“This is hard.”
I say that to families all the time. Now I say it to you. This work of leading a service is hard. It is good and helpful work. Few people have the privilege of standing in front of people in their hardest moments and offer meaning and support. But privilege or not, it is hard. And as with all things that are hard, we have things we worry about, things we want to be sure to get right.
I don’t know all of your worries, but I know some of mine.
Don’t worry about measuring up.
I understand. We are often concerned about the approval of someone. But who is that someone?
- The person who died? They are dead.
- The funeral experts? There are no experts on this funeral.
- The family who is wrapped up in grief, pain, and shock? They aren’t concerned about offering approval, they are concerned about comfort and meaning.
So wade into the process of helping with courage and compassion.
Don’t worry about not being enough.
We worry about not being spiritual enough or trained enough or important enough. We worry about not being enough. But here’s the truth: someone wanted you to help because you are you, because you matter in this life of this person, this family, this situation. If you are like me, when you read those words, you think, “but others are better.” Doesn’t matter. At this moment, for this moment, you are enough.
Don’t worry about how many people are in the room.
Funerals can’t be too small. This life, any life, deserved to be honored. I once sat in a funeral for a man I had watched die. He had never spoken, lived in a group home. His only family were the staff and his four housemates. His funeral included a dozen of us, the people from his house, the court-appointed guardian, the pastor, and me. It was a thoughtful, meaningful, simple service. For him, for them, it mattered. And even if there are many people in the room, your primary attention is still with the people who lost someone close.
Don’t worry when people seem distracted.
You have done the work, you are trying your best to be helpful, and it looks like the people in the front row aren’t paying attention. Here’s the hard truth. They may not be. They just lost someone close and changed all the stories that were depending on that person. But keep talking, keep doing what you prepared. Everyone else is following along and is being helped. And the ones who are lost will join you again.
Don’t worry when you are exhausted after the service.
Carrying and directing the attention of all these people all this way is hard. Underneath it, often, is your own sense of loss. If you didn’t know the person at all, you cared for this service. and if you knew the person well, you have set aside your own grieving for long enough to help others.
You should be tired.
Take a nap. Take a walk. Take the rest of the day off.
Don’t worry about it.