REACHING OUT TO THE BEREAVED
When a death call comes, the immediate response of Waller Funeral Home personnel is to convey our sincere concern for the family of the deceased and our desire to ease their stress through this difficult time. We established and have adapted our facilities and services for compassionate service to each family according to their wishes. But we realize help comes from others.
We see the warmth of visitation by friends and family who take this time to express respect for the deceased and caring concern for the bereaved. We see how a memorial service provides the family the opportunity to honor the deceased in an individualized way and the opportunity of "saying goodbye" together with relatives and friends. We realize in our business and in our personal experi-ence the importance of physical and emotional help from others when we lose a loved one.
Circumstances suggest what help is needed.
Especially in case of a sudden death, those left behind may be stunned and require a brief time to adjust before planning can begin. A relative or close friend may be able to help them think through what must be done. If a death follows an extended illness or if the family has engaged in preplanning and/or prearrangement, many plans may have already been made.
While preliminary adjustments and plans are made, a tactful shielding of the family may be needed. Someone to answer the telephone and doorbell and to keep a record of callers may be appreciated.
If there are young children, their needs will demand immediate attention. When, what, and how they are told should be decided by those who know them best. Authorities in child and grief psychology stress the importance of telling children the truth in a way appropriate to their ages and personalities. Children should be with someone with whom they are comfortable and well acquainted from the beginning and through the activities. A familiar babysitter should not be passed over as a possibility for caring for young children, but friends can sometimes assist.
Friends can help with the miscellaneous errands for the family: placing telephone calls; meeting planes; taking and returning clothes at the cleaners; carrying someone to a beauty shop or barber shop; delivering items to the funeral home; having automobiles serviced; etc.
An unusual act of kindness I remember hearing about was picking butterbeans for a friend. The neighbor’s husband had died suddenly during the night, and the friend knew her neighbor’s butterbeans needed to be picked that day or they would ruin. The friend picked and processed all the butterbeans — a true labor of love.
I have vivid memories of help given my family when my brother Jim died quite late at night. Daddy’s heart condition prevented his going to the funeral home except very briefly for the service. Don and I needed to be with our children whom we had left with Granddaddy Waller and Miss Emma. I was worried about Daddy and Ava. A dear friend and neighbor, Cecil Kellum, came to me and very quietly said, "Girl, you have lots to do. You go get it done. Send word when Jess should be there. I’ll take care of him." He did just as he said. He and Daddy came after everyone was in the chapel. Daddy had a few minutes with Jim, then we went into the family room. At the close, Cecil was waiting and immediately took Daddy home and stayed with him until Ava, Don, and I were free.
Another memory goes even further back to three weeks after Don and I married. Don's uncle in Memphis died. Don's mother had gone there to be with him and his family. The Waller home was to be used for all those coming from out of town for the funeral at Clear Creek, and the body would lie in state in the home (not unusual at that time). Who could have been less capable to prepare for this than me—young and new to the family? My mother—sick and unable to come herself—called Mrs. Gayle Hewlett, "Miss Marjy," and asked her to come direct me. Mr. Waller secured their regular household help to clean the house and do the laundry, and Miss Marjy and I put fresh linens in the bedrooms and bathrooms and did other sprucing up for the expected company. With her suggestions like "Myrtle would want her crocheted spread on that bed," we got things ready and Miss Marjy’s help is a cherished memory.
Providing food for the family is a traditional way to help. A key person can find out the family’s plans for meals and pass on the information. Friends might arrange receiving food, taking required care of it, making a record of each offering, and recording information about containers to be returned. Keeping the coffee pot going can provide hospitality for those who come to the home. Supplying paper plates and cups, plastic forks and spoons, and paper napkins may be helpful.
The helpfulness of friends in bring-ing food not only takes care of the physical needs of the family but also provides a comforting feeling of being cared for that will be long remembered. Years ago in a discussion group with a group of young people at our church on this subject, Robert Briscoe shared his lasting memory from the time of the sudden death during the night of his grandmother, who lived in their home. Their neighbor and cousin Nell Briscoe came quite early in the morning and cooked breakfast for the family and others who had gathered in the home.
Close friends can sometimes provide a guest room for out-of-town family members. When times for the visitation and funeral service are published, someone should volunteer to remain at the family home for security reasons.
The need for help does not end with the funeral. Long after a death, grieving continues. A brief visit may be welcome—telephoning ahead to make sure it is convenient. When I was at the funeral home, I made visits into homes, and I was always warmly received. One widow said, "I wish you could come every day."
Personal notes can show continued concern for the bereaved. Lovely cards are available—which along with a brief comment can be very effective. When Daddy died, one of his favorite businesses sent a card which was very meaningful to me. Written near the signature was simply, "We miss him too."
More than one communication is appropriate for a close friend. Those left like to hear the name of the deceased called and appreciate hearing personal anecdotes. Mentioning things you remember about the funeral service—the music, the flowers, or the weather that day—will very likely be comforting to the survivor. Some day a particular activity or song may remind you of the deceased one. You can share this with the bereaved. By all means don’t avoid the person, hoping they don’t see you. Speak, say the name of the deceased, "Joe would have loved this weather for deer hunting [or fishing, or gardening, or whatever]." Don’t be afraid to be personal. A touch or a hug may be appropriate. By making a note of the birthday and/or death date of the deceased, you can later use that as a milestone for remembering. An invitation for coffee or a meal would likely be appreciated.
Many of you could write your own memories of thoughtful help at the time of the death of a loved one. Thoughtful gestures have helped us through bad times. Let’s pass it along.
BOB ROSSON QUALIFIES FOR RECERTIFICATION
Robert Theron Rosson Jr., CFSP of Oxford, Mississippi, has recently qualified for recertification of the designation of Certified Funeral Service Practioner (CFSP) by the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice (APFSP). Bob is a lifetime member and serves as an Ambassador for the
Many professions grant special recognition to members upon completion of specified academic and professional programs, and "CFSP" is funeral service’s national individual recognition. The Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice, since its 1976 founding, has had as its goals: (1) to recognize those practitioners who have voluntarily entered into a program of personal and professional growth, (2) to raise and improve the standards of funeral service, and (3) to encourage practitioners to make continuing education a life-long process in their own self-interest, the interest of the families they serve, and the interest of the community in which they serve.
To receive this award initially, the practitioner must complete a 180-hour program of continuing education activities and events. In addition, the practitioner is required to accumulate 20 hours per year to recertify. Credits are awarded by the Academy for work leading to personal and/or professional growth in four areas: Academic Activities, Professional Activities, Career Review (for retroactive credit), Community and Civic Activities.
Certified practitioners may use the CFSP designation with their names for business letterheads and other appropriate uses.
DEPTH OF GRIEF OFTEN DIFFICULT TO REALIZE
When my husband died six months ago, lots of people in our church expressed sympathy and came around to support me. Now I almost never hear from them, and now that the shock has worn off, I need them more than ever. Why do people react this way?
I’m sorry that most of those who showed concern for you haven’t maintained it; they should have done so. It isn’t that they don’t care; they simply don’t realize your needs. Perhaps your letter will encourage people to be more sensitive to those they know who have lost a loved one.
People who haven’t been through a period of deep grief seldom realize just how traumatic it is. When a loved one dies, those who were close to them may be almost numb at first, even if the death was expected. Some people see this and assume the person is coping well with their loss. But as you have discovered, the hard part often comes later. This can be especially true at holidays or other special times.
If your church is typical, it prob-ably has several widows in it. Have you thought about reaching out to them, perhaps even starting a support group for widows, with your church’s help? Yes, you may need them, but they also need you. The Bible says: "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
— Billy Graham
Commercial Appeal, January 17, 2004
COUNT THAT DAY LOST
If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went—
Then you may count that day well spent.
But if, through all the livelong day,
You’ve cheered no heart, by yea or nay—
If, through it all
You’ve brought the sunshine to one face—
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost—
Then count that day as worse than lost.
— George Eliot
GIFT OF OPENING UP TO SELF, OTHERS
Although the following article from the November 23, 2003, issue of The Commercial Appeal was directed to the Thanksgiving season, it seems meaningful for all times. It was written by Reverend Senter C. Crook, an Episcopal priest and interim director of the Samaritan Counseling Centers of the Mid-South, a nonprofit interfaith counseling ministry, and Dr. I. Joseph McFadden, a psychiatrist aad Jungian psychoanalyst in private practice, a clinical consultant for the Samaritan Counseling Centers, and a part-time staff member at the Memphis Mental Health Institute.
Many people think gratitude must come easily to those we view as having "the good life." Even in the season when we celebrate Thanksgiving, it is easy to understand when those whom life visits with troubles or hard times don't feel particularly grateful.
Some people are able to remain thankful for the good things in life even when they have suffered a great deal. Others, whose visible suffering does not seem so great, may be bitter, sad or unhappy, and unable to find anything for which to be grateful.
What causes the difference?
Membership in a community of faith and trust in a higher power are often key factors in the capacity to be thankful. Being part of something greater than we are reminds us that we are not alone.
The ability to let go expressed in the Serenity Prayer used in 12-step programs—"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference"—is another characteristic of those who can be thankful in adverse times.
A particularly important factor is the willingness to engage in life in all its fullness. This means allowing yourself to experience all that life brings, the bad as well as the good.
Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said that a person who is alive and sensitive cannot fail to feel sorrow many times in his or her life. The effort to avoid suffering is possible only if we reduce our sensitivity, responsiveness and love. To do so, we must withdraw our attention and feelings from others, as well as from ourselves.
Those who are able to remain thankful in spite of adversity learn to open themselves to the present moment and to enter into its mystery.
Those who feel gratitude participate in life with more satisfaction than those who don’t. Few of us would choose to be unhappy, bitter or resentful.
Psychoanalysts and psychologists who have studied infant development recognize certain factors that influence a person’s capacity to respond to the vicissitudes of life.
A developing child seems to have at least two innate drives: "to individuate," or become the unique self he or she was created to be, and to seek other objects—people—with whom to develop relationships through which certain innate needs are met.
The newborn seeks its mother for food, warmth, comfort, love, and safety. One of the most important influences on the developing child is the capacity of the parent to be empathic and to provide positive and encouraging feedback.
There is no such thing as the "perfect" parent or the "perfect" home environment and a child’s every need does not have to be met immediately. But there must be room for the child to develop according to his or her unique capabilities rather than being pushed in directions that are more in line with parents’ needs.
A child who has "good enough" parenting in an environment that offers encouragement and developmental space is likely to grow into an adult who feels a sense of safety in his or her existence—one who lives out of what psychoanalyst W. D. Winnicott called a "true self." For such people it is not just easier, it is part of their character to be able to accept the bad with the good, with an inherent faith that there can be some greater meaning in both.
Those early relationships—which stimulated a sense of safety and security and feelings of being valued and loved for who the individual was and is—are incorporated into the person’s psyche.
Such internalized relationships make possible new, positive potentials and interactions. Gratefulness happens spontaneously.
The early life experiences of many people do not equip them to experience gratitude easily.
At a time such as Thanksgiving, most people would like to be grateful for their blessings and join in the holiday spirit. Those who do not look forward to Thanksgiving sometimes find it particularly painful to have no one with whom to share the holiday.
Making an effort to get out and be with others often helps those who feel depressed. Involvement in an activity— attending a religious service, watching a football game with, others, or visiting someone who otherwise would be alone—can help. People who decide to be of service by volunteering with organizations that provide Thanksgiving meals find that doing so helps shift the focus from their own pain and loneliness.
Internal images from the past need not hold us prisoner. We can continue to see the world through the tainted glasses of past experiences, or we can resolve to be open to new possibilities. Reaching oout to others, especially to those who are less fortunate or who are elderly and alone, can provide experi-ences that allow us to engage life in new ways.
The most important thing to remember is that you cannot force yourself to feel what you don’t feel. The greatest gift a person can give himself or herself is the gift of acceptance and forgiveness.
Feelings are neither right nor wrong; they simply are what they are. The willingness to accept yourself without judgment and to move on as best you can may be one of the greatest gifts a person can receive at Thanksgiving or any other time.
(reprinted with permission)
Children's Grief Group
The department of Social Work of the University of Mississippi will present a workshop, "Children's Grief Group," on Saturday, April 3, 2004, from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 113 South 9th Street, in Oxford.
The "Children's Grief Group," for children ages 8-12 who are residents of Lafayette, Panola, or UNion County will offer education, understanding, and support for children who have suffered the death of a loved one. The children will participate in groups with art, grief education, and emotional support. Lunch and snacks will be provided for the children.
Requests for application forms and/or questions should be directed to Susan Eftink at 662-915-7336; P.O. Box 1848, University, MS 38677; or fax #662-815-1288.
The deadline for applications is March 19. Participation is limited to 10 children, so act quickly if you are interested in having your child included in this event.
from the Sunny Side of the Street
Sometimes you only get one chance
to put aside your pride and say, humbly, "I was wrong."
to explain a misunderstanding that, if ignored, would sour a friendship.
to hear what a child very much needs to tell you.
to defend a person when slighting remarks are being made against him.
to accept a shy but sincere attempt of friendship.
to stand up and be counted when you don’t agree with the crowd.
— author unknown
THE HUMAN TOUCH
‘Tis the human touch in this world that counts,
The touch of your hand and mine,
Which means far more to the fainting heart
Than shelter and bread and wine;
For shelter is gone when the night is o’er,
And bread lasts only a day,
But the touch of the hand and the sound of the voice
Sing in the soul alway.
— Spencer Michael Free
We dedicate this issue of Seasons to those who died and whose families we served from November 19, 2003, through February 19, 2004.
Mrs. Edra Gum Russell - November 19, 2003
Mr. Thomas Eugene McCain - November 23, 2003
Mr. Willie Thomas Cain - November 25, 2003
Mr. Samuel Thomas Rayburn - November 30, 2003
Mrs. Inez White Bishop - December 1, 2003
Mrs. Becky Williams James - December 1, 2003
Mrs. Jan Uth Martin - December 5, 2003
Mrs. Mary Marie St. John - December 6, 2003
Mr. Jessie Ashford "Buddy" Tidwell - December 8, 2003
Mr. Kenneth "Si" Mooneyham - December 14, 2003
Mrs. Eva Mal Butler Denton - December 14, 2003
Mrs. Mattie Chesteen Hamilton - December 17, 2003
Mr. Earl Lamar Cantrell - December 20, 2003
Mrs. Alma Gunter Clemons - December 21, 2003
Dr. Timothy Terrell Wright - December 21, 2003
Mrs. Ruth Spradling Ransom - December 23, 2003
Mrs. Margaret Upchurch Sandefer - December 24, 2003
Miss Ruby Lucille Jenkins - December 26, 2003
Mr. James Crawford Duncan - December 30, 2003
Mr. Merrill H. Tatum - December 31, 2003
Mrs. Lois Perkins Browning - January 11, 2004
Mr. John Brice Kerr, Jr - January 11, 2004
Mrs. Zula Sullivan Ratliff - January 12, 2004
Mrs. Melba Lillian Sparks - January 15, 2004
Mr. Robert Warren Larroux - January 15, 2004
Dr. Louis Edgar Dollarhide - January 16, 2004
Ms. America Guzmán - January 29, 2004
Ms. Brandy Lynn Wilcox - January 31, 2004
Mr. Reeves Noble Ingram - February 1, 2004
Mr. Dewey G. Cannon - February 3, 2004
Mr. Junious Edward Keel - February 4, 2004
Mrs. Mary Ethel Alderson - February 4, 2004
Dr. William Emile Strickland - February 4, 2004
Mr. Christopher Glenn Montz - February 7, 2004
Miss Frances Louise Bond - February 15, 2004
Mrs. Totsie Dalton Hiihouse - February 16, 2004
Mrs. Ruby Cherry Naron - February 18, 2004
Mr. Johnny Rayford Smith - February 19, 2004