Young Woman Reflecting on Loss


Written by Sharon Verbeten


Next week, my baby starts kindergarten. Okay, so now my “baby” is 6 and time flies and school begins…but I digress…


New beginnings are always challenging — not always tough, of course, but still a change from the status quo. It is, in a way, much like German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said. “Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth, every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.”


In the funeral profession, we have a unique and responsible authority to deal with those enduring not just the “little deaths” that come with change, but the big deaths as well.


Each death brings with it a plethora of change and many “little deaths.” The loss of companionship. The loss of a chess partner. The loss of the guy who used to mow the lawn. Each role, perhaps, different — but maybe none less important.


It is up to funeral directors to dredge out these little facts about a loved one to more truly address what the family may need. Why was their father so beloved? Had he served in the war and won a Purple Heart? Did Aunt Jane leave behind her treasured Christmas cookie recipe? Was your friend — the one you’d known since grade school — the spelling bee champion?


No memory is too small — but often, at time of need, families are too distraught to remember some of these. A little compassionate listening, along with some gentle prompting, may make the families feel a bit more comfortable sharing personal memories.


It’s a fine tightrope to walk — funeral directors want to be engaged with the families, yet they don’t want to push too much. But eliciting these memories, these “little deaths,” so to speak, can make your job easier, more rewarding and, in turn, endear you to your clients.


I’ll get over my daughter’s first week of kindergarten — heck, maybe I’ll even celebrate this “little death” by taking myself out to lunch. Helping your families deal with life’s challenging moments makes you a better funeral director.  


Freelance writer/editor Sharon Verbeten has written about the funeral profession — in trade journals and online — for more than 20 years. She lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin.


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