Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Why Your Funeral Director Will Likely Be Female

Funeral director Jan Smith of Flanner Buchanan in Indianapolis guides a casket into a hearse. [Photo credit: courtesy of Jan Smith]

By Kevyn Burger for Next Avenue

Jan Smith was in the final semester of her training to be a funeral director when her 8-year-old nephew died after a heart transplant.

Her family’s heartbreak deepened her understanding of the value of the work she was preparing for.

“I was able to be an observer of how my profession can help a family with a traumatic experience like the loss of a young child. I saw what a difference we make with creating that meaningful last experience,” said Smith, of Indianapolis. read more

How a Daughter Helped Her Mom Face Death

Finding truth at mortality’s threshold [Photo credit: Adobe Stock]

By Aimee Ross

“I have a question for you, Aim,” Mom said from her blue La-Z-Boy. “How did you stay so positive during everything you went through?”

This takes me by surprise. “Uh, Prozac?” I joke, and she laughs.

She needs to laugh. I know she is scared and depressed, awaiting her next chemo treatment. Twenty years ago, she battled uterine cancer, but stayed cancer-free ever since, a miracle. Three months ago, she was diagnosed with cancer again: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “I’m serious,” Mom said, and my brain begins its search for an answer. read more

How to Be Supportive to Friends Experiencing Loss

A “support” crash course to guide you through difficult times (Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

By Ken Druck for Next Avenue

(Editor’s note: This essay is the latest in a series from author and speaker Ken Druck, based on work in his book Courageous Aging, which is about how all people can make peace with, and find joy in, every stage of life.)

Loss is an inescapable part of life. Whether we’ve lost someone to death, or are going through a living loss such as divorce, retirement, a life-threatening illness, a debilitating injury or a life-altering condition like dementia or addiction, support can make all the difference in helping us summon the strength, faith and courage to fight our way back into life. read more

Facing Down the Biggest Fear of All

Senior woman gazes pensively into the distance while the sun sets behind her

5 ways to conquer your fear of death and age courageously (Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

By Ken Druck for Next Avenue

(Editor’s note: This essay is part of a series from author and speaker Ken Druck, based on work in his book Courageous Aging, which is about how all people can make peace with, and find joy in, every stage of life.)

Our fear of death begins when we’re kids. Perhaps we had to face the mystifying idea of impermanence when a beloved pet, parent or grandparent died. The stark reality that this loved one was really gone — and gone forever, was both devastating and terrifying. From early childhood, when we’re introduced to the concept of “futureless-ness” — that is, old age and eventually death, there are few things as difficult for us to deal with. Facing down the fear of dying requires great strength, humility and spiritual fortitude. But, as you will see, it’s worth the effort. read more

Keeping the Faith — Or Not

What to do if your adult child has a different spiritual path than you (Photo credit: Thinkstock)

By Elizabeth Fishel and Jeffrey Arnett for Next Avenue

Are we in the midst of a great religious recession?

A number of studies show that younger people are less religious than older people, and religiosity has declined with each successive generation. In the 2015 Pew Research Center report on religion and public life, 36 percent of 21- to 27-year-olds are classified as unaffiliated, a far higher proportion than among their parents’ (17 percent) or grandparents’ (11 percent) generations.

In extensive interviews with parents and their 18- to 29-year-olds for our book, Getting To 30: A Parent’s Guide to the 20-Something Years, we found that religious questioning is part of the identity explorations woven into this life stage. read more

What to Say to Someone Who’s Dying

Make sure your last conversation is one you won’t regret (Photo credit: Getty Images)

By Jill Smolowe for Next Avenue

My friend’s distress was acute. For weeks she’d been running herself ragged, attending to her ailing octogenarian father.

Daily visits to the hospital had given way to frantic efforts to turn his apartment into a home hospice after he made clear that he wanted to return to his apartment. Now, with a hospital bed and 24/7 nursing care in place, the countdown had begun. There was no “if” about his imminent demise. The only question was: How much longer does he have? read more

How to Make the Most of Your Holidays

Happy family exchanging wrapped gifts

Tips and inspiration to keep the season low on stress and high on meaning [Photo credit: Getty Images]

By Heidi Raschke for Next Avenue

From gifts that are truly meaningful to tips on navigating tricky family situations, we’ve got advice and inspiration from the Next Avenue stories below to help you have truly happy holidays:

Traditions and Family

Four Jews and a Christmas Tree — I grew up in a Jewish household where Christmas dawned each year with only one thought in mind: “Woo-hoo, the ski slopes will be empty today!” As my mother made clear, the trees, the ornaments, the music — that wasn’t for us. That was for the family one street over, who (charitably) let my three siblings and me come over each year to help decorate their tree. If our line of menorahs seemed less festive, well, we knew where Mom stood on the idea of a “Hanukkah bush.” Then came love. Then came marriage. Then came the Christmas trees Mom had disparaged. Read more. read more

7 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Mental Health

Woman with a peaceful expression tilts head upward in a forest, basking in rays of sunlight

Resolve to focus on taking care of yourself, beginning now [Photo credit: Getty]

By Patricia Corrigan for Next Avenue

Eating less and exercising more are likely on many a to-do list for 2017. But in between meals and after working out, we all can identify ways to improve our mental health as well. Below are seven new year’s resolutions I’ve devised to help me take better care of myself in 2017. What are yours?

1. Adjust the settings. While fixing my leaky faucet, the plumber blurted out: “I’ve lost my passion for this work. I’ve been at it for so long, and the passion just isn’t there anymore.” read more

The 3 Questions to Help You Find Your Purpose

Answer them and you’ll love your life more, says ‘The Payoff Principle’ author

By Alan R. Zimmerman for Next Avenue

Seeking Your Direction from Midlife OnThinkstock

In junior high school, I decided that I would go into the ministry. The problem was, I wasn’t sure it was my dream . . . or ever had been.

I went on to get my master’s and doctoral degrees, taught several undergraduate classes and something strange happened. I discovered I loved teaching and I was good at it — very good. But I also felt guilty for tossing aside my “supposed” purpose or calling to the ministry.

Fortunately, I attended a workshop on “intensive journaling” about how to relax, think, reflect, visualize and keep a journal, so the deeper things inside me might be revealed. I then wrote in my journal: “I can serve God and others as a teacher, speaker and author.” Almost instantly, my guilt disappeared, and a sense of peace, direction, and well-being settled over me. I knew I was living my life and working my career on purpose. read more

The unexpected benefits of volunteering in nature

VolunteerNatureWhen ‘citizen scientists’ help gather data, they don’t get paid, but the rewards are priceless

By Akiko Busch for Next Avenue

There’s something innately restorative to the human spirit about watching the flow of water in a stream, and this is especially true in spring. The frozen landscapes and frigid temperatures of the winter months can cast a stillness across one’s interior terrain as well, so to watch the current of a river in May is surely to come alive again.

That sense of renewal is even greater, though, when it extends from one’s own spirit to the larger environment. Which is just what happens when I go to watch for the herring in the annual spring monitoring program. read more