Someone asked me yesterday if I found the work I do as an undertaker depressing – being with people in the height of their grief – seeing some things that most people don’t ever see – and never want to.
I can see why they might think this. But the answer is a firm no – I don’t find my work depressing. Challenging definitely. Sad, sure sometimes. But not depressing.
Sometimes very loud music is needed to shift the sadness, ‘Eternal Life’ by Jeff Buckley, ‘It’s Too Late To Stop Now’ by Van Morrison, ‘Higgs Bosun Blues’ by Nick Cave have all been used.
It’s not depressing because people are so amazing – brave, open, honestly emotional – the human spirit shines through the dark. As Leonard Cohen wrote “It’s the crack that lets in the light.”
And I have to remember “It’s their grief, not my grief.” Yes to being empathic and accompanying clients, but I need to be able to maintain a professional boundary in order to be useful to people. My psychotherapy training taught me about boundaries.
In the time immediately following a death everything is blown open. Everything has changed. The future is uncertain. We are with people at a time when all pretence, all of life’s pettiness falls away. People are incredibly ‘real’ at this time. I am privileged to accompany them, to be a guide. The journey is theirs, to be taken in their own particular way.
I know I can’t make it better. Better would be reversing what has happened, taking away the pain. I can only try to make it a little easier. After meeting a newly bereaved family, if they say “I feel a little easier now”, I know I am doing my job.