My mother – who I have always considered to be my best friend – passed away this week after a long, hard battle with cancer. While I know that she is in a better place and no longer in pain, the grief has been overwhelming. As an only child, it has become my responsibility to plan her funeral. My father died a few years back and I feel utterly alone in this.
I want to honor her and her faith in the best way possible. Yet I find that every time I even look up how to begin planning, I am just ridden with grief and anxiety. I can barely get out of bed in the morning. How am I supposed to plan a funeral? Is there anyone who can help me?
Alone & Overwhelmed
Dear Alone & Overwhelmed,
First and foremost, I am very sorry for your loss.
Secondly, know that you are not alone. The team at Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care is here to be by your side through this difficult time. As a chaplain, I can assist you with the funeral planning and help to ensure that your mother’s faith will be honored and highlighted during the service.
My role as a chaplain is best described as a spiritual leader specializing in crisis care ministry. My job is to know the faith of the person or family to whom I am ministering and to provide support to them throughout the end-of-life experience. In other words, I’m here to help guide you every step of the way.
Chaplains are just as much a source of support to family members and caregivers as we are to patients. After a loved one has passed, I call their family to offer condolences, ask if there are any funeral plans set, and offer my services.
If they decide that they would like me to officiate the funeral, I will then plan to meet with them to discuss options. I can coordinate with the funeral home about timing and resources needed for the service to allow the family to grieve without worrying about the funeral logistics. My main role in the funeral service is to ensure that the departed loved one is accurately honored according to their religious beliefs as well as celebrated for the life they lived.
I know that every individual and family is different. Oftentimes, I try to gather all of the family together to share information and memories about the deceased as I am planning. But if a family is unable or uncomfortable with gathering (especially with social distancing guidelines still in place), I can adjust my approach.
As an alternative, I might ask them to write down personal anecdotes, memories, or stories of their loved one that they’d like to share with me. No one thing is too small or insignificant. I allow them to tell stories about their loved one and invite them to share those stories at the funeral. If a family member is not comfortable speaking at the funeral, I will offer to share some of the stories on their behalf.
I only take what information families are willing to give and my plans are always adjustable. I often start with this storytelling approach and then allow them to decide how they want their loved one to be remembered. I encourage family members to grieve and not feel like they are being a burden. I find that my life changes with every person I encounter and each individual story adds to my own.
The overwhelming grief combined with the stress of funeral planning can sometimes lead family members to make expensive decisions out of guilt. Having a chaplain to lend a hand throughout the process can help relieve the family of some of the burden they may be feeling. If you’re especially concerned about finances, I can help you understand your rights and protections while planning a funeral.
Again, please remember that you are not alone. Crossroads is here for you and your family. You can learn more about the role of chaplains like myself here.
Crossroads Hospice and Palliative Care
For more information on how Crossroads supports patients and their families, give us a call at 888-564-3405.
If you found this information helpful, please share it with your network and community.
Copyright © 2020 Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care. All rights reserved.