Recently, I shared a post about my work in the funeral industry. You can read that post here: https://missykuester.com/a-nonanxious-presence-in-a-funeral-home/. One question I often get is “What do you do at the funeral home?” I could list the actual physical things such as greeting visitors, restocking the snacks and drinks, moving flowers, driving the hearse, driving the limo, moving more flowers, etc. But the best answer I can think of is I’m resonsible for creating and holding space for grieving people.
What does it mean to hold space for grieving families?
It’s a great post with tips for creating a safe space.
In my life when walking through a loss with a friend or loved one, I have wanted to create or be a safe place for them. A sudden or profound loss can create a plethora of dynamic emotions. My job is to create a space where a person feels comfortable displaying those emotions without judgment.
Creating a safe space for grieving
At the funeral home, I create a safe space by doing all the things mentioned early. Our emphasis is to remember everything that a grieving family may not think of during the planning and services. We also cater to our families. Whatever they ask for we are open to doing. Consequently, our goal is to make those things happen behind the scenes without fanfare.
Another way we create space for people to grieve is to honor and respect customs whether they be cultural, religious, or family. Rituals are important in the grieving process. I hope to share some of the specific customs and rituals I have personally experienced in subsequent posts.
Have you ever thought about how you respond to someone when they are griveing? Rather than give advice or tell them how they should feel, wouldn’t it be better to just be present, without advice or judgement? Are you a safe space for them in which they can be raw and honest with their feelings of loss?
On April 27, 2011, at the age of 36, Jennifer, my best friend passed away. Something happens to a person when they lose their best friend. I have found in the years following her death, I have tried to live out all the good parts of who she was. Her life influenced me but her death changed me. I still have a best friend but my best friend lives in heaven.
Here is the eulogy I spoke at her funeral with her parents’ blessing.
An Ode to my Woobie
I had the distinct honor of being Jennifer’s best friend. It all started in choir class, in the front row. We struck an unlikely friendship that lasted for over 20 years. My husband has known Jenny since Kindergarten. His first memory of her was that she couldn’t drink the milk and had to get the juice at snack time. He and I have a long history with Jenny.
Jenny was adventurous when I knew her in high school, she kind of scared me. She was falling out of haylofts, breaking bones, and passing out off the back of bleachers long before it was cool to do so. But she kept on being that feisty 16-year old I always knew. She and I have our secrets; we have things out parents don’t even know about. She’s keeping my secrets and I will keep hers. She’s the friend that knows my history and my story. She’s also my Woobie, and there’s a story behind that too. We were at my house playing Scattegories, the category was a pet name you would give someone and the letter was W. Without knowing what the other one had written, we both came up with the same name, Woobie. We had that kind of chemistry.
Jenny was my maid of honor and I was hers. At her wedding, she asked me to sing the song, Friends (by Michael W. Smith). In the song, the words say, “A friend’s a friend forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never ‘cause the welcome will not end.” Our welcome never ended. As I moved away and became the adventurous one I always took her in my pocket. Jenny made me adventurous and it took that spirit to do some of the things I’ve had to do over the years. After every trip, she wanted to know what I had seen and done. She wanted to live the adventure with me.
Jenny saw me bring three beautiful boys into this world. She was their godmother. And she was my ever faithful, cheerleader, and encourager. She loved my boys, prayed for them, and she had a bond with them. She took the job of godmother very seriously.
The one regret I have is that I wasn’t always there for her but I knew she was always in good hands. And no matter how much time or distance, as soon as I stepped foot in her presence it was as if I hadn’t been gone so long. As my life and my friends changed over the years depending on where I lived, she was the one true constant friend I had. And she never made me feel guilty for not being there; in fact, she always told me how proud she was of me.
I take from Jenny her feistiness; I used to be the docile one without an attitude…..I used to but not anymore. I take from her an adventurous spirit, sometimes launching myself off into the unknown just like she did on that rope swing out at the Salamonie Reservoir. I take her willingness to find the good in all people because we’ve all benefitted from that. I take her love of animals, elephants, babies, scrapbooking, her will to fight, and all the words to ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me.’ In return, I hope I’ve given her something. I promise her now that I’ll live a life she would be proud of now and always.
Friends are friends forever
“I wish you were here, but you’re in Heaven. Heaven doesn’t know how lucky it is to have you.”-author unknown.
I realize now that I took having her here on earth for granted. She was my first call when something wonderful happened. My enemies were hers’s and she didn’t need to know the details. If I didn’t like someone, she wasn’t going to like them either. If I was mad, she was madder. She hated injustice of any kind. She was loyal like that. Without going into great detail, Jenny had a host of medical issues, mostly those dealing with her immune system. She was in and out of the hospital for most of her adult life. Like all the times before, I just assumed she would fight, recover, and call to tell me she was feeling better. But that didn’t happen.
Every day is how often I miss her
I honestly believe that God gives you one best friend in life. I miss Jenny every damn day. Today (July 1st) is her birthday. Every year, I like to do something she would want to do. As much as I want to call her on the phone, I can’t. However, I know that she’ll send me a beautiful sunrise, a favorite memory, or she’ll send me on some adventure. Nonetheless, I will celebrate her today and be thankful that I had her in my life for 20 years.
Everyone should have a best friend like Jenny in their lives. Mine just happens to be in heaven.
“Though it’s hard to let you go, in the Father’s hands we know that a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.” I promise you, Jenny, we will always be best friends and you’ll always be my Woobie, death cannot change that.