Ok, if you have a weak stomach, or are the type that talking about unpleasant things really bothers you, you may not want to read today's post. If you are emtionally sensitive, and are prone to let having unpleasant things upset you or generally make you sad, then don't bother reading today's post. Seriously.
Perhaps I've never mentioned it before, but I am a Funeral Director by profession. That fact may make you want to turn away, possibly never reading my blog again. That's ok, if that is how you feel. I understand.
But I am not only a Funeral Director.
I am also a wife, mother, sister, aunt, best friend, cousin and generally an all around nice person. At least I hope that's what people think of me. And I deal with death. Almost daily. I like to think of it as a calling. It is definately an important part of my journey through this life.
Death is something that everyone must deal with in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no right or wrong way for a person to commemorate the life of a deceased loved one. The elements of a funeral service should be a harmony of the wishes of the deceased and some sort of ceremonial-type closure for the bereaved.
I have helped many families through a difficult time after a loss of a loved one. I have attended or directed many types of funerals. What I do know with any amount of certainty is that each one is, and should be, unique, much like the individual who is being honored.
As a funeral director, there aren't many requests from families that I wouldn't honor. I have dressed a person in their pajamas before putting them in their casket. I have put trinkets, letters, bottles of beer, money and innumerous other objects in a casket to accompany a decedent. I have allowed a grieving grandparent the opportunity to hold an infant that they otherwise never would have cradled. I have taken clipping of hair from a child for their parents to include in a baby book that will ultimately be unfinished. I have taken pictures of people in their caskets, so that family members in other countries can see, via the internet, how peaceful their loved one looks. All of these things may be sad to you. They are sad to me too.
I am not devoid of emotion. As a matter of fact, I have cried for the loved ones I have seen who are in an emotional turmoil. I have cared for people who have died alone and may have not had a caring hand touch them in years. I have been touched by the sincerity of a long awaited reunion between family members during a funeral service. I have laughed at anectodes told during a eulogy. I have felt anger toward people who have caused further hurt toward others in their own family, or caused arguments over money issues. I feel very strongly for the families I serve. But I usually keep it to myself.
Part of my business is to transport people from their place of death to hospital facilities for post-mortem examination. I have seen people die in many different places. Some die at home, in bed. Some die in the bathroom. Some deaths are accidental, others intentional-either by their own hand, or someone else's. There are terrible tragedies like automobile collisions, farming accidents, drownings, shootings, overdoses, and fatal illnesses. Seeing the reality of death for someone, in it's stark ugliness, is something that I have to deal with all the time. I try never to think of that deceased as 'the body' as others in my profession might do, but to remember that this is a person, who loved and was loved by others. A person who no longer has the ability to speak for themselves, or to maintain any measure of dignity. That responsibility now lies with me.
The line between my work life and the rest of my life sometimes blurs where emotions are concerned. I sometimes have trouble expressing my emotions to those around me. When I'm at home, sometimes the sadness, anger, and pain I feel for client families overwhelms me, and I have to cry to release it. Of course, this always happens at the most inopportune moments, leaving my family bewildered as to why I am acting the way I am. I am getting better at explaining to them how I am feeling, and letting them know it is just some built up work stress, without revealing any of the secrets or private information that I am privy to.
Please do not misunderstand me. I truly enjoy my work. Most women have a 'nurturer' trait in them, which steers them in the direction of wanting to do work that allows them to help others. It's just that in my work, I can help in a totally different way. I have tried to console people when they are not as strong as they would like to be with a hug, a smile, a comforting word, or just by being there. I have listened to the bereaved talk about their loss. Not only the loss of the loved one from their life, but the loss that is associated with a death. The loss of potential. The loss of things that could be. The loss of their presence. I have encouraged loved ones to remember the special memories that they alone hold. (You may share an experience with someome else, but no one experiences anything in exactly the same way as you do.)
I have worked with some wonderful people both within the funeral industry, and with the families we serve.
I feel that it is my life's work, and hope to continue for a long time.
I know you likely have questions. You can leave them in the comments section, or e-mail me if you prefer. I will try to answer them the best that I can.