This blog post has been on my heart since the funeral. Many of you are or will be going through this process with your parents. With that in mind, I’d like to share ten funeral tips to hopefully help you along the way.
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We buried our beautiful mother on May Day, four short weeks ago.
We laid her to rest on the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, and we smiled at the “coincidence.”
Our mama was truly a worker bee. 🙂
Since then, my heart has been all over the place. On the one hand, I’m happy that she’s gone home! On the other, I miss her…and I worry a lot about my dad.
I’m told that this is a process —that there are many layers to my grief.
Also, though, I’ve been so very busy—writing thank yous, sending graduation announcements, getting countless kids to endless events—that I haven’t had the time I’d like to really unpack all those emotions. Maybe it’s better to leave them bottled up? To keep the tsunami of grief at bay? No, I don’t think that’s the answer, and honestly honestly I’m relieved she’s at peace.
She’s gone ahead to get things ready for us.
1. The first funeral tip is fairly tongue-in-cheek. If at all possible, schedule your funeral during the Easter Season.
The church was beautiful!
Funeral tip Number 2: Find a good funeral home but be aware of hidden costs.
We were very happy with the kindness and care provided by the funeral home director and his staff. They did an amazing job and were so solicitous & organized throughout.
It was very very expensive, however, and I recommend that you look into costs ahead of time. One example? We didn’t need the personalized tissue packets that were placed in all the pews. That was an added expense and those add up.
Tip Number 3: If you are flying in for the funeral and/or staying in a hotel, ask the airline & the hotel if they have bereavement rates. I was given a very good deal when I stayed at the AmericInn in Wahpeton; only $88/night plus tax and believe me…
…having this quiet space waiting for me after the wake was so welcome.
(Note: the atmosphere changed radically when the rest of my family joined me the next day for the funeral! I didn’t mind; I’d really missed them.)
Funeral Tip Number 4: Do take pictures if you’re able.
Frankly I don’t find this morbid at all. On the contrary, even though the soul has left the building, the body is no less lovely.
My mother looked beautiful! And that was such a comfort to me.
I limited myself to taking pictures at the wake because I wanted to be fully present for the funeral. That said, I’m glad to have taken some pictures of my daddy.
They are both heartbreaking and a witness to his great love.
My 5th funeral tip was earned the hard way, I’m afraid: Do try to avoid alcohol during the stressful funeral planning phase. There are tears and taut nerves enough to not add a depressant to the mix.
Tip Number 6 is extremely practical: Don’t crack your head on the rear-view mirror of a truck as you’re walking to the graveside ceremony. I was so caught up in the conversation with my cousins that BAM! Being short, I was the perfect height for collision.
Stunned but still engrossed in the discussion, I was headed straight for another mirror when my cousin Glenn gently intervened. Don’t be like Margaret! Pay attention to your world.
Tip Number 7: Don’t give into bitter or guilt-ridden thinking before, during and after the process.
There is a tendency for the human brain to focus on the negative—to keep a tally, as it were, of rights & wrongs but mostly wrongs. I
found find myself tempted repeatedly to worry. I fret; I judge; I nitpick & condemn. I dwell on what that person did or that person didn’t do…
And it’s pointless.
This “stinking thinking” does my heart no good at all.
My advice (if you can relate to all this) is to call out that negative voice in your head. It’s not you, that voice! At least, it doesn’t have to be. Replace the bad thought with a positive one…
Every. single. stinking. time.
Funeral tip Number 8: Do ask for prayers as much as necessary. This is a spiritual battle and must be fought accordingly! Even if it’s a simple text to a friend saying, “Pray for me right now? I’m really struggling.”
There is strength—great strength—in numbers.
There was one night between the death of my mom and the day of the funeral when I started to fall into deep depression. Guilt and regret began to consume me and I knew that the devil was working overtime. It was frightening! I texted my friend Louise from my women’s group (because we’d just been talking about spiritual warfare) and Michael, the super great guy that has his weekly holy hour right before me.
The dark clouds lifted almost immediately.
Again, this is a spiritual battle.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness…” (Ephesians 6:12)
Tip Number 9: Thank God for the great gift of family & friends because believe me…
…you won’t want to walk this path without them.
Tip Number 10 is perhaps the most important of all:
It’s never easy to say goodbye but the truth is, we weren’t made for this world.
We are all of us on our way to…where? Our faith tells us heaven; our hope keeps us strong; and our love is proof that there’s so much more.
God’s got this, my friend. We just need to let go and let Him.