A Matter of Life: Being there in the mourning

Kenneth McKenzie

I tried to calculate how many families I have worked with that lost someone since I started in the death-care industry in 1986. Those numbers at this point, at this stage of my career, total well over 25,000.
Even if I just take a fraction of those numbers, there is a common denominator between them all. It is how people react to a person that has lost someone: our friends, our neighbors, even other family members. Over and over again I hear “the phone just won’t stop ringing,” “I feel guilty letting it go to the machine,” “I feel bad not calling him back,” “people keep coming over, and sometimes I just want to be completely alone, but I don’t know how to say that to them.”
My first reaction to each family that says this to me is to ask, “Do you know how many hundreds of people that I work with that come into this office alone, get in the car alone and go home alone and then sit there alone? Be grateful that you are feeling so overwhelmed when one of your friends, family members or neighbors die.”
We don’t know how to approach the person that’s hurting so much. Do we call? Do we visit? Do we leave a message? Do we take food, go over and start talking about memories? What I have learned is that it is okay to go to take flowers, a plant, a casserole….whatever makes you feel better, which in turn will make them feel better. Even if you leave the gift on their doorstep with a card, it is okay. There is no right or wrong way, as long as we are not being hurtful towards each other.
If you are experiencing a significant death and you are alone, there are many, many, many support groups out there. Wonderful friendships can be established once you find a person who is going through a similar situation.

McKenzie is the owner of McKenzie Mortuary in Long Beach.

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