For those of you who are newer readers here, my husband died on June 2nd of this year from lung cancer. Periodically I write a post about what it’s like to be a widow. This is one of those posts…
Shortly after Kramer died, we went to the funeral home to make funeral arrangements. While we were there the kids and I all filled out paperwork giving them our names and addresses. I thought nothing of it. I figured for me it was for billing and I guess I didn’t even realize the kids had given their addresses.
Well the funeral came and went and then started the emails. Day #10 in your grief….week #2 of your grief. I was getting emails with “things to think about in my grief”. Ugh. They just bothered me but I couldn’t put a reason on why they did. These were from the funeral home.
Emails started coming from the hospital, “living with the death of a loved one”. Ugh. These bothered me to.
Then phone calls started coming from hospice. “How are we dealing with the death”.
Again these bothered me but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Finally I sent an email back to the funeral home and asked that they quit sending them. I don’t want to say “I was trying to move on”…I think I more wanted to be in control of when I was thinking about Kramer passing away. I would think I was having a good day. I’d sit down at naptime to check my email and then bam…there was another email and it was another reminder of Kramer being gone. A time or two I ended all teared up in the middle of my work day.
I finally decided that I didn’t want the emails coming anymore so I emailed the funeral home and asked that they stop.
I completely and totally understand that for some people, these mailings helpful. For me, it just wasn’t. I understand that for some people they need to read the words the email offered to help them on their journey. For me, it felt like an invasion of privacy. For me, I work to keep things at bay until there is a “right” time for me to think about Kramer. For me on the weekend I often play old favorite songs of his. I think of silly stuff he used to do or say. For me, the worry some have about after death, just isn’t there because of my faith.
I don’t want the mailings sent to me….and of course, all of the things were timed to certain events “3 months after your loved one passed”…”on your loved ones birthday”. Rather than comfort me, these often made it harder.
Well…we got the latest one, “6 months after your love one passed”. Apparently, from the words on the cover of our recent mailing we’re up to book #3 now.
We also got the phone call from hospice. Kalissa got her six month call first. She had worked the overnight nurse shift in the ER and was sleeping. The call came, she answered it to hear the voice on the other line announcing who they were and “how was she doing after her Dad’s death”. It was not the way to woken up….not the way at all.
My call came a couple minutes later to me in the middle of doing childcare. UGH….”how was I doing after my husband’s death”.
Oh my word. I actually had been doing just fine until they called. I was already aware that my husband died 6 months ago. I knew the day he died. I knew the day we buried him. This call felt invasive to me.
After I hung up with her, Kalissa called me. She explained what had happened and how she had been woken up.
That’s when I decided that I was over it. I didn’t want the phone calls anymore, I didn’t want the mailings. I still couldn’t quite figure out why. All I knew is that I didn’t want it anymore.
So I called the hospice. I explained my situation and they forwarded me on to the gal that called. I was super polite…but assertive. I explained again who I was. I explained that I thought they had a lovely support line but I didn’t want it anymore. I asked that Kalissa and I both be taken off their list of people to call. We felt comfortable where we were and didn’t want the service. The lady then said to me, “Well when I called you this summer, you seemed okay so I guess we can do that.” What?? That kind of threw me for a loop. Last summer she called. I was in the middle childcare. I had the kids in the house trying to get them outside and other half was already outside. All I knew is I had to get the lady off the phone. So she asked how I was doing and I told some good days and some bad and more or less hung up. I was working. Seriously, how could she know how I was doing from that minute conversation??
The lady is nice…the program is nice for some but not me. Still I couldn’t figure out why it was all bugging me.
Later that day Kalissa came for supper. We were talking about it and I told her I felt like companies contacting us almost made me feel they were commercializing Kramer’s death. Rather than making me feel comforted, I felt totally uncomfortable. I said to Kalissa that I’m smart enough and know that the card the funeral home sent on Kramer’s birthday that was signed by all of the employees was done something like this…
A meeting was held of the funeral home workers. While the meeting was being conducted, a stack of cards were passed one by one to the employees sitting at the table. In turn, each one signed a card and passed it to the next person until there was a stack of 25 or so. The secretary took the cards to her desk and put them in a spot. When her computer calendar gave her a notice 5 days before Kramer’s birthday she pulls a card from the stack and addresses it and mails it to us.
I’m pretty cynical about things like this and hate commercialism, but I’m guessing this is how it’s done. This doesn’t feel comforting to me. It sounds like a business trying to make our family feel like they are still thinking of us when in reality if I walked in the door, no one there would know me. I feel like it’s just a advertisement tactic they do to get my family to use their services when I die.
Kalissa said if someone really wanted to be helpful and make us feel like they cared a better tactic would have been for the hospice nurse who took care of Kramer to have written us a personal note and sent it 6 months after his death rather than a phone call which catches people at work, or for Kalissa sleeping after a night shift. She could have said, “It was a pleasure working with your family. I want you to know I will always remember how your family came together and supported Roger in his wish to die at home. I hope your family is doing okay. If you need any help or counseling from us, feel free to contact me and I will get you in contact with our support staff.”
That feels so much warmer to me. If puts us in contact with the nurse who actually came to our home. I have no idea who Betty is (the gal from hospice who called us) No way would I have talked to her about my feelings about Kramer’s passing.
So…I ended up calling everyone who has been contacting us to check up on us on “our grieving process”. I asked them to take us off any list they have that is a means of contacting us…no letters, no emails, no phone calls. I did it all very politely. I explained that I understand that some appreciate the service but that we were doing okay and requested that they no longer contact us. Every single time I did it, the person on the other end of the phone seemed a little shocked. Maybe other people don’t do not request this and I’m the oddity. It’s okay if I am. I don’t mind. I need to do what is right for us.
I think I can finally put a finger on what bothered me about it all along….I think in their efforts to seem to be caring, they lost a personal human touch. They all knew his date of birth…they all knew the day he died, they could get a computer to generate the the 6 month anniversary reminder to them of his death telling them to do a mailing or phone call, but no one could take the time to write the note that said, “He had one of the neatest funerals we can ever remember. We haven’t done one with the fire trucks before.” The hospice note didn’t say, “I thought it was so funny when Roger offered me a beer”. There was a computer date that generated the standard pamphlet #3 but there was no real person-no real sentiment behind it. For me that made his death commercialized and I didn’t like it. I feel so much better that I had them stop it all.
Like I said in the opening, this is all just my feelings and my thoughts. I am sure that many people, even lots that read the blog, have been comforted through such contact through the funeral home, cancer center or hospice. I am so glad you that they did. I do believe that for some, this could be a really good service that does help them as they grieve. For me, it did not help.
I hope if you to are grieving, if you want the services, you continue them but I also hope, if you are like me and find them invasive that you call or email and have the services stopped. However you want to grieve, you should be able to, as long as you doing it in a healthy way.
..and that’s my latest installment on widowhood.