in charitable activities in honor of our mothers can be a meaningful way to continue their legacy and honor their values.
[13:24] Amber mentions how they get many questions about Mother’s Day celebrations during the month and how O’Connell Funeral Homes strive to become a good resource for everyone in the community.
“The greatest tip of the cap to one’s legacy is to continue on the things that they started–but it’s also to build on it too.” - Pete Waggoner
“Making new traditions too is important if creating the outstanding traditions is stressful.” - Amber Miller
“We want to be a good resource to everyone in the community…a safe haven for them to come to for their questions.” - Amber Miller
Dealing With Stress, Burnout, and Compassion Fatigue
In this episode, host Pete Waggoner and O’Connell Family Funeral Homes’ Amber Miller welcome Stress Awareness Month by discussing the different aspects of stress. From its usual symptoms to how it relates to grief and burnout, the two share their personal insights and experiences on the topic. They also delve into compassion fatigue and how one can cope with the stress brought by providing care and solace to a grieving person. In the end, Pete and Amber share several Dos and Don’ts when dealing with stress.
This episode is a must-listen for anyone experiencing monumental changes or going through burnout, whether because of grief or exhaustion from the stressors of life.
- Stress can be isolating, but you don’t have to deal with it alone.
- People who provide care and solace to those who are grieving can experience stress, too–this is called compassion fatigue.
In this episode:
[2:18] Pete and Amber start the discussion by defining what stress really is. Amber explains how it can have physical manifestations, which are the body’s way of reacting to monumental changes and disruptions to our routines.
[10:12] The two explore the topics of burnout and compassion fatigue. They discuss how stress can also be experienced by those who provide support and comfort to those who are grieving after a loved one’s death.
[13:49] Amber and Pete talk about the different ways one can deal with stress and compassion fatigue, whether as an individual or with friends and family. Amber shares how there’s no one-strategy-fits-all approach, but small efforts such as taking short walks and setting little goals for the day can make significant impacts.
[20:11] Amber delves into the community component of dealing with compassion fatigue. She talks about how some organizations, such as care centers, are starting to implement initiatives such as prayer and debriefing sessions for the nurses who support the patients and their families.
[24:29] Pete and Amber discuss the negative impacts of social media and excessive use of mobile devices on one’s overall health and sleeping habits. They wrap up the episode by summarizing the Dos and Don’ts of dealing with stress and highlighting the importance of counseling.
"...It’s universal, so it impacts all of us." - Amber Miller on stress
“Stress is so isolating.” - Amber Miller
“We need to put ourselves as a priority. We need to know how to say no when our bucket is filled, when our limit is had. And we just need to practice self-care daily.” - Amber Miller
Local Resources to Help With the Grief Journey
In this episode of Good Grief, Amber Miller and Pete Waggoner discuss local resources that can help those going through a difficult period of grief. Amber shares her knowledge and expertise on various types of resources such as counseling, support groups, and online platforms that can provide comfort and understanding during a time of loss.
Pete puts emphasis on the importance of breathing exercises and caring for one's mind as a tool for coping with grief. The two talk about different ways to approach the healing process, such as doing volunteer work and getting involved in the community. They also encourage listeners to reach out for help if needed and provide resources that they may find in their local area.
Whether you are looking for guidance, comfort, or just someone to talk to, this episode of Good Grief will offer helpful and reliable advice.Takeaways:
- There is no one-size-fits-all approach to grief, and everyone may need different types of support.
- Helping others can be a powerful way to cope with grief.
[0:45] Amber provides an overview of the resources available for grieving families and those whose friends are going through the process. She also enumerates the four things every grieving person must take into consideration: the mind, the body, the spirit, and the community.
[6:19] Pete highlights the importance of breathing exercises which can be a great source of inner calm and peace. The two talk about the different ways one can care for their mind other than therapy such as journaling.
[12:45] Amber discusses how doing volunteer work and forming bonds within the community can help with the healing process. Pete adds how the simple act of laughing with friends and fellow community members can be therapeutic.
[14:41] Pete and Amber share different resources and tips for those who have friends who are going through grief. From sending small tokens such as a plant, framed pictures, meals, and gift cards to simply showing up—they outline the many ways one can provide support.Resources:
- "People form a sense of bond with someone else and then that gives them (maybe) the courage to do something different that they normally wouldn't have done in the past." -Amber Miller on doing volunteer work in the community as a way of coping with grief
Honoring a Loved One through Funeral Personalization
In this episode of the Good Grief podcast, Amber Miller sits with host Pete Waggoner to discuss the topic of funeral personalization and how it can help people grieve. They explore why personalizing a funeral—from the flowers and decorations to the food after church service—can help the bereaved be reminded of their connection to their loved one, and how it can memorialize the legacies of those who have passed away. They discuss the different personalization options for funerals, and how to determine which elements are most meaningful. The episode also shares some tips on how to plan a personalized service that can provide a sense of comfort and closure.Takeaways:
- It's in the meanings behind the elements of a funeral where personalization comes into play.
- Grieving can be a creative and meaningful process.
[0:40] Pete brings up the question of using "are" versus "were" when referring to the deceased. Amber explains how using the present or past tense depends on what the loved ones are comfortable with but that the passing of someone does not take away who they have always been as a person.
[2:33] Amber and Pete go into the topic of funeral personalization and how it can help provide comfort to the bereaved. Amber shares how the unique parts of a funeral can bring healing and hope to the grieving family.
[7:44] The two talk about how flowers and decorations can be a major part of the personalization process and set the scene for the visitors during the service.
[13:51] Pete and Amber discuss how food can also be incorporated into the funeral and how it can be used to create a meaningful experience for the community. From having food trucks at the service to having a traditional dinner afterward, they explore how the food can be used to honor the life of their loved ones.
[19:01] Pete shares a story about how his sister's friends and family contributed to the personalization of her funeral. The two talk about how creativity and resources can be used to make a special service that reflects the personality of the deceased and engages the grieving loved ones.Resources:
- "That's how they are. They'll always be that way for us." - Amber Miller on referring to a deceased loved one
- "Oftentimes, if a funeral doesn't feel meaningful or personalized, it sometimes doesn't feel real. It doesn't feel like it's something that I can move forward from." - Amber Miller
Funeral Preplanning Expectations With Amber Miller
O'Connell Funeral Homes' Amber Miller and host Pete Waggoner welcome the new year by discussing preplanning expectations in this episode of Good Grief. Amber shares her first-hand funeral experience with families whose deceased loved ones made it easier to prepare by taking the time to plan ahead of time. The two go into detail about the different aspects of prearranging—from the frequency and length of the sessions to the prepayment process and the specifics being discussed during the meetings. They also talk about how funeral pre-arrangement can be done in the comfort of home and how families can benefit greatly from this process.
This episode is a must-listen for those considering preplanning their funeral, as well as those who are already in the process of doing so. Because “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” as said by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
- Funeral pre-arranging lightens the load and grief of the mourning family.
- Talking about death and funerals does not have to be uncomfortable.
In this episode:
[1:20] Pete Waggoner opens the discussion by asking Amber Miller what makes prearranging so important. Amber shares how she has encountered family members at funerals who are grateful that their deceased loved one or a relative has taken the time to plan ahead of time.
[4:29] Amber and Pete talk about where pre-arranging meetings usually take place. Amber also gives insight on how the conversation begins with the help of a deck of cards they have prepared for the purpose of guiding families throughout their discussion.
[8:23] Amber discusses the length of prearranging sessions and how frequent they should be. She mentions how it differs from family to family and that some clients finish their funeral preplanning in one meeting while others might require more.
[11:55] The two talk about the prepayment process and installment plans available. Amber reiterates that the prearranging process itself is 100% free and that it’s completely up to the family if they choose to pay for their funeral services in advance.
[14:06] Amber shares about O'Connell Funeral Homes' advance preplanning guide which may serve as a workbook that will walk families and individuals through the process of pre-arranging their funeral.
- "I think they can expect a comfortable environment...because we follow your lead." - Amber Miller, on what people can expect when they come to the funeral home
- "When you go back and look at this, it can be a very empowering thing for all." - Pete Waggoner on funeral prearranging
How We Can Help Those Who Grieve
In this episode, Mike O'Connell and Amber Miller sit down with Pete Waggoner to discuss how one can be of assistance to those who are grieving. They explore the different ways a grieving person may behave and how we as outsiders can help support them through their journey. They also talk about the things one should avoid saying or doing when interacting with a person who just lost a loved one, particularly if the death was sudden or traumatic.
From the words of wisdom that can be shared, to the simple act of just being present, this podcast episode provides valuable tips for those who want to show they care.
- Sometimes, giving unsolicited advice and trying to fix the problem is not helpful for those who grieve. It is more important to be present, listen, and offer support in whatever way the grieving person needs it.
- People move through their grief at different speeds and in different ways. It is important to be patient and understanding.
In this episode:
[2:25] Host Pete Waggoner starts the discussion by asking Mike and Amber about the important things a supporter or friend should know when helping someone through grief. Amber emphasizes how grief lasts longer beyond the funeral and how important it is for people to realize that the grieving process is different for everyone.
[6:07] The three talk about the importance of mentioning the name of the deceased to the grieving person. They share how important it is to keep the memory of the deceased alive and how saying their name can bring comfort.
[8:31] Pete asks Mike and Amber how they have gotten the wealth of knowledge they have in helping others through grief. The two mention how working closely with the families they serve has helped them gain a deep understanding of the grieving process.
[10:25] Amber talks about honoring the grieving person's wishes and being honest about what one can offer in terms of support.
[14:13] Amber answers Pete's question on how one can help a loved one facing imminent death. Mike shares some tips and insights on how one can help a person who is grieving a sudden or traumatic death.
- O'Connell Funeral Homes
- Mike O'Connell
- Amber Miller
- Read Show Transcript
- Grief & the Holidays
- OCFH Resources
- "Remember that grief lasts for a lot longer than the duration of the funeral." - Amber Miller
- "Sometimes the best medicine for people is just the silent presence. That's more meaningful (to people) than filling (you know) those painful moments with words." - Amber Miller
My Health, My Decisions: A Discussion on Advance Directives with Mike O'Connell & Dr. Kirsten Severson
In this episode, Dr. Kirsten Severson along with Mike O'Connell and host Pete Waggoner explores the concept of advance directives and how they work. Dr. Severson provides a thorough explanation of the whole process and how these documents allow a person to make the tough decisions about their healthcare beforehand in case they are ever unable to do so. Mike O'Connell also gets candid about his own experiences and shares some insights on how advance directives can lift the burden off of families during difficult times.
This episode is a must-listen for anyone who wants to learn more about advance directives and how they can protect you and your loved ones.
- Planning your health care in advance can not only allow you to make your own decisions but also ease the burden on your loved ones during tough times.
- Facing the reality of our own mortality can be scary, but having these conversations with our loved ones and healthcare providers is important.
In this episode:
[1:34] Pete Waggoner opens the discussion by asking Dr. Severson to define what an advance directive is. The doctor explains the two types of advance directives: the living will and the power of attorney for healthcare.
[10:02] Dr. Severson talks about how and where a person can get an advance directive. She also shares some specific websites and online platforms which a patient can download and print the necessary documents from.
[21:37] The three talk about how a person's advance directives will be used in the event that an unfortunate incident should happen outside of a hospital setting and where the first responders are not aware of the patient's written wishes.
[24:49] Pete asks Dr. Severson how the conversation typically begins when a person wants to start thinking about their advance directives.
[35:34] Mike and Dr. Severson share some final thoughts and advice for those who are thinking about making their own advance directives. They put emphasis on how these documents can help people lift the burden off of their loved ones in the event that they are unable to make their own decisions.
- O'Connell Funeral Homes
- Mike O'Connell
- Dr. Kirsten Severson
- The Conversation Project
- Wisconsin DPOA Healthcare Forms - Advance Directives
- Read Show Transcript
- "It's my body, it's my life. And I want to direct what happens when things look not so very (maybe) good." - Dr. Kirsten Severson
- "We've got a long way to go yet, but it should be just a part of your general healthcare." - Dr. Kirsten Severson on starting the conversation about advance directives
- "Don't put that burden on your loved ones." - Mike O'Connell
How Preplanning Your Funeral Can Benefit You and Your Family
In this episode hosted by Pete Waggoner, Mike O'Connell and Amber Miller discuss the process of preplanning one's funeral and its multiple benefits. They go in-depth about the different aspects of funeral preplanning, from the finances to how the actual meetings are done with family members. They also talk about how death and grief can significantly impact those left behind, and how this process can help alleviate some of the burden. This episode provides listeners with a comprehensive look at funeral prearranging, and is an excellent resource for anyone considering this option.
- Preplanning is a great way to lighten the load for your loved ones after you're gone.
- Grief and death can bring significant changes and challenges to families.
- While having conversations about death can be difficult, talking about your wishes ahead of time can make things much easier for everyone involved.
In this episode:
[2:23] Pete opens the discussion by asking why people prearrange their funerals. Mike provides different reasons such as being forced to do so due to a terminal illness, wanting to have more control over their own funeral, or simply having the desire to relieve the burden from their loved ones.
[6:25] The three talk about the significant changes death can bring to a family and the challenges that usually arise. They also begin to discuss the financial aspects of prearranging and how it can lessen the burden on those left behind.
[11:35] Amber shares how funeral trust can be a great gift, both for oneself and their loved ones. They also talk about the two different ways to set up an irrevocable funeral policy.
[14:11] Pete asks about how families receive the information when it comes to funeral prearranging and how much detail is usually given. Mike and Amber talk about how the process and benefits are explained to the family, as well as how the meeting is set up and conducted.
[22:37] Amber and Mike discuss the different meeting setups they do with people who are willing to prearrange their funerals. They share how they sometimes visit homes and care facilities to make the process as convenient as possible for those who need their services.
- "When grief starts getting put into the equation, that can change things in an instant." - Amber Miller on how family dynamics can change after someone's death
- "Huge. You're taking away the subjectivity of kids going against each other...you're just setting them up to heal." - Mike O'Connell on the benefits of prearranging and prefunding to families.
Coping with Secondary Loss & Caregiver Grief with Kathleen Helgeson & Amber Miller
In this episode, host Pete Waggoner goes in-depth with Kathleen Helgeson and Amber Miller about the topic of secondary loss and caregiver grief. They discuss the smaller subsequent losses that happen after the death of a loved one, and how a loss can impact one's roles and routines. They also delve into how to cope with the challenges that come with being a caregiver, as well as the grief it can bring before and after the death of the patient.
This episode is full of helpful tips and resources for those struggling with loss, as well as for those supporting someone through their grief journey.
- As a caregiver, having compassion for yourself is as important as having compassion for the person you are caring for.
- Loss can come in many forms, and each one can have a significant impact on our lives.
- It's important to allow yourself to grieve in whatever way feels right for you.
- If you are struggling to cope with loss or grief, reach out for help from a friend, a professional, or a support group.
In this episode
[3:23] Amber begins the discussion by defining what secondary loss is and explaining how death encompasses more than just the physical loss of a loved one. Kathleen further elaborates on this concept by sharing how she has seen different forms of secondary loss play out in her work as a funeral celebrant.
[7:40] Pete Waggoner transitions the conversation to the topic of how loss can impact one's roles and routines. They all share their insights on how the death of a loved one can cause ripple effects that touch every aspect of our lives.
[13:02] Pete Waggoner asks about how a person can build a new support system after experiencing loss. Kathleen and Amber share their thoughts on the importance of seeking out help and being open to receiving support from others.
[23:50] The three talk about how caregivers can often experience their own grief journey while caring for someone else. They discuss the challenges that come with being a caregiver and how to find compassion for oneself to rediscover a sense of balance.
[34:48] Pete Waggoner wraps up the conversation by asking Kathleen and Amber to share some final tips to caregivers who might be struggling with their own grief. They both emphasize the importance of being patient and compassionate with oneself, as well as taking the time to feed one's own soul.
- O'Connell Funeral Homes
- Kathleen Helgeson
- Amber Miller
- Read Show Transcript
- "Healthy relationships lean on each other's strengths and allow for one another's weaknesses without thought." - Kathleen Helgeson
- "It takes courage to face our losses and our changes." - Kathleen Helgeson
- "We can't give if our gas tank is empty." - Amber Miller
Funeral Do's and Don'ts: Funeral Etiquette 101
In this ‘scintillating’ episode of the Good Grief podcast, Mike O'Connell and Amber Miller of O'Connell Funeral Homes join Pete Waggoner to discuss funeral etiquette. They get into the nitty-gritty of the do's and don'ts of attending a funeral--from the proper attire, to the conversation topics that may be off-limits or offending to the grieving family. The two also share about the real-life scenarios they have encountered in their years of experience and how to best handle each situation.
The podcast offers an insightful and retrospective look into the essence of funerals and the proper way to honor the deceased while also providing comfort to the bereaved loved ones.
- Being respectful and considerate goes a long way when attending a funeral.
- There is no one right way to grieve.
- We can't assume what another person is going through, so it's important to be sensitive and compassionate.
In this episode:
[2:14] Host Pete Waggoner opens the discussion by asking if wearing black is a must at funerals. Mike O'Connell responds by sharing how the color has become a sign of showing reverence to the deceased and to those who are grieving. The guests also get into detail about the kinds of clothes that are and are not appropriate to wear to a funeral.
[9:15] Mike talks about the conversational topics that may not be appropriate to discuss at a funeral and how using the deceased’s name can be a way to show that they are being remembered. Pete further dwells into the topic by asking whether referring to the deceased in the past tense may be a sign of disrespect.
[13:33] Amber Miller discusses the different things to follow when attending a funeral such as being on time, where and when to enter when arriving late, and what to do when leaving early. Mike shares some ridiculous funeral stories he has encountered in his line of work to drive the point home.
[24:10] Pete starts the conversation on what one should say to the grieving family. Mike puts emphasis on the importance of being mindful of the questions one asks and how they should be phrased.
[35:56] The trio moves on to the topic of nonverbal communication and how body language can be interpreted by the grieving family. They also discuss what a memorial exactly is and the specifics of 'Thank You' cards.
- "Grief is unique to every single person." - Amber Miller
- "Grief and love are essentially cut from the same cloth...The more we love someone, the more we grieve them. And it's okay to be sad, it's okay to grieve, it's okay to feel any emotion you feel with grief." - Amber Miller
- "Follow your heart, follow your gut." - Mike O'Connell
How Cemeteries Make Resting in Peace Possible
In this episode of The Good Grief podcast, Mike O'Connell and Amber Miller get into cemeteries' important role in providing a final resting place for people's loved ones. They discuss the process of creating these final resting places, from deciding on the type of burial to personalizing the space to create a meaningful and lasting tribute. They also dive into the details of securing a cemetery plot and what one can expect when visiting a loved one's final resting place. This episode provides listeners with an informative and compassionate look at the role of cemeteries in the grieving process.
- One's final resting place can be beneficial for the loved ones they have left behind, providing a space for grief and healing.
- Cemeteries aren't just about providing a space for the deceased, but also about memorializing and honoring them.
In this episode
[2:29] Host Pete Waggoner asks about the importance of cemeteries given the rise of other forms of memorialization, such as keeping the cremated remains at home. Mike O'Connell shares about his personal experience of finding peace and an opportunity to memorialize his loved ones at cemeteries and talks about the role that these spaces play in the grieving and healing journey.
[5:49] Amber Miller talks about how finding peace in the daily hustle and bustle of life can be a challenge. She shares how the peace and solace that cemeteries offer is something that can be beneficial for people who are grieving or simply looking for a moment of respite.
[10:33] Pete asks Mike O'Connell about the differences between columbarium, crypts, and other types of burial options available these days.
[15:30] Amber talks about the different ways people can personalize their loved ones' markers and monuments, and how churches and cemeteries have different rules about what kind of items are allowed.
[22:48] Mike and Amber get into the details of what people can leave on their loved one's resting place such as wind chimes, trinkets, and plant stands. Mike also mentions how there are cemetery flower companies nowadays that even help with the upkeep of fresh flowers on the site.
- "It's a place we go to memorialize." -Mike O'Connell on cemeteries
- "Once you do something it's permanent. So give it thought, make sure it's meaningful." -Mike O'Connell
Memorializing Your Loved Ones with Tattoos
In this episode of The Good Grief podcast, host Pete Waggoner sits with Mike O'Connell and guest, Lori Christopherson to discuss how tattoos can be used as a form of memorializing and honoring a loved one. Mike shares how he discovered Everence, a company that creates personalized tattoo ink additives with a loved one's DNA. Lori talks about her own healing process after the loss of her son and how Mike's suggestion of a tattoo was instrumental in her finding peace and closure. The episode offers listeners vulnerable and honest insight into how tattoos can be therapeutic for those working through grief and how the process of memorializing a loved one can be different for everyone.
- Every person grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way to do it.
- Tattoos can be a helpful part of the grieving and healing process as they offer a physical, tangible, and lasting way to keep a loved one's memory alive.
- The act of memorializing a loved one can be healing for both the person getting the tattoo as well as for those who see it and are reminded of the individual being honored.
In this episode
[1:25] Host, Pete Waggoner delves into the history of tattoos and how they were used as a form of protection from bad spirits and diseases, especially for pregnant women, thousands of years ago.
[3:31] Mike talks about how the loss of a loved one can make people feel powerless and how getting a tattoo can be a way of regaining a sense of control.
[8:46] Lori shares her experience in finding the perfect way to memorialize her son and how Mike has helped her in the process. She talks about the different options she's tried and considered such as a necklace pendant but ultimately decided that a tattoo would be the most meaningful for her.
[18:16] Lori further talks about her healing process after the loss of her son and how getting the tattoo has been an integral part of that.
[23:06] Pete Waggoner wraps up the show by asking Lori how grateful she is for the opportunity and what getting the tattoo has meant for her.
A day in the life of a funeral director
There is no other job like a funeral director. In celebration of National Funeral Director and Morticians Recognition Day on March 11th, we would like to honor what funeral directors do for us. You don’t want just anyone to care for your loved one when they have passed on, you want someone empathetic, reverent, kind, and reliable to be there for you and your family.
Today's podcast highlights the team of funeral directors at O’Connell Family Funeral Homes.
You'll hear answers to the following questions from Abbie Pickerign, Amber Miller, Mike O'Connell, and Austin Mahanke.
- What inspired you to become a funeral director?
- Have you ever felt like you wanted to change careers?
- What are the misconceptions in this industry?
- Are there any ghost stories you've encountered?
- What are your hours?
- Would you advise your bf to go into the business?
- Tell us how you feel after a service is over.
- How does pre-planning help a family?
Listen now to learn more about the real lives of the funeral directors at O'Connell Family Funeral Homes and take a look at what a day in the life is like.
Merging locations to better serve local communities
To better accommodate Western Wisconsin communities, specifically Pierce County, as well as to offer a complete range of grief services, the locally owned and operated O’Connell Family Funeral Homes are merging their St. Croix and Pierce County locations in Hudson, Baldwin, Ellsworth, Prescott, and River Falls. The Pierce County funeral homes, previously owned by Tom & Mike O’Connell and a partner, will now be run solely by the O'Connell Family and their dedicated staff. Each site will remain open and, with their unification, will now have the benefit of streamlined operations and consistent offerings, including on-site cremation.
“We aren’t trying to get bigger,” says funeral director Mike O’Connell, “only looking to assist the surrounding areas with more resources, while continuing to treat every family as if they were our own. We have great overlap between the families we serve in Hudson & Baldwin and with the communities of Pierce County. It only made sense to bring them all together so we can serve the communities even better.”
The O’Connell family has a long and trusted relationship with Hudson, starting with Frank O’Connell back in 1926. One of the first graduates of the University of Minnesota Mortuary Science program, he opened a mortuary in Hudson that operated until the end of World War II.
In 1985, Frank’s nephew, Thomas P. "Tucker" O'Connell, brought the family business back to Hudson. With the help of his two sons, Dan and Mike, they worked diligently to reconnect with the community and provide much-needed services. And, like the Irish Claddagh in their logo, they honor what's important to all of us - Love, Loyalty, and Friendship - when celebrating a life lived. Although Tom and Dan have since passed, their legacy lives on. Mike and his team continue their tradition of exemplary personal care and commitment to the families of St. Croix and Pierce Counties, as well the greater Western Wisconsin area and beyond, including Minnesota.
One of the most important and significant results of the merger is the accessibility to the on-site crematory at the Baldwin location – a dignified option for all families working with any of the O’Connell locations. According to their website, “In response to our growing unease when using an off-site crematorium for our families, [we] opened our own state-of-the-art crematory in 2005.” “The result has been overwhelming. We control EVERY aspect of the process while offering an unparalleled customized service for each family at an affordable price.”
A local crematory operated by a small funeral business reduces the need for sending the deceased increasingly far away or even out-of-state for cremations to be handled by untrained individuals. The cremations at Baldwin are operated solely by licensed funeral directors and those with Crematory Operator training, and even by the same staff who have walked with the families earlier during the funeral arranging process. This familiarity for families creates consistency and a commitment for exceptional care.Head to our website to read the full blog.
Obituaries - a guide to a purposefully lived life
Obituaries are not only used in death – they can also be a guide to a purposefully lived life. In this podcast, Mike O’Connell reflects on the inspiration he draws from the poem, “Success,” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and how writing your own obituary can provide you with life-changing self-evaluations.
If you sat down today to write your own obituary, essentially the resume of your life, would you feel satisfied by how you lived? If you died today, would you die happy? Did you create a legacy you are proud of? Whatever the answers to these questions, penning an obituary and a fantasy obituary (explained in the podcast) will inevitably generate countless, soul-searching questions that lead to thoughtful examinations of your life.
It is never too late for life changes, achieving goals, or finding additional happiness. Listen to Mike walk you through the exercise and enthusiastically shed light on possibilities and how to make them realities.
How to care for your grief during the holiday season.
The most wonderful time of the year, might not be the most wonderful time of the year for some people.
Everyday stuff is overwhelming us and the holidays can be dreaded sometimes.
Mike O'Connell presents 20 self care tips to help you through the holidays and to care for your grief.
The importance of celebrating a life
Celebration of life vs. funeral and memorial service. How these terms have evolved as well as some ideas on how to blend these types of service, as a way to confront our emotions and start the healing process.
How to Help a Grieving Friend & What is NOT Helpful.
How to help a grieving friend.
In today's episode, Kathy Helgeson, a certified funeral celebrant at O’Connell Family Funeral Homes, joins us to discuss how to help a grieving friend.
How shifting your view could help you, as well as someone grieving the loss of a loved one.
Benefits of pre-arranging your funeral
Mike O'Connell talks about pre-arranging for your funeral. Why should you pre-arrange? What are the benefits?
In this episode, we also answer some nagging questions like, Can I make changes to my funeral policy after it is completed? Do I need to prepay? What sort of things will I be asked?
Getting what you want, even after death.
Mike O'Connell & Pete talk about how to make a funeral personalized to not only pay tribute to your loved one, but help the family.
Hear some personal stories about how Mike and his amazing team helped families personalize their loved ones gatherings, including how Mike personalized his brother Dan's funeral. This was the beginning of his understanding on how meaningful personalization was for him and the family.
He knew he needed to educate other families and give ideas on how they could do the same for their loved ones, even when they didn't think it would be possible. We all have a story to tell!
Listen how Veteran, Military, Police, Firefighters, fisherman, and sports fans have made funerals personal to them. Vikings fans may not want to listen.
Questions a funeral director asks
In today's episode, we discuss what questions and information funeral directors will ask you when planning a funeral.
Many people have told us, "We thought this was going to be emotionally drawn out, and it was way better than I thought."
We want this podcast to elevate your anxiety surrounding what this meeting will entail.
You'll learn the 3 segments that a funeral director is going to ask when you meet.
- Legal aspect
- Personal Person
- How do we celebrate this person
We want to help educate you so you can make informed decisions about the service of your loved one.
Choosing the right funeral home
A Difficult Decision
Picking a funeral home is one of the greatest decisions that you'll make in your life, one which will significantly impact your last memories of your loved ones, so you want to be sure you're making the right choice.
There are many things that many of us don't consider when choosing a funeral home, and today's podcast addresses those factors.
We delve deep into the questions we should be asking ourselves as we are trying to pick the right funeral home.
Questions such as:
How long has the funeral home been in business?
Is it locally owned?
Does it require payment upfront?
Do they serve state-assisted and Medicaid families?
Do they have a good website and social media presence?
How are the online reviews?
How well are the guests treated during funeral services?
Check out today's podcast, where we discuss these and many more factors.
Funerals for Veterans
Memorial Day is right around the corner so we created a podcast episode dedicated to the brave men and women that give so much to our country.
On this episode, we share an event we have coming up on May 27th - "Haircuts for Heroes". From 11AM - 3PM, we'll be offering haircuts to veterans and active military personnel at our Hudson Chapel. We'll also have food trucks and resources available, as well as tents, to prevent any rain from spoiling the fun! A special thank you to Your Hair Mob and All Seasons Rental of Hudson for donating their time and equipment to make this event possible!
Throughout the podcast, we discuss the origins of Memorial Day and the customs and traditions surrounding military funerals, such as the 3-volley rifle salute and the symbolism of the folds in the American flag. We also address some aspects regarding funeral etiquette at military funerals and the benefits that veterans might be entitled to, like reimbursements for funeral and cremation services.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Your Hair Mob's website.
All Seasons Rental's website.
Funeral etiquette...What to wear, what to say...
Funeral etiquette isn't something that most people spend a lot of time thinking about, but the truth is that it can help grieving families have the best possible experience throughout the deep pain surrounding the death of a loved one.
In today's episode we share many of the unspoken rules surrounding the proper conduct we should have when dealing with someone that is grieving over the loss of a loved one, during a visitation or a funeral service.
Should I donate my body to science?
Body donation is a mysterious topic for many of us, despite its essential role in saving lives, and in today's episode we'd like to change that.
Today we'll be discussing what body donation is, the different types of body donation, what health conditions prevent us from donating our bodies, if we can choose what our body is going to be used for, etc.
Flowers for funerals
Funerals without flowers... sounds weird, doesn't it? Most of us haven't been to that many funerals where flowers weren't a part of the decoration... and for good reason.
In today's episode, Shelli Erck, from Hudson Flower Shop, joins us in a interesting discussion regarding this topic. We delve deep into the history of funeral flowers, their significance and the roles they play in funeral services, things we should consider when choosing flowers, flower keepsakes, etc.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Hudson Flower Shop's website.
Grief and the holidays
Grieving over the loss of a loved one is already an unimaginable painful experience. But to go through it during the holiday season feels even harder, for many of us.
In today's episode, Kathy Helgeson, a certified funeral celebrant at OCFH, joins us in a heartfelt discussion regarding this sensitive topic. We talk about the difference between grief and mourning, what are the "tasks" of grief, how to approach those who are grieving, how to deal with grief during the holidays, the role of faith when we're grieving, etc.
We also share some personal stories of grief and how exactly our team helps our clients overcome these difficult times.
12 questions for the holidays
6 needs of mourning - Alan Wolfelt
5-days of grief & the holidays meditation video series
Hospice care and end of life decisions
Hospice Care is a sensitive topic for many of us. As with pre-arranging a funeral, talking about hospice care can make us feel very uncomfortable; some of us might feel we are "giving up" on our loved ones when we begin to consider this specific approach.
The truth is, hospice care can bring relief and even joy to our loved ones. There is a multitude of ways that we can use hospice care programs, from the location, frequency, and services used, so it makes total sense to consider it for our loved ones.
In today's episode, our guest and social worker Kate Garza, from Moments Hospice, will discuss the specifics regarding hospice care and dispel some misconceptions about the topic.
We'll also discuss some tools that we're developing at OCFH, such as 12 questions for the holidays (a free PDF that will help spark interesting and important discussions these holidays), as well as a set of Grief-focused meditations that will bring you to a better place and help you let go.
12 questions for the holidays (free PDF):
5-days of grief & the holidays (free meditation video series):
Moments Hospice - (763)-205-3600
Moments Hospice serves the Minnesota and Wisconsin river areas, with a team in the area with over 130 years of healthcare experience collectively including over 48 years in Hospice. Their Medical Directors in the area are Dr. Mark Stannard and Dr. Matthew Beeson of Hudson Physicians Group. The team at Moments Hospice is focused on Changing the Hospice Experience, One Moment at Time, hoping to bring joy and comfort to patients, their families and the communities they serve.
Estate planning is one of those topics that often come up as we grow older, but, contrary to what many people might think, this is something that everybody should do - not just those of us who are wealthy. No matter how big or modest your assets are - you can and you should take advantage of this strategy, even if you just have a bank account under your name.
Estate planning helps prevent future annoyances and conflicts within our family, and it's definitely something that you and your loved ones should consider doing as you grow older.
In today's episode, our guest and elder law attorney, Dr. Amy K. Greske, will discuss several estate planning tools that we have at our disposal and why we might need to set them up, such as wills, trust funds, power of attorney documents, etc.
Dr. Amy's phone number: 715-808-0610
Dr. Amy's website: https://oneillelderlaw.com/
Suicide deaths define complicated grief. The stigma surrounding suicide and the complex feelings of guilt, shame, and anger that many grievers experience when a loved one kills themselves, makes it that much harder to go through the grieving process.
In today's episode, we discuss what research says about suicide and the motivations of those who attempt suicide, and we also share tips on how we can approach the grievers that are left behind after a loved one takes their own life.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Childhood grief, children & grieving
Different types of loss and grief children and adolescents may experience and how we can help guide them.
Joining us, we have our friend and colleague, grief therapist Kelly Grosklags, who will be sharing several tips to help us guide our children throughout these painful times.
Kelly's website - https://bit.ly/Kelly_Grosklags
Brighter Days Grief Center - https://bit.ly/Brighter_Days_Center
Helping the healing process with our new grief therapy dog, Finnegan.
Grief resources during COVID-19.
You can’t push pause on grief.
COVID-19 has brought much distress to families all over the country and changed our daily lives tremendously. In these trying times, it's much harder to deal with the already stressful situations that affect us all, such as grieving the loss of a loved one.
In today's podcast episode, we talk about how we can deal with grief in these COVID-19 times and how our company is adapting our procedures to help everyone stay safe.
We'll also be sharing useful tips from our friend and colleague, grief therapist, Kelly Grosklags.
Death & your financial stability
Death & your financial stability
Dealing with the death of a loved one is stressful enough. But not knowing what to do with someone's finances after the person has passed away poses an additional burden on a grieving family.
What you'll learn:
• One key element you need to know
• What documents you need
• Get a list of who needs to be contacted
What do we need to know?
- Surround yourself with people you trust. Others may see vulnerability, so make sure those helping have the right motives and nothing for personal gain.
- Consult the right people. Friends and family may have their hearts in their right place, but when someone says "I know a guy who could helpâ€ can create more work with fewer advantages!
- Select professionals who specialize in wills, trusts, and estate planning. Avoid real estate lawyers, divorce lawyers, personal injury or criminal attorneys, and others who don't specialize in estate planning as they may not know the tax laws that are constantly changing.
- After a loved one dies, many heirs balk at hiring legal help because they worry about the cost. But that's often a penny wise and a pound foolish since advice from a qualified professional could save an estate many thousands of dollars, make the process of settling an estate much easier and help family members avoid potential liabilities.
- One of the most time-consuming aspects of tending to the financial affairs of someone who has passed away is gathering the litany of documents that need to be assembled. For many families, this is a nightmare chore due to haphazard record-keeping, poor planning and a lack of knowledge about where critical documents are located.
What are the important papers that one should keep or need: After a person's death, an executor of an estate should collect or order the following documents, at a minimum:
- Death certificate(s). All these documents will help you find accounts and assets, and assess outstanding debts, as well as submit claims for benefits and cash payments that may be due the deceased person's beneficiaries and heirs.
- Will or trust
- Insurance policies (life, homeowners, health, disability, auto, etc.)
- Last credit card statements
- Investment accounts (IRAs, 401(k) plans, mutual funds, pensions, etc.)
- Last checking and savings account statements (including CDs and money-market accounts)
- Last mortgage statement
- Last two years' tax returns
- Marriage and birth certificates (of the deceased's spouse and children)
- An up-to-date credit report of the deceased
Who needs to be contacted:
A key next step is to notify all the following places of the individual's death. Each is important for different reasons.
- Social Security Administration
- The deceased person's employer
- Insurance companies
- Credit bureaus
- Credit card companies
- Post office
- Utility companies
Cancel or Transfer Accounts, Memberships, and Subscriptions
- Following someone's death, you don't want subscriptions, memberships or services they'll no longer be using to stay in force. So cancel those immediately, along with credit card, insurance and financial accounts that will be inactive. "If the person was married, transfer the power, electricity and water bills that may be in their name to their surviving spouse."
Why self-care is important when you are grieving.
What is self-care.
How self-care works.
Tips on what you can do about it.
What you can do about it
- Be kind to yourself. Love Yourself. Don’t beat yourself up through words, thoughts and deeds.
- Get a check-up.
- Be yourself. Let those around you know how you are feeling. Let people know if you need space or are not feeling up to something. Let your feelings arise and deal with them. Don’t let them fester.
- Pamper yourself.
- Sleep is key to healthy healing.
- Nutrition and staying hydrated.
- Stay positive.
- Surround yourself with people for who you are.
- Pets can also give you a positive boost.
- Look around at nature.
- Volunteering or donating.
Express your feelings
- Journal writing
- Music - create a playlist or learn how to play an instrument.
- Deep breathing
- Peer or group counseling
Funeral pre-arranging can be overwhelming.
Mike O'Connell talks about guiding you through the pre-arrangement process of a funeral.
FREE PDF Download: 10 things to think about before your funeral.
Learn more on our website: https://oconnellfuneralhomes.com/prearranging/funeral-pre-arrangements/
O’Connell Family Funeral Homes knows families have the best intentions when having to plan a funeral, but sometimes people have different opinions on what they think their loved ones might have wanted - thus causing conflict. Intense emotions, personality conflicts, and financial pressures to pay for services can bring additional stressors.
Pre-arranging your funeral assures that your family will not be burdened with any further grief of making choices that you could make in a pre-arranging session. Pre-arrange today!