SAIF reflects on how the bereaved can be helped by the funeral

November 9, 2017   //   No Comments

SAIF thanks Past President Paul Allcock for his November blog:

Some years ago I wrote a document entitled ‘What the funeral provides for the bereaved’. I wrote it with the intention of simply giving those interested an insight and an understanding of the benefits of a funeral, and also to make people think a little outside of the box and to question some of the assumptions we often make as individuals about others.  The document consists of 10 chapters, and I have included the first 2 chapters in this blog and the rest will follow in my subsequent blogs. As usual I am happy to answer any questions regarding the content, but I also ask that you question yourself and to use your personal experiences to make appropriate judgements.

1. People to talk to

Following the death of any person that we love, in any circumstances, there is a need to talk to someone who has some understanding of the turmoil being experienced. It is vitally important that in the early days following a death that the bereaved are given the opportunity to face the reality of what has happened by telling their story. This may be extremely difficult for family or close friends to cope with, and subsequently in many cases, it is necessary for professionals and volunteers to fill this void.

The repeated telling of the same story of what has happened undoubtedly helps the bereaved to believe what they themselves are saying. Thus eventually creating a sense of reality in what seem like unreal circumstances. A skilful listener who is not threatened or fearful of what they hear is likely to become a sounding board against which the bereaved bounces ideas, until they begin to make sense. This is probably more likely following a sudden death, as it is a subject that family and friends would find particularly difficult to talk about.

The arranging of the funeral provides an unusual opportunity to form this kind of relationship support, and it is vital that people are given the time talk if they need to.  There are also many other circumstances which can also offer appropriate opportunities for the bereaved to tell their story.

  1. 2. Something to do

The arranging of the funeral and the funeral itself, when organised in the correct manner, can be a great healer. Society surrounds itself with acting out ceremonies that we call rites and rituals. Every culture encompasses life events with ceremonies. Birth and marriage, as well as educational, political and historical events and, most particularly, at the time of death.  These are easily accessible, and give all attendees the opportunity to express deep feelings that are too painful, difficult, or even impossible to put into words. The rituals themselves are extremely helpful activities and are something that people can participate in to help them work through the feelings of grief.

The more involvement that individuals have in the arranging of the funeral, the more helpful and meaningful it will become. It is therefore essential to ensure that family members are aware of the many options for how they can actively participate in the funeral itself. It is often evident how the bereaved cope better during the arrangements and leading up to the funeral, due to there being so much to do at this time and the support from folk around them. Whereas the weeks following the funeral when others are getting back to their normal routines and there is more time spent alone is the time when ‘not having something to do’ is often the time when additional support is needed.

We’d love to hear any comments you’d like to make on Paul’s thoughts.

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