Recently, I was at our Summerfield A Direct Cremations location waiting on some folks that were coming in to pre-plan their mom’s cremation. While I was waiting, a lady came in with her friend who had just lost her husband. They were in the arrangement office for a little while finalizing the details and when they came out, Richard Brookshire, the location manager, introduced me to both ladies.
We chatted for a bit and two things really struck me about our conversation. First off, I was happy to hear how pleased they both were with our staff and services. The friend who accompanied our customer told me that she had lost her husband the previous year. She relayed to me how professionally we had taken care of her and her late husband’s cremation. This reason alone was why she was there with her friend, whom she had recommended to us.
Every employee, manager, or owner loves to hear when they have provided excellent customer service. But as owner, you especially like to hear how your staff has gone above and beyond to serve a family. Owners can’t clone themselves, or be everywhere all the time, so any positive affirmation that your staff is carrying on the service above self attitude, is a really good feeling.
The second, and the most important thing, that stood out to me during our chat, was the level of grief that our client was going through. She and her husband had retired to The Villages about 20 years ago. During that time they spent every day together, not a single day apart, until he passed away. How do you console someone that has lost the true love of their life?
We all lose people that we love. If you haven’t yet, you will. That is simply a fact of life. When my father passed two years ago, most folks related to me about losing their own parents. I really appreciated their sentiment, but the truth is, no one can really understand or compare their experiences to your own personal grief. Our interaction reminded me of a very important thing, that time had really helped me in processing the grief of losing of my father. This all occurred within a few days of the second anniversary of Dad’s passing.
“People can’t know my grief or what I’m going through. Only I can know that. I appreciate that they try, but they can’t replace my best friend”. What do you say to that? I tell you what I said, “Yes Ma’am you are correct, we can’t really know what you or anyone else who experiences a loss is going through. Just know that we are here for you”.
It was a powerful reminder of not just how to help, or talk to people dealing with grief, but also to show the people you love how much you appreciate them. My wife, Karen and our children got extra hugs that night.
When dealing with any family that have experienced a loss, try not relay to a similar experience to them. It’s human nature to do so, but remember that grief is very individualized. Instead, let them know that you are there to help them in any way they need. Not just the days surrounding the loss or the first weeks after, but the long haul after everyone else has moved on with their lives. Go for a visit, take them to a movie, just be with them for the normal things that they might find painful in doing alone at first. That’s a measure of a real friend.
*Great blog post on grief from O’Connor Mortuary
Andrea Robinson says
I’m so glad you brought this to light. I really felt for this poor lady, but you’re right — you can never know or feel exactly what a person is going through in the middle of grief.
It’s very tempting to try to get the person to buck up and be happier, and we would all love to have the power to make it that way, even if just for a few moments. But unfortunately, a lot of that motivation is that it hurts us to see somebody suffering, and we would feel so much better if we could just cheer them up. In other words, it’s kind of a selfish thing to want to cheer someone up, especially when we know they’re going to revert to grief as soon as we walk away.
It’s much harder, but a much bigger kindness I believe, to just sit with them and let them be whatever they need to be in the moment. And you’re right – the best thing to do is just to let them know that you’re there for them.
But you also bring up an even more overlooked point – what to do for someone a few weeks after the passing of the loved one. By that time, most friends and family will be thoroughly busy and not thinking about the grieving. That’s the best time to stop by, call, or send another card — just to let them know you haven’t forgotten.