The Mourner’s Bill of Rights — by Alan Wolfelt

A funeral service website posted this content today. I think it’s been around a while but worth reposting so more people can see it.

The Mourner’s Bill of Rights

by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you.

The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.

1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.

No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell what you should or should not be feeling.

2. You have the right to talk about your grief.

Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.

Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.

4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.

Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.

5. You have the right to experience “griefbursts.”

Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6. You have the right to make use of ritual.

The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.

If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8. You have the right to search for meaning.

You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you. Comments like, “It was God’s will” or “Think of what you have to be thankful for” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9. You have the right to treasure your memories.

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.

Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.

Copyright 2007-2013, Center for Loss and Life Transition

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Links for August 16th Radio Show

I appear on WSAR Radio this morning at 10AM Eastern time. Below you will find links to some of the articles and information I will reference during the show.

MemryStone on Facebook

MemryStone Lapel Pin

Heart pin designed from the MemryStone logo.













BT’s “Oi” List — Odd or Imaginative? I’ll let you decide.

The Great Cross — ArticleWebsite
Cemetery Sales at the Mall?
10 Amazing Things to do with Ashes — By MentalFloss

Bearers at a Cremation?

Draft Advertisement for Hathaway

Learning about “Closure”

Book — Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us
Author —  Nancy Berns
Video — TEDx Appearance

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Semper Fi for the Hallway

I found this painting at Harbor Fine Art in Newport, RI last night. The artist, Betty Ann Morris (a former Marine), donates a portion of the proceeds to the Semper Fi Fund to support the needs of Marine Veterans.

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So proud of our MemryStone project. Much to learn, much to do, but we have already touched dozens of lives with these tokens of memory which survivors inscribe with a personal message and send through cremation with a loved one. Hopefully soon we will have the chance to expand beyond the walls of our funeral homes. Online purchase options are available.

You can find the memrystone website at There you can find more information about why we developed MemryStone. You will also find a page where you can make purchases.

We also have a Facebook page; a Twitter feed at; and an Etsy store at

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An unexpected headline…

Birds hold “funerals” for dead

I saw the above headline this morning while reviewing the news, a story on the BBC website. Perhaps it is an overstatement to call a gathering of Jays a funeral, but it is still a fascinating story.

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Neil Armstrong 1930 – 2012

I’m just young enough that the first Apollo mission rests in a vague place in my memory. I was traveling the day Neil Armstrong took those first steps and can only remember someone pointing to a television in the lobby and telling what the fuzzy black and white images meant.

But he and those that followed certainly made their mark in my childhood. I remember model rockets and “space” toys that my grandparents would bring back from Florida in those days and later I couldn’t get enough information about the Shuttle as they began to design and build that amazing machine.

So let me say thank you and god bless to the family and friends who supported Neil Armstrong and many like him who made the crazy dream of space travel emerge into my life and the lives of billions around the world.

May his passing provide that next level of determination we need to proceed with further explorations of the heavens.

Memorial information about Neil Armstrong can be found here.

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Christopher Hitchens on “Death”

I saw an article today which talked about the essayist Christopher Hitchens’ book “Mortality” which is described as an honest book about facing death. [Hitchens died in December 2011]

I have put this on my reading list, but thought I would post it for reference.

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Clergy Debate Funeral Rituals

I spent some time on Google today looking for any new resources on funeral “ritual” in the US and came across a blog posting Searching for new rituals for death and dying by a religious historian Keith Watkins.

It references a somewhat scholarly meeting of the Northwest Association for Theological Discussion, and two papers that were presented as a formal debate about current thinking related to Christian funeral ritual.

The material is somewhat technical and overall inconclusive, but I wanted to jot it down here perhaps for future reference.

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NFDA Editorial: Where do the families you serve buy their shoes?

Ed Defort, editor of The Director magazine was kind enough to run an editorial piece I wrote in the May 2012 issue. The Director is the monthly periodical produced by the National Funeral Directors Association.

I wrote the piece to speak to funeral service vendors and leaders but thought I would document it here as well for future reference. To date, it has generated more than the usual amount of buzz in the industry.

You can find a PDF version here, Shoes Editorial — NFDA May 2012, or read the full text below the fold.

Editorial for The Director Magazine, May 2012
By: William “BT” Hathaway

Have you ever purchased a pair of hand measured, hand sewn, custom made dress shoes? Not specialized medical devices mind you, but normal shoes made for typical feet. Would you even know where to get measured if the desire suddenly hit you?

If not, then how many of your consumers buy custom made shoes which would cost them anywhere from $500.00 to a $1,000.00 per pair–or more? Continue reading

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Parents Devotion to a Dying Infant — Avery’s Bucket List

What would you do if you had an infant who might not live to her second birthday? Many might get lost in sorrow. But this family has chosen a completely different path. They created a bucket list for their infant and have brought her out into the world to explore, creating memories as they go.

Brave. Beautiful. Awe inspiring.

Avery’s Bucket List

Picture from the Avery's Bucket List Website


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