Let’s get the bad news out of the way: People all over the world have faced unimaginable loss this year – lost jobs, lost opportunities and, yes, lost loved ones. All of these losses can lead to additional stress on relationships, extra challenges for parents of school-age children, limited contact with our family and friends, financial hardship and acute anxiety. Funeral professionals specifically have faced increased danger in your job duties, added career stress and frustration as you improvise ways to best serve families.
As I pondered these challenges, I decided I needed to provide a message of hope to those who have suffered the loss of a loved one in 2020. In collaboration with Homesteaders’ Finding Resilience program, I wrote and recorded a video message to help those who are grieving right now. The video is free, and you can download it here and share it on social media, your website and during virtual memorial services. I hope it brings comfort to the people in your community.
Here’s some good news: As I reviewed my video message, I realized that I had offered five pieces of advice that not only apply to the recently bereaved but are also relevant to funeral professionals today. Let’s leave behind the bad news and talk about hope and strategies for resilience.
1. Reach Out to Others
It’s been a year of isolation. Unfortunately, funeral service is already a profession that can make you feel alone. After all, how many people really want to hear about your bad day? The cancelation of almost all conventions and professional seminars has deprived you of a chance to reconnect in person with those who understand you best – your professional colleagues. With that in mind, I encourage you to reach out. Call that funeral colleague and see how they’re doing. They will be thrilled to talk to someone who is genuinely interested and really understands.
2. Give Yourself Time and Space
In the video, I encourage mourners to give themselves time and space to grieve their loved ones. For funeral professionals, I encourage you to take time away from work. If you have any control over your schedule, please get away from the funeral home and focus on something else. I know this is much easier said than done. If you can’t fully get away, the best thing you can do for your mental health is to avoid focusing on work when you’re not at work.
3. Distractions Are Helpful
It is perfectly healthy and reasonable to check out from the real world once in a while. Maybe you want to spend an evening watching holiday movies on the Hallmark Channel. Perhaps you would enjoy covering your ears with some noise-cancelling headphones and diving into your music collection for a few hours. You can even get lost in a huge Lego project like I did. Distractions are a helpful way to take a break from the challenges we are facing.
4. Make a Plan for Special Days
For the bereaved, there will likely be specific situations or days when they expect their grief to be intense. For funeral professionals, you may have tough days ahead. For example, you may be on call or at work on Christmas Eve or unable to be with friends or family for safety reasons. Make a plan to bring some joy to your own life. Order in a special meal to celebrate the end of the day or bring a treat for your co-workers. If no families are in the funeral home, play some uplifting holiday music. Exercise the control you do have over your life to make tough days a little easier and brighter.
5. Keep Sharing Their Stories
I encourage grieving people to honor the connection they have with their loved ones through mementos, pictures, stories and traditions. The same applies to funeral professionals. Stay connected to your own sense of purpose and the people who recognize your value. Reach out to someone who mentored you, reconnect with old classmates, colleagues, extended family and friends.
If the free video about grieving during the holidays is helpful in your community, I hope you will share it with others. But most importantly, thank you for serving your communities throughout this year. I pray that you receive the blessings of the season.