Where am I going? What am I doing?

I have meaningful conversations almost every day. Whether I am sitting with a family who has just experienced a death, or calling to follow up on how they are doing afterwards. These conversations evoke a myriad of emotions and subjects. The questions are endless and the answers are complicated. There are no guidelines on how to answer the questions that come with these situations. In some professions you have a cheat sheet of responses appropriate to the subject. They are predesigned to bring assurance that things will be done correctly. Read the response line for line and people will feel better. This is more complex.

 

Questions and of some of the potential answers:

 

“When can I see my dad?”

“How did he die and what type of preparation work needs to be done?, “Which location are you at and do we have the staff to transport him for the desired date and time?”

 

“I want the funeral tomorrow, you can do that right?”

“Is the building you want the funeral to be in available and will the cemetery allow for a burial that quickly?”

 

“Can I get the death certificates today?”

“Has the doctor signed the death certificate?”, or if it is a medical examiner case, “Will there be a cause of death or do we need to wait for further investigation?”

 

“Can I pay you in a month?”

“Probably no but if you have insurance that is verifiable and assignable then maybe yes.”

 

“Can you make her look like this picture?”

“If the picture is 30 years old, probably not and is that really what she looked like in the last 10 years of her life?”

 

“Will you make sure his ex-wife doesn’t come to the funeral?”

“Are you making this a public event? If you advertise an obituary in the paper, then probably not. If it is invitation only, we can only ask her to leave, not actually kick her out”

 

These questions are real and valid and deserve real answers. We, as funeral directors, have to decide on the spot how to respond to you and everyone in the room. So to address the title of this post.

 

Where am I going?

Eventually you are going to be ok. You are going to learn a new normal and you are going to find a way to survive. You will find you do not have a choice but to move forward after the casket is lowered into the grave. Or you receive the urn of ashes. You can breathe a little because the only focus at this point is how you are going to continue moving and breathing. The thing is you have to go on. You have a job or kids or grandkids that need you to move forward in some fashion. It is OK and appropriate to fall and struggle and resist. Yet the truth will eventually lead to the fact that you need to acknowledge or reconcile with yourself that movement is healthy.

 

What am I doing?

You are doing what has to be done. Someone you love has died. This is real. It is a thing that has to be handled. There is no way around it. In some way you have decide what happens to the body and if there will be words or ceremonies in some capacity. Will you bury in a cemetery or cremate and place an urn in a niche or scatter the ashes? Every decision you make in those moments of grief are right. Your healing depends on these decisions. So you must make a decision.

 

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About Chelsea Tolman