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A Grief Unobserved

Updated on July 9, 2014

What We Have Lost

Our practice of handing over all arrangements to funeral directors after a death has taken away many of the experiences that would help us process our grief in a healthy way. When I was a grief counselor with a hospice agency, I was often frustrated when counseling men, especially. Talking didn't seem to help them process their grief. They needed to DO something. I often recommended that they memorialize the deceased loved one in some physical way, by creating something, doing something with their hands. It could be as grand as coordinating the designation of a park in tribute to a murdered police officer or as private as writing a poem. Doing something helped them process their complex emotions. In a society where we often send off our elderly to be cared for at the end of their lives by strangers, then hand over the death arrangements to a funeral home following their death, we have lost much that would help us grieve well.

The Perfect Process

In the past, when a death occurred, the women in the family would prepare the body, washing and clothing their deceased loved one for the final journey. Often, the body was kept in a bed in the home for people to come by and see and pay respects. This might last a few days, and though it may seem morbid, even the odor after a few days was part of the process of acceptance of the reality of death. During this time, the men would build a casket with their own hands and tools. They would dig the hole where the casket, holding the body, would be buried. Women in the community would provide food and comfort for the family. Everyone had something to do. Something physical. This was an essential piece in the puzzle of grieving, for everyone.

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