little miss funeral

an average girl working at your not so average job

Tag: death

National Grief Awareness Day + Goodgrief App

When Eddie died, I didn’t know how to feel.

I don’t mean that in the literal sense, because I hope it’s quite obvious that I was grieving very hard, but I didn’t know where I stood relationship wise. I loved Eddie. I often describe him as my second grandfather, a protector, but we were close because we worked together. So even though he meant so much to me, when I described who he was to an outsider, they could not understand how I felt exactly because they saw our relationship as it was; co-workers.

In my grief, I needed others to understand. I needed to talk about it, and write about it, and explain how I felt so I didn’t hold it all inside. So I did those things. And even though I was met with support from others, no one really got it. In one way, I am sort of happy that others didn’t understand, because that meant that they never went through a loss like that. But one the other hand, it would have been nice to be able to really communicate with someone who had been through something similar.

Every one has a different way to cope and deal with grief. There’s no one way to grieve a loss and the road is hard and can be long. Companionship during this journey can help when you just feel overcome with emotions and feel like the days will never get better. Sometimes, it’s enough to have someone check in and see how you’re doing. Sometimes, you need someone to just be there with you, sharing in the silence. And other times, what we need is someone in a similar situation so we can explain what we’re going through and have the other person get it.

Today, August 30, 2018 is National Grief Awareness Day. I am so proud to be able to partner with the Goodgrief App and share this wonderful resource with others.

The Goodgrief App was co-founded by two women named Kim and Robynne. It’s a social network for people dealing with loss. It puts you in touch with others who have lost their partners, parents, child, relative, or friend. It allows you to connect with others who are in the same boat as you and who get what you’re going through.

I know there were so many times when I actually felt bad for talking about Eddie. It’s so silly to actually type those words, but I would sometimes feel like I was bothering those in my immediate circle because I just wanted to talk about him and get my grief out. If I would have known about this app, it would have helped me so much during the beginning of my grief journey.

There is no time frame for how long a person should grieve. This app, allows you to find others who can be a support system for you, no matter how long you may need them. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, you are never alone, and there are wonderful individuals out there like Kim and Robynne who are working hard every day to make certain that we all have resources so we understand those truths.

For National Grief Awareness Day, I ask you all to look into the Goodgrief App and see what it can offer to you on your grief journey. I also ask you to pick up your phone, and send a little text or call someone you know who may be struggling. Let them know they’re not alone. Maybe just sit with them in their silence. Because one thing in this life is true, at one point or another we will all lose someone we love. It really does take a village and there is no need to be ashamed of that.

 

My Father’s Wake Review

Have you all heard about My Father’s Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love, and Die by Kevin Toolis? I was extremely lucky to have been sent a copy of it a few months back and quickly read the entire book. Back in 2011, I was able to visit a friend of mine who was studying in Ireland, so this book appealed to me even more because of that!

My Father’s Wake revolves around Sonny, Kevin’s father. It starts off with him actively dying and eventually follows his entire funeral. Throughout the book, Kevin also shares different parts of his life in which the reader is able to get a deeper understanding with his relationship with death. Stories shared regarding his brother and job as a reporter allow the reader to dive more deeply into an intimate part of Kevin’s life. One thing is for certain throughout this book, death is apart of life, and should not be feared. Instead, we should allow ourselves to be part of the process of dying and the act of caring for our deceased.

Sonny’s story was so beautifully told. Kevin’s writing really forces the reader to think about how we deal with death here in the West. Growing up in the United States, my experiences with death on a personal level has been vastly different from Kevin’s. In a society where we pay professionals like myself to care for the dead, Kevin reminds us that these dead bodies are those of our own loved ones. They are not to be feared and our relationship with them in death can be beautiful and therapeutic. By bringing a death back into our home, we are better able to acknowledge it and honor the life of our loved ones.

Below I have my video review of My Father’s Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love, and Die. After you watch it make certain to order your copy here. Honestly, do it, because this book is worth it.

Requiring Bodies To Be Embalmed

By now, I believe anyone reading Little Miss Funeral knows that I’m a licensed funeral director in New York State (or maybe not, which is why I’m mentioning it again). In New York, there is no law that says a person has to be embalmed prior to viewing. Many funeral homes, however, will make it their policy that if a family wishes to have a public viewing, the deceased must first be embalmed. Sometimes, as in the case of the funeral home in my video, they will make it a policy to embalm a person for other reasons.

Watch the video below to hear my opinion on the matter.

5 Books Related to Death & Dying That I’ve Enjoyed

I used to read all the time. As a matter of fact, in 2013 I thought it would be fun to keep track of the books and pages that I read. Seventy books and 19,609 pages later, I had a nice little library under my belt.

As my funeral career progressed and my workload became busier, I unfortunately have had to slow my reading obsession down due to a lack of time. But I’m still able to enjoy a good book every now and then. Books related to the funeral profession are normally on the top of my list nowadays. Below you can watch my video about five books related to death and dying that I’ve enjoyed. With this particular list, I tried to include authors who were not funeral directors or involved in the funeral profession directly. These are books about grief, loss, and the author’s journey along the way. Some books incorporate jokes and laughter, while others are stories told within a heavier setting. Any one of these books would be a great selection for a summer read.

STORY TIME: Grieving My Grandmother

I feel like when we think of grandmothers, we think of those sweet little old ladies who silently slip us cookies when our parents aren’t watching. We think of warm hugs and safe places.

This is not who my grandmother was. Although she was little (my brother and I christened her ‘little grandma’).

I know, without a doubt, that my grandma loved me in her own way. To this day, there is still a part of my heart that grieves for the relationship we didn’t have. But I am thankful for what we did have. My grandmother loved crossword puzzles. I know this is where I received my love of words. She loved to do crafts. This helped to spark my own creativity.

And when she died and I did not cry, it didn’t mean that I didn’t love her.

It just meant that my grief was like our relationship; different.

 

For JR.

Yesterday, while scrolling through my Facebook page, I was notified that a person I used to work with had passed away.

It’s been a good four years since I had seen them, but the update of their death put me into shock. For a few years, they knew every aspect of my life. And then, one day, I got a new job and we lost touch.  People’s paths take them in different directions and on different journeys.

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I’m that person who tells others that we’ll stay in touch and that we’ll get together.

I’m that person who never picks up the phone to make plans because of the uncertainty with my job.

When you work in a funeral home, you understand the importance of putting your family and friends first.

When you work in a funeral home, you become very good at cancelling plans last minute and putting off scheduling again because there’s a chance you’ll have to work.

 

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Since I found out the news, I’ve been thinking of the difference that this person had made in my life. I was young when I had met them. I was often uncertain of myself and my choices; just growing into the woman I’d become. We would sit and talk about my life, my job, and my relationships. When I took my National Board Exams to become a funeral director, this person gave me an angel pin to wear for good luck. I passed those exams, the first time around. When I became engaged, we talked about the plans for the wedding. They spent that day celebrating with me. When I left my job, we talked about my depression and mental issues. They never once judge me for the decisions that I made. Instead, they would listen with an open heart and offer me gentle advice.

Death forces you to stop and take a look at yourself. I may have only worked with this person for a few years out of my entire life, but I am who I am today because I had known them. The conversations we shared helped to shape me into who I am today.

I am a better person, for having had the opportunities to know them.

The would will be a little darker without their light in it.

All About Death Certificates

There’s a lot of paperwork involved when a person passes away. More paperwork, I believe, than people realize. Below, I talk about one very important document, a certified death certificate. I explain the information funeral directors are required to fill in at the time of a passing and different things you may need a certified copy for.

Is Cremation A Problem?

The funeral industry is changing. There is no denying that.

If you’re a funeral home owner, I can guarantee that you’ve thought about the rise in cremation and how it’s impacting your business. Gone are the days of the three day wake, church service, and burial. While there is still plenty of room for tradition, families are walking away from funerals as their parents and grandparents have known them and redefining them to accommodate their lifestyle.

No matter my personal beliefs, it’s my job as a funeral professional to make certain the families I serve have all the information they need to make educated decisions. And even though I am a huge advocate for viewing and spending time with our dead, I personally do not see anything wrong with cremation as a final means of disposition. As a funeral professional, it’s my job to educate the families I serve and figure out how to give them the services they find value in while still educating about the importance of a funeral. It may be a different picture from what we are used to seeing, but there are still reasons certain traditions exist. (I’ll definitely revisit this and go more in detail as to my opinions, don’t worry!)

But I don’t want to stray too far away from the topic of this YouTube video. Watch it below and you be the judge for yourself if cremation is a problem.

On being present in the moment.

I was in elementary school when I asked my mother what her favorite day of the week was. I remember she was driving me to school. I don’t know why I asked her this; I don’t know why I did a lot of things when I was younger.

She told me her favorite day was Saturday, because it meant that she was off from work and could relax, but that she still had one more day to enjoy when it was over. She then asked me what my favorite day of the week was.

I told her it was Friday, because even though I had school and tests and homework, I looked forward to having the two following days off.

That was when I realized I lived for the future.

I’ve always looked forward to things. The anticipation of a vacation could sometimes be a bigger thrill for me than actually leaving that day for the vacation itself. I couldn’t wait till I was in high school so my life could begin. Once in high school, I couldn’t wait for college for my life to really begin. Once in college, I couldn’t wait till I graduated and actually started to work in a funeral home. The future was always better than the present. The future held so many opportunities.

It took working in a funeral home for me to understand that I was mentally living my life the wrong way. One funeral in particular when I was new to the industry shook me. A girl two years older than me  had died from cancer. I had to handle her arrangements. Looking down upon her face was like looking at myself. It could have so easily been me on that embalming table. Her tomorrow’s were over. Her future cut short.

Death doesn’t care how old you are. What kind of family or background you come from. What your future plans are. When death comes for you, there are no compromises.

“The truth is you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed.” – Eminem

Is it weird that a funeral blog just quoted Eminem? Maybe. But is what he said true? You bet. Honestly, it’s still a struggle for me to appreciate the time I have, right now. It’s something that I have to work at constantly. It’s so easy for me to slip into my natural thoughts of “tomorrow will be better”. Don’t get me wrong, I want to plan for the future. I just don’t want to always live for tomorrow. I want to appreciate how the flowers look outside my window right now. I want to feel the warmth of my dog as he lies near my legs and be content. I want this moment to be enough if this moment is all I have. I want all of my family and friends to know that I love them, and if tomorrow starts without me, I want them to know these things today.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”  – Henry David Thoreau

Friday and Saturday are both great days. And contrary to popular belief, so are Mondays. Breath. Take a sip of your coffee. No matter what is happening right now, the fact that we are here to experience it means we are a lot more blessed than others. I mean, it’s called the present for a reason, right?

Frozen feet.

I buy UGG boots because they’re supposed to be warm. But not those fuzzy slipper-looking ones. The boots that I buy have to be somewhat stylish, since I’ll be wearing them on services. I work outside for half of my job; the days of the funerals. These days we park cars, say prayers, and wait at the gravesite once the family has said their final goodbyes. We wait until it’s finished. We take care of these bodies until they’re placed into the ground.

I try to stay warm on these cold winter days. We always have snow. The air always hurts your face. I own fleece-lined tights, fleece-lined leather gloves, hats that cover my ears, and these UGG boots. But today, I couldn’t feel my toes. Today, the ice grabbed my feet and wouldn’t let go. Today I was alone by the gravesite, with only the cemetery crew to witness this body being placed into the ground. But I waited until it was done.

My grandfather passed away in the middle of November. My grandmother decided to die during the famous October storm of 2006. Google it. We couldn’t bury her for about two weeks.  And then, you all know about Eddie, who passed away on December 14th. Death always seems to come for my family when it’s cold.

Today, January 2nd, also marks a year since a close family friend died. His burial was one of the coldest I’ve ever done. I stood at the foot of his grave and watched as the vault lid went on. I couldn’t feel my feet then, either. But it’s all part of the job. Honestly, I don’t mind that much. During these times, I remember how I felt having to say goodbye. I remember the pain, feeling broken, and the tears. I remember knowing, that even though these are the shells of those that I love, that these bodies still mean something. They matter. It would have been so much easier, if the cold that I felt in my feet could have just traveled up to my heart. We sometimes think that are problems can go away if we numb out the pain.

But we have to go through this pain. We feel pain because we love, and if pain is the price we pay to love, then I will gladly take it all. All of those good times are worth it, they really are. We’re going to cry, and scream. There are days when we’ll try to numb out the pain and find that we can’t succeed. And in the middle of all of this, we’ll find ourselves laughing at a memory and then the tears will roll once again. We have to go through it.

You will always feel what’s in your heart. But today, I can’t feel my toes.