The visitation is all about sharing memories
Growing up in the funeral industry, one can only imagine the things seen and heard within the walls of a funeral home.
However, in all the years my family has been in it, not one of us has seen a person enter one of our funeral homes jumping for joy that they are attending a funeral or visitation. No one has fist pumped the air with a huge grin saying what a blast it was giving the eulogy of their late father, nor have we seen anyone rush to be the first in line at a visitation.
The fact is, we as individuals do not like funerals or visitations. It is typically a time of sadness, mourning and much awkwardness felt by both the family and distant relatives and friends all jumbled together in one room.
So then why go to a funeral or visitation? Better yet, what are we to do when we get there??
This is actually a very common question. Perhaps you have asked this to a friend or relative – “are you going to her/his visitation tomorrow night …” We ask this for the simple reason that although we want to go to show our love and support, we truly don’t want to be there – as goes for anyone in the situation of a loss. If there was a way to avoid this all together, nearly all of us would likely opt out. So then why do we go to a visitation and/or funeral?
A common reason is that we want to be of assistance to the survivors, let them know we are here for them in their time of difficulty and ultimately make them aware that we care. While very important, it is also the same reason why everyone else is there; and this can become quite overwhelming to the bereaved.
In addition, it shouldn’t be so much about letting them know how we feel, rather we should let the family know how their loved one impacted our life and how they will never be forgotten for it. Perhaps the answer is to come to the funeral or visitation was his favorite course in this area?” or “I see Christmas was an important time to your wife, what memory stands out the most during this time of year?” This memorabilia allows the bereaved to gain a personal connection through sharing memories with each of us that attends, rather than a nod and a handshake along with that oh so common statement — “I’m sorry for your loss.”
It is not always about the sense of sight that can provide us with areas of discussion while attending a visitation or funeral. Today, it is common to see things such as wine bars, ice cream sundae stations, steel drum music in the background to home style settings and scents. This is becoming common in most funeral homes in order to eliminate the stereotypical morbid dark “funeral” feel and instead provide a comfortable home like environment for family and friends to share in the memories of a life lived. Sharing with a bereaved family that the type of wine being served, hot fudge topping on our ice cream, a particular island song playing or a simple home style atmosphere reminds us of a memory of the one they lost is all that is necessary when attending a funeral or visitation.
While we have not yet seen the excitement from an individual entering a funeral home that one might see from a young child on Christmas Day, we have seen people walk out of a funeral home with a tear in their eye and a smile on their face, all at the same time.
While the loss of a loved one is not easy for anyone, we, the distant relatives and friends, must be there to help the family in their time of need. Sharing memories is a wonderful way to let a friend in need know that they are being supported. The goal of every funeral professional should be to provide an outlet for friends and family to walk through that person’s life and experience laughter and sadness within seconds of each other.
Sharing memories is ultimately the key behind why we should attend a visitation or funeral and what we should be doing while present. That in itself says it all.
Reprinted from Sept. 23, 2015.