Friday, June 24, 2011

Death and Dying - Part II: Tributes and Eulogies

Funerals are for the living. Aside from the mechanics of preparation, burial, or cremation, a funeral serves to bring together family, friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and so forth. We support one another, comfort the grieving, remember the deceased, and perhaps wonder when it will be our turn. And, if we follow the standard script, we eulogize and honor the person who has died.

Too late. How sad to wait until someone is gone before acknowledging them - their strengths, their contributions, what they meant to us, and why we'll miss them. Somehow, I wonder if we assume that those around us know how much we appreciate them, enjoy their company, respect their accomplishments, and how they improve our lives.

It's too late to tell them once they're gone. Pick up the phone - write an e-mail or letter - stop by someone's house and let them know what and how much they mean to you. They can't hear it when they're gone.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Death and Dying - Part I: The Casserole Effect

When someone dies, our cultural norm is to 'circle the wagons'. For the grieving spouse, parent, child, friend, relative, co-worker, neighbor, and for ourselves, we offer love, compassion, sympathy, friendship, kinship, warmth, and support. Frequently, this takes the form of food - which is sustenance, nourishment, a very basic need, and something we expect the bereaved to appreciate and not want nor need to prepare on their own. This is a wonderful tradition - it is from the heart, and it is given with only the best of intentions.

What I hypothesize as 'the casserole effect' is that within a week or ten days, the calls, the visits, the handholding, and the casseroles have subsided - and the mourner, the griever is left with his/her emptiness, including literally and figuratively, the casserole dishes.

What I have learned and what I know to be true, is that after such a loss, there needs to be continuity of communication, connection, and compassion. The immediacy of our response to someone else's loss needs to extend past the initial event and not create a 'casserole effect', where we have done that which is expedient, and yet perhaps, not for long enough.

Support, concern, and love are long term commitments. We are needed as much, or perhaps more, in the months following a loss, as we are when we first make our casseroles.