Dear Funeral Professional,
I love you.
Now before someone gets the wrong idea (and by “someone,” I mean my wife), let me explain. My love can best be characterized by the term philia. Philia is one of the four ancient Greek words for love and refers to the love within a friendship. Others have interpreted philia to be akin to the comradeship between fellow travelers or soldiers, “blood brothers,” and the kinship among people of the same tribe.
For almost 10 years, I have fallen in love with funeral professionals as I have observed your care, compassion and dedication. But none of that prepared me for what I witnessed over the past 15 months:
- Working weeks or months without a day off.
- Without thought of profit or competition, sharing and collaborating with professionals from other funeral homes, crematories and cemeteries to serve families.
- Serving your community even at risk to your own health.
- Listening and empathizing as families shared painful stories of not being able to be there for their dying loved ones.
- Helping families navigate the confusing world of paperwork and death certificates.
- Adapting to continually changing conditions by learning new skills and adopting new technology.
- Bravely doing what others are afraid to do.
- Using your creativity to craft rituals and services that bring healing but also comply with restrictions.
These are just a few of the things I’ve seen or heard about. On behalf of your communities: Thank you.
Earlier I mentioned philia – love and respect between friends, siblings and fellow travelers. Aristotle had an interesting view of philia. He said that philia – love and concern for another – can only be truly expressed if you extend that same love to yourself. Or put another way, the only way one can completely love others is to extend that same care and empathy back to yourself.
I know your work is never done. But, your love and care for your community has been overflowing for more than a year. It is time to express that same compassion, that same philia, back to yourself. I hope you will.
Dr. Jason Troyer is a grief expert, author, former psychology professor and therapist. He helps funeral homes and cemeteries connect with their communities through Facebook content and grief support materials and provides community presentations, professional workshops and trainings.