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Helping You Through the Loss of a Spouse From Trusted Saskatoon Funeral Home

Since 1910, Saskatoon Funeral Home has responded to the needs of Saskatoon & area citizens of every faith and every walk of life. They have a proud history as Saskatoon's longest-serving, local, family-owned and operated, full-service funeral and cremation provider to trace its roots to the beginning days of our city. Saskatoon Funeral Home are a Trusted Saskatoon funeral home. 

The Loss of a Spouse 

By Dr. Bill Webster

A 50/50 chance, to any gambler, is a pretty good bet. But did you ever stop to think that if you are in a significant relationship, there is a 50/50 chance that you will eventually grieve the loss of your partner.

Listen to some of the stories of people who experienced the loss of a spouse.

“I would go to work and it would seem that everything was the same as it had always been. But then I would come home. WOW! Just walking into that empty house. Nobody to say hello or ask me how I got on that day. No delicious aroma of supper in the oven. I had to make my own meal … when I felt like it … and most of the time I didn’t … because I was missing what I had lost … not just my wife, but also the person who used to look after me. That was when it hit me hardest.”  Michael
“The days that followed his death were both utterly full and completely empty … full of activity yet empty of life. Much of the time I sleep walked through the things I had to do, so numb that I was often completely unaware of what was going on around me. I felt like Pinocchio must have felt inside of the whale … cut off from everything that I thought was my life. Then an event or a few spoken words would bring me out of my darkness, only to find myself standing alone and confused on some strange and unfamiliar shore, full of feelings and memories, but also feeling utterly lost.”   Robyn
“She was not only my wife. She was also the one who would tell me if my socks matched; if my tie was straight, or if my hair was combed. She was able to tell me with one look if I was talking too much or saying something stupid. She was the one who would remember all the birthdays and special occasions, and all I had to do was sign cards. She was good at all the things I am not good at. So she complemented me and made me more whole. God, I miss her so much. I feel like part of me is missing.”  Joe

A common theme among people who have lost their spouse is the debilitating effects of feeling entirely alone and incomplete. The sense of feeling like you have lost an essential part of yourself is both painful and disconcerting. The world suddenly looks like a different place, often odd and distanced. You are not sure how to cope with life in general, and sometimes you may even wonder if you even want to try.

One 68 year old widow said, “There is no use trying because you can’t get anywhere anyway. I’m so tired all the time. Everything is too much effort.”

Some of the most common feelings and concerns after the loss of a spouse are reflected in the following statements:

          I felt like I had lost my best friend
          I am angry.
          I feel guilty that I didn’t do enough for him/her.
          I am afraid.
          I worry about lots of things, especially money.
          Suddenly I feel very old.
          I feel sick all the time.
          I think about my own death more frequently.
          I seem to be going through an identity crisis.
          I feel relieved that his suffering is over, then immediately guilty for feeling that way.

Behind each of these statements is a feeling. To fully understand the effects that the loss of that spouse has on that survivor, we need to understand the dynamics behind each of these reactions. The feeling communicates what the person is missing and offers an opportunity to examine the deficiency and find ways to cope with these responses in a way which will ultimately facilitate healing.

First, it is essential to recognize that healing cannot take place unless you EXPRESS what you are feeling and thinking as a result of your loss. That which cannot be put into words, cannot be put to rest. This is where a support group can play such a vital role for grieving people. The opportunity to talk about the person, their life as well as their death, what you miss about them, your feelings of loneliness, anger and many others, and to review the final days of their life and your relationship.

Even when there is some ambivalence about certain aspects of the life shared, it is important to verbalize your anger or your regret about what you lost and never had, or about what could or should have been.

There are some very real consequences from not expressing feelings. Studies clearly show that mortality rates are higher among those who do not articulate their grief, and this may also account for the much higher rate of males who die within a year of their spouse, due to the societal norms that make it more difficult for men to express emotions.

Some survivors ask, “How long should I talk about this? What is normal?” This concern is often motivated by the fact that within a few weeks or months of the death, others seem reluctant to talk about it. After all, their life has returned to normal. But the widow or widower needs to talk about it, because it just feels unbelievable. Life will never be “normal” again (even though a new definition of normality will be established eventually). So some grieving people need to talk for six months, but for others it can be two years or longer. Everyone needs and deserves to follow their own time line.

Over the years, I have noted FOUR situations particularly affecting grieving spouses that require an inordinate amount of personal courage:

          1. Coping with persistent unpleasant memories
          2. Avoiding certain rooms or situations in the house
          3. Experiencing hallucinations where the dead spouse is seen or heard
          4. Dealing with their spouse’s personal effects (clothes, tools, etc.)

Unpleasant memories most often relate to the painful images surrounding the death, and the frustration of not being able to “do” anything to change the outcome. Often through a life-threatening illness, a relationship will peak in one direction or another … a good relationship will tend to get better, a poor relationship will tend to get worse … although there are glorious exceptions. This intensity of the relationship prior to the death magnifies the loss, either by the person missing all the things done and shared through the illness, or by feelings of regret that they did not do enough. Often the inability of the survivor to “let go” of the image of the person in the present is connected to one or other of these factors.

If the person is avoiding sleeping in their own bed, or steering clear of certain areas of the house, this behavior should not be considered unusual or pathological. They are merely protecting themselves from stress. There is a reason for every behavior and perhaps that location is a too painful reminder of the death, or expresses a concern as to “how will I manage”.

Hallucinations (or however we choose to define these experiences) have a wide range of “explanations”. Is it a “visitation of the person’s spirit”, or is it a “product of sensory recall”. I try not to attempt to explain what it may or may not be, but rather to ask how the survivor felt after the experience. And almost always, the person feels reassured, relieved, comforted. If that is the effect, it hardly matters whether it is a dream, a hallucination or a visitation, and to argue that seems to me to miss the point.

Dealing with a spouse’s personal effects is something many survivors procrastinate over. Sometimes this has to do with an understandably low physical energy and emotional stamina. Because these are “special things” you may not know who to give them to or what to do with them. That is OK.

Do nothing until you are SURE that you feel comfortable with what will happen, even if that takes several months or longer. But when you do decide, ask a friend or family member to assist, or even just to be there and talk to you while you do it. Maybe there will be things that you simply do not want to discard or give away so keep them. Remember, it doesn’t hurt anyone or anything to leave your spouse’s things right where they are. Don’t allow anyone to force you into dealing with things until you are ready, sure and comfortable.

So far we have looked at some of the unique challenges surrounding the loss of a spouse.

Now we turn to examine how the surviving individual must convert the mourning process into a nurturing process as they seek to rebuild and reorganize a life where they feel like a half of them is missing.

I believe that an often overlooked aspect of losing a spouse is the change in identity the survivor experiences. We tend to define ourselves by our relationships, our work, our activities and involvements. Many couples define themselves as just that … a couple. It is not ME, it is WE. Admittedly the degree of change will be determined by the complexity of the relationship. But we really cannot understand what any person has lost until we understand the relationship that was shared and is now lost. What is missing from that relationship is really what the person is grieving. And, obviously, every single relationship is unique, with different dynamics and interaction.

So it is reasonable to say that the more dependency the person had on their spouse and the role as husband or wife, the greater the void now that the role is no longer there.

In other words, the surviving spouse not only grieves the person who has died, they also grieve the role that is lost. They suddenly find themselves cast into the role of being a “widow” or a “widower”, a role they neither relish nor desire. The question becomes, “Who am I now?” I still feel like the same person, but my roles in the family, community have changed. This, by the way is often why a grieving spouse will find comfort in getting back to work, because at least THERE, their role remains somewhat “constant” in that familiar context.

Of course, reclaiming ones self is only possible when you know who your “self” IS. Before you are able to reclaim, you have to identify and redefine, “Who am I NOW” in the light of my loss. The W of WE has to become the M of ME … but turning a W to an M means turning everything upside down, and that is exactly what the widowed person may feel.

So how can a grieving widow or widower redefine themselves? I think it is inextricably linked to interests and experiences. People who get involved, whether in necessary tasks like looking after children, family or work, or by involvements in the community, groups, activities, find that these things increase self esteem and energy as they enhance the person’s identity.

But let’s take a walk on the wild side. Although it is grossly unfair, the widower is often viewed as more “socially acceptable” than the widow. Because the percentage of widows greatly exceeds that of widowers, males are regarded as “eligible” whereas females are regarded as a “threat”. Accordingly, hostesses more frequently extend social invitations to males than to females, so a widow’s social life may not be as jam-packed.

On the other hand, because many men rely on their wives to arrange social activities, after her death it may be difficult to go out without her, to develop social skills, or to put forth the effort that he will need to enjoy the pleasure of other people’s company. Again, social clubs or support groups can provide a good bridge to help the person develop skills, or at least feel more comfortable in such situations. Michael, almost a year after his wife died, said:

“I think the difference between a male’s grief and that of a female is a cultural thing. Men are not as social as women. I mean I have friends, but when we sit down for a drink or something we talk about business or sports or activities. Men aren’t really taught to relate their feelings, or emotions, and certainly not their vulnerabilities. So when my wife died, my friends didn’t know what to say, as if they were afraid to ask me how I was feeling.”

Physical health is another area that concerns many people. Suppressed emotions can contribute to physiological symptoms, which can have serious consequences. Health doesn’t just happen! It involves exercise, good nutrition, avoiding excessive intake of caffeine, alcohol or drugs. Some survivors live on coffee or snack foods and rarely eat a balanced meal.

“The last thing in the world I wanted to do was eat. Everyone kept urging me to “eat something” so if someone was there or watching me, I would eat something to please them. But when I was alone, I ate nothing. In the first month after my husband’s death, I lost 20 pounds. It wasn’t till I started walking daily with my neighbor that my normal appetite returned.”

Insomnia is one of the major symptoms resulting from conjugal bereavement. This can be aided by what we do and what we consume in the hours before going to bed. But many males experience other physical symptoms. Again Michael brings an important insight:

“I’ve noticed some changes in my health. Particularly in my stomach … pains, indigestion, and other symptoms I won’t mention in polite company. My doctor put me through tests, which I think was a good thing to do, but he indicated that often men experience physiological reactions to the emotional stress of grief. That doesn’t minimize their importance. Maybe it’s easier for us to say “I have a pain in my stomach” than it is to say, “I have an ache in my heart.” But whatever it is, it is important to pay attention to the message.”

It may seem strange, but several people have reported to me how changing their physical environment has helped their emotional state. We should all from time to time look around our environment … at home, at work. Many times that can reflect our emotional state. A cluttered, untidy or dismal environment can often reflect a state of mind. But the opposite is also true.

Change usually happens from the inside out rather than the other way. The more you do to enhance your environment, making it cheerful and pleasant, the more your emotional health will be positively influenced.

While everyone is different, I found after my own wife died, and I was left to raise my two young sons, that I had to carefully arrange the surroundings in my home in order to better cope. I put lots of colorful and happy things in the kitchen, because that was where I had my biggest struggles after her death. I put positive, inspiring posters and items in the bedroom, because that was where I felt most lonely. I had ONE room where I had pictures and artifacts of our life together, and when I wanted to think about her, that is where I would go. When I left that room, I closed the door and focused on all the tasks I had to get on with.

Add color, brighten the place, tidy up a space for yourself, buy a new chair … the ways to make your daily living more pleasant are innumerable and the positive impact on your emotional well being will be tangible.

There is of course no definite point at which the grieving process is complete. Can we ever say, “I have completely healed from the loss of my spouse”? Who knows!

But as we redefine ourselves; as we relinquish old roles and establish new ones; as we develop increasing confidence in our social outlets that satisfy personal needs and coincide with our interests; as we become more able to

talk about our loss with relative ease; as we become able to be involved in an activity without being plagued by painful memories and images, as we find ourselves more able to reach out to others, and not be afraid to have fun and even to laugh again; you will be reassured that healing is being reaffirmed.

But it does take time. As one lady put it:

“A year was a big event for me. But once I got through that, I felt like I didn’t have to look back. Now I could look forward to see what I could do with what I had left. So I asked myself “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” I want to do something significant but I’m not exactly sure what just yet. For the first time in my life I can do whatever I want and I plan to make the most of it.”

And why not?

Visit their website to learn more about pre-planning a funeral and grief support, as well as the traditional funeral and cremation services that they have to offer. They are always there to help. Check out their listing on Trusted Saskatoon to read more reviews and to see all the services they offer. 

Saskatoon Funeral Home is your Trusted Saskatoon funeral home. 

Understanding Bereavement By Trusted Saskatoon Funeral Home

Since 1910, Saskatoon Funeral Home has responded to the needs of Saskatoon & area citizens of every faith and every walk of life. They have a proud history as Saskatoon's longest-serving, local, family-owned and operated, full-service funeral and cremation provider to trace its roots to the beginning days of our city. Saskatoon Funeral Home are a Trusted Saskatoon funeral home. 

Understanding Bereavement

How are we to understand bereavement?

Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to explain it. Perhaps the most influential and well-known theory has been that of Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying” focused on an emotional transition through five stages, beginning with denial and progressing through anger, bargaining and depression before arriving at acceptance. The “stage theory,” as it came to be known, quickly created a paradigm for how people die in our western culture, and eventually a prototype of how we should grieve.

The trouble is that stage theories of grief that make loss sound so controllable turns out largely to be fiction. Though Kübler-Ross captured the range of emotions that mourners experience, more recent research suggests that grief and mourning rarely if ever follow such a checklist; the process of grief is often complicated, untidy and unpredictable, more of a process than a progression, and one that sometimes never fully ends.

Even Dr. Kübler-Ross herself, towards the end of her life, recognized how far astray our understanding of grief had gone. In her book “On Grief and Grieving” (1995) she insisted that the stages were “never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages.” If her injunction went unheeded, perhaps it is because that very messiness of grief is what makes us all so uncomfortable.

The implied suggestion of many traditional grief models seems to be that the person suffering a loss simply has to go through the inevitable process, wait it out, “see it through,” on the assumption that “time heals all wounds,” and that eventually “in time,” they will “get over it.” This would seem to suggest that in the emotional aftermath of a loss, bereaved individuals are essentially passive, having to simply submit to suffering through a series of stages or a certain structured grief system over a defined period of time and incidentally over which they have little or no control and in which there is not much choice. 

But this is not what people actually experience after bereavement. We cannot understand the grief process ONLY by some “timeline” system or “set formula” whereby a person goes passively through certain emotions, stages, phases or reactions in order to somehow eventually arrive at this destination we erroneously call acceptance.

So, consider this foundational fact: 

We cannot understand bereavement and every individual response to it unless we appreciate how each bereaved person’s world has been forever changed by the loss.

I am suggesting a different paradigm, another way of thinking about our topic. The main focus should not primarily be (as it so often is) on a person’s emotional reactions, or on their behaviours or manifestations of grief, and more specifically how we can “control” these in order to get things “back to normal.” Those who focus on these considerations are trying to “fix” a situation that simply cannot be fixed; trying to get “back to normal” something that has changed forever.

Losing someone we love is often likened to an amputation. But even this analogy tends to be too clinical. The word bereavement comes from the root word “reave” that literally means being torn apart. Losing a loved one has been described as being like a branch that is torn off a limb, not in some nice sanitized surgical way, but literally being ripped away. The emotional and behavioural reactions of the grieving person should be seen as symptoms of this unwelcome change.

I am suggesting that we serve people better if we focus on the significance of this bereavement to the individual rather than on the substance of their specific reaction to the bereavement. Rather than concentrating on the reactions of grieving people and then quantifying their responses, we need to ask the “why” of these reactions. We must understand the meaning of the loss to this individual, which I suggest is being “expressed” through their specific emotions and uniquely individual behaviours.

In other words, the emotions and reactions of grief should be seen symptomatically as behaviours in response to and in protest of the need to search for meaning in what has become a new and unwelcome world. This is the crucial point in understanding bereavement, one which many people do not recognize, understand or perceive. The task is to help the bereaved and grieving person locate themselves in a world that they know nothing about, and that they, and indeed WE, cannot fully understand.

Put simply, instead of trying to get people back to normal by seeking to resolve and rectify their emotions and behaviours, we should rather regard these reactions as a symptom of the much deeper issue, namely, “My world has changed … and I don’t like it.” Grief is a protest against something I didn’t want, don’t like, but can’t change. And the challenge for the helper is in enabling them to come to terms with this new albeit unwelcome reality by beginning to form appropriate new patterns of emotion and behaviour.

We would probably all agree that, in one way, bereavement is a “choiceless event.” Few if any would choose to lose those they love, or suffer through the other life losses that inevitably affect us. Even when the death is “by choice” such as a suicide, the incident is usually “choiceless” for survivors who wish they could have “done something” to change the outcome and feel guilt and regret because that option was not made available to them. Thus, bereavement is an unwelcome intruder in our lives, one which refuses to retreat despite our impassioned protests.

But, from another perspective, while the loss may be a reality we are powerless to avert, the experience of grieving itself involves hundreds of concrete choices that the bereaved person is invited or forced to make, or indeed avoid. It is in another way a call for us to change. To go with it, or to resist the process. We have a choice of whether to attend to the distress occasioned by the loss or to avoid the pain by “keeping busy” or “trying not to think about it,” which is an impossible task, by the way. We have a choice as to whether to feel and explore the grief of our loved one’s absence or to suppress our private pain and focus instead on simply trying to adjust to a changed external reality. Loss may be inevitable, but what we DO about it is optional. We may not have a choice in what has happened, but we do have a choice in what we do about it.

Foundational Fact: Grieving is something we do, not something that is done to us.

We need to gain a better understanding of not only “what” people experience after a loss, but also “why” grief affects people so uniquely and individually. We have come to realize that people do not passively and inevitably go through a series of stages or tasks. Rather the grief process involves many choices, with numerous possible options to approach or avoid the situation at hand.

In other words, any good paradigm of grief will not simply propose some futile attempt to re-establish pre-loss patterns of emotion or behaviour, expressed in comments like “getting back to normal.” Life has changed and will never be the same again! But that does not mean it cannot be good. The challenge is how we can support the person in integrating these changes into their life as it now is.

Perhaps we can illustrate it this way. We all write a script for our lives. I remember writing the screenplay for my life when I was a teenager. As the main character in the production, my draft scenario included going to school and university, having a career, meeting and marrying the most beautiful woman in the world. As the plot progressed, we would work hard, have children, do things as a family and when the kids were grown we would travel, then retire, and ride off into the sunset together. Think about YOUR script… most of us have one.

Every human being constructs a unique world of meaning. We all make assumptions about “how life is going to be” in the course of daily living. We are sustained by the network of explanations, expectations and enactments that shape our lives with ourselves and others. These assumptions provide us with a basic sense of order regarding our past, awareness regarding our current relationships and predictability regarding our future.

And most of us, at the end of the script, whatever the final details, add the words … “and they lived happily ever after.” Because that is what most of us would like to think is going to happen. While the particulars may change from time to time, we all want to think that life will be orderly, predictable, and go “according to the script.”

But sometimes life does not go according to the script. Not everything works out the way we planned. And then we find ourselves struggling to come to terms with “the grief of unmet expectations.” Any loss can be interpreted as disrupting the continuity of this assumed narrative. When this occurs, we have one of two choices: either we revise the plot by rewriting the script and assimilating the loss into pre-existing frameworks of meaning, ultimately reasserting or justifying the viability of our pre-existing belief system; or we accommodate our life narrative to correspond more closely to what we perceive as a changed reality in the violation of our assumptive world. 

It is vitally important to realize that “who we are” is determined not just by genetic makeup, but also by our experiences and how we allow them to affect us. In this statement we find an important key for life and living. We do not have a choice in how we are born and our genetic or cultural influence. We may have a choice over some difficult events and negative experiences that affect us. Stuff happens! But while we may not have a choice over certain circumstances, we do have a choice about how we are going to allow them to affect us. The key is in enabling people to make good choices about what they are going to “do” about what has happened.

So, we need to place the loss in a context of meaning. We can do this in one of two ways. First we can reaffirm what we formerly believed about life; or secondly, we can establish a new belief system about the meaning of life. In other words, does this experience make sense according to what I believed about life before or do I have to adapt my way of interpreting how life can be meaningful. The challenge is to find ways to integrate the experience into life as it now is, and to adopt new assumptions about our world which has been shaken and even violated by the loss.

The implication of this idea for caregivers, families and those seeking to support grieving people is that we need to recognize the unique and personal meanings of loss which will take us beyond clichéd expressions of support or preconceived ideas of what a particular loss “feels like” to any given griever. The particularity of any loss should prompt us to listen intently for clues as to the unique significance of the bereavement experience for each individual. 

Thus I contend that helping people through the grief of bereavement is not simply a matter of understanding the emotions that they may be expressing. Rather it involves supporting them through a reinterpretation of “how life can be meaningful even in the light of loss,” and empowering them to define life as it now is and to find ways to make the most of what they have left.

Visit their website to learn more about pre-planning a funeral and grief support, as well as the traditional funeral and cremation services that they have to offer. They are always there to help. Check out their listing on Trusted Saskatoon to read more reviews and to see all the services they offer. 

Saskatoon Funeral Home is your Trusted Saskatoon funeral home. 

Trusted Saskatoon Funeral Home Share How to Help Someone Who is Grieving

Since 1910, Saskatoon Funeral Home has responded to the needs of Saskatoon & area citizens of every faith and every walk of life. They have a proud history as Saskatoon's longest-serving, local, family-owned and operated, full-service funeral and cremation provider to trace its roots to the beginning days of our city. Saskatoon Funeral Home are a Trusted Saskatoon funeral home. 

How to Help Someone Who is Grieving

By Dr. Bill Webster

I’d love to help but I just don’t know what to say or what I should do.  I am sure many of us can identify with such sentiments.  We hear that a friend or a neighbor has had a loss.  Our hearts immediately go out to them and we long to be of some comfort or assistance but we just don’t know what to do or what to say.  Often because we are afraid or unable to raise the subject we may say nothing.  To the grieving person it may seem as if there is little understanding or support.

Here are eight practical suggestions as to how we can help in a positive and constructive way people who have a loss and support them in their time of need.

1)      Be there.

Our initial reaction is often “What can I do?” and it is a wonderful one.  Most of us want to do something to help take away the pain of loss.   People will offer all kinds of practical help such as bringing in food, looking after children and many other examples.  Yet often what is needed is for people to be not just to do.  As helpers we should take the initiative and make contact.  Remember the griever is in shock and isn’t functioning very well.  They may not be able to respond to your sincere offers to “Let me know if there’s anything I can do?”  They may not know what they need.  The first thing is to reach out, establish contact and be there.  Don’t worry about what you’re going to say or do.  It may come as a surprise but I actually remember very little of what was said to me at the funeral home.  What I do remember is that certain people were there and their presence made all the difference.  Just be yourself.  The gift of presence is most important to people in grief.

2)      Please listen.

One of the healthy things in the days before a funeral is the opportunity for people to talk about the dead person and the events surrounding the death.  Unfortunately that process often ends shortly after the funeral service.  Research has shown that the most significant factor in the failure of grief resolution is the absence or inappropriateness of social support.  Put simply people need to talk … which means others need to listen.  In fact it is better to say people need to talk and talk and have repeated opportunities to review and relive the person’s life and death.  You may find they repeat the same story over and over.  Encourage this.  Difficult as it may be for the listener because each reliving of these events is another strand of the chord that is cut.  Care enough to find out about the person’s grief.  Give them permission to talk with questions like: Can you tell me a little about the death?  What happened?  Tell me about him/her.  How did you meet?  What was he/she like?  What has been happening since the death?  How have you found things?  How are you feeling?  What are some of the struggles or challenges?   Know when to close your mouth and when to open your ears.  Simple listening skills such as maintaining eye contact, leaning forward and nodding your head can encourage the griever to open up.  The unspoken messages “You’re important and what you are saying is important, and I want to hear everything you’re telling me.”

3)      Interpret “Normal” Behavior.

It is important to understand what grief is and how it manifests itself.  Only then will we know what is normal.  Grief is an emotional response to a significant loss.  It manifests itself in many different ways, in greater or lesser degrees and in various combinations. In simple terms, grief is unpredictable. This is what makes normality so difficult to define or neatly package. What is normal? Why can two different people react to grief in completely different ways and both be considered normal?  Our grief response is a unique blending of numerous emotions. Some of these include shock, disbelief, numbness, crying, confusion, anxiety, depression, guilt, anger, loneliness, despair, sadness, helplessness, frustration, irritability, resentment, fatigue, sleep disruptions, physical symptoms, and lowered self‑esteem. All these emotions are normal. People in grief, not understanding this emotional explosion they may be experiencing often think they are going crazy. They aren’t! They are normal. They may need some help to work through all their feelings, but that’s OK. You may not be a doctor or a psychologist, but if you can help people to see they are normal in their feelings of grief, you will bring the best medicine. By the way there are other messages in this series that will help you understand the grief process more fully.

4)      Legitimize Grief Feelings:

I try never to say “I know how you feel” to anyone, because I don’t. How can I know how they feel. All I know is how I felt when grief touched my life. People say these words with good intentions, but the grieving person often does not appreciate them. To say I know how a person feels somehow minimizes their experience. The loss is unique to the griever. The feelings of grief are unique, influenced by many factors around the relationship, and the circumstances. Sure, I lost my wife, and I remember how that felt…but someone else may be feeling something quite different, and we need to validate that. We need to let the person know it is OK to grieve. Grief is confusing to people for many reasons. It manifests itself in some seemingly unusual and uncharacteristic behaviors. The messages people sometimes get is that they should “be strong” . They may be looking for permission to grieve. They are asking us in hidden ways if it is safe to express to us what they are REALLY feeling. To tell a person NOT to cry when tears fill the eyes is to deny permission to grieve. To say that they must be strong, or that life must go on, or even to quickly change the subject to something more cheerful, gives the message that the grief and the feelings are not acceptable to us. Maybe we are simply saying we can’t handle it, which is fair enough. But if we do want to be a support, we need to assure them that we don’t mind if they cry, or rant and rave, or show anger, or display any of the emotions associated with grief. Let people know that you accept them as they are in this time…that you accept their weakness and vulnerability…that you are not trying to “fix” them or indicating they should be doing better. There is often a critical moment between friends when the voice cracks, the mouth quivers, and tears come to the eyes. In that moment, Say little or nothing, but reach out, touch the person, perhaps by a gentle hand on the arm, and let them know that it is OK to let it go and express the grief that is being felt.

5)      Tolerate Angry Responses:

Be prepared for the fact that you may be the focus of some angry reactions or outbursts. It is not necessarily a reflection on you or the things you are attempting to do. Don’t get angry in return or give up on the person when this happens. The problem with anger is that it doesn’t always get focused in the right direction. Grievers may be angry with doctors, ministers, funeral directors, friends…in fact almost anyone. And they are angry for one simple reason. We cannot give them what they want the most. Namely the return of the person they have lost. Something has happened that cannot be changed, much as we would like to. The feelings of helplessness around such a situation lead people to be angry. They are angry because they have been left. But where do they focus that anger. On whoever happens to be in the line of fire when the frustration overflows. We have to be clear here. The person is not angry at us, hard as it may be to be objective. We have to be realistic about the help we can offer. We cannot take the pain away from the person. Despite our best efforts, we cannot rectify the situation to their satisfaction. That does not mean we can do nothing…it just means we have to be realistic.

6)      Give the Griever Hope:

While not minimizing the pain and difficulty of grief, we need to give the griever hope. Hope that someday the pain will subside. Hope that life will have meaning again. Hope that God has a purpose in all this, even though we may not see it right now. Hope that someday life will make sense again. Such a feeling of hope will bring comfort, the realization that things will get better, and that they will find the grace and the strength to carry on.  This is why support groups can be so helpful. They show people whose loss is recent that others have survived the anguish and the agony, and are finding new meanings for their life. While the newly bereaved may not feel it at the time, seeing that there is a possibility of recovery is a glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. Giving the mourner hope involves constantly reassuring them that as long as they work at it with courage, the pain will subside and life will go on. It may be a reminder that strength is often made perfect in weakness. But the confidence we place in the person that they will make it will give them courage and confidence in times when self doubts assail.

Always remember that Grief Takes Time. Not everyone goes through the same process, and none at the identical pace. More often than not, grief takes much more time than society has realized or allowed. We have often forced unrealistic expectations on people who have had a loss. We expect them to be “over it in a relatively short time. While it is commonly accepted that the intense reactions of grief will subside within six to twelve months, it is also widely acknowledged that some things may take years to be resolved. It is up to the grieving person to set the pace for their own journey. We of their friends and family can only walk with them on that journey. We can’t fix people or try to make their decisions for them, or try to set the pace for their journey. But we can be with them. We can walk alongside and let them know they are not alone. They have a friend, and they will be thankful for that and for us. We will have made a difference in someone’s life.

And, after all that is the greatest reward.

Visit their website to learn more about pre-planning a funeral and grief support, as well as the traditional funeral and cremation services that they have to offer. They are always there to help. Check out their listing on Trusted Saskatoon to read more reviews and to see all the services they offer. 

Saskatoon Funeral Home is your Trusted Saskatoon funeral home. 

Trusted Saskatoon Funeral Home Discuss The Importance of Memorialization & Talking About What Matters Most

Since 1910, Saskatoon Funeral Home has responded to the needs of Saskatoon & area citizens of every faith and every walk of life. They have a proud history as Saskatoon's longest-serving, local, family-owned and operated, full-service funeral and cremation provider to trace its roots to the beginning days of our city. Saskatoon Funeral Home are a Trusted Saskatoon funeral home. 

Have The Talk Of A Lifetime

Through meaningful memorialization – that is, taking time to reflect on the unique life of a loved one and remember the difference they made – families and friends take an important step in the journey toward healing after death.

People talk about many things with their loved ones: from day-to-day details to big events. Sharing stories with those who matter most isn’t just important today; it will be especially significant when it’s time to commemorate a life. Herman-Taylor Funeral Home and Cremation Center is proud to announce its participation in Have the Talk of a LifetimeSM, a national effort to encourage families to have conversations about life and what matters most. These discussions can help families make important decisions about how they wish to remember and honor the lives of their loved ones.

Individuals and their families have more options than even before for memorializing their loved one at the end of life. From simple to very elaborate, there are a variety of ways a family can honor their loved one in a personal and meaningful way.

Memorialization is so much more than it used to be. It can reflect a person’s life story – their values, interests and experiences – and be transformative, healing and comforting. Meaningful memorialization starts when loved ones talk about what matters most: memories made, lessons learned and how they hope to be remembered.

Informational Brochure

We are pleased to offer families in the community a free brochure here, Have the Talk of a Lifetime, that will help you begin a conversation about life. We encourage you as you ‘have the talk” with your loved ones. Please call us if we can help you or if we can provide additional information about your memorialization options.

Visit their website to learn more about pre-planning a funeral and grief support, as well as the traditional funeral and cremation services that they have to offer. They are always there to help. Check out their listing on Trusted Saskatoon to read more reviews and to see all the services they offer. 

Saskatoon Funeral Home is your Trusted Saskatoon funeral home. 

Planning A Meaningful Tribute By Trusted Saskatoon Funeral Home

Since 1910, Saskatoon Funeral Home has responded to the needs of Saskatoon & area citizens of every faith and every walk of life. They have a proud history as Saskatoon's longest-serving, local, family-owned and operated, full-service funeral and cremation provider to trace its roots to the beginning days of our city. Saskatoon Funeral Home are a Trusted Saskatoon funeral home. 

Planning A Meaningful Tribute

This article is intended to increase your confidence in your ability to plan a meaningful tribute for others – or, for that matter, yourself. A funeral honours a life that has been lived; shares the burden of loss and mourning with others, and allows people to reflect on their own beliefs and mortality. Culture, personal beliefs, and circumstances all affect our decisions.

Often, the best place to start is to contact your local funeral home and/or your clergy. Most funerals contain some or all of the following elements, with room for changes to celebrate the life of the individual in your own unique way.

1. Visitation

This is the opportunity to be with those who grieve, and to be with the person who died. It can be the hardest thing to do – but many experts agree that the visitation is the most personally meaningful step in coming to terms with death. Consider:

  • Special music
  • Placing a private letter or special object in the casket
  • Sharing favourite memories
  • Special clothing that best depicts how you remember the deceases
  • Photos

2. Service Opening 

This is the start of the ceremony, which states the purpose of the gathering and sets the tone for the ceremony. Consider: 

  • Family members/friends light candles
  • Special processional music
  • Placing a flower by the urn or on the casket
  • Special person acts as the urn bearer
  • Formal religious receiving and processional
  • Meaningful opening statement

3. Readings

These may be readings from religious scripture or from other inspirational sources. Consider: 

  • A passage or poem which captures the unique life and philosophies of the deceased
  • Something the deceased has written, such as a poem or cherished letter
  • Reading by a friend or relative
  • A recording of a reading, such as an excerpt from a play
  • Responsorial readings, which allow those in attendance to participate

4. Music 

Music, like the readings, expresses our emotions and beliefs. It is a powerful medium which is both personal and universal. Consider:

  • A performance, such as an instrumental or vocal selection
  • Various types of music throughout the service
  • A recording of a favourite song

5. Tribute 

The eulogy pays tribute to and recalls the life of the deceased. It is a very important aspect of the funeral and its focal point. Consider:

  • Frequently use the name of the deceased
  • Consult with others to include memories from many different people and aspects of the life of the deceased
  • Invite others to share their memories
  • Include upbeat, even humorous, memories
  • Include a memorial display with items such as photos, trophies, special objects, music and video 

6. Closing

Just like the opening, the closing might be just a few sentences. The closing needs words that are chosen carefully (e.g. those which are set forth in religious rites) which leave a lasting impression. Consider: 

  • Family members may carry a flower from the service
  • Selection of special people to be pallbearers or urn bearers
  • Special, meaningful processional music
  • Military or fraternal last rites

7. Committal 

Following the service, the guests may proceed to the committal, which is the placing of the casket or urn in its final resting place. A very emotional time of "letting go", the committal acknowledges the reality and finality of death. Consider: 

  • Lowering the casket or urn into the earth
  • Participant placing earth on the casket in the grave
  • Taking a flower from the committal as a memory
  • Moment of silence
  • Placing flowers, releasing balloons
  • Reciting prayers
  • Special music, such as bagpipe or solo trumpet

8. Gathering

This is the opportunity following the service and/or committal for the mourners to get together in a social setting, to provide support through the sharing of food and conversation. Consider:

  • Sharing stories
  • A memory table with special items to recall the life of the deceased
  • Special music
  • Reinforce friendships and relationships through tears and laughter
With this general outline in place, you can see there are many opportunities to personalize the service. Your clergy and the professional staff at Saskatoon Funeral Home have a great deal of experience in this regard, so don’t hesitate to ask for their assistance. 

Remember that you have the right to mourn the way you wish. Exercise your freedom to follow your beliefs and traditions, embrace the pain of your loss, recall the memories of the one you have lost, and have anyone you wish in attendance to share your grief. What is meaningful will vary from family to family. For some, the comfort of cultural and religious rituals will play a large part. For others, the location of the ceremony, such as a park or special church, will be significant. 

For you and others, the funeral is only the start of the healing process. Don’t expect the funeral ceremony to be, and don’t try to make it be, all things to all people. Take comfort in the thought that there will be other times to recall special memories with friends, grieve with your immediate family, or visit a special place to be alone with your thoughts.

Visit their website to learn more about pre-planning a funeral and grief support, as well as the traditional funeral and cremation services that they have to offer. They are always there to help. Check out their listing on Trusted Saskatoon to read more reviews and to see all the services they offer. 

Saskatoon Funeral Home is your Trusted Saskatoon funeral home. 


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