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Looking After Your Mental Health While Planning a Funeral
Posted by caroll
11th Dec 2019

The funeral planning process can feel like a whirlwind, logistically, financially and above all, emotionally. While it can be tempting to bury our heads in the sand until everything is over, looking after your mental health during something as potentially stressful as a funeral is important.

Grief ebbs and flows and no two people will experience it the same way, nor is there a universal way to behave that will make the funeral process any easier. However, when it comes to looking after your mental health, there are some simple steps you can take that help to reduce any additional stress or anxiety that will only make the process more difficult for you and your loved ones.

Cultivate Positivity

Staying positive during a time of grief can be one of the hardest things to do and yet it can make such a difference to how we experience a funeral. Far too often, funerals are characterised by some kind of family feud, personal interest or a clash of opinions. Of course, during a time of sadness and stress, it is only natural that tensions will rise, which is why it is even more important to surround yourself with the right people.

Every family may have its own unique drama, but if you feel as though spending time with certain individuals in the lead up to the funeral is likely to result in arguments or upset, then you should not feel any guilt over putting your personal needs first. After all, funerals are ultimately a time to say goodbye to and remember someone that was collectively loved, not about individual vendettas and family problems which can be resolved at a later date.

But creating a positive environment is about more than just avoiding certain people for as long as possible. Grief is natural and sadness is a healthy response to losing someone you love. However, as difficult as it may be, the loss of someone close to you can also provide an opportunity to support those close to you, foster stronger relationships with your friends and family and above all, share in collective remembrance.

Funerals, on the whole, are not seen as a positive experience in this part of the world. But attempting to take the experience as an opportunity to celebrate life rather than focus on something that has been lost can pave the way for an all-round healthier experience.

Accept the Sadness

While we can take inspiration from other cultures and the way in which they celebrate their dead, there will be times when you may feel unbearably sad after you’ve lost a loved one. Accepting the negative emotions along with the positive ones is all part of the grieving process - bottling them up, while it may seem productive in the short term, will only lead to stress and even emotional outbursts when you least expect or need them.

Perhaps not everyone in your life will be grieving like you, or even if they are, they may not be grieving as deeply as you. That’s why creating that positive environment is so important, so that when the time comes for you to feel sad, depressed or angry, you have people to turn to that are willing to listen.

If those closest to you are also deeply affected by the same loss as you, then the likelihood is that they will understand if you are having negative thoughts and feelings. Being honest with yourself and your feelings not only benefits your own mental health, but can even set a good example to those around you (particularly children) and encourages a more open atmosphere.

Work it Out

Depending on your personality, grieving at work could be the most difficult part of the funeral planning process. While some might find that their mental space thrives under regular distractions and tasks that are unrelated to funeral planning, others may find concentration and productivity impossible. That, of course, says nothing for your emotional state, especially if you are required to deal with customers on a regular basis.

If there is ever a time to be honest with yourself and your limits during the funeral planning process it is whether you are fit to come to work or not. If your work situation allows you to take compassionate leave, then you should not feel guilty about taking advantage of this in order to benefit your mental health.

Of course, not everyone will be in a position to take time off work, whether it be for mental health reasons or otherwise. Individuals, for example, working shifts or that have hourly-paid jobs, may even have to use part of their annual holiday allowance just to attend the funeral itself, let alone have time to mentally prepare.

In these situations, organising a meeting with your boss, manager or HR manager is vital so that you can at least inform them of any changes you may be in need of while you are going through this. Most people will be happy to make reasonable adjustments for their staff members if it is within their power and it means you are better equipped to do your job. For example, some people may need/wish to be transferred to a different part of their work environment if they feel they are not able to cope in their current position (such as being given responsibility that does not focus on customer service).

Asking for help or adjustments in the workplace should not be attached to any feelings of guilt; these are positive steps in ensuring that both you and the people you work with are prepared for your capabilities and behaviours while you are sharing a work environment.

Help is on Hand

The workplace is not the only place you might want or need to ask for a helping hand in order to get through the funeral planning process. If you are the one tasked with planning a funeral, it’s likely that you are old enough to have plenty of other responsibilities to take care of.

Many people that are in charge of the funeral process will likely have children to care for, or even if they don’t, other factors such as pets, bills or even house plants can create a slowly growing mountain of stress that is not helpful during this time.

Reaching out to friends and family to take care of children or pets, even if it’s just for a day or two, may give you the breathing space you need to not only come to terms with your grief, but also make the first steps towards necessary funeral preparations.

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Looking after your mental health can sometimes be a struggle even if you’re not already dealing with a stressful or upsetting situation. Once the added pressure of organising a funeral is brought into your life, this can take a real toll on your mental health if you’re not prepared.

The key is to listen to yourself and be honest about what your limits are. After all, if you’re not in the right headspace during the funeral, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel ready to return to any semblance of “normality” once everything is over. Just as preparation is important for the practicalities of organising a funeral, so are the mental preparations that come with it.

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BIO: This post was written by Carol Lawrence who works with Harold Wood Funeral Services, friendly and welcoming funeral directors in Essex. She regularly writes on topics of grief, as well as both the practical and emotional side of funeral planning.

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