An Afternoon Talk

April 8, 2014

I recently was asked by a good friend to give a talk to her third year psychology class.  My topic of conversation, you guessed it  Death.  Specifically though I spoke about dealing with grieving families in the minutes and days after their loved one has died.  This is that unique experience that takes all of the education I received in the Funeral Director & Embalmer trade as well as my own personal way of being.

I shared what surprised be most about the industry, how to address challenging topics and ways of coping with what I experience day in and day out.

What surprised me the most?

How little people know!  I have an education in death, dying, grieving, the physiological makeup of the human body, our legal system, communicating with new people, the list goes on.  So of course I know more than the average person, but prior to this education I still had a lifetime of death and memorial events experience in my own family.  There are people will into their 50’s who have never lost a single person and are completely lost because talking about death is taboo in their family.  It is so important to share with your loved ones what to expect, how to navigate through life, what your wishes are.  Those surviving are the people that are required to come into a funeral home, sit down and answer all the questions of a memorial care assistant.  They are grieving and completely out of their own element, if this is the first conversation they’ve had in their life regarding their family dying it is completely overwhelming.  The best thing a decedent can do for their family is assure peace of mind.  This only comes from openly talking things through.

Pre-planning: talking about it from Springfield Funeral Home on Vimeo.

Challenging Topics

This is simple.  Honesty.  Upfront simple honesty.  Empowering people with knowledge allows them to understand what is happening and how they can to  make the best decision for themselves.  A tough situation can be eased when the people are comfortable with the choice they have just made.  It is the unknown about death and death care that have people uneasy.  I get to dispel any myths and open minds to what the reality is.

The number one question during this talk?  How do you cope with all the death and negativity all day long?

When families are given the task of memorializing their loved one it gives them the opportunity to really open up, to do their best.  Memories from years past come rolling back and bring smiles to their faces.  There is no doubt that grief is right there the entire time on their journey, but what I see is a sense of pride in these families as they work together to make the best event to honor that loved one.  I get a sense of pride myself when I am able to assist them.

There is no question that I am faced with extreme losses, but when I understand that I am here for this surviving family.  I don’t do any good for the family if I am an inconsolable mess, so I find comfort that I am able to be their rock.  Helping people is what I love to do; I truly enjoy when someone smiles, or has that happy tear in their eye when they are down.  It is also not my pain and sorrow.  It is not mine to steal from them.  This is their storm and I cannot begin to feel what they are feeling.  Each and every loss is unique.

 

 



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Written by Anita Engel » more posts

Anita was born in Burlington, Ontario, the third of five girls. Her family moved from Ontario in 1973 to be closer to extended family living in the Okanagan. She is married to Cal and they have two grown children, Matthew and Corinne. Anita is part of our office staff, and in her spare time enjoys traveling and spending time with family.