The Aftermath


Surviving spouses may need more than sympathy..

reverse mortgage newsThe loss of one’s spouse is devastating; not only emotionally, but often financially as many survivors find unexpected debt and expenses…

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Good Grief, Groceries, GPS

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Tech Has Seniors Covered

gdeskGrief is difficult. Whether it’s yours, a friend’s, a business associate’s, or a client’s, few of us feel comfortable addressing grief head-on, and as a result we may either clam up or say something trite and stilted. Neither response is ideal for the one who is mourning.

Cyberspace to the rescue. The sympathy website eCondolence, which helps people do everything from compose obituaries to plan a funeral, craft a eulogy to choose an appropriate condolence gift, has recently expanded its offerings to include GriefDesk, a business-to-business resource that supports those who are supporting the mourners.

Solutions and Support for the Sorrowing

Designed with health care professionals and benefit providers in mind, GriefDesk might also be an excellent resource for reverse mortgage professionals to use and share with other senior support team members.

GriefDesk takes the educational information available on and organizes it so that businesses can best support grieving families and employees. The GriefDesk solution provides companies the right to reproduce a vast library of educational content, customized web pages, e-newsletters and print designs to enhance bereavement outreach, as well as full-scale campaigns aimed at client engagement.

Though “engagement” may sound a trifle crass given the subject matter, talking about grief is vital for everyone involved. The site’s breadth of information helps those who work with and/or care about the mourner(s) to connect with them from a place of deeper understanding.

Below are some recent HECMWord posts on grief and grieving, accessible in one place to supplement the information on eCondolence and GriefDesk:

The Techno-current Accelerates in Every Realm

And it’s not just “semi-taboo” topics our cyber age makes more approachable. Apps are accelerating how we age in every imaginable way — except, fortunately, for actually advancing our years at warp speed. Consider:

Have you logged onto MySpace lately? How’s your Motorola cell phone working? These anachronistic questions point up an astonishing fact: a scant decade ago, MySpace was the premier (indeed, almost the ONLY) social network, Motorola did indeed have the top-selling cell phone, and “app” might have been an abbreviation, rather than what you installed and updated on your phone in order to work, play and connect.

Today’s seniors can see doctors via Skype, have their vitals monitored remotely, and get second opinions on serious medical issues rapidly, thanks to online medical records sharing.

“Home care” has taken on a whole new meaning, with discreet tech that ensures elders’ homes will alert family members or caregivers if there is a problem. Robot caregivers already exist, and we’re a hair’s breadth from self-driving cars.

The eight types of apps most useful to those 65+ (more than a fourth of whom owned smartphones by the end of 2014) include:

  • Ride-sharing: Lyft and Uber allow seniors to summon a car within minutes.
  • Meal delivery: UberEATS and GrubHub can deliver a senior’s favorite restaurant fare for a fee — especially helpful for those who no longer drive, or may not want to dine out solo.
  • Video chat: Skype and FaceTime make visiting with the far-flung grandkids so much easier!
  • Grocery delivery: Instacart and Shipt do the grocery shopping and bring a senior’s personal order right to their door.
  • Fitness monitors: Fitbit and MyFitnessPal monitor blood pressure and count exercise steps.
  • Butler on call: Hello Alfred handles the errands a senior cannot, or doesn’t want to do.
  • Medication management: Medisafe and CareZone ensure seniors take the right meds, and remind them about upcoming doctors’ appointments.
  • GPS: Google Maps and other GPS technology make navigating by car a breeze — and keep seniors from getting lost.

Whatever challenge or circumstance the seniors you serve may face, if you don’t already know of a tech solution, simply check online — or ask Siri. If there isn’t an app available right now, you can bet it’s on the near horizon.


The Sacred Work of Grief

Beyond Loss into Renewal

I was sharing a table with a stranger at Whole Foods, enjoying an al fresco summer dinner, when two sweet 20-year-olds I know stopped by to say hello on their way into the store. Afterwards, the fellow with whom I was chatting remarked that it’s nice to have friends of different ages. I told him one of my dearest lifelong friends had passed in 2014 at 101, and I still miss her keenly. And then this man I’d been talking with for the better part of an hour said, “My father died a week ago.”revnewal-tree

Wait, what?

Our conversation took a deep dive into death, grief, and healing. He told me his father had been very ill for fourteen months, so his passing was a blessing, and the family, all local, are close-knit. We spoke of aging, how conventional medicine often seeks to prolong life to the patient’s detriment, and the different ways people grieve. Then we said good night. It was an illuminating evening.

The Five Gates of Grief

There are many ways to approach talking about grief, and many ways to grieve, but what most people in Western culture don’t know is that death is just one of grief’s doorways. We’ve touched on the idea of anticipatory grief, such as losing one’s eyesight, and how that might manifest behaviorally. We can also lose people due to conflict and misunderstanding, and these losses can feel like a death.

These other forms of grief, suppressed, can be misdiagnosed as depression — or show up later as chronic disease, says noted psychotherapist and author Francis Weller in The Wild Edge of Sorrow. He elucidates five “gates of grief” and provides tools for navigating these uncharted waters. It is important for reverse mortgage professionals to be aware of these grief gates so you can more fully understand the seniors you serve:

1. First Gate: Everything We Love, We Will Lose. Accepting life’s impermanence helps mediate the pain we experience when someone dear to us dies — and enables us to keep our hearts open in the face of inevitable loss. Illness is part of the first gate, and offers us an opportunity to go deep into life and come through the challenge with an expanded vision of who and what we are. A health crisis in my mid-thirties served as a huge wake-up call, and set me on my path of purpose and service. People who ignore what their health is trying to tell them forfeit this opportunity, as Weller explains with his example of a client who, after a heart attack, wanted to get back to business as quickly as possible. Weller told him, “I’m concerned that you’re going to waste a perfectly good heart attack!” Illness asks much of us, and if we recognize this and answer the call, how we perceive life, loss, and grief can shift dramatically.
2. Second Gate: The Places That Have Not Known Love. Shame, unworthiness and regret can close our hearts to compassion, and almost everyone has experienced them to some degree. These emotions are like a slow trauma that, unresolved, eats away at the soul.
3. Third Gate: The Sorrows of the World. We experience this every time there is an oil spill, or we see a dead animal in the road. Most of us in modern culture suffer from “nature deficit disorder”, and this creates soul loss that we experience as emptiness.
4. Fourth Gate: What We Expected and Did Not Receive. This gate encompasses what we may not even know we have lost. Weller gives the example of participating in an evening community circle among West African villagers, who shared food, drink and conversation as their children wove in and out, welcomed by all. Our equivalent to this nightly ritual is happy hour, which may be how we anesthetize our loss, he says. We have no communal rituals, and we grieve them even as we don’t know what is missing.
5. Fifth Gate: Ancestral Grief. Previous generations lived under great hardship, adapting to American ways and forsaking their traditions, language, culture, and even family “back home.” This grief and loss lingers silently in their descendants, who may feel a bone-deep sadness they cannot identify.

The rest of Weller’s book offers rituals and practices to heal and renew us, and finally a chapter on how to prepare to become ancestors. When we serve this “apprenticeship to sorrow,” we have more of ourselves available to offer in service to the world.