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Reflecting on the past year: What we’ve learned from COVID-19

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As we approach the one-year mark of the pandemic, we reflect on how COVID-19 has disrupted virtually everything we knew about ordinary life. Few have been immune to the collective grief that the pandemic has caused, but as we enter a new year there is hope.

It’s been a difficult year. We’ve lost our sense of normalcy: joyful milestones have been interrupted or canceled and critical rituals for grief have been disrupted. At a time when gathering communities and loved ones together for comfort is sorely needed, we’ve been reminded just how important social and emotional connections are. The support of friends and family, while at a distance, has helped many of us remain hopeful in our darkest moments. 

Through a study we conducted in November 2020, we discovered that 51% of those surveyed were thinking more about their own mortality because of COVID-19. But still, more than 85% aren’t ready to have a conversation about it, and 70% haven’t yet made end-of-life plans. At a time of so much uncertainty, we urge everyone to start thinking about their end-of-life plans

But while we’ve faced some dark and distressing times, we’ve also seen some of the best of humanity shine through: Our frontline workers giving their all, capable citizens helping the elderly with groceries, and community organizers stepping up to help those in need. And now a year later, thousands of Americans are eligible for vaccinations against a virus we didn’t understand just a year ago. 

As this year has proved, there’s one thing that remains constant about us: our resiliency. 

A new perspective

The pandemic has brought our busy lives to a screeching halt. When we’re no longer able to function on auto-pilot with so much external noise — commutes, rushing to meetings, work events, and travel — there’s an opportunity to be introspective and re-examine our priorities. As our lives have shifted to more time spent at home, many of us find ourselves asking: How can we continue to experience joy? What are our best sources of solace and comfort? How can we focus on feeling connected with our loved ones?

For many of us, one of those sources of solace has been experiencing nature. The calm of the outdoors can be a much-needed respite away from the daily news cycle. Being in nature allows you to slow down and appreciate what’s around you. And there’s a reason so many of us have flocked to nature’s calming qualities during this past year: research supports that exposure to the outdoors can reduce stress and promote healing, both physically and mentally. 

Pre-planning in the face of uncertainty

This time to slow down, turn inward and reflect on what’s most important to us shines a light on just how fragile life really is. We’ve experienced how life can change in a moment; but there are steps we can take now to improve our lives, calm our fears, and take care of those we love. One of those steps is pre-planning for end-of-life. 

Death is a difficult topic to broach. While COVID-19 has many of us thinking more about our own mortality, the topic can be fraught with difficult emotions that take time to process. Taking the time to work through end-of-life plans can be an incredibly revealing and enlightening process: it invites us to acknowledge not only how we want our death to be handled, but our values and what it means to write a better ending to our story. 

According to our November 2020 study, 73% of those that started the pre-planning process described the experience as “productive, reassuring, and positive.” 

Turn to nature for eternity 

For many of us, nature represents memories and special experiences with friends and loved ones in the outdoors. As such an essential part of our lives, it only feels natural that returning to nature be part of our end-of-life plans. 

Choosing a memorial tree with Better Place Forests as your final resting place allows you to spread your ashes beneath a private tree, chosen by you, in a beautiful memorial forest where your loved ones can visit and remember you. Knowing your ashes will be mixed with native soil and returned to the base of your tree not only represents the continuation of life and your return to the earth, but it’s also a deeply personal and uplifting experience for many. 

Pre-planning your end-of-life experience means your family won’t have to guess what you would have wanted. Instead, they’ll be able to honor all their special memories with you in a place you were your happiest. You can have peace of mind knowing you’re contributing to protecting a healthy forest ecosystem for generations to come, and that your legacy will be forever tied to a place of great natural beauty that you cherish.

You don’t have to navigate this process alone. Advisors at Better Place Forests are here to guide and support you through planning a meaningful legacy for yourself and your loved ones. Book a free online forest tour to learn more.

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