It’s been a highly emotional week for more than, I would estimate, about ten reasons that I won’t go into in detail but I’m sending love to everyone who’s had a thoroughly terrible one. It’s one thing I think I’m still getting used to, the fact I work on the brink of people’s grief and loss when it is at it’s most profound. Not just that, but now I have an awareness of this outside of work too.
While booking in on Friday I noticed that the aprons were now red, a change from our normal white but not actually a big deal. My colleague handed me one and then declared ‘you have hearts on yours!’. Low and behold, after looking down I did have two little heart shaped holes on either side peeking up at me. The kind of happy coincidence I’m willing to take, but of course also change my apron because the hearts compromise the point of wearing it sadly. Not before documenting it in a photo of course.
Our work in the mortuary is seemingly what I have always wanted to do and what I am made to do. The team around me are all very similar in that we have strong personalities (the fact mine took practically thirty years to appear is irrelevant) and we all are very personable. I think this works because we all can empathise effectively with those around us. Ultimately, I have learnt probably more about talking to and helping people in their lowest of times than anything else I work with.
I find honesty is a huge deal in all communication. You can tailor the language you use to suit a situation but you must always tell the truth. If you think a situation is just a bit shit, then say as much. If you need to tell them something truly awful, then do it with sympathy and candour. Someone appreciates the kind truth more than they do a heartfelt lie.
I’ve learnt a lot about the language to use, about when to say passed or loss and when died or dead is fine. I have also learnt that there are many more occasions when you don’t know and you have to try, but you cannot always get this right. You cannot always say the right thing. But you need to say something. The most heartbreaking thing I have heard those grieving is that no one knows what to say to them so people say nothing at all.
In a world currently screaming out for kindness and acceptance, we need to show kindness in all areas of our life and that includes death. The darker the world gets, please show a little glimmer of light somewhere. If you have a friend that had a relative die, even if it was years ago, ask them about them. Speak about it. You might be starting the conversation they’ve been longing to have but feel as though they can’t. They might also say it’s okay and they’d rather not, but that’s okay too.