* Beep, beep, beep *
Your alarm clock rings and as you roll over to move through the motion of shutting it off, because that’s what life is now; moving through the motions, or at least that’s how it feels, you open your eyes to realize another day has gone by without your loved one here. The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and the air is fresh and crisp. While your external world is beautiful, your internal world feels overwhelming and lonely as you prepare for the day that is often seen by society as the end of your grieving but is actually just the beginning of (or continuation depending on your journey) honoring your grief journey; the day of your loved one’s funeral.
At this point, you’re feeling exhausted and may have the mindset of “I just need to get through the day” with hopes that rest will be waiting for you on the other side. As the gathering comes to a close and your support system slowly files out the door, you’re struck with a sinking feeling that the funeral may not be the end; there may be something else on the other side to deal with. The overwhelming nature of organizing and preparing for the funeral makes it impossible to fathom the idea of doing more work after the funeral is over. Of course it does! Planning a funeral (even with the help and guidance of your local funeral home), while grieving and adjusting to the loss, is a lot of work mentally, emotionally, and physically. So why take on more work once it’s all said and done? What if I told you the work after the funeral allows you to continue expressing the love for your deceased person (spouse, friend, parent, sibling, etc.)? What if I told you it’s the work of continuing to feel connected with your deceased person? What is this work? It’s the process of doing the grief work (visit the Exposing Grief video “Looking Behind The Grief Work Curtain” here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0-NVrY-L3g&t=41s to learn more about “doing the grief work”) and honoring your grief journey.
While this work may sound more hopeful than navigating logistics, it is still work and feels daunting for many. So what leads one to seeking out and beginning this type of work? Let me answer your question with a question. How did you feel once your loved one’s funeral was over? (Other then tired!) Were you left wondering “now what?” Did you find yourself feeling as though the funeral was just the beginning of the rest of your life? Did you wonder how you’re going to pick up the pieces once everyone else resumed their normal daily routines? If yes, these are some of the reasons why people seek out doing the grief work and begin honoring their grief journey.
I’m sharing these thoughts and fears to not only validate your experience and reassure you it’s a typical part of grief, but to also help reframe the view of the funeral as just the beginning to your grief journey! It does not have to be the end where you are left wondering how you’re going to do this. Will you (or did you) have that thought? Sure! Do you have to accept that thought as your reality? No! I encourage you to ask the funeral home staff you’re working with for trusted grief resources. From there, I encourage you to explore how you want to proceed following (or maybe even before depending on your situation) the funeral of your loved one allowing you to do the work and honor your grief journey.
Here’s to living a better life as your best self.
Brittany Squillace, MA, LMFT