If you have ever experienced loss, you may have heard it said that everyone grieves differently – in their own time and in their own way. Over the years, I have been honored to be part of the grieving process for countless families who came to Goes Funeral Care just for the necessary funeral arrangements – but were happily surprised by the amazing relief and support they received in the process. When the loss of a loved one was new – when they were still raw, they counted on us for much more than the final arrangements.
In my experience, every person approaches grief in his or her own way. When someone dies, it feels as though time is moving more quickly than ever before, while at the same more slowly too. There is no time to wait, no time to stop, no time to feel. Just numbness. On to the next task. Uncertainty reigns with death.
Grief takes exactly what we don’t think we have – time. When you schedule an event or a gathering of some kind, you give yourself permission to slow down, if only for a moment, to spark the healing process. Yes, do focus on what happened – celebrate a life lived.
During those initial moments after a loss, it is difficult to know just what to do, regardless of whether it is first hand or if you are supporting a person after their loss. At this point, families often look to me. What comes next? She wanted cremation. Should we have a funeral? And while I have some of the answers, I certainly don’t have them all. The job of the funeral director is to help families discover what they prefer, what would give them the most positive experience.
Here’s one thing I have learned. To allow yourself to grieve, you must find some way to stop time and let grief in. I call it a “pause”- to acknowledge what has happened and hold on to what’s important. That’s why I think people should do something. A funeral? Maybe, maybe not. There is no prescribed format the commemoration must take. Whether a celebration of life, a memorial service, a party, a wake…whether 3 people or 300…whatever form it takes, whatever you name it, gathering in some way seems to profoundly help those of us who are still here.
Some time ago, I attended a very small gathering of close friends and family who had lost a child. I watched the mother cry over her little one’s body, clinging to him just to stay upright. Her family gathered around her, sharing her tears, supporting her physically and emotionally. They supported her not by knowing what she was going through, not by understanding how badly it hurt, but by being there just the same. In that moment, she had permission to grieve, to think of nothing else, to worry about nothing else. She could pause, to remember, to cry, to feel the wave of grief wash over her, and the wave of support to meet it.
Here lies the other benefit of some type of commemorative gathering – a “funeral” if you will. It allows others to grieve with you. Sometimes, families are surprised at just how many people show up to their loved one’s service. There are so many people to whom that individual was connected. This gives them a space to say goodbye. And even more, it allows everyone present to share in their grief.
Rabbi Dr. Earl A. Grollman said it so well: “Grief shared is grief diminished.” It doesn’t mean that it will hurt less, but it does mean you are not alon