My role at Little Miracles means I have the privilege of seeing children grow, of really getting to know the family and spending time with them. This means that I get incredibly close to the families, I am involved with their lives and often I am involved in their deaths and making sure the family knows exactly what is happening so that the child gets the best death possible.
This in itself I truly believe makes a difference to the family and hopefully makes things that little bit easier in what will be the worst experience of their lives.
My role can be anything for the family whether it’s just holding their hand, ensuring that they have a priest attend the bedside, explain what is happening, keeping family members from arguing and generally keeping the peace but sometimes it’s also helping the family leave their child at the hospital for the last time. After the child passes I also help the family plan the funeral and help with essential arrangements whether that be planning the funeral, making phone calls or visiting the child with the family, and ensuring that they look perfect before the family go in. Honestly, this is for the family but helping and taking on practical arrangements also helps me feel useful, grieve myself, and appreciate my own situation.
Recently we lost a little boy very dear to me. A child whose smile lit up a room, who sparked joy in everyone he met. I cannot begin to explain how amazing this child was how he fought to live every day of his 10 short years and how full of love his life was. It was an honor to know him and spend his final day with him.
Last week was his funeral and I feel like I have failed the family as I was unable to do the things that I would normally do for them. As this pandemic takes hold it made me think about how many of us will lose loved ones whether as a result of the virus or other means but not be able to make the arrangements that we normally would. As a result, I have made a bit of a list of things that may or may not help – but I think the important thing to remember is this is completely unchartered territory and do what works for you and your family and reach out for help.
- Often we can anticipate in advance that we are going to lose a loved one. In this situation, if possible it’s important to talk about it. I always think of a good death as being one that is planned out and as peaceful as possible surrounded by friends and family but at the moment this is not always going to be possible. If possible talk about where you want the death to happen but please try not to set something in stone now more than ever plans have to change. If you cannot be with your loved one then can you video call or get a mobile phone into them? It is not ideal but playing a favorite song over the phone may bring comfort to both of you even if they are in a position of not being able to respond.
- At this distressing time you may not be able to visit your loved one at the funeral home – if this is the case then ask if you can prepare what they wear and send it in and consider writing a letter to be placed inside the coffin to enable you to say those final goodbyes that you may have missed.
- Get dressed. You may not feel like it and in the time of lockdown no one will know or judge you for sitting in your pajamas but getting dressed, doing your makeup, etc is part of the grieving process that many of us may miss due to not being able to attend the funeral. Every morning at the moment I have a staff meeting first thing and make everyone get up and be showered and dressed – this isn’t because I care if they want to work in the jim-jams it’s because it is essential for their mental health and putting them in the right frame of mind to work. There is a lot to be said about the act of choosing what you are going to wear and making sure that you dig out the waterproof mascara and it’s all part of the grieving process.
- The physical service will be different from what you are expecting and you may not be able to attend. At the moment these services are being live-streamed in some but not all areas. If you are watching it live then watch remotely with other people that are also grieving. If you cannot attend then light a candle or let off a balloon and take the time to focus on your loved one and share the time that you would have spent at the funeral.
- If you would have normally have had a collection for charity then still have this – set up a page on just giving or alike and give a donation in their name but other more practical ideas could include fighting for a home delivery slot to send food to your family.
- If you would have sent flowers then send flowers – and ask the funeral home to take photos for you of them. If you are attending perhaps consider if you would like those flowers to remain where they may not be seen again or if you would prefer to take them home.
- If possible get outside, being outside does amazing things for our wellbeing but after the service also connect with loved ones on systems such as Zoom. Even if you do not feel like you want or can talk, just being with other people experiencing the same grief will help. If you feel able to share happy stories, toast their life, and plan the memorial service to celebrate their life that you will have once this craziness is over. Sharing memories and planning for the future is so important to the grieving process – do not wait to start. Another idea would be to share pictures and memories via a group chat or similar – there are some amazing free video creator sites available which will allow you to compile these into a video to share.
- That memorial that you planned after the service for when the craziness is over – hold it! Celebrate their life and hold a party that they would have loved to have attended.
- Remember that grief does not end with the funeral – continue to be there for each other and speak about the person you have lost and if you are finding things difficult reach out for support many organisations, ourselves included have moved their counseling services online – at this difficult time you do not need to be alone.
I cannot stress the importance of reaching out to people in this time whether this be your family or a professional – we have a team of counselors and family support workers that you can reach by calling 01733 262226 or by completing this form for us to call you back https://forms.gle/KQw5hZLdZKDiJVFE8
Lastly, I am sorry that you are having to go through this.