When I first started working in this line, one of my goals was to detail my “adventures” as I learn, in hopes that I could look back and chart my growth.
This then led to the birth of this blog series. While I am interested in telling stories based on my own experiences, I have also initiated the big conversation of death with some of my close friends. In these conversations, many of them have raised questions out of curiosity, and in this sub-series of WDYT, the acronym of What Do You Think, I wanted to contemplate these questions. While some of these questions were quite common, others were unique and refreshing. To that end, I hope that my navigating through these questions could help to shed light on some funerary-related issues, or even encourage others to start asking and learning more about life and death.
So for this week, the big question is:
“For people working in the funeral line, do they feel numb when their loved ones pass away?”
I think for everyone, losing a loved one would definitely be painful and grievous, although all of us may have different ways of exhibiting and
channeling these emotions. On the job, I have seen people sobbing uncontrollably, remaining a stoic front, and even punching surrounding objects out of frustration. I have also witnessed grief responses from people of different ages, ranging from young children attending the wake of a parent, to senior citizens who are well into their silver years and have seen many deaths throughout their lives. Nevertheless, I know that facing the death of a loved one is never easy for anyone, because they are bidding farewell to someone with whom they have shared experiences after all. As such, I think even for people working in the funeral line, it is likely that we would still go through the same spectrum of emotions as everyone else when someone close to us passes away.
I think it is understandable if some people expect us to feel numb, or be desensitised to death, given our constant exposure to it. However, it is also important to remember that ultimately we do not know the deceased most of the time. We are unaware of their stories, relationships and hardships. When we are lucky, we would get to hear a little bit about them through their family members. As such, it is possible for us to do our job well without being too emotional. But even then, there were still instances when some of us would be affected. Sometimes it could be anticipated, if the dearly departed is especially young or if the bereaved family is outwardly grieving. Other times, the funeral and cremation would go by in a blur as we facilitated the process, but we would later find ourselves sitting in the car with teary eyes. As our team at Harmony Funeral Care is quite young, this may be a reason as to why we still feel affected by some of the cases we served. However, I think if we could feel sadness, injustice and poignant for strangers, we would definitely be affected when it is any of our loved one’s turn.
Going deeper into this discussion, I think it is also crucial to make the distinction between feeling numb and being calm. For people working in the funeral line, while they may feel a series of strong emotions, they could be better prepared than the average individual when faced with a death. At the very least, they would know who to call to kick start the whole funeral process, or they would handle the case themselves. It is also more common for us to have the conversation of pre-planning a funeral with our loved ones, thus when the time comes, most of the decisions have been made according to our loved ones’ wishes. There are no second-guessing and what-ifs; there is simply no need for them.
On an ending note, I think it is beneficial for us to be more exposed to the concept of death and after-death care, as it is ultimately a phase of life that all of us would go through. For me, I know I will be having these conversations with my family very soon. I would like to think that in this way, when the time comes for me or my loved ones, those who are left behind would then be able to grieve without worries.
your very dedicated Funeral Director Intern representing Harmony Funeral Care – Celine Ho