2020 - April - Gazette - Because Love Can't Wait

By: Dar Bellissimo
Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Because Love Can't Wait

I don’t know about you, but my pandemic grief journey has at times, surprised me. In case you weren’t aware, we are all on your own grief journeys right now. Grief is the natural reaction to loss and we’re experiencing losses – jobs, incomes, security, a way of life, in-person connecting, activities, events and in some cases, death. I hope with this understanding you are grieving, that you are being gentle with yourself and finding healthy ways to mourn. Grief is what we feel on the inside and mourning is moving it to the outside. Everyone does this in their own unique way.

A recent surprise on my own unique, pandemic grief journey came when I realized I was wishing for what life was not instead of embracing it for what it was.  As I thought about that I had an insight. One of the first needs of a mourner is to acknowledge the reality of the death. I realized that I was ready to acknowledge the death of life as I knew it. I still maintain hope for a tomorrow when the coronavirus isn’t ruling our world, however, today I want to live fully and keep my attention on the now.

With the realization that I am mourning, I began to compare Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D.’s six needs of mourning for people who have lost a loved one with what we are all experiencing in the pandemic. I also had conversations and asked for input from the funeral directors and staff at Koch Funeral Home and its sister organization, John B. Brown Funeral Home in Huntingdon. Below are the six needs of mourning with descriptions of how they relate to pandemic losses, along with some comments from the funeral home staffs:

  1. Acknowledge the reality of the death – Accept that life as we knew it is no more. We can most certainly make life good again, but it will be different. Even though it is difficult, the funeral home staffs have accepted that temporarily people can’t gather and support one another in the same ways. You can visit the Koch Funeral Home website to learn more about the safety measures they have instituted.
     
  2. Embrace the pain of the loss – Allow ourselves to feel the pain of the losses we’re experiencing.  John B. Brown supervisor, Doug Hallinan said, “As funeral directors we all know the importance of ceremony and the positive impact it has on grieving and healing. At a time of loss, gatherings offer support to surviving family members as does social interaction with others. For me personally, the lack of a simple hand shake or a hug when greeting a family or at the conclusion of services, feels odd.” 
     
  3. Remember the person who died – Remember and share about what used to be as we hope for the future.  Funeral director Katie Monsell said, “In a profession where connection and comfort are what help our clients most in their time of need, it has been hard to encourage distance and limit our in-person interactions.  …it goes against our intuition in situations of loss.” The staffs remember how important public gatherings are and look forward to offering them again one day. 
     
  4. Develop a new self-identity – Take on the new roles we have. Some of us have new roles, such as homeschooling parents, remote workers, and furloughed or unemployed workers. At the funeral homes, the staffs have created new ways to serve families, from phone and video conferencing for making arrangements to a menu of “Because Love Can’t Wait” service options. These six needs of mourners were created to describe how people navigate losing a loved one. Funeral and memorial services meet each of these needs. Our “Because Love Can’t Wait” service options enable families who lose a loved one during the pandemic to start their grief journeys in a healthy way with safe and meaningful services of gatherings limited to 10 people and/or held virtually. More details about these options will be posted on the website in the coming weeks. 
     
  5. Search for meaning – Look for light and meaning in the pandemic. It helps us to find meaning in hard times and positive things we want to go forward with us. One way supervisor and funeral director Glenn Fleming has found light is through seeing “family activities such as walking and bicycling together many times with their dogs.” Jenny Miller, administrative support staff hopes, “…we take with us the realization that so much we deem as important in life really isn’t, very. I just think it’d be beautiful to see beauty come from ashes with this; for people to change their perspectives (about life, death, family, etc.) for the better; be a little less self-focused, a little more caring.” 
     
  6. Receive ongoing support from others – Reach out and allow others to support us. We are all grieving and connecting with others can help us heal. Some of the upcoming community programs are:

For more information, visit the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the Koch Funeral Home website, www.kochfuneralhome.com. To RSVP and receive the Zoom invitation, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-404-0546 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.

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