A friend’s father made his final requests abundantly clear. He wanted no obituary, burial, or funeral rituals of any kind. His wife honored his wishes; he was cremated and his remains reside on the top shelf of the master closet. With no memorial or gathering of friends following her husband’s death, the bereaved spouse has been unable to grieve. Her daughter worries she will never mourn or move forward with her life.
What can you do when a loved one’s final request will ultimately prevent family members from securing the comfort and support they need to grieve? If the final request is honored, is there anything family members can do to help the bereaved find solace and heal?
Two daughters found themselves in the same predicament with their father's final wishes. Both, living out of town, spent a week with their mom following their father’s death and kept in touch frequently. After a few months, it became clear their mom was isolated and lonely, and they decided to intervene.
The daughters visited together and articulated their concerns. With no death announcement or funeral rituals, friends, neighbors, and local community were unaware of their mom’s sorrow. Since she had honored their father’s request, they felt it was time for her to choose how she would like to handle her loss. In other words, it was now about her.
They urged their mom to honor their dad in her own way. Did she want to donate in his memory? Help feed those less fortunate or send a child to summer camp? Contribute a piece of artwork to the community center or local library? These suggestions were meant for her to remember her husband in a way that would allow his memory to make a difference in other's lives, channeling her grief in a positive way.
With their encouragement, she began to reach out to her friends and community and learned it was okay to share her loss and sadness. A bereavement support group proved to be a positive outlet as well.
Balancing a loved one’s final wishes with the survivor’s needs is never easy. With open communication, it is possible for healing to take place while strengthening the all-important family ties.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available as e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.