I worried I’d feel like Jonas from The Giver when I started funeral work. 6 months in, I still feel light as a lark. What gives?
It wasn’t until I shared a glass of wine with my favorite Medical Examiner (literally in my phone as EMILY M.E. BOO) that I understood.
“Death is different from loss,” she told me. “There is a reason we say I’m sorry for your loss and not I’m sorry for your death because they are experienced very differently.”
In other words, picking up a dead body is a very different encounter than watching a family grieve that dead body.
Death simply is. I can’t undo it. I can’t apologize it away. And I’m firmly a third-party participant in it. It’s why every morgue worker on CSI is chill AF.
It’s the loss and trauma that sets your teeth on edge. Think of the social workers, therapists, and grief counselors of the world that continue to walk with families for months and years. As a funeral director apprentice, so little of that pain is revealed to me. I feel a little friction during arrangements. I see a few Disney tears during funerals. But seldom do I witness the open mouth of a loss so dark and deep that it keeps me from sleep.
Maybe it’s because funeral homes are widely perceived as businesses rather than buoys.
Maybe it’s because death is still feared and demonized. “I’ll talk about my big, fat feelings with people who don’t spend time around corpses all day, thank you very much!”
Maybe I’m too new.
It’s strange, certainly. Gaining the wisdom of a hundred lifetimes without any of the weight.