"I don't know how you do your job." If I had a nickel for every time I was the receiver of that sentence I wouldn't need to do my job, I'd be retired (and probably slightly bored). My stock answer is, "Some days are definitely harder than others. Thankfully, those are few and far between."
It's been a solid 20 year run with Funeral Services and myself. Twenty years. Seriously. That's a long freaking time doing the same thing! A benchmark in today's world. And, in that 20 years I've always done relatively well at filtering through the really 'hard ones', processing the impact they have on all aspects of my life and not letting them take a permanent hold. Maybe I've been delusional, maybe I just haven't encountered a really tough one that shakes me to the core. Twenty years though, that can't possibly be true. I need to give myself more credit. When I signed up to volunteer with Victim Services we had to sit through a couple 'self help' sessions. I breezed through them with familiarity and ease. Not because I'm immune to needing self care, but unbeknownst to me all the tips and tricks they shared, I'd been doing in my everyday career even when I didn't realize what I was doing. So I thought, I got this. And for the most part, I certainly do.
Until last month...Last month a situation at work shook me to my core. Or, maybe it's just been a summer of really tragic deaths and by September, when I was called upon for this most recent tragic death, my mental health had had just about enough. Who knows? In 20 years of funeral services I've encountered a few 'really close to home' situations that were hard to shake but, somehow I have managed to process them and carry on doing what I do with no obvious long term effects. I know I'm capable of carrying on this time as well, but there is no doubt in my mind this one with stay with me until the day I die. We're all malleable and flexible, we are shaped by our experiences; both good and bad. And, this particular experience has already changed me. I'm confident it will shape me into a better person but change me, it most certainly will.
I know I'm truly blessed that after all this time I'm still capable of declaring that I enjoy my job/career. However, it saddens me that I often meet some really stellar people at one of the most trying times of their lives. Don't get me wrong, I meet lots of rude and self entitled people who I'm just as happy to see leave as well. But sometimes it's hard to accept the fact that I will emotionally and mentally ingrain myself into these people's lives and then just as quickly my role is done and I never see them again. It selfishly bothers me that often the memory of me to these people tends to be clouded by their loss. I'm a really decent person! I try not to take offence when these people say they never want to see me again. Sometimes it's hard though...
Back to September...I very much connected with this particular family. It's unfortunate that the circumstance that brought me to this family is horrific. I have never been more sorry to meet someone and grateful at the same time. I'm not sure if that even makes sense. I know as difficult as these past few weeks have been for me, it's not even one percent of what that particular family is going through. I know that despite all of the internal struggle I have experienced, I've helped them begin their grieving process in a positive way (even if there is nothing positive about this entire situation). They've asked me to keep in touch with them. They've told me I've become part of their family now. Because I rarely mix my work life with my home life, I'm struggling to find a way to honour their request to keep in touch because I know they are genuine. But I worry that maybe that's not the wisest idea for my own personal mental health. So I struggle to do what's right. For them and me.
I'm not sure that there's a point to this particular post. Maybe it's just a way for me to get some of my confused feelings out of my head. Maybe I thought if I just kept on typing the clear answers would come to me. At this paragraph though, I'm no wiser or clearer. I do know that everything came together to put me in front of this family the way it should have. I do believe I was supposed to meet these people. And hopefully they were supposed to meet me. I do not believe the tragic event that took place was supposed to happen. I just believe once it did, I was supposed to come into their lives. I'm still not clear on who was supposed to benefit from it more, me or them. I do know with certainty that we have influenced each other in our short time together. As I move forward, I will carry a piece of all of them with me forever. I hope I am able to find a way to keep those pieces from feeling too heavy.