When I read “No service by request” I always wonder: “How is that going to play out for the surviving family?” The purpose of this article is to encourage those who are bereaved to make decisions based on their need to grieve at their own pace and to heal.
We are learning more and more about grief and the grieving process, from the experts, namely people who have experienced a significant loss and have shared their experiences of dealing with and recovering from them.
One of the things we have learned is that grieving is necessary for healing. While the way we grieve is individual, the need to grieve is human. When normal expressions of grief (no matter how awful some of them may seem) are repressed, healing is impeded.
We are also learning that being involved can be important, and for some, an essential element in helping to facilitate the grieving and healing process. Some examples of “being involved” are: spending time with the person before and/or after the death, viewing the body, writing or talking to the loved one who has died, being present when funeral arrangements are made, reminiscing and sharing stories with family and friends, working on a eulogy, helping to plan the service and visiting a grave/burial site.
People will have different needs and no one should be forced to do things they do not want to do. However, it is helpful for those most deeply affected by a loss to be aware that some of all of these things may be helpful and to have the opportunity to make their own choices about participating in these kinds of realities.
Nearly everyone wants the best for their surviving loved ones. They want their loved ones to get over the loss and get on with living. The problem is however, that they may not be aware that grieving and being involved are helpful for healing and recovery. To give an extreme example, a person may (believing it would be the easiest for the survivors) have requested “immediate disposition” (i.e., removal, cremation, no service, viewing plot or resting place). Family members may feel the need for a service or memorial event of some kind, but are hesitant to suggest changes thinking they would not be respecting the wishes of the one who has died.
In my view, a helpful way of working through these kinds of situations is to remember what’s most important, namely: that the survivors deal with and find healing from their loss.
If that can be held up as being of first importance, perhaps other decisions about the arrangements’ planning will fall into place. When the family feels that their needs are served by following the requests of the deceased, wonderful. When changes are needed, that’s all right too. After all, alternate arrangements which facilitate healing are in keeping with the real intend of the deceased’s wishes.
Ken Westereng (B.A., M. Div.)
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