Wednesday, April 1, 2009

TwinSpeak: Loss, grieving and the funeral...

Unfortunately at the beginning of the week we had some bad news that a close family member for a mutual friend of ours had passed away.

Bella & Frankie:
Our friend and her family has been known to both of us since primary, many, many years. We felt a great loss and sadness for both the family and ourselves. The funeral was held yesterday and we both attended out of respect and love for our friend.

The family are part of a very close and tight knit cultural community of family and friends. Many people attended the service and it was quite an overwhelming experience. We felt more comfortable just to stand back from the crowd and observe, paying our respects silently amongst ourselves.

We couldn't help but notice and observe certain things throughout the service. It became obvious to us that everyone grieves differently and in their own way. We also noticed that a funeral is one event where you just can't be prepared for everything and things usually don't go to plan.

The service was arranged by the professional services of one large and local company. We have to say though we were less than impressed and would not be using them myself if god forbid it was ever required. One of the selling points of this particular company is that it is run solely by females. They claim to show sincerity and compassion in all they do while still offering a complete funeral service. However they just weren't on top of it. During the private viewing with the family only, other people were just wandering in behind the curtain to have a look! We couldn't believe it because it could be heard by all sitting down that the family was obviously grieving at that particular time. There was no one at the door to guide people where to sit, so the first two rows reserved for family were all taken by the time the family came to sit. It was embarrassing for them. Whenever the ladies of the company spoke to a family member it was in the most cheerful and happy voice that would have been suitable for speaking to a child at a carnival! It was so patronising and false. It actually angered us whenever they spoke. We can understand the need to speak to people grieving in a manner to try and lighten the mood but these ladies were so cheery and happy we thought they were on happy drugs! The clincher for us was when the coffin was to be carried out. The funeral company asked the family if they had any strong men to carry the coffin out. This was supposed to be a service offered by the company so the family questioned this. They were then jovially informed, "Yes, but this is White Lady Funerals" with emphasis put on the Lady!?!?!?! As in they couldn't possibly carry out the coffin. We were was gobsmacked.

After the service we both offered help to carry the abundance of flower arrangements to the burial site. While we were doing this, some people came up to us and other people carrying flowers to grab the arrangements off us. They told us that they bought the flowers and we shouldn't take them?! Again we were only trying to help but I guess we managed to offend some people.

Other things happened throughout the service and the gathering after. The family were doing OK but certain things did anger them. We tried to reassure our friend, saying that you just can't possibly plan for everything and that grieving can bring out unexpected behaviour from people. We can understand how they felt though. Going through such a hard and sad time, the last thing you want to worry about are things going wrong. Being that there was a strong cultural element to the service as well, there was a lot of obligation and protocol that went with it that just added more stress for the family involved. They were more than relieved when the time came that they could just kick off their shoes and grieve together amongst their closest friends and family.

Overall, it was a sincere service from the family and good to see them all come together during this time. Our friend has had some tough times and family differences in the last year and it was good to see them supporting each other.

We realised after yesterday that, you can never stop learning from a person or situation...even after death or during a time of greatest loss. There will always be an opportunity to be open minded and view things so completely foreign to your norm and appreciate the change of perspective.