Funeral Home Traditions
Funeral Planning Tips
Selecting a Funeral Home
Facts about Caskets
What to Do when Someone Dies Part I
What to Do when Someone Dies Part II
What to Do when Someone Dies Part III
Clothes to Be Buried In
What to Do when Someone Dies
Part 2 of What to do when a Loved One Dies:
Common advice to families who have lost a loved one is to find a trusted friend to help with the many difficult duties that a death makes necessary for the deceased's family. But, while this advice can be found in many resources that discuss what to do when a loved one dies, there is little literature aimed at the person who may receive this call. This article proposes to change that: it is intended to help those who have been called upon to help in this capacity to perform these difficult duties with the utmost of helpfulness and compassion. Here are some helpful tips.
Keep in mind Why you've been asked to Help:
If a family asks you to help with its needs during a time of mourning, it is important that you consider this an honor as prestigious as the most important award you have ever won or even coveted. The family members have invited you into their lives during a very vulnerable time, and that is a precious act of trust. It is vitally important that you let that trust be your guide and be very careful to do nothing, even inadvertently, to injure that trust. When you accept this important role in their lives, it is important that you carry out your work diligently, efficiently, and quickly. The family is counting on you to do work that they are emotionally unable to do, and the decisions you help them make will have long lasting effect – perhaps even on the lives of children not yet born. You've been asked to help in this situation because the family has very wisely realized that important decisions should be grounded in responsible, unemotional logic that simply is not within the emotional means of a person in the midst of grief. The family's job during this time is to grieve and heal. Your job is to offer wise, trustworthy counsel.
Listen to the Family:
A grieving family may not be ready to make wise business decisions, but that does not mean that their ideas and opinions are useless, or unworthy. It's very important that you, in your role as a trusted adviser, make sure to listen closely to the needs and desires of the family and do your best to honor those – and fight for them to be honored – precisely. This means that, if a family's consensus is that its beloved lost member be treated to an elaborate memorial display that happens to be contrary to your own much more simpler tastes, the family's opinion must always override your own. Your job as adviser is to determine what the needs are and to help carry them out with resources available. It is not to make decisions – at least not final, important decisions. Be warned: determining what a family's needs and opinions will likely not be easy. You will likely find that a family doesn't appear to know what it wants – or, worse, is bitterly divided in its opinions. Getting to the bottom of this, then, requires a great deal of very attentive listening. Being able to hear everything, and then present comforting options that are in line with what you have heard, is an important skill for someone who has been asked to help a family as you have been asked. Chances are strong that the family has seen this skill in you, and that is how you've been selected for your job. It's important that you keep this always in mind as you work.
Don't be Afraid to be a Tough Negotiator:
Once you have determined your friends' needs, it's important that you do everything in your power to carry them out. This will usually mean that you will have to become a tough negotiator on the family's behalf. Lawyers, funeral directors, and other professionals will often take advantage of a family's weak emotional state (albeit often unintentionally) by offering expensive services that are not needed or wanted. Grieving families are often not emotionally equipped to say no to such offers or to negotiate for lower prices. This, then, becomes the job of the trusted friend. You should always be on the lookout for ways to protect the family's resources and get only the services that are needed and desired. Ultimate decisions, of course, should be left to family members, but you, as a trusted adviser, should never be afraid to offer strong, unemotional, wise advise to to fight on behalf of your friends for good bargains from professionals.
Seek Professional Help as Needed:
Finally, there will likely be times in any trusted friend's time of helping a grieving family in which uncertainty will enter the picture. You should never be afraid to consult experts in such cases. Questions may arise, for example, over whether a cemetery is in its legal right to censor a particular emblem that a family wants to engrave on its relative's headstone. In such case, you should not be bashful about consulting an expert. Plenty of websites, accessible with just a simple search of Google, offer expert advice and answers for free (or very low cost), and most reputable professionals, from grief counselors to attorneys, will offer one free consultation visit. It is never a bad idea to place a phone call to a professional's office when a question arises as you help your friends. Often, if you explain that you are helping friends – especially those with limited resources – a professional may offer his or her services for free or reduced cost if hiring help become necessary.