Articles of Interest

Are You An Insurance Beneficiary?

In mid-April, insurance giant MetLife reached a multi-state settlement with insurance regulators, who accused the company of delaying or denying death benefit payments to policyholders. The settlement came after a year-long investigation into MetLife’s practices and resulted in MetLife paying $500 million to designated beneficiaries.

According to the investigation, MetLife failed to thoroughly use the Social Security Administration’s database to make prompt payments to survivors. Regulators in states that included Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, North Dakota and several others concluded that when MetLife was made aware that a policyholder had died, the company often did not make payments to listed beneficiaries or even contact them. In some cases, where benefits went unclaimed for several years, MetLife did not forward funds to the states’ controllers’ offices, as required by law.

This settlement emphasizes the need to be informed and fully understand what insurance policies are in place and who is designated as beneficiary. Not only should you be aware of what policies exist, but you also need to know how to submit the necessary forms and collect any benefits that are due to you. Many of the individuals affected in the MetLife case were able to be taken advantage of simply because they didn’t even know they were a beneficiary in someone else’s insurance policy.

The first step is to determine if there are any life insurance policies that were in force at the time of death. Keep in mind that some policies may not have been purchased directly by the deceased. Insurance coverage may have been provided in conjunction with a traveler’s club membership, health insurance plans, fraternal organizations or a credit card company. In addition, you should contact current or past employers to determine if there were any policies written through the company.

In order to confirm the existence of a policy, it is important to review the deceased’s personal papers and checkbook records which may reveal copies of policies or payment records. Once you confirm the existence of a policy, you should contact the insurance agent or the company for help in filling out the necessary paperwork and confirming the insurance benefits. Unfortunately, some insurance policies may have been written long ago under a company who is no longer in existence or now operating under a new name.

There are several organizations that can assist you in locating a missing policy. The Pennsylvania Insurance Department will answer consumer’s questions about policies. Their website www.insurance.state.pa.us/dsf/gfsearch.html includes contact information for all companies licensed in Pennsylvania. You can also contact them via their toll free number, (877) 881-6388 or visit their regional office in Strawberry Square, downtown Harrisburg.


The Meaning Of Memorial Day

Memorial Day will soon be here. For most of us the long weekend includes outdoor barbeques, holiday sales, watching the Indy 500 and attending the hometown parade. Over time the true meaning of Memorial Day has become obscured by all of these modern day holiday events.

Decoration Day, the forerunner to Memorial Day, was started in May 1866 after the Civil War. Both sides of the conflict had suffered a great loss of life. Over 600,000 soldiers were killed during the war. Families sought to honor fallen war soldiers by placing flags or flowers on their graves. Two years later, General John Logan of the Union Veteran’s Association, proclaimed May 30, 1868 as a day when flowers would be placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The Southern states refused to acknowledge the day, since it honored Union soldiers. They chose to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I. By the 20th century, the day had been proclaimed “Memorial Day” and its purpose was expanded to honor the men and women who died during any war, while serving in the United States Armed Forces. 

In 1915, Moina Michael, a U.S. professor and humanitarian, wrote the following poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

While writing her poem, she got the idea of wearing red poppies as a symbol of remembrance for those who died while serving in World War I. Her idea grew as she sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.

In 1971 Congress declared Memorial Day a federal holiday and designated the last Monday in May as the official date. In 2000, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed in an effort to help remind Americans of the original intent of Memorial Day. The resolution establishes that at 3:00 PM local time, Americans will “observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect” for those who have fallen in war. So, this Memorial Day, take a moment to acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice that was made by American soldiers throughout the years.


Helping Yourself Heal During the Holiday Season

Each year prior to the holidays, Buch Funeral Home has been honored to offer “Creating Memories of a Lifetime,” a program that allows local residents to learn how to better cope with their grief. We understand, though, that a brief program may not be enough to help every individual deal with their loss, especially if the death of a loved one has been very recent.

Internationally noted author Dr. Alan Wolfelt offers some strategies for managing grief during the holidays. The author of Living in the shadow of the Ghosts of Grief: Step into the Light and Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transitions serves as an educational consultant to funeral homes, hospices, hospitals and schools across the U.S. Following is an excerpt from Dr. Wolfelt on handling your grief during the upcoming holiday season.

Love Does Not End With Death

Since love does not end with death, holidays may result in a renewed sense of personal grief—a feeling of loss unlike that experienced in the routine of daily living. Society encourages you to join in the holiday spirit, but all around you the sounds, sights and smells trigger memories of the one you love who has died.

No simple guidelines exist that will take away the hurt you are feeling. We hope, however, the following suggestions will help you better cope with your grief during this joyful, yet painful, time of the year. As you read through this article, remember that by being tolerant and compassionate with yourself, you will continue to heal.

Talk About Your Grief

During the holiday season, don't be afraid to express your feelings of grief. Ignoring your grief won't make the pain go away and talking about it openly often makes you feel better. Find caring friends and relatives who will listen—without judging you. They will help make you feel understood.

Be Tolerant of Your Physical and Psychological Limits

Feelings of loss will probably leave you fatigued. Your low energy level may naturally slow you down. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. And lower your own expectations about being at your peak during the holiday season.

Eliminate Unnecessary Stress

You may already feel stressed, so don't overextend yourself. Avoid isolating yourself, but be sure to recognize the need to have special time for yourself. Realize also that merely "keeping busy" won't distract you from your grief, but may actually increase stress and postpone the need to talk out thoughts and feelings related to your grief.

Be With Supportive, Comforting People

Identify those friends and relatives who understand that the holiday season can increase your sense of loss and who will allow you to talk openly about your feelings. Find those persons who encourage you to be yourself and accept your feelings—both happy and sad.

Talk About the Person Who Has Died

Include the person's name in your holiday conversation. If you are able to talk candidly, other people are more likely to recognize your need to remember that special person who was an important part of your life.

Do What Is Right for You During the Holidays

Well-meaning friends and family often try to prescribe what is good for you during the holidays. Instead of going along with their plans, focus on what you want to do. Discuss your wishes with a caring, trusted friend.

Plan Ahead for Family Gatherings

Decide which family traditions you want to continue and which new ones you would like to begin. Structure your holiday time. This will help you anticipate activities, rather than just reacting to whatever happens.

Embrace Your Treasure of Memories

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. And holidays always make you think about times past. Instead of ignoring these memories, share them with your family and friends. Keep in mind that memories are tinged with both happiness and sadness. If your memories bring laughter, smile. If your memories bring sadness, then it's alright to cry. Memories that were made in love—no one can ever take them away from you.

Renew Your Resources for Living

Spend time thinking about the meaning and purpose of your life. The death of someone loved created opportunities for taking inventory of your life— past, present and future. The combination of a holiday and a loss naturally results in looking inward and assessing your individual situation. Make the best use of this time to define the positive things in life that surround you.

Express Your Faith

During the holidays, you may find a renewed sense of faith or discover a new set of beliefs. Associate with people who understand and respect your need to talk about these beliefs. If your faith is important, you may want to attend a holiday service or special religious ceremony.

As you approach the holidays, remember: grief is both a necessity and a privilege. It comes as a result of giving and receiving love. Don't let anyone take your grief away. Love yourself. Be patient with yourself. And allow yourself to be surrounded by loving, caring people.


Being Supportive During Times of Grief

Losing a loved one is one of life’s most difficult experiences, yet one that all of us must eventually face. It can be equally difficult to be the friend of someone who is grieving—you want to help but are afraid of intruding, saying the wrong thing or making the person feel even worse. Often times, friends feel there’s nothing they can do to make things any better for those coping with a loss. 

It is true that you cannot take away the pain, but you certainly can provide comfort and support. Just letting your loved ones know that you care and that you are ready, willing and able to do what is needed can make the difference in someone’s outlook. We offer some practical advice on how to help someone who is grieving.

I wasn’t able to attend the funeral. Is it OK to visit several days later?
Bereavement is a long process. The healing provided by family and friends is not just limited to the immediate funeral services. Our lives have become so busy that not everyone is able to attend the services, but don’t let that stop you from making time to visit later on. Call ahead to make sure that it’s a convenient time. Be considerate and limit the length of your visit.

How do I know if they want visitors or just want to be alone?
The best way to know is to simply ask if they would like visitors. When inquiring about a visit, let them know that you understand this can be a difficult time and you want be considerate of their needs. Reassure them that it’s OK to say no. If they are not up for visitors now, call periodically to offer to visit. If they continually decline your offers, respectfully accept this. Don’t be pushy.
What should I say to them?
It is common to feel awkward when trying to comfort someone who is grieving. Many people do not know what to say or do. The American Cancer Society offers these suggestions to use as a guideline when struggling with how to start that difficult conversation.

  • Acknowledge the situation.
  • Express your concern.
  • Be genuine in your communication and don't hide your feelings
  • Ask how he or she feels, and don't assume you know how the bereaved person feels on any given day.

Are there things I should avoid talking about?

While you should never force someone to talk about anything that makes them uncomfortable, remember that it is important for the bereaved to talk about their loved one and remember them to others. The best thing you can to is to be a compassionate listener. Let the grieving person talk about how their loved one died. Acknowledge their feelings and offer reassurance without minimizing their loss. Most importantly, be willing to sit with them in silence.

I’ve offered to help, but they haven’t asked for assistance. What should I do? Remember that people don’t always like to ask for help; especially during a time of grief they might feel afraid, too depressed or not motivated enough to ask. Make a concerted effort to offer specific assistance with everyday tasks. By being proactive, you make it easier for the individual to accept your offer.

What type of things should I offer to help with?

Offer practical assistance that will either help them handle everyday chore or provide an outlet to help deal with their grief.

  • Shop for groceries or run errands
  • Help with housework and laundry
  • Babysit or shuttle children to school events and activities
  • Attend a support group or meeting with them
  • Take them on a walk
  • Enjoy lunch or a movie together
  • Suggest activities to share that will help shift the person’s thoughts to something else

How long should I continue to offer help?

A person’s grief continues long after the funeral is over and the hustle and bustle of surrounding family is gone. There is no exact length of time for grieving, and all of us struggle with our emotions for varying amounts of time. To be the most help, prepare to provide ongoing support so that the person knows someone is there for them after the sympathy cards and flowers have stopped arriving. Remember to offer extra support on special days—holidays, anniversaries, etc.

How do I know if their behavior is a normal part of grieving?

We need to allow mourners to move through the grieving process at their own pace, but it is important to watch for warning signs that may indicate that a person is not accepting the loss or is moving into a more serious problem such as clinical depression.

If it has been more than two months since the loss, and the person is still experiencing symptoms such as difficulty functioning in daily life, extreme bitterness or hopeless, alcohol or drug use or neglecting personal hygiene among others, it may be time to encourage them to seek professional help in order to regain control of their life.


When A Friend Dies - Helping Teenagers Cope

Unfortunately, while growing up, many teens will suffer the loss of a friend suddenly or unexpectedly. Dealing with a death is difficult enough, but an unexpected death often brings with it a sense of unreality for survivors. Feeling dazed or numb is a natural part of the grieving process that allows a teen’s emotions time to catch up with the reality of death.

The death of a loved one can be a shattering experience for anyone, but teenagers may have a more difficult time dealing with their grief in the midst of going through their often trying transition into adulthood. Friends and family should keep this in mind and understand that, although teenagers may have grown up enough to look like adults, they still need the same level of compassionate support that younger children require. Remember that their physical development normally outpaces their emotional development.

The best way to help teens who have suffered a loss is to allow them the time they need to grieve. Be open and honest with them in discussing their loss. If you are seeing signs that a teenager is having an especially difficult time coping, consider exploring other support services that are available. It may be necessary to seek assistance from school counselors, church groups or youth counselors.


Paul L. Gardner, Supervisor
21 West Main Street
(717) 653-4371

Aaron S. Abbott, Supervisor
21 Market Square
(717) 665-4341

Theodore J. Beck, Supervisor
216 South Broad Street
(717) 626-2464

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