Holidays And Bereavement

Grief AngelOne of your primary roles as a funeral director is to help get your client’s through grief as compassionately and professionally as possible. However, your job may become very difficult when the pain of loss is compounded with what is typically a joyous time of year — the winter holidays.

Imagine how the newly bereaved must feel when everyone around them is gearing up for holiday fun with friends and family, playing music, preparing food for gatherings, shopping for gifts. And all along, what was once a time of great happiness has been lost with the death of someone they loved. They will never be able to share the festivities with that person again.

During the holidays, it can be helpful for you to expect clients to come through your door with an overtly despondent demeanor. Not only are they dealing with grief, they may have very conflicting emotions due to the season. They may exhibit a fluctuation of feelings that range from intense grief, to guilt for feeling any traces of holiday cheer. Instead of looking forward to family gathered around the dinner table, your client may picture in their mind the sight of one empty chair. How do you help your clients to cope with this extraordinarily difficult time? Let’s look at a few suggestions that you can incorporate into your practice, some of which can be as simple as a few words.

  • First off, you can begin by telling your client that you understand that grief intensified by the holidays must be very difficult. Acknowledging the situation can mean a lot to many people. Your clients may feel more at ease with the turmoil they hold inside, better able to deal with getting through the process of grief, making decisions and arrangements. They may have felt some sense of isolation, never having been in this situation before. Sometimes, just knowing that someone else understands, can be a great source of strength and comfort.
  • Holiday Remembrance Program. There are many ways to present this program, as many approaches and personalized additions as your clients wish to include. But, the idea is basically this: family and friends and sometimes whole communities gather for a presentation/ceremony to remember their loved one, to acknowledge and express their loss, that it is intensified by the holidays. Some people may feel guilty for expressing their grief during this time of year. A holiday program can allow them to have a place where they feel more comfortable to release their pain.

Lets go over an example of a remembrance program and adornments.

A ceremony can be as simple or as elaborate as your client wishes, depending on their tastes, religion and your suggestions. For some clients, a simple candle ceremony will be a very meaningful way for them to express and show grief during the holiday. One particular ceremony includes the use of four centerpiece candles that represent grief, memories, spirit and compassion. Each person in attendance is given their own candle, which, after a short ceremony/a few words, they proceed to the table they feel most drawn to. There, they talk amongst each other, expressing whatever they most need to share.

Holidays ornaments do not have to be excluded from a remembrance program. In fact, they can be quite meaningful, tasteful and personal. Anything from traditional symbols, to religious in nature to personally unique can be implemented into a ceremony. By offering your clients suggestions, it can be helpful to them to choose something they feel is appropriate to remember their loved one. A remembrance ornament can also be a way of allowing the bereaved to feel that, in some small way, they are still able to share the holiday with those who have passed, that the empty chair at the table does not seem so vacant.

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