Funeral Aftercare Debate: Let Families Mourn, or Comfort Them?August 10th, 2012
“Grief is what you think and feel on the inside after someone you love dies. Mourning is the outward expression of those thoughts and feelings. To mourn is to be an active participant in our grief journeys. We all grieve when someone we love dies, but if we are to heal, we must also mourn”
– Dr. Alan Wolfelt
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges funeral directors face deals with eAftercare and grief support.
When someone who is actively mourning (crying, expressing sadness, wailing, etc.) our first instinct is to comfort them. Typically, this means a distraction of some sort – a joke, redirection to another topic, even an admonishment. Mostly, I have witnessed funeral directors skillfully maneuvering a family through an arrangement process, avoiding all the emotional land mines.
It is much easier to avoid the active mourning than it is to deal with it directly. Funeral Directors do this with the best of intentions – to reduce the pain of the family they are serving.
With that said, let’s take a look at 3 reasons why you should let your families mourn:
Let them mourn to resolve your own grief
Interestingly enough, I’ve found that funeral directors distract grief to protect themselves from their own unresolved anguish. We accumulate grief during our lives from all the losses – big or small – that we experience. The loss of a pet, moving and losing friends, a favorite toy that broke, family deaths, divorce, etc. all add up.
When we are sitting across the table from a family that is actively mourning it triggers our own unresolved losses. To protect ourselves we keep the family away from emotional areas and redirect them from any active mourning. Unfortunately, this is a great disservice to our families.
Let them mourn to prevent depression and disease
Sometimes we mourn, but generally society encourages us to quickly get past the loss and move on. Ever heard the saying “Big boys don’t cry?” This pressure causes us to move on before our ability to mourn is complete, and the loss reconciled.
These losses, if unreconciled, keep building and building until they are at some point expressed externally by acting out, or internally in the form of disease or depression.
Let them mourn because it’s our job
Our most important job and perhaps most difficult is to let families mourn. The chemical make-up of tears contains chemicals that come from the stress of the loss. Crying is a way for our body to release those harmful by-products, both literally and figuratively
When a family member begins to cry we should allow them to. We should sit with them and be with them in their grief. As hard as it is to do this, it is perhaps the greatest gift we can give a family. And it costs us nothing, other than having to overcome our natural tendencies to work against this.
And now, a story of a funeral director who let them mourn…
A funeral director I once knew will read out loud the verse that was selected by family for the memorial cards during an arrangement. This reading, typically, would touch the hearts of the family members and cause them to shed tears as they remembered who they lost.
Instead of avoiding the emotional landmine and moving on to the next item, he would take a moment to gently remind them of their grief. He would sit quietly as they mourned their loss. These were extraordinary moments for the family during the service. And, more importantly, it validated their need to express their sorrow.
I can think of no greater value we can deliver as Funeral Directors.
Free funeralOne eAftercare tools you can offer your families:
Want to support your families in the best way possible? Here are 2 tools you can offer them:
1. Interactive Grief Videos – Grief expert Dr. Virginia Simpson walks your families through their journey of healing with interactive videos that are tailored to the type of grief their facing.
View a demo of Interactive Grief Videos by clicking here.
2. Daily Email Affirmations – Your families can choose to subscribe to these daily affirmations for one full year. These messages of healing, inspirational stories, poems and activities will be sent to their inbox every day for one full year.
Want to learn more about funeralOne’s eAftercare tools? To get a 30-day free trial, call (800) 798-2575, option 4, or click here.