When you think about what your final wishes are, if you have thought about it, what comes to mind? A traditional, open-casket funeral with everyone you ever knew in attendance? A small, private affair with just your family? Or maybe you tell yourself, “I don’t want to burden the people I care about, I’ll just be cremated and not make a fuss about it.”
Regardless of your preferences, it will be your family who has to take care of all the details. An important question to ask yourself is, “What will my family need the day I die?” The answer isn’t how big or small or simple or elaborate you want your end-of-life plans to be. But valuable insights lie in the Acute Loss Period.
The Acute Loss Period is the period of time from when a person hears about a loved one’s death to the beginning of grieving. Knowing what a person experiences and what their emotional, relational, and spiritual needs are during this time can help you think about how your plans, or most importantly, a lack of them, will impact the people you love when the time comes.
This is the moment we hear the news that someone we know or love has died. It is often met with disbelief, whether or not the death was expected. It is difficult to accept the reality that someone we love is gone forever.
After hearing the news, the first thing we do is to call the people who are closest to us. These are the people who comfort and support us, and each call we make reminds us that we don’t have to go through this alone, allowing us to begin coping with our emotional needs.
Seeing and touching the body of a loved one for the last time can seem scary. But it allows the people closest to the deceased to internalize their loss and begin accepting it as reality. Our senses help us interpret the world around us, and it is no different in loss. At French Funerals, we encourage families to hold a viewing for their loved one. Although it can be one of the hardest things they’ll ever do, in the end it will profoundly help them heal.
Soon after the death, immediate family and close friends will meet together at someone’s house or a funeral home to talk about what to do next. They will determine how to handle their loved one’s body and what type of service will take place. This phase includes calling extended family and friends together, collecting memorabilia, and taking time to process their loss and prepare for connecting with more people in the near future.
The adage, “Funerals are for the living,” may sound cliché, but it’s very true. The first question many people ask when they’re told someone they know has died is, “When are services being held?” People have a need to come together to share in their grief, share stories and memories of the deceased, give their support, and find comfort in their shared heritage and friendships. When a family or individual chooses not to hold some type of gathering, the bereaved are deprived of a crucial step in healing and of the opportunity to say goodbye and share in their grief.
As family and friends share memories of the deceased, each will contemplate the meaning and significance of their relationship to them. Thinking about their life with their loved one can help make sense of their loss, their grief, and their new life without them. Having a permanent place where families and friends can come back to over and over to reflect can be deeply healing. This is why gravestones, tombs, plaques, statues, and monuments exist: to provide a physical remembrance of the people we’ve lost that lasts forever.
Lastly, people come to a place of celebration. It is then where joy and appreciation for both the life and its loss are found, when we recognize the significance of loss in the beauty and preciousness of life, and the value of love.
By learning about each stage of loss and recognizing the needs of the individuals going through it, it is possible to reflect on one’s own family’s needs and how to provide them the best possible experience when the time comes. Although many people think foregoing their own funeral or memorial service will remove a burden from their loved one’s shoulders, doing so also removes their opportunity to connect with others, grieve healthily, and honor the life of someone who had a profound impact on their own. By making arrangements in advance, you can provide your family with an incredible gift. Preplanning guarantees a chance to say goodbye with their community around them, and spares them the logistical and financial duties of planning at an already difficult time.