This is such a great article on what NOT to say or do. As a funeral director I am often the passive participant in interactions between those who are grieving and those who are trying to be there for them (i.e., friends, family, spiritual advisers, etc.). I see these bad listening technique daily. And I’m not perfect either - I’ve also caught myself doing some of these. But once you know you can be more aware of what you’re doing. Please read this and share. We can do better and we can BE better!
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?
"I have carried, kissed, written on and toasted coffins with a shot of ouzo. I have worn all black, all color and a party dress. Despite the vast differences in sendoff, despite me being at times out of my comfort zone doing something I've never done before, I drew comfort from one thing -- knowing that this is what each person would have wanted." - Michelle Knox
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:
Well kind stranger... THANK YOU TOO!
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)
Something to think about.
Here is a fun short animated video! I thought this was fitting for all those zombies that will be lurking about this weekend. Happy Halloween folks!
(My favorite part is when one duck is giving the other duck CPR.)
Again Caitlin brings amusing and simple to understand answers to great questions that we, in the funeral industry, get every day.
"The church has allowed cremation for decades, but the guidelines make clear that the Vatican is concerned that the practice often involves 'erroneous ideas about death.'"
A video game that not only exposes people to embalming but ALSO the mundane paperwork involved? Sign me up!
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.