This week in the New York Times, columnist Maureen Dowd turned her column over to Father Kevin O’Neil, a Catholic priest, who has spent much time ministering to the dying and consoling the grieving. Father O'Neil writes that early in his career he used to ask God "Why?" when faced with death: why would a loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God cause pain and suffering? He goes on to ask, "How can we celebrate the love of a God become flesh when God doesn’t seem to do the loving thing?"

And, with his 30 years of experience, Father O'Neil answers his own questions:

We are human and mortal. We will suffer and die. But how we are with one another in that suffering and dying makes all the difference as to whether God’s presence is felt or not and whether we are comforted or not...Faith is lived in family and community, and God is experienced in family and community. We need one another to be God’s presence…An unconditionally loving presence soothes broken hearts, binds up wounds, and renews us in life. This is a gift that we can all give, particularly to the suffering. When this gift is given, God’s love is present.

Whether you are a Catholic or not, whether you believe in God or not, these words might be meaningful to you. They can remind us that in death and in grief the support of the people we love is a powerful healer.


via New York Times

On Friday morning at 9:30 am, sites across the Internet shut down for a minute in memory of the victim's of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary last week. Though this is not the first time that the Internet has "gone dark" for a cause, this is the first major group action taken online in response to a death (or deaths). Though the Internet provides lots of remote places to grieve—such as message boards, online support groups, and video streaming of funerals—this moment of silence marks a new way of social, communal grieving, and we wonder if this sort of memorialization will become more common in the future.

If you came to Everplans on Friday, you might have seen that we joined other sites in taking a moment of silence. The action, called Web Goes Silent, was organized by

CNN is aggregating a nice collection of tributes from around the world honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting. People have contributed with personal and creative memorials such as messages in the sand, and poems to those who lost their lives, and the town as a whole. 


Even if you are fortunate enough not to be personally affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School slayings, you've almost certainly been at the receiving end of the relentless, sometimes gruesome media coverage. This has created special issues for families and communities with small children, and particularly for elementary schools. Many school administrations have chosen to be proactive and have scheduled assemblies or class-by-class discussions about the tragedy, in many cases lead by school psychologists and counselors.

It's easy to see the reasoning behind this: getting ahead of the story allows for more consistent, thoughtful responses to questions that may be raised by children, and helps to avoid the impact of dramatic misinformation spread from child to child "on the playground."

In some communities, however, this approach has created significant conflict. Many parents feel that it should be up to them to decide whether or not even to broach the subject with their children. This has been especially true for parents of kindergartners, many of whom are afraid that explaining what happened in Newtown could be traumatic for their children. And many parents who feel that they have control over their children's exposure to media believe that they can (and should) protect their children from news of this terrible event.

It's a tricky subject—nobody wants to rob a 5-year-old of his or her innocence, but should news about the Sandy Hook tragedy be considered a Pandora's box that's already open? Is it realistic to shield even a very young child from the ubiquitous media images and the stories they may hear from their peers, their older siblings, or older students in their schools?

What do you think? Are schools overstepping their bounds by addressing the Sandy Hook killings with their students, or are they serving a crucial role in looking after the emotional well-being of their children?


Caring for an aging or elderly parent or grandparent can be emotionally, logistically, and financially complicated. And if you're one of nearly 7 million Americans providing long-distance care, these arrangements be even more challenging.

Over at, financial planner Suzanna de Baca asks, "If you are living far from your elderly parent and he or she is in decline, what can you do to make it easier financially for you and your family?" Thankfully, this is not a rhetorical question. De Baca offers six tips for easing the financial burden and confusion of providing long-distance care, and suggests helpful resources to aid you in your care-giving.

Are you a caregiver for an aging parent or grandparent? If you are, what are your suggestions for ways to ease the financial burdens of care-giving?

via Time

We're very interested in the idea of highly personalized funeral and memorial services, which is why this story caught our attention: funeral director Joe Lombardo at Williams Lombardo Funeral Home in Clifton Heights, PA is arranging funerals with the slogan, "We Put the 'Fun' in Funeral." Lombardo is making funerals that are specialized, personalized experiences—for the person who died and for those who attend the service.

He has done military themes and sports themes. He's built a garden and a beach scene complete with sand, palm trees and a boat. He's open to just about any idea that a family throws at him. "Whatever we can do to personalize it and make it right," he says.

There are lots of ways to personalize a funeral service, no matter where you are in the planning process. Imagine your "dream funeral"...what does it look like? We'd love to see your thoughts in the comments section.


We believe that life insurance can make a huge difference both before a death (in the form of peace-of-mind) and after a death (in the form of financial support). While not all life insurance will be the right life insurance for you and your family, finding the right policy or combination of policies can make you a champion for your family's financial protection. Here's a great personal story from detailing how life insurance helped writer Alden Wicker's family survive financially after her father's tragic death.

Do you have life insurance? Did finally getting life insurance make you feel like a hero for your family? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.


Last night Rock Center with Brian Williams aired a very powerful piece about a tough subject: Talking about dying in order to improve end-of-life.

You can see the video here.

The story showed how having difficult, open conversations about end-of-life choices and putting a proper advance directive in place can have a huge impact on the emotional (and financial) stresses a family faces as the end approaches. They highlighted Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in Wisconsin, "considered by many healthcare experts to be the best place to die in America," and its commitment to helping families really understand what their options are at the end. Through caring conversations with nurse practitioners, the hospital enables patients to come to terms with their health situations, get in touch with their wishes about how far to take the fight, and make decisions that will ultimately preserve personal dignity.

The segment was hard to watch—both uplifting and depressing at the same time. I was struck by how lucky the people in the piece were to have access to such supportive and knowledgeable resources to help them through these decisions. Most people will never be guided through these end-of-life choices by a caring expert. Even though expert guidance isn't necessary to create an advance directive, this segment really brought home the positive impact that this kind of support can have.

My wife and I are fortunate enough to have advance directives in place, but we created them as part of a bundle of other legal paperwork given to us by our estate attorney as we completed our wills. We knew the decisions we made in our living will were important, but we didn't have context around these choices, and so we guessed at what we wanted and completed the forms without conviction. 

It's one of our goals at Everplans to help people deal with end-of-life issues, especially those people without access to end-of-life experts. We want to help people understand advance directives and find resources that can help them have the difficult conversations early enough to make a difference at the end. Though every state has its own advance directive forms, we think one of the best organizations out there is Aging with Dignity, which publishes a form called Five Wishes. Unlike most state advance directive forms, Five Wishes uses plain, easy-to-understand language to help people make important decisions about the way they would like medical care handled when they approach the end of life. 

Besse Cooper, the world's oldest living person, died this week at the age of 116. Cooper lived in three centuries; she was 18 years old at the start of WWI, 43 years old at the start of WWII, 73 years old when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, 93 years old when the Berlin Wall came down, and 112 years old when Barack Obama became President.

Cooper married once, had 4 children, 12 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren. After she was widowed in 1963, she lived alone on her farm in Georgia for 38 years, until she moved in a nursing home at age 105.

In an interview with Georgia newspaper the Walton Tribune, Cooper credited her longevity to "'minding her own business' and avoiding junk food."

via Obit of the Day

Over at The Huffington Post, grief expert Gloria Horsley offers a helpful list of things to say (and things not to say) to someone who is grieving, as well as helpful things to do for someone who has experienced a loss. If you're supporting someone who has recently lost someone, or if you know someone who is supporting someone, we recommend reading Horsley's suggestions and checking out our article How to Express Sympathy: What to Say and What Not to Say.

If you've experienced a loss, we'd like to know what helpful (or unhelpful) things people have said to you. Please share your experience in the comments section.

via Huffington Post