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Research that Matters

Greetings to Our Partners in Care!

Welcome to this month's edition of GriefPerspectives

Hello & Happy Fall!
We are welcoming Dr. Hoy back in early November for more in-person sessions with free CEUs for our Nurses & RCFE community partners. Topics will be announced shortly and you can keep an eye out for them by visiting our Events Calendar.

If you are interested in having Dr. Hoy come to speak exclusively to your group, I hope you'll send me an email or give me a call. Dr. Hoy shines in these intimate settings and can provide incredibly needed comfort care, safe space and compassionate listening to those in our caregiving community. 

Your partner & resource,

Becky Lomaka, MA, CT
Director of Grief Support & Education
(949) 581-4300 ext. 229

Lengthening Shadows:
Autumn as a Reflective Season

by William G. Hoy

Cooler mornings and “Friday night lights” in central Texas are the harbinger of autumn. As I step out of my front door to pick up the Dallas Morning News from the sidewalk, I am aware that summer is fading away and the cooler days of fall are here. In parts of the world where our readers live, the trees have begun to change to muted shades of yellow, burgundy, and gold; we are still a few weeks from that here.
Whether warm, cool, colored, or even pelted by an early autumn snowstorm, this time of year begs our attention toward reflection. As the autumn suncreates deeper blues in the sky and lengthening shadows in the afternoon, this is a time to which we are called to recollect where exactly we have been and what we have accomplished in recent months. Each year, I find myself moving my reflection on the last year a little earlier; maybe one day I will become good at “continual reflection and evaluation” but for now, fall provides a good time for that.


No care provider can operate in high-speed overdrive all year round. Rather, we need time set aside to ponder where we have been and where we are going. After the 18 months we have all experienced, time invested now in reflection can provide rich dividends in our emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical well-being as 2022 begins in only a few months. Consider these four important touchstones to making this season one of helpful reflection and review.
Review core values and priorities. Now is the time to think through the values and priorities that provide an anchor in the midst of the chaos frequently accompanying professional caregiving and especially, the chaos of professional caregiving during the pandemic. Take time to write out or review core values—principles like honesty, truthfulness, faithfulness, love for others, generosity and diligence (hard work). Write down two or three sentences with each core value explaining what it means and why the value is vital (Covey, 1989).
Flowing from these values are the basic priorities. These may be the emphasis placed on relationships, i.e. “I will make sure my spouse and children come before my job” or “I assure basic needs are met before we use money to ‘play.’” One of my favorite fall activities is to take a half-day retreat when I review my priorities and values, clarifying why each one is important to me; I have placed this on my calendar for October 7.
Revisit goals. Ideally, personal and professional goals flow out of core values and priorities. In reflecting on core priorities, a sense of direction in relationships, career, finances, spiritual life and education gain clarity. Asking, “How would I like my life to be different a year from now?” and “How do I envision life five years from now?” are great questions to ponder. Make sure to set some goals in both professional and personal life.
Some people indicate that they do not believe in setting goals. They chafe at their annual review when asked by a manager to accomplish particular tasks and priorities by this time next year, considering that such goal-setting removes all the spontaneity from life and work. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, goals help develop meaningful “targets” at which to aim our lives. Much like a financial budget tells your money where to go instead of wondering where it went, goal-setting helps us more authentically say yes or no to the opportunities that come our way. In essence, goal setting helps me decide where my time should be invested over the next weeks, months, and even years.
Make sure to set at least one key goal in each of the core areas of life—faith, family, faculties (life-long learning), friends, fitness and finances. Once establishing at least one or two goals in each of these areas, think about the professional “field,” the arena in which work and practice exist. In developing these goals, try to make sure they are SMART goals:
Simple. Complexity in goals is the enemy of accomplishment. Instead, keep goals   
Simple and focused on one key idea
Measurable. Set a date to know whether or not this goal was accomplished.
Attainable. While challenging goals are not easy to accomplish, this goal must express something that actually can be accomplished.
Realistic. Expecting to pay off $ 50,000 in debt this year is out of the question for most North American families. Make sure the goal is realistic.
Time-limited. Always put a date on goals. Without a timeframe, a goal likely becomes little more than wishful thinking.
Traditionally, I have thought most about my priorities and goals in the days leading up to January 1, setting what some would call “New Year’s resolutions.” In recent years, however, I have begun doing some of this work in the autumn because I am not rushed by holiday demands (like I would be in late December). Another, and perhaps more vital reason to evaluate goals and set new ones in the fall is because this period provides a natural “check point” before the year ends. If I am still a few pounds heavier in October than I want to be at year end (I am this year), I still have a couple of months before holiday eating sets in! Now I still have time to adjust my eating and exercise patterns; by the last week of December, it is too late to do much before the year ends.   
Reestablish good habits (and retreat from bad ones). Fall is a wonderful time to think about bad habits—poor eating, lazy thinking, overspending, sluggish spiritual practices, high consumption of “packaged media,” and the other things that magnify the “blue” symptoms many experience when winter arrives. Autumn is a great opportunity to take stock of habits.
Think about the daily or weekly routines that have become habitual. If I stop for my large mocha latte five mornings each week, it is costing me at least $ 1,000 and an aggregate of 85,000 calories every year. While that does not necessarily mean I need to end my relationship with my favorite Seattle-based coffee trader, it should make me stop and think about whether this experience is worth so much cash and calories when I have goals in mind to both pay off debt and lose 20 pounds.
Recommit to journaling. Journals are not just for people who love to write; they are designed as tools to help us reach parts of the brain and the recorded memories that are not otherwise easily accessible. Many journal writers note that their writing calls up latent stories and helps them emotionally process those memories. As our family is walking through the unexpected death of my brother a few weeks ago, my journal has become more important than ever in recording memories and experiences of these weeks.
Journals provide a confidential space to record observations of people and the world around us. However, journals also provide opportunities to think through feelings and thoughts about those people and events and the impact they wield. From his Christian perspective, Gordon MacDonald (2003) writes about his early discoveries in journal-keeping, “Slowly I began to realize that the journal was helping me come to grips with an enormous part of my inner person that I had never been fully honest about. No longer could fears and struggles remain inside without definition; they were surfaced and named” (p. 138).
An internet search reveals hundreds of thousands of webpages with ideas for how to start and stay with journal-keeping. In his book on journals, however, Dan Price (1999) gives the strongest advice of all—get started. He writes, “Has your intuition been telling you to get an empty journal and start filling it with all those interesting events of your life? Well time is racing by. All those neat things that happened just last week have quickly become your past, lost in all that white noise of our fast paced modern lifestyles” (p. 1).
Any blank book will do—whether a one-dollar spiral notebook from the discount store or an expensive leather journal from a fine paper supplier. People who spend a lot of time at their computer sometimes want to keep the journal there—either in a word processing program or in dedicated journal software. Websites such as provide a free password-protected private space for journaling, as well.
Begin one evening by recording the most memorable event of the day. Write a paragraph or two about what happened, the places visited, the interactions with people, and the other important historical details. Record impressions about what made this a memorable, “recordable” event in life.
Throughout the history of humanity, agricultural societies have understood the natural rest and refocus that accompanies fall. After the planting, cultivating, and harvesting of the warm weather months, a time for feasting and recollection follows. For caregiving professionals and volunteers, most of whom do not enjoy the natural cycle of seasons in our tasks, this time of year holds special promise for rejuvenation and recollection of the call that brought us to this important work.
Covey, S. R. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people: Powerful lessons in personal change. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
MacDonald, G. (2003). Ordering your private world. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Price, D. (1999). How to make a journal of your life. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

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The Author: For more than three decades, William G. Hoy has been counseling with the bereaved, supporting the dying and their families, and teaching colleagues how to provide effective care. After a career in congregation, hospice, and educational resource practice, he now holds a full-time teaching appointment as Clinical Professor of Medical Humanities at Baylor University in Waco, Texas where he has taught since 2012. His most recent book is Bereavement Groups and the Role of Social Support: Bridging Theory, Research, and Practice (Routledge, 2016).

Our Events Calendar
Dr. Hoy will be back for in-person sessions
before the holidays!

Topics to be announced:
RCFE Workshop at OCM
Tuesday,  November 9,  2pm-4pm

Hospice and Professional Workshop at OCM 
Thursday,  November 11, 8am-10am
Interested in having Dr. Hoy come to speak exclusively to your group?

Please contact Becky at 
 Reiki + Meditation Circle

Relax, rejuvenate, and heal with meditation, Reiki, and other mindfulness practices.

Join Reiki Master and event host, Kathy Brook-Wong for our upcoming Zoom circles:

with Kathy Brook-Wong & Alejendrah K. East
Sunday, September 5 from 3:00 - 4:15pm   
We will take a look at attitudes and practices around death and dying around the world and learn ways that we can become more comfortable with dying as a part of living and embrace this life cycle with compassion and love. 

Reiki + Transcending Grief Circle
with Kathy Brook-Wong and Alejendrah Kamille East 
Sunday, September 19  3:00pm - 4:15pm 
Register Here
We are living through a time of great change! Now more than ever, we need to join our energies to better understand ourselves, love each other, and raise the vibration of the planet.   
Reiki Master Kathy Brook-Wong is hosting another event to support your healing journey. Join Kathy and Alejendrah Kamille East, Personal and Spiritual Development Instructor, and Facilitator of Death Processes in our Zoom circle for an afternoon of connection, inspiration, and healing.
Kathy will share about what Reiki is and ways we can use it in our daily lives while Alejendrah will teach you about the power of Grief and Sadness and guide you through an empowering process to heal your Heart. 
Join this online workshop to learn:
  • What Sadness and Grief are all about and how you can transform them into a source is Inner Peace.
  • Become a true Blessing for your departed loved one.
  • Process to activate your Eternal Connection with your loved one.
  • Learn about Reiki to deepen your connection with Universal Life Force Energy.
Be a blessing to someone who is sad and grieving the departure of a loved one by  inviting them to join us.  Let us collectively transform grief and sadness Into a higher form of love. Please share this invite.
Advanced Registration is Required.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining us on Zoom.
Resource Review

A Modern Approach to Photo Albums

Photographs are some of our most prized possessions. Often displayed prominently in homes, photographs are memorials to some of our most special moments.
I grew up with heavy, thick photo albums where the  4x6 photographs were slid in under the cellophane with notes in my mom’s handwriting next to them. I loved pulling those out and now, when we remember to unearth them, it is so special to remember those moments, explore the photograph, and show it to new eyes in our family. Photographs are not only sentimental, they are educational. So many of us have undoubtedly looked back through old photo albums and learned surprising things or discovered some wonderful, unfocused moment. Photos are windows into our personal history and there is so much meaning in the stories they tell. 
Nowadays, with cameras in each and every pocket, photographs tend to live more on our devices than in picture frames. The loss of the old heavy books is understandable, but the desire for that reminiscent experience is still very real among old and young alike. For so many of us, the open photo book of carefully chosen photos holds much more appeal than swiping through hundreds pictures on someone else’s phone. Having our pictures printed and in-hand remains special and meaningful.
So, if you are looking for ways to bring photographs back into your home and life, of course, there’s an app (or two) for that.
A favorite one I’ve recently come across is Chatbooks – an app that helps you to easily create photo books from the pictures already on your phone. A unique feature they offer are the “Monthbooks” – little books of 30 photographs for each month of the year. The application syncs seamlessly with the photos on your phone, sends you reminders for when to add pictures to your new book, prints and mails each book to you for as little as $5 a month. I promise this is not a commercial for them. What this is advocating for, is preservation and cultivation of the special people and moments in your life.
What is great about ideas like Chatbooks, is the return to the physical, tactile experience of looking through photo albums on cold nights or to find “that one really embarrassing picture!”
People connect over photographs, proofs-of-life, and if you have some old albums or shoe boxes buried somewhere in your home, pull them out the next time family and friends are over and see what happens.

Instant nostalgia – continuous memory - life savored. 

Below are some wonderful photo-specific options to explore and consider as holidays approach:
- Chatbooks - monthly photobooks, individual & canvas prints
- Shutterfly - photo prints, books & cards
- Aura Frame - Digital picture frame -  a totally different take on photos but an incredible gift to family. 
Your Professional Library

Leder, S. (2021). The beauty of what remains: How our greatest fear becomes our greatest gift. Avery.
Reviewed by Molly A. Keating, MA, CT
Editor, GriefPerspectives

With a focus on reflection in this edition, I found this new book to be a perfect compliment to Dr. Hoy’s thoughts.
Steve Leder, senior rabbi over one of the largest synagogues in the world, located in Los Angeles, gave a sermon on his 30+ years of encounters with the dying and bereaved in his community. This sermon would become his most famous and the impetus for the book, The Beauty of What Remains. In the year following his sermon, the rabbi would lose his father to the devastation of alzheimer’s and his understanding of grief expanded and deepened.
Leder’s writing is conversational, kind, hilarious and honest. A stand-out about his book is the normality of his loss and his approach to loss. This isn’t a story about a tragedy – it’s a common story told by an uncommon man whose journey from rabbi to grieving son is poignant and stops you in your skin.  
This book has so much to offer to any reader and should absolutely be in every pastor/priest/rabbi/religious/spiritual leader’s library. He describes his first, young-rabbi encounters with grieving people and the hugeness of his inexperience. The realization that death will be significant in his ministry is initially frightening. Through his stories, questions, and openness to others, we witness his fear of the subject turn to comfortability, acceptance and appreciation for all that death is.
Rabbi Leder directly addresses death anxiety – something normal but certainly heightened for all of us since he first gave his sermon. His wisdom on where to turn our thoughts, invest our lives and spend our energy is truly significant and life-changing. You’ll need your highlighter.

Research that Matters
Fan, J., Gómez‐Miñambres, J., & Smithers, S. (2020). Make it too difficult, and I’ll give up; let me succeed, and I’ll excel: The interaction between assigned and personal goals. Managerial and Decision Economics41(6), 964–975.
In the introduction to their study, Fan and colleagues (2020) write, “A goal, even if not tied to a worker's monetary compensation, can make a boring task more challenging and interesting. Therefore, goals facilitate pride in accomplishment fostering intrinsic motivation and performance” (p. 964). In this study, the authors identified that “early wins” (goal attainment at the beginning of a work relationship) actually produced greater adherence to assigned goals and to motivation to set and achieve personal goals. The researchers found that helping constituents (employees, students, mentees) set and achieve goals that are significant, challenging, and realistic is essential to long-term motivation, likely leading to greater satisfaction in one’s personal and professional life.
This article is free to download from the journal publisher’s website at
GriefPerspectives is published monthly by Grief Connect, Inc. Copyright ©2021. All rights reserved, including publication or distribution in any form, electronic or printed. For reprint permissions or suggestions for content, please email us at
Copyright © 2021 O'Connor Mortuary, All rights reserved.

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