Battling Insensitive Comments at Inopportune Times

Today, I went to a funeral on my day off because what do funeral directors do other than go to funerals on their days off...

While having a conversation with the officiant about how we, as professionals in our fields, communicate with grieving people he shared something that he tells his parishioners. He tells them to get a blank notebook and whenever someone says something to them that sounds insensitive, crazy, ridiculous, or rude, they should write it down. Just keep writing it down (he suggests it's not helpful to write down the person who said the insensitive comment). Once you write it down you can forget it. I absolutely love that idea.

I would take it a step farther. After awhile, go back and look through that notebook and learn from it. Most of these unknowingly hurtful comments are coming from a place of love or intended compassion. Unfortunately, the purveyors of said comments most likely haven't experienced the trauma and pain you have. What a blessed thing for them! One could only wish to not ever have to go through the pain of losing a family member or close friend, the despair of not being able to have children and the constant questions why, the constant unnecessary explanations and excuses of divorce, and so on. Or if they have experienced them they just have no idea what to do or say so they feel that anything is better than nothing.

I should have started writing these comments down from my own experiences long ago but instead I think I'll start a notebook for all of us. We've all heard them:

"At least he didn't suffer."

"You'll meet someone else some day."

"Well now you have more time to focus on your other children."

"You're too busy for children anyway."

"If I can stay married to Bob, then you can stay married."

"That's just what marriage is. Get used to it."

What are comments that you remember?

Thank you!

Every so often I have the opportunity to go into the community and talk to people about deathcare and matters related to death and dying. I absolutely love doing this because making sure that people understand their choices and are informed about options is a huge passion of mine... and I love sharing that passion with the community. Through Boise Learns I freely give my time (although Boise Learns does have a small charge for the classes) to share with members in my community who take the time to step outside of their lives for a night and converse about the ins and outs of death and dying. After one of my recent classes someone sent the following note to the Boise Learns people about my class. I had just had a particularly rough day at the funeral home and this really lifted me up. I want to publicly thank this kind stranger for making my day a whole lot brighter today. Here is what the note said:

Just a quick note to say this was the best Community Ed class I have taken so far!! Professional, informative, conversational, straightforward, and not as depressing as I thought it would be…haha! The instructor answered ALL our questions. It was fascinating to hear how much thought and detail goes into funeral planning and what the mortuary does to make the process smoother. The handouts were awesome, as were the resources shared.

I’ve been to quite a few Community Ed classes. What impressed me about this one, beside what I mentioned above, is the instructor didn’t try to sneak in information on her business. She came to share information with us. Period. Granted there aren’t that many mortuaries in the valley but she didn’t come across as promoting her employer, she came across as someone who wanted to make the process natural, to inform us of things we can do now so that our (or our loved one’s) wishes are known, and what we can do now to prepare, no matter which funeral home we chose. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

Thank you for making these classes available.

Well kind stranger... THANK YOU TOO!

Planning An Alternative Funeral? Nine Things You Need To Know

Articles like this are like honey for DIY-ers and those who are very hands-on. They boost the spirits and make you feel as if you can make it through grandma's death because you're in control of the situation. This is great. This is good! Unfortunately, most people do not have the particular advantage that going this route needs... advance notice of the death. The majority of people are completely blindsided by death and its crappy timing. And a huge number of people are too crippled with grief, pain, guilt, and plain sadness to actually achieve anything meaningful. My advice: pay heed to #3 in the article... appointing a funeral director who will listen.
(Click the title to link to article)

"It's not a matter of refusing to pay."

Funeral Homes Can Be Caught In the Middle of Family Conflicts
"Barret Nelson, a funeral director for more than 40 years, said those tricky situations have become more common as families splinter and become distant. The death of a parent forces estranged siblings to collaborate in making decisions about funerals and burial or cremation, and the process does not always go smoothly."

Great article on some of the everyday issues that funeral homes and funeral directors deal with. When I hear some families complain that it took longer than three days after the date of death to receive the urn back, these are some of the issues going on behind the scenes. Family disagreements are typically just the tip of the problematic iceberg.