The Path We All Walk

The average family in this country loses a loved one once every seven years. Some more often, some less, but on average, it’s once every seven years.

The Carson Celebration of Life Center has been around for over 80 years and has served many of the families in the Maquoketa area at one time or another. After helping thousands of families, you start to notice the patterns.

In fact, there are seven steps that every family goes through when they lose a loved one. It knocks you off your usual path of life and onto a new, unfamiliar road. These steps have nothing to do with cremation versus burial or even how much someone spends on a service.

Step 1 - Private Shock

Single woman alone swinging on the beach and looking the other seat missing a loved oneThe first step on this painful path is a sense of Private Shock, a deep feeling of…emptiness as you realize you’ll never see them again. At this point, many people feel physical pain. The heart races, you become short of breath, and you become lightheaded. Tears aren’t far behind. For some people, this lasts just a few minutes. For others, this can last weeks, months, or years.

Step 2 - Word Spreads

Next, word begins to spread. Many times, this task will fall on the shoulders of one or two family members. Calling family members and spreading the news. Word first spreads through the immediate family, then the extended family – brothers, sisters, children, grandchildren. It might take a few hours or even a few days for the news to reach everyone.

Step 3 - Family Gathers

Inevitably what happens next is the family gathers to support each other and to make decisions like who’s going to go to the funeral home to make arrangements. If you are reading this article, chances are you know that you’ll be nominated to make arrangements for a loved one.

We know it’s a big responsibility. It’s our mission at Carson’s to help you and your family. Let’s talk about what’s coming next.

Step 4 - Receiving Condolences

The process of spreading the word continues for days after the loss of a loved one. All of the family may know pretty quickly, but now the community of people around you gradually begin to find out over the next few days. Your friends, your coworkers, your neighbors all have one burning desire to say,” I’m so sorry for your loss.” You may have already heard it from some people.

It may surprise you to learn that many times, people who come to a memorial service didn’t know the deceased directly. They knew the family, or a family member & are coming to support them.

As people learn the news, they all experience some degree of Private Shock. Their first thought will be, “I hope they’re ok.” Not is the deceased ok but is the family ok. Next, they will continue to spread the news – amongst other friends, coworkers, acquaintances.

All of these people are jumping on the path with you and your family. And they all want the opportunity to say that they’re sorry for your loss. The need to express condolences is part of our basic human nature.

Step 5 - Public Mourning

The next step is called Public Mourning. While the people around you will need to express their condolences, you and your family will be going through an emotional time of mourning. That’s how something as profoundly personal as mourning the loss of a loved one becomes a public event.

You may feel like everyone is watching you. You may be processing your private memories of your loved one, and well-meaning people will want to support you.

The Mourning step can be either very painful or very helpful. In painful mourning, people focus on death and on how you and your family are dealing with the loss.

In helpful mourning, we’ve shifted the focus to celebrate the life that your loved one lived. It helps you to mourn, and it takes the focus off of you and puts it on your loved one’s life where it should be. Mourning is all about processing memories. Focusing on their stories helps you do that.

Here in America’s Heartland, the soil is rich, down-home values still preside, and agriculture is abundant. Each of us plants our own “fields of life” and harvest the memories. It is those memories that we cherish because they give significance to life.

At Carson’s, we specialize in helping families tell the stories of a lifetime. We strive to make sure that the funeral service is about the way your loved one lived, not about the way they died.

Step 6 - Final Goodbye

Eventually, it will be time to say your final goodbye to your loved one. Whether you are choosing cremation or burial, when you say goodbye for the last time, you’re closing the book on the set of memories that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.

How you go through these last three steps – Condolences, Public Mourning, and Final Goodbyes directly dictates what happens in the previous step on the path we all walk.

Step 7 - Private Grief

The last step is Private Grief. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one can tell you that grief is real. Some people find that there’s a physical pain associated with it just like with Private Shock when you first found out that your loved one had died.

Things that remind you of the deceased can be common grief triggers. It could be a photograph, chair, crochet needle, the smell of aftershave, or any memory or event that somehow connects you to your loved one.

But the most painful triggers come a few months later when people keep saying that they’re sorry for your loss. You might be ready to get back onto the usual path of life, but well-meaning people will keep pulling you back into grief.

A visitation, or a casual gathering, shortly after the death, reduces the chances of you receiving condolences at the post office or grocery store when you run into someone who has not had the opportunity to say they are sorry.

The seven steps we all grow through at the time of a loss begin with Private Shock, then Word Spreads, the Family Gathers, you will start Receiving Condolences, you’ll experience Public Mourning, you’ll say your Final Goodbye and conclude with Private Grief.

At Carson’s, we specialize in walking this path with you. We will manage the details so that your family and friends can focus on the life your loved one lived and cherish the stories one more time.

If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call at (563) 652-2444.