With just over 3 months left on the clock of 2018, I can definitively say its been a rough year. This year has been marked with loss thus far, from a dear family friend (more family than friend), to a cherished aunt, and the ultimate heartache of losing Ollie, a faithful 4-legged family member of 14 years. When loss hits the funeral director on a personal level, the sensibility, wisdom, and knowledge that enables you to assist others is nowhere within reach. Perhaps it is the finitude of death that makes its acceptance so difficult. No longer can you hear the voice or touch the hand of the one you’ve lost. And despite the amount of times you watch people say their final good-byes, it is never easy to offer your own.
What personal loss does provide, however, is an opportunity for reflection. It affords you an ability to deeply connect with the families you are helping because you emphatically share their pain. You start to realize what, in fact, helps you through difficult times and it allows you to bring forth this knowledge to those you are working with. Personally, what has helped me the most…planning a funeral. Whether it be going through photos for prayer cards or memorial videos, selecting poignant remembrance poems, or designing flowers that would beautifully tie in to enhance the room, these tasks are all therapeutic in nature. Admittedly, they distract from the emptiness and pain that follow a loss, but in the immediate aftermath of death, planning a funeral is the most direct way to honor and begin dealing with your own grief.
Often, I find myself learning from my 6-year-old, perhaps more than she learns from me. In the moments after she learned of the loss of our dog, her tears stopped but for a moment. “Mom”, she said, “I want to have a funeral for Ollie”. “What is a funeral, Mia?” I replied…and without hesitation (but with a look of shock that I actually asked that question), she said, “a celebration of someone’s life”. She was correct (once again).
A funeral is a celebration of life. It is a time to stop and remember a loved one you’ve lost. Funeral homes are places of central gathering, places to cry, shed tears, reminisce, even share a laugh. There is a greater purpose being served when we stop to honor a life in that we afford ourselves basic needs such as grief and remembrance.
Speaking for my family, we take the losses we have personally incurred in 2018 and allow them to reinforce our commitment to this sacred calling. One can’t adequately complete the work of a funeral director without an ability to feel or to connect with one’s personal emotions. And while we sorely miss the three lives lost in our family this year, and the countless in years past, we draw on our experience to better connect with those we serve. Our advice…plan the funeral. Allow yourself the chance to plan a meaningful life tribute to the one you have lost. Go through the photos, become involved in details. In honoring them you help their memory live on and you help yourself begin the process of grief.
To have loved and lost…we understand.