Are we failing our families?

This is a really difficult topic, but one that needs to be thought about.  This article, entitled “Lack of collective mourning shows way pandemic has altered grief“, appeared in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune.  It is thought provoking and gets to the essence of why modern funeral directors exist — to care for the living.

It is a difficult subject and one that is hard to throw any blame at the death care industry because we are only following the rules that our governing bodies are giving us as to the roles we can play in the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is also difficult because there is a line that has to be drawn between public health and safety and how we care for the dead and the survivors of those dead.

That being said, it is difficult to find a way to alleviate the grief that many are suffering and what will happen to these people who have lost loved ones as we move into the future?  David Kessler, a Los Angeles bases author and grief expert says, “One of my biggest fears is that we are going to have this wave of people with complicated grief because we’re a society now that’s allowing these grievers to be forgotten.

One of Kessler’s beliefs is that we maybe need some type of national remembrance to help these people.  Here’s what the Minneapolis Star Tribune article says,

“There has been no day of mourning, like the one to commemorate victims of Hurricane Katrina. Nor much in the way of the candlelight vigils that often recognize those killed in mass shootings. Or memorial sites, piled with flowers and photos, such as those that emerged at ground zero in the wake of 9/11.  Though the United States’ pandemic casualties are now greater than those of World War I, the country has not acknowledged its millions of mourners with so much as a, “ ‘So sorry for your loss,’ ” Kessler said. . . . .This lack of recognition can make working through a loss more difficult. Even before the pandemic, Kessler noticed a concerning correlation between people who were really struggling through their grief and those who had delayed holding a ritual.”

And, from the same article, here is what psychologist Molly Ruggles says,

“The purpose is really to remember and reflect and be able to be present with our emotional experiences around that loss in the presence of others, rather than in isolation.. . . .Having a sense of feeling connected and being in it together can be really helpful in coping.” 

Funeral Director Daily take:  From my point of view, this is one of those very difficult times when I have no answers. . . only questions.  Funeral homes and funeral directors are doing what they can. . . they are improvising whether it be with electronic means, drive by visitations, and more, but the fact remains that many family members are going without the necessary grief relief that is needed.

And, while many funeral directors are doing what they can and working overtime to help these families they are also taking a hit in the pocketbook.  This article from the Meridian (MS) Star talks about Bob Barham and his funeral home.  He appears to be working overtime to give his families the attention they need, all with an average revenue decline of $800 per case because of the elimination of many services he cannot provide at this time because of the rules.

At the end of the day, I’m an optimist. . . a glass is half-full type of person.  And, while there is caution about how America’s grief is now being handled, I’m firmly of the opinions that our country’s funeral directors have the ingenuity to help their clientele work through these losses.

America will get through this pandemic. . . . and when it is all said and done, funeral directors will have not only played a major role in the death care portion of it, but they will have played a major role in family members recovery from grief and loss.  Count on it.

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