Finding peace and love in grief

I recently lost my grandmother and while this is not the first death I have experienced, having lost my father as a child, her passing still knocked me. No one is ever really prepared to lose a loved one and when the time comes to part, we have to make peace with it and move on. Death is as much a part of life as birth is. I recently read about a tribe of people in India who celebrate a passing, but they mourn births. This got me thinking of the frugality of life, the pain, the suffering, the uncertainty and the stress that all too often overshadows the pure joy that life can be. But “This is just a ride…” wise words from Bill Hicks which reminds me that the frugality, the pain, the suffering, the uncertainty and the stress is all part of the ride and at the end of the ride we can see how much time we waste.

There is nothing like a death to bring you back to reality. Which brings me to a point. A while back I had a client working in the funeral industry. She wanted an article written about women who work in the funeral industry and in all honesty, I was utterly fascinated by the subject. The more I researched it, the more at peace I felt. So much love and care goes into the work of those who give our dearly departed their final makeover. Suddenly, death didn’t seem so morbid, and the veil was pulled back. I hope you enjoy my short write up, the client didn’t use it after all but I feel it has to be shared somewhere. I wrote it over a year ago and yet in light of this sad beginning to the year, I found myself drawn back to it.

When picturing the funeral services industry you might imagine a morbid looking man, probably older, who is tall and dressed all in black. He doesn’t smile and his skin is pale from not going out into the sun too much. The last thing that you would imagine is a stylish woman carrying out the duties that revolve around the death industry. But this image is far closer to the truth than you could imagine. The reality is that women are far outnumbering men in the funeral service industry these days and they are proving to be an empathetic force to be reckoned with.

Women working amongst the dead

There was once a time when both death and birth were women’s business. The two life events were so closely tied together that women were usually the ones to deal with both. In fact before 1860 women, known as shrouding women, would collect the body, wash the body, rub the body with aromatic herbs to remove any smells, dress the body and finally they would lay out the body in a respectful way for the family to view and to give their final respects. The only involvement that men would have would concern the digging of the grave and the making of the coffin.

The reason why women were so involved in the funeral industry is because they were closely involved with the delivering of babies. It might be hard to believe that there was once a time when stillbirths and the deaths of mothers giving birth were so common that the scene of death and grief was as common at the delivery of a baby as happiness and joy. Women would handle these deaths primarily because they were present, but also because their presence was a welcome one as they could bring a sense of peace and calm that men could not.

After 1860 women began being seen as unfit for working with death, with their lack of physical strength and their seemingly fragile emotions cited as reasons why they could not handle the industry. But this is changing again and while the industry has greatly evolved (with further education sometimes being required to work in the industry) women are entering the funeral services at a faster rate than men.

The compassionate, kind ear

Women do well within the funeral service industry for a number of reasons but one of the biggest reasons why women in funeral services do so well is because they are able to be more compassionate than men and because their soft femininity makes them a more comfortable presence and in many ways more approachable. Women have been able to break the stereotypes of the funeral industry and they have been able to make working in the profession less mysterious and more acceptable.

Often those entering the industry have decided that their careers needed a change, it is not often that you will find a woman, fresh out of school looking for a career in this industry. This means that it is mostly women who are well into their 30’s or who are older that choose to enter the industry, their interest sparked by a life event or perhaps by finally finding the place where they are meant to be.

Although it might always be difficult for women to get into the industry, they are certainly making waves. Women working in funeral services are found the world over and with their listening ability and their compassionate hearts, they are not likely to leave the industry again.”