Doing It Better
Take the “dys” out of the function.
When I began doing the work I now do within the realm of the grief community, I began to notice how many families used the funeral/memorial service as a weapon against those they did not like or wanted to exclude.
While families can hide dysfunction during life, it seems to jump out at you after the death. The dysfunction takes on many forms ranging from dictating who can attend the service, attending and disrupting the service and showing disrespect for others, stealing items from a home, denying items to someone who requests them for sentimental reasons, requesting something for vengeful reasons, challenging what the dead person would have wanted, and even denying the live-in partner the right to access the body!
I understand that death is difficult and that emotions can run high. I understand that sometimes the most mature people present are the ones that are excluded in some way, shape, or form. Sometimes they choose to be the adult in the situation and withdraw a request, not attend a service that they want to be at, or construct a means to mourning the death that will bring them closure even though they’ve been barred from a funeral or memorial service.
Sometimes it is the deceased one’s wishes that are being honored despite the fact that there is dysfunction present.
I find myself facing the question and asking: How do I honor everyone? How can families do the real right thing? I’d like for there to be one simple solution for this question and there isn’t one. Here are some suggestions that I hope will help smoothen the way and remove some of the “dys” from the functions that lay ahead.
Recognize that emotions run high. When you want to fight and be right, step away and remember that the person you’re fighting with is someone who has feelings as well.
This is a time for sharing and taking turns.
Think about the real reason from barring someone from seeing a body, from an end-of-life service, and from having something they treasure. Ask yourself why claiming a beloved object is so vital.
The memorial or funeral is not the end of grief: it is a way point in the process. The real hard work is left for after. The Jewish tradition does grief really well.
When You Must Exclude Someone
It is true that there are times in life when a relationship must be severed. Examples are:
· A person who has abused children and is barred from being around them
· A family member who is disruptive and cannot be reasoned with
· Someone who will not show up sober to a service
· Someone who has done irreparable damage to the deceased or the living
When to Record the Service and Send it to Someone
Technology is great! We can now record high-quality video on a good phone and send it off to those who can’t attend the service for reasons beyond their control. There are other reasons to send a video and these may include sending it to those on the exclude list. While there are legitimate reasons for barring someone entrance to a service, there may also be legitimate reasons to send a video of the service to the excluded soul so that they can attend from a distance. Remember that funerals and memorials are for the living.
When the living make poor decisions and do awful, inhumane things, it is difficult to make things right. My rule: if it’s in a legal document, you need to honor it. If it isn’t written down and it can be negotiated, come to a compromise. Sometimes we’re placed in a position of doing the right thing for both the living and the dead.
This is about making responsible choices and sometimes the best, most responsible choice for all can be difficult for some. Lead with love, compassion, and reason.
If there are religious reasons that a person must be buried rapidly, honor that. Can those who may not be present at the burial be present for other aspects of the grief process?
Some countries have laws. While I had to have my husband’s cremation on a deadline, countries may have laws that dictate a period for a service. These laws must be honored.
The last three services I’ve been involved in have all been by distance. They’ve also all been delayed. The delays have been from three to six weeks. Sometimes honoring others means being very flexible.
The biggies to remember are why, what, how, and who:
Why am I doing this?
Why am I behaving in this manner?
Why do I have to do it this way?
Why can’t it be done in a new way?
Why must I exclude…?
What would happen if we were to take a new approach?
What are the consequences of…?
How is this going to affect the future?
How can I/we make this situation best for everyone?
Who is best suited to handle…?
Who can bring balance to this situation?
Who needs to be honored in this process?
I understand that this is a difficult process no matter when it happens. I also understand that life isn’t easy and we all get rolled over at times. I’m hoping that this piece might offer the reader a chance to rethink the future. We all need to do it better so that we’re not in a squabble when we need to plan a functional grief process from the beginning and move it forward.