All Articles Tagged "death"

Ty Alexander Talks Grief And Why We Need To “Love Up” On People While They’re Alive

October 21st, 2016 - By Michelle Alerte
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We all know Ty Alexander as the vibrant personality behind the beauty and lifestyle blog, Gorgeous In Grey. But what about the entrepreneur’s life as a woman, friend, and daughter? In Alexander’s debut book, Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mother Died, fans, followers, and the world at large get an intimate look at the inner workings of Alexander’s life and her insights as she works through the grief of losing her mother.

Here she talks with us about choosing to open up about grief and her hope that we all learn how to “love up on people” while they’re still alive.

MN: What made you decide to write this book?

TA: My mom passed away three years ago, and I shared it on the internet because I didn’t know what else to do. I was feeling all the usual things associated with the loss of a loved one: sadness, hopelessness, vulnerability, etc. Because of that, people began reaching out, asking lots of questions in dealing with loss or terminal illness. And while that was great, there came a time when I needed to focus on my own grief. Responding to everyone caused me to lend my energy out to others instead of working on myself. With a book there would be something I could refer to when people asked me something. Especially as women of color, we don’t really speak about grief, maybe because we don’t see people like ourselves talking about it, so I wanted to open that dialogue.

MN: The book is written in a very casual tone, was that intentional?

TA: Yes. If you’ve read my blog, you know I like to call myself your digital best friend. I want people to feel they are sitting down with me, having a conversation. This makes the book an easy read as well.

MN: After each chapter there’s a sort of things to think about section, why did you add this?

TA: These sections are meant to be little tidbits of what I want you to remember most about each chapter. I wanted readers to have a space where they could take notes, highlight key points, and more. This way there’s somewhere to go quickly whenever someone needs to refer back for any reason.

MN: What are you hoping people will get from the book?

TA: I am hoping that anyone who is either grieving or loves someone to infinity and beyond, won’t take their loved one for granted. The truth is, like I said in the book, everyone dies. We’ve been duped. And I just want people to love up on their people while they’re here. Yes, I was able to spend time with my mother during the eight months before she passed, but had I spent my whole life treating her as if tomorrow was never promised then our relationship would have been different. It was good, but it would have been so different. That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned from my mother dying. I learned what living and loving really means and what you can get out of it if you put the most into your relationships. Most people don’t get extended time before your loved one dies and end up filled with so much guilt and what if’s.

MN: What other lessons did you learn from your mother passing?

TA: Not only did I learn we are not promised tomorrow, I learned that not everyone is promised a great love. I realized not everyone had a mom like I did. My mom sacrificed everything for us and some people don’t have that. I’ve had women contact me saying, ‘I admire the relationship you had with your mother; I haven’t talked to my mother in years.’ So I learned that love is not something everyone experiences, and that makes me sad.

MN: What can people expect from the book?

TA: I talk about how my mom died. I speak about my family and how her passing affected each of us. What I learned was that we each have a unique relationship with a person. So while I felt like, “my mom is dead and everyone should feel a certain way,” I realized everyone’s relationship with her caused different reactions. I also talk about pain versus suffering. To me pain is normal. We go through life and things happen that hurt. But the suffering part, the part that says I don’t deserve this, and all those inner thoughts that beat us down, that’s optional. I explain how being aware of the difference helped me grieve better. I talk about the stages of grief and how they look. They repeat. It’s not a linear process.

MN: In conjunction with the book, is there a space where people can go to continue the dialogue on grief?

TA: Funny you should ask! I started a Facebook group called Destination Heal where we’ve been chatting and sharing with one another. I’d like to expand it to a website and a podcast where we can continue healing. I’ll also be doing a Mother’s Day annual brunch where people can get together to connect and celebrate their mother’s life.

MN: How did being such a public figure affect your grieving?

TA: Oh girl, it was hard. It’s still hard. I make it a point everyday to get up and be happy. It’s a job for me, in addition to being an author and an influencer. If I forget that that’s my job, that’s the day I’m sad or angry or depressed. Another thing is, not only do you expect to be okay when the word mom comes up, but friends and the public will as well. But in all honesty, I put the most pressure on myself. I expected it to go away. It took me time to realize that the sadness is not going to go away and it shouldn’t. This was the first love of my life and they’re gone now. I would be doing an injustice to that love if I pretended it didn’t affect me.

MN: Did you ever feel the weight of being the example in this arena?

TA: I think because I started off as an influencer, whether it was for grey hair or being plus sized, it didn’t feel that different. I do have to be careful about what kinds of things I share. For example, once, early on, I shared I was depressed. When I did that I began getting responses like, ‘you should have never said that’ or ‘you should have gone to a therapist.’ But as long as I’m prepared for the judgement, it doesn’t feel as bad. I’ve also learned that I can’t take on someone’s grief. I may read their grief and their story and want to go fix it. That’s not my job. I’m not a therapist or Iyanla Vanzant; I can’t fix it. I’ve been learning to practice being sympathetic without offering ‘here’s what you should do’ and ‘here’s five tips.’ Because while my book offers what I’ve learned while grieving, by no means am I giving you the doctor version of how to cure your grief.

MN: What would you say to people trying to get to where you are?

TA: The first thing is to identify your skills, and you won’t know those unless you try. I tried copywriting and quickly realized, nope, don’t like that! While I was good at it, I hated it. I think as adults we forget we used to do that as kids. We would try ballet and gymnastics and piano. We would try whatever. But then we become adults and forget that trying is how we figure out who we are and what makes us tick. Don’t be afraid to find out what makes you, you.

Get your copy of Ty Alexander’s book, Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mother Died here: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indie Bound

Lessons I Learned After Losing My Mother In 9-11, At 24-Years-Old

September 11th, 2016 - By madamenoire
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Lessons I Learned After Losing My Mother In 9-11

By Paula T. Edgar Esq

I was 24 when my mother, Joan Donna Griffith, was killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.  She was everything to me. That Tuesday, she’d gone to work as an assistant vice president and office manager at Fiduciary Trust, where she worked on the 97th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  To say that her loss was devastating to our family would be an understatement, but as I reflect back on the past 15 years, I realize that my mother’s murder was a catalyst for me.  The experience made me realize that life is not promised, and so I could not be complacent, I needed to strive for excellence always. This is a motto that I have carried with me since. I have learned many lessons in the last fifteen years and if I could give my 24 year old self advice, it would be this:


1. Exercise self-care

Losing my mother made me spin out of control in many ways. I drank excessively and made questionable decisions, all before I started counseling.  Working with counselors gave me the tools and strategies to navigate through life rather than being resistant or hiding from it.  Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, and incorporate practices in your life that keep you grounded, happy, and healthy.


2. If something is not serving you, let it go.

My mother’s last words to me were, “If you don’t love him, don’t marry him.” She was talking about my then boyfriend whom I actually didn’t love, but I was too stubborn and lacked the maturity to end the relationship. I’m not sure to this day if I would’ve ended my relationship if not for my mother’s death.  The lesson carried over to my professional life as well: I have had work situations and volunteer responsibilities that have caused me more stress than I care to admit and in many cases drained me rather than helped me to advance towards my goals.  Listen to your gut – as scary as it may seem, if it doesn’t feel right, let it go and move on. New opportunities will always be available.


3. Don’t be afraid to own your voice (even if it’s not popular)

Like many of us, I cared very deeply about being liked and many times that required me to make myself small or compromise my authentic self, both in relationships and at work.  I now know that personally and professionally, I am doing a major disservice to myself and the people I interact with if I am not showing up as my entire self – with needs, wants, and opinions.


4. Put your cape down: Aim to do good, but forgive yourself when you fall short 

I try to live in honor of my mother’s legacy every day. I require this of myself because I know she would’ve wanted me to be impactful in my home, my community, and successful in my career.  With such a high standard to live up to, I tend to feel overwhelmed frequently.  In these times I have to remind myself that I am human and it won’t serve anyone if I drain myself.


5. Remember what is important and Have fun!

When you have a lot of plates in the air, it can be hard to remember priorities. Above all, my mother’s life and death remind me that there is nothing more important than family and friends. As much as I am energized by the work that I do as an entrepreneur and the impact that I want to have as a leader, I try to always make the time I have with family and friends count.  I also make it a point to infuse fun in everything I do because I know life is short – losing my mother shocked me into being present in every day, and making the most out of every one that I get. So each day I try to be present in the present, but always keep my eyes toward the future.


Paula T. Edgar Esq. is founder and principal of PGE LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in professional development, coaching, social media strategy, and diversity and inclusion. A civic leader and President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, she received her B.A. in Anthropology from the California State University Fullerton and her J.D. from CUNY School of Law. Connect with Paula on Twitter @Paulaedgar and at

How To Be There For A Grieving Ex Without Involving Romantic Feelings

June 28th, 2016 - By Deja Jones
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I received a private message on Facebook Messenger from a very recent ex informing me that his grandmother had fallen ill and her chances of recovering didn’t look promising. My initial reaction was complete shock because we had only been broken up for two months and she seemed to be in good health at that time. So naturally, I offered my prayers and condolences to him and his family. In his message, he talked about how much his grandmother loved me and how cool his family thought I was in a way that made it seem like he regretted the decision for us to part ways. Not knowing how to respond to that, I decided to act like I didn’t see the message, so I changed the subject because I was genuinely concerned about his grandmother’s sudden illness and how it was affecting his family. We ended the chat with him telling me he loved me and thanking me for being there for him. I decided once again to skip over the love part and told him it was no problem.

A day later, I received a text message from him informing me that his grandmother had passed and it tore me up. But somehow, in the midst of his grieving and trying to cope alongside the family members that he had the closest relationships with, he also took upon himself to start pouring out feelings that he had been clinging to. Soon after, he started sending messages that read, “Hey babe” and “I love you.” I even started second-guessing myself and reflecting on if we could actually make it work again even though I knew better.  When I told my friends about my dilemma, they said it was time to cut him off — completely. The thing is, I felt bad for him after such a tragic loss, so I didn’t want to cut him off. But I also knew that I needed to establish boundaries on the type of emotional support I would offer to him and the amount of emotional feedback I could handle from him. When it comes to dealing with an ex who reaches out to you when they’re going through turmoil, you don’t want to be cold, but you don’t also want to lead them to believe that a reconciliation is in the works. So, if you are going to be there for them, keep these things in mind: 

Be Sincere, But Objective

Offer them some encouragement. Death is never easy to deal with, so allow them to vent when they reach out to you. Say a prayer with them. Offer them your condolences, but remember to remain objective. When the conversation starts to move away from the situation at hand and steers itself into matters of the heart, immediately change the subject. Reiterate that you’re here for them in their time of need, but that it won’t go beyond that. It’s not being harsh or insensitive, it’s just a way for you to protect yourself from getting hurt by falling for misplaced emotions.

Keep Your Distance

For some, it’s easier to deal with situations in person rather than over the phone. There is the urge to want to reach out and hug the person, but the truth is, that’s not a good idea. When we’re most vulnerable, we want someone to help us make the pain go away, and in those moments, anything can happen. Anything. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go to the funeral if you were invited, but it also doesn’t mean you need to attend with the family. Even though you’d like to offer support to your ex, you don’t belong there in the family circle. It can cause emotional confusion and create the illusion that things are back to the way they were when you two were together.

Know When to Be Done

There are only so many times you can say “My condolences to you, ” “Your family is in my prayers,” or “I’m sorry for your loss” before you start to sound less than genuine. Keep in mind that you’re not going to be the very thing that gets them through this trauma, only time will. So to avoid emotional attachments and confusion, know when to start pulling away. It’s a good thing to be a shoulder for someone, but at some point, an individual will have to face their internal struggle on their own. 

When someone is grieving, it’s important to be there for them. However, when it’s an ex, you can still be there for them if they reach out to you, but remember that you need to establish boundaries for your own emotional well-being. The worst thing that can happen is that you allow that person’s grieving process, filled with mixed emotions, to confuse you into finding yourself caught up and falling for something that isn’t real. You can be of support without having to go back down a road that led to nowhere.

Fatherhood: Mother’s Day As A Widower And Father

May 6th, 2016 - By Chad Milner
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Chad Milner and daughter, Cydney

Chad Milner and daughter, Cydney

The second Sunday of May is a very interesting day. While we should give roses to those who are living, Mother’s Day is a day in which we all give appreciation to the women who gave us life, as well as those we have created a life with.

In my household, Mother’s Day has taken on a very different meaning. Five months after my daughter Cydney’s mother was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, my own mother was informed that she had a malignant tumor in her breast. While my mother was beginning her process, I was knee-deep into surgeries and living in hospitals in 2011 with my wife. I recall a conversation in which my mother was emotionally processing that her oncologist threw out the possibility of a mastectomy. In the moment, I had to do my best impersonation of my mom (who is known to take feelings out of the equation and keep it real for perspective’s sake) and tell her that while I understood, I wished that surgery was an option.

The fall of 2011 was very difficult for me. While having to hide around in Virginia because my in-laws knew Cydney’s mother was being put on hospice and trying to get rid of me, the only comfort I had was being there for my own mother (via phone) who was just beginning chemotherapy treatments. The last time Timile–my daughter’s mother–and my mom saw each other, my mom showed Timile her bald head and they bonded because they were sharing an all-too familiar experience.

After Timile passed away and my mother was finishing up her first round with chemo, I was neck-deep in custody cases in two states for my daughter against Timile’s parents. A week after major surgery, my mother did most of the driving from New York to Virginia for us to get my baby back. In a time where she needed to be resting, what was more important to her was that I had my little girl. I was just beginning to feel about this little baby the way my mom does for me.

Needless to say, hospitals make me uncomfortable, so I don’t do hospitals. When my mother had her second surgery, I didn’t visit and she understood. The only time that I did was to drop off my aunt who was visiting mom. I stayed in the room all of five minutes and spent the rest of the time in the parking lot. Most people would say “Chad, get over yourself,” but at 25-years-old, stuff got incredibly real for me and she got it. Before my grandmother passed, I couldn’t visit her in the hospital, either. I had to wait until she came back home before ultimately saying goodbye. The way that both my mother and grandmother just “got it,” is a testament to these women who literally held on to dear life until I was ready.

Cydney only experienced Mother’s Day once while Timile was alive, and she was only three-months-old. All she knows is making that day special for my mother and her aunt, who act as mother figures in her life. Listening to this week’s podcast, she’s more than happy to do so, as well.

Today, we have just entered a different juncture in Cydney’s life. For the most part, she wants to control the conversation about her mother. Even if I am on the phone with someone else and she is within earshot, she begins to feel a certain way when Timile’s name comes up. It has to be her who brings her mother up, or she begins to get a little sad. While she is perfectly fine with being different, I feel as if she is become more and more aware that it isn’t the norm to be missing a mother. Her friends in school don’t understand it. Yes, saying that my daughter is more than several handfuls is an understatement, she clings on to me because I’m everything to her…I can see it in her eyes. Hell, she has a mild form of separation anxiety when people she cares about leave and begins to cry, saying “I’m gonna miss them.”

Another interesting pattern of behavior that I have noticed in my daughter is that she sees parts of herself in women that she has seen me date.

Read the full article here at Single Dadventures.

Surviving The Loss Of Your Mother

March 22nd, 2016 - By Kweli Wright
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He’s struggling. It’s evident by his Facebook posts. Sometimes the sadness oozes from the page like tar. Heavy, black and thick. In those moments you’re overcome with sadness too because losing a mother is that thing that we all know is going to happen, but we choose not to think about. Or we simply deny. Lose my mother? Nah, she will live forever. But the truth is, she won’t. She’ll go one day and the pain will hit you completely off guard.

How will you survive?

Well, first you have to be able to talk about it. And not just when it happens to you, like now, when it happens to someone else. One of your best friends lost her mom about a year ago and you can’t remember the last time you asked, “How are you dealing with it?” It’s not that you haven’t wondered. Your fear is that it may upset her or worse yet, that she’s still having a hard time with it.

You remember being on the phone with her not long after she found out. The way she cried reminded you of the utter helplessness you felt when your grandmother passed. It was the kinda pain that made your whole body ache. You never want to be reminded. So you don’t ask. And hope that she doesn’t notice that it is you who can’t take it.

But it doesn’t make you a very good friend, and it keeps you clueless as to what to expect or how to handle it one day when it does happen to you. So what now? Start talking. Better yet, asking.

Since you value a good professional opinion, and this psychologist happens to be the mom of a good friend, you ring up Dr. Jane Fort to see if she has any advice on how to survive the loss of your mother.

She starts off by saying that parental death is unlike any other, and unfortunately, this society doesn’t give much guidance in terms of grieving.

“It’s important to know that this is a long journey. If you’re waking up every day and getting dressed, you’re doing well.” She says, “You want to give yourself two years to grieve. Knowing that can help someone know that they’re not doing so bad if they still feel horrible after the first year.”

She also advises that a person respectfully say ‘no’ to things they don’t want to do. “It’s okay to let the phone ring, and just sit. Some nurturing no one can do for you.”

Utilizing support groups such as the ones that hospice extends to families can also be helpful in that you don’t have to feel so alone.

It’s interesting because opening that door made you want to ask your own mom how she’s doing. Your grandmother died around 2002 and while you made every effort to comfort her the best you could that first year, after that, you stopped talking about it.

She seemed okay. Right?

“It still feels the same,” says your mom, a little surprised that you’re asking. “I mean it gets better in that you can deal with it. But you never get over it. She was my best friend.”

You start thinking about your friend and his Facebook posts. How long has it been? Does anyone still ask how he’s doing?

“It’s like waking up in the morning and getting out of bed to do something that you always do, and then hitting the floor because you don’t have any legs,” he says of the pain he still feels one year later.

You wanna tell him that it supposedly takes at least two years, and he’s probably doing better than he thinks. Never mind, just listen…

“She died a few days before my birthday and then after that it was Mother’s Day. So when this time of year comes around it’s hard. The worst part is when I see a dude and his mom laughing.  I wondered if I was being a ‘b*tch baby,’ because I’m still taking it so hard, but a guy who lost his mom told me you never get over it.”

“Does it help when people ask?”

“It means a lot when someone asks because it could open a door…but when it happens I just say it’s getting better…if there’s a follow up question…I give more.”

You had no idea.

Ultimately, what you learned is that surviving the loss of a mother has a lot to do with managing your expectations. You will never get over it, but one day you will be able to deal with it. Knowing that is better than nothing.


Enough Is Enough! When Will People Truly Let Tamir Rice Rest In Peace?

March 20th, 2016 - By Ashley Monaé
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It’s been nearly two years since 12-year-old Tamir Rice of Cleveland, Ohio was gunned down by officer Timothy Loehmann while holding a BB gun, and his name is still making headlines. While some stories celebrate his life and use his story to advocate change in communities across the country, many others are for the wrong reasons. The fatal story of the slain teen has been an unsettling narrative to witness as someone looking for the outside in, which has had a thinking: When will people truly let Tamir Rice rest in peace?

Just last month, the city of Cleveland filed a creditor’s claim in the amount of $500 against Rice’s family for what was said to be an unpaid EMS bill. According to reports, the city stated that family was responsible “for emergency medical services rendered as the decedent’s last dying expense under Ohio Revised Code.” The bill was broken down into two parts: $450 in “advance life support” that was administered to Tamir and $50 in mileage driven by the ambulance to the hospital where he died.

Really? After the young boy is killed on account of the city officer you charge the family medical expenses? Where they do that at? And although the mayor of Cleveland issued and apology and officials withdrew the request against Rice’s family, saying it was a mistake in terms of not flagging it, it doesn’t dismiss the embarrassment brought upon the family.

Not to mention, things were made worse when an officer from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District was suspended after it was discovered that he posted offensive comments on Facebook about Rice and his mother last month as well.

As if that wasn’t enough, earlier this week on Monday (Mar. 14), Captain Jamie Marquardt, a EMS supervisor, had the audacity to make disgusting and highly offensive comments against the 12-year-old via Facebook, as reported by Fox 8 Cleveland.

“Tamir Rice should have been shot and I am glad he is dead,” Marquardt’s post read. “I wish I was in the park that day as he terrorized innocent patrons by pointing a gun at them. I am upset I did not get the chance to kill the little criminal (expletive).”

After publishing his post, Marquardt later claimed he was not the person who wrote it. “Someone…picked up my phone and made some awful posts under my name. I want to apologize for those who thought it was me. I do not believe or stand for what was written.”

Fortunately, this time around, the city of Cleveland opened an investigation on Marquardt’s post by Cleveland City Hall’s Office of Integrity Control, which resulted in him being fired, but I do believe enough is enough. It’s apparent that the city of Cleveland has failed both Tamir Rice and his family, the least they could do is allow him to rest in peace and stop tormenting his death.

What are your thoughts on the controversy surrounding Rice’s death and Marquardt’s comments?

Grow Trees, Not Graves: Would You Want To Be Turned Into A Tree When You Die?

March 3rd, 2016 - By Veronica Wells
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Would You Want To Be Turned Into A Tree When You Die feat

Source: Corbis

Just before I got my driver’s license, I told my parents that if anything should happen to me, I wanted to become an organ donor. My father approved of the decision but my mother was adamant that it wasn’t the right move to make. She was against it for several reasons really. She thought that if I were ever in an accident, paramedics and doctors would look at my license, see that I was a donor and not try their hardest to save my life. Then morally, she believed that you should leave the world as you entered it, with all of your body parts still in tact.

Personally, I don’t really see the point. At the end of the day, our bodies are the shells that house our souls. And while they serve an important function here on earth, in the spiritual realm they’re of no use. So I was always of the mindset that if my body, which I won’t be using, could benefit someone else, then go ahead and take what you need.

I really like the idea of shedding out outer skin and traveling light into the afterlife just as much as I like leaving something behind for the people who still live and move in the physical.

It’s the reason this idea of “becoming a tree” is so appealing to me. Technically, as the quotations denote, you’re not becoming an actual tree, your corpse is just being used to fertilize one. This video explains it much better than I could, so take a look it below.

For those who can’t watch, instead of being buried in a coffin, which is less environmentally friendly, your body is folded into a fetal position and placed in a pod. That pod is then used to fertilize a tree seedling. The video suggests that in the future, instead of visiting headstones, we’ll walk through forests. A tree, another living, breathing organism gives your loved ones something else to visit and touch and love. Plus, we all know that trees release oxygen into the air. So not only would you providing some sense of comfort to your loved ones, your choice to become a tree could be improving an entire community.

The project, developed in Italy, is still in its initial stages. But you can read more about it here.

What do you think about the idea of being turned into a tree after you die? Would you do it or is it still a bit too weird for you?

Do You Have A Will?

February 4th, 2016 - By Christine Mwaturura
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Talking about death is never pleasant, and thinking about one’s own death is even more uncomfortable. I guess that could be why a quick informal survey around my office revealed that a lot of people have not yet considered estate planning. I was surprised to even find that some colleagues who own real estate or have children don’t have a will. 

What happens if a person dies without a will (known as dying intestate)?

Generally, when a person dies without a last will, the state’s intestacy laws determine what happens to the deceased’s stuff (the estate). Depending on the particular state, the estate may be distributed to a spouse, children, parents or siblings. Survivors have to go through the probate court system to have the estate distributed and this process can take months, and even years if the estate is complex or there are complicated familial relationships.  

There are countless horror story accounts of what some survivors have gone through when a loved one has passed away without a will: years of court proceedings to have the estate released, thousands of dollars spent on attorney and appraiser fees, stepchildren left out of the distribution, and sneaky relatives trying to claim a portion of the estate. One such story that I came across on the Huffington Post (My Story: Why People Need Wills), was about an estranged spouse who came out of the woodwork to make claim against the estate of his estranged wife. In the end, the estranged husband was able to get his hands on his deceased wife’s assets. The brother of the deceased woman, the author of the article, poignantly writes at the end, “People may think that wills and attorneys are expensive. In the overall scheme of things, they really aren’t. I gladly would have paid ten times the average cost for my mother and sister to have had wills.”

Good estate planning and an ironclad will or living trust can considerably speed up the estate distribution process and avoid a lot of the pitfalls that some survivors have had to navigate.

So when do you need to start estate planning?

At a healthy age 29, some would say it’s premature for me to consider my own death, but real talk — life is fragile. I’ve known otherwise healthy young people whose lives were unexpectedly claimed by freak accidents. It’s these types of stories that make me pause for a second and be thankful for the breath that fills my lungs, even on a sh-tty day. And then I also think about those who would be left behind to mourn me, and the unlucky ones who’d have to deal with my stuff: whose job would it be to pack up my things? who would be entitled to my stuff? would anyone know which banks hold my money and where my 401(k) sits?

I’m an organized person so the thought of leaving my loved ones to dig through my stuff after my death to try piece together bits of information about my bank accounts, insurance policies etc… almost seems like a cruel task to leave them with. This is one reason why estate planning — even for the single, relatively young and not so wealthy — is still important.

Estate planning is also more than just about what you own. Do you have a mortgage or student loans, and do you know what would happen to your debt upon your death? Do you have kids under 18, and have you thought about who would take on guardianship over your kids? These are all important questions considered part of the estate planning process. Other estate planning components include: a living will (also known as an advance directive), and establishing a power of attorney

Estate planning sounds like a laborious task, but certainly one that is worthwhile. I have estate planning on my 2016 to-do list, do you?

Children’s Grief Awareness Day: 10 Things Grieving Children Want You To Know

November 19th, 2015 - By Kweli Wright
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One in 20 children will lose a parent by the age of 18. Most Americans will experience the death of someone close to them before graduating high school.

Death is a part of life, and loss is difficult for everyone, but children and teens grieve differently than adults. When a child’s grief goes unnoticed or isn’t properly addressed, the hurt can last a lifetime. Data indicates that without support, grieving children are at a much greater risk for depression, suicide, poverty and substance abuse.

“As a society we tend to overlook how grief affects children, despite the tremendous impact it can have on their lives,” said Mary FitzGerald, CEO of The Moyer Foundation. “But when we can provide the support children need, it’s truly amazing to watch them start to heal and learn to hope again.

The Moyer Foundation’s Camp Erin® Program is the nation’s largest network of free bereavement camps for kids, serving more than 3,000 children and teens annually in 46 locations.

Observed this year on Thursday, Nov. 19, Children’s Grief Awareness Day was established to draw attention to the unique needs and perspective of grieving children. Grief support organizations and families across the country mark the day each year as a way to remember loved ones and to raise awareness.

“We have been focused on leading a national discussion about childhood bereavement since 2008,” said Heather Nesle, president of the New York Life Foundation, a primary supporter of The Moyer Foundation. “We have made great progress, but this issue needs more attention, and we need to reach moregrieving children across the country.”

For those who have a grieving child in their life, here are a few insights into what they might be thinking and feeling, and how you can help, courtesy of The National Alliance for Grieving Children.

1 – I want to be told the truth.

Tell grieving children the truth, keeping in mind the child’s age and maturity level and the circumstances surrounding the death.

2 – I want to know that there will always be someone to take care of me.

Grieving children spend a lot of time worrying about another person in their life who might die. To help alleviate this fear, it’s important to reassure them that there will always be someone in their life who will take care of them.

3 –My grief is long lasting.

Children will grieve the person who died for the rest of their life – they don’t “just get over it.” As a result, they will often be bewildered when other people in their life have seemed to move on.

4 – I often cope with grief and loss through play.

Typically, children cannot sustain prolonged grief, so they use play as a way to cope with and to take a break.

5 – I will always miss the person who died.

Love doesn’t die – grieving children will miss the person they lost for as long as they live.

6 – I probably want to share my story and talk about the person who died.

Telling their story often helps a child heal. Grieving children don’t want to forget the person who died. They also worry that others will forget their person, so it’s important to share memories about the person who died.

7 – I might grieve differently from other kids.

Some children might be more expressive with their grief; some might keep it all in. Even siblings grieve differently, and it is important to honor each child’s story, even if it differs from their sibling’s.

8 – I probably feel guilty.

Grieving children will often feel pangs of guilt, even if it is not justified and has no basis in reality.

9 – If I’m acting out, I’m probably feeling intense emotions of grief.

Grieving children frequently feel sad, angry, confused, or scared. Because they might not know how to express these emotions, they often end up acting out instead.

10 – If you’re not sure what I want or what I’m feeling, just ask me!

When in doubt, ask a grieving child how you can help. They want to talk about the person who died, or maybe not. They may want to write about their grief or do some other activity to express their feelings.

Learn More: Get educated about how grief impacts children and teens, and what you can do to help, starting with the following links:

Moyer Foundation:

New York Life Foundation – A Child in Grief:

National Alliance for Grieving Children:

Can A Child Choose Heaven Over The Hospital?

October 28th, 2015 - By Clarissa Joan
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Do not resuscitate (DNR), or no code, is a legal order written either in the hospital or on a legal form to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), in respect of the wishes of a patient in case their heart were to stop or they were to stop breathing.

Each year more than 100,000 people are given the choice to refuse medical treatment in the event they become ill and cannot breathe on their own or their heart stops working. In most cases, the option of DNR is given to patients who painfully suffer from terminal illnesses, are above the age of 65, and the chance of regaining an optimal quality of life is slim.

A DNR patient chooses to die peacefully at home with their family or in a palliative care/hospice facility where their comfort and cleanliness while dying is the only attended concern. Families across America have conversations with ill loved ones every day to determine their status on receiving medical treatment. It is a hard conversation to have, but what if you had to have this conversation not with your elderly parent or adult spouse, but your young child?

Meet Julianna Snow (Insert Pic)

Julianna is a five-year-old girl with a severe case of an incurable neurodegenerative illness called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. CMT, is a group of inherited disorders that affect the peripheral nerves, which are the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. CMT is just one kind of neuropathy (also called peripheral neuropathy), meaning simply that the peripheral nerves are damaged. It affects about 2.8 million people worldwide, of all races and ethnic groups.

This is an excerpt from a letter Michelle, Julianna’s mother, sent to their family and friends on October 28, 2014.

“Dear Friends,

 You may or may not know that Julianna was hospitalized almost 3 weeks ago for another respiratory problem. She is better now and will come home tomorrow.

 In 2014, Julianna spent 66 days in the hospital. This was her third PICU [Pediatric Intensive Care Unit] admission in ten months. We tried so hard to keep her out of the hospital, but it seemed like nothing was working…

Julianna turned 4 in August. She is a bright, kind, funny and amazing girl who happens to have an awful, debilitating neuromuscular disease. The worst part of her disease is that it affects her breathing and swallowing – these are the things that ultimately shorten lifespan in people with neuromuscular disease… 

We don’t know how much time we have with her – it could be months, it could be years.”


Julianna has been lucky. Most children with her condition do not live to see their second birthday. She has made it to age five. However, it has not been an easy fight to stay alive. From the age of two, her muscles have been getting severely weaker and the slightest sickness i.e. your common cold ushers her to the hospital where she cannot be sedated but must painfully endure NT, Nasotracheal suctioning, the process of extracting mucus from the lungs with tubes through the nose.

Julianna cannot swallow so she is also fed through a tube in her stomach. She wears a breathing mask 24/7, and she is bound to a electrical wheel chair that her hand muscles are too weak to operate.

Last October, doctors told the family Julianna’s chances of survival post another infection were highly unlikely especially with any level of quality living. It was then that the family began to consider if any further painful medical treatment was worth it.

Mom Michelle shared the conversation they had with Julianna on her blog.

Michelle: Julianna, if you get sick again, do you want to go to the hospital again or stay home?

Julianna: Not the hospital.

Michelle: Even if that means that you will go to heaven if you stay home?

Julianna: Yes.

Michelle: And you know that mommy and daddy won’t come with you right away? You’ll go by yourself first.

Julianna: Don’t worry. God will take care of me.

Michelle: And if you go to the hospital, it may help you get better and let you come home again and spend more time with us. I need to make sure that you understand that. Hospital may let you have more time with mommy and daddy.

Julianna: I understand.

Michelle: (crying) – I’m sorry, Julianna. I know you don’t like it when I cry. It’s just that I will miss you so much.

Julianna: That’s OK. God will take care of me. He’s in my heart.


This is every parents worst nightmare. No one is suppose to bury their child. For most it happens suddenly without choice or consideration, but for this family it is happening painfully and slowly. Are they doing the right thing? Should a child be allowed to make decisions about his or her own quality of life and medical treatment?

The Snow family has chosen to honor their daughter’s wishes and not subject her to any further hospitalization should she get sick. They believe that Julianna is well aware of her own suffering and what options she has in the after life as well as those on earth. The next time Julianna gets sick, what happens next will be up to God, not a doctor.

Can a child choose heaven over the hospital? Would you let your child make that decision?


For more information on The Snow Family’s Story see CNN’s series coverage “Heaven or Hospital.”

Clarissa Joan is a spiritual life coach and editor-in-chief of The Clarissa Joan Experience. She resides in Philadelphia, Pa with her Husband, their two girls, and a yorkie named Ace. Clarissa is also an expert in impact investing. She is the Communications Associate at Impact America Fund.