Funeral Industry: Saying Goodbye is Hard and We Never Learn to be Good at It
We watch from the wings as grieving families act out their scenarios on the stage we provide but there is no acting involved, only RE-acting. They are reacting to the gut wrenching reality that has become theirs. It visits all and when our turn comes, one would think that a funeral professional should have a handle on the stages and the procedures. Sadly, when our time comes to cross through the Valley of Shadows, we are no more prepared than others.
Because of past experience we may know the mechanical process but the emotional process has no quick fix. Years ago when I was doing weekly tours of the funeral home, I spoke of the ?Four T?s? and the concept seemed memorable to the young people. At the end, over juice and cookies, I would even do a little test ? on the parents present ? much to the delight of the children. I don?t even remember where I first heard about them, but for me the ?Four T?s are the things to remember. Tears ? Touch – Talk and Time.
Tears flow and we see the world through new eyes. In the first days shedding tears is about all we are able to do with any certainty. Crying is best if you have someone to hold because touch reassures us that we are loved and safe. When the opportunity is right, talking with a good listener is more healing than any magic potion from a drug bottle. Then we are faced with the final and most important element, time.
Time is the ultimate healer and is necessary in order to get through the grieving process. Time allows us to realize that we will never ?get over it? we will only ?learn to live with it?. Time teaches us that we cannot let loss rule our every move. With the passage of time you get over the uncomfortable feeling of helplessness, push through the ?I?m fine? responses and resume a life that may have similar elements, but will be forever different.
Funeral professionals help everyone around them ? but when it comes to making funeral arrangements for their own ? things are drastically different. When making them for my own mother I felt strangely aloof. I experienced the details as an onlooker watching a movie in which I was an actor and I must say I was a little freaked out by the experience. I searched for the lesson and finally found it in the realization that my time on the ?other side? opened my eyes to ways in which others feel.
For me saying goodbye was hard and when the time came to deal with my father?s and later my mother-in-law?s death, I was back to square one. I hadn?t retained any of the lessons I had learned from my earlier experience. I concluded that we human beings really aren?t that good at learning how to say goodbye ? but then ? who wants to be good at a thing like that? I?m content to let the Four T?s be the sum of what I need to remember. Now let?s do that test ?