“I Would Think Your Job Would be Very Depressing”

 

I recently sat with a lady who is trying desperately to reconcile the unexpected death of her husband. She nervously fidgeted and took notes on each of the points we discussed on who she should contact now that she was being given his death certificates. I asked her questions about her husband and their life. I wanted to know how long they had been married, how many children and grandchildren they have, what their favorite vacation spots were and what the last thirty-three years has looked like for them.  She lit up as she told stories of their wonderful life together.

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/eric1513

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/eric1513

As we began transitioning back to the other purpose of our time together, preparing her for tackling the business end of the process, her mood and posture noticeably changed. I realized that the reality of her husband’s death was hitting her once again. With tears starting to fall from her beautiful, blue eyes, she looked up at me and said, “I would think your job would be very depressing”.

I handed her a tissue, placed my hand on hers and told her, “I love what I do because I get to meet people like you.” She tried to smile the best she could, but her heart is still so broken. I walked to her car with her and assured her she could call anytime with any questions, even if she just needed to talk.

The timing of this comment was far from coincidental. I was just emerging from one of the worst bouts of seasonal depression I had experienced in a very long time. While depression has been no stranger over my lifetime, this was the worst it has been in years.

Of course, there is sadness associated with working in a mortuary. One would not be wired well for this atmosphere if they did not feel empathy and compassion for the profound losses.  It is how we are shaped to comfort others.

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Luso

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Luso

The dark cloud that hovered over me this holiday season was due to personal feelings of loss. The realization that my “family” Christmas will never be like the sappy, Christmas movies due to family conflict.  The longing for holidays gone by that included loved ones who have been gone for years.  The mourning of what I thought my life would have looked like by now.

Life is not perfect. We live in a broken place that is full of heartache and disappointment. If you haven’t already experienced it, your time is coming.  Sadly, it is inevitable.

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Noedelhap

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Noedelhap

It is how you go through and emerge from these trials that helps to define you. It is the comfort you receive from others that will prepare you to be the one who comforts when called upon.  When experienced effectively, pain can result in tremendous growth.

You know what keeps my job from being depressing?  Being able to show the families we serve the same compassion that has been shown to me when I have needed it. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. In fact, it can be as simple as any of the examples below.

Be PresentThis can be face to face or via email. Sometimes an email that states, “I’m thinking of you.” or  “I’m praying for you.” can make a huge difference to someone who is hurting.

Encourage Them To Talk About ItThis should be on their terms and when they are ready, but let them know you want them to share stories of their loved one or their grief journey.

TouchHold their hand or hug them. This should be within your comfort level and theirs so it does not feel forced or awkward.

Don’t Try To Fix ThemThis is not something they can “shake off,” “get over” or “move on” from.  Allow them to grieve for as long as needed.

Leave the Door OpenDo not put a time limit or expiration date on your support of them. Let them know they can contact you on an ongoing basis as needed.

 

. . . what about you?

Have you experienced trials that helped you to grow?

 

Who was your source of strength and support?

 

Do you find you now use their example to help others?

 

 

Lori

About Lori

I was born in Long Beach, raised in Cypress and ventured to South Orange County in 1999. I'm a member of Saddleback Church and through volunteering in the Memorial Ministry I was introduced to Neil O'Connor. Neil decided to bring me on board even despite my endless badgering at our first meeting. I am the Director of Care Coordination and also fill the roles of Memorial Marker Design Specialist, Weekend Receptionist and Blog Team Member. Never did I expect a mortuary would be the place I would find my dream job. I feel extremely blessed by the relationships I have formed at O'Connor with the team and the families we are privileged to serve. I now live in Aliso Viejo with my beloved pups Max and Bella. Free time, though often hard to come by, is mostly spent with friends. The Bible verse I live by - I can do everything through him who gives me strength Philippians 4:13
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  • Karen Baker

    This article is a beautiful expression of compassion and Faith. To share moments with someone who has encountered such a heart breaking loss must be difficult, but ultimately rewarding. Lori is one very special woman who is obviously blessed with a graceful and loving heart and soul.

    • Lori

      Karen,
      Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to this post. I love that you and I have been able to connect without ever meeting. All of our correspondence has been via telephone or email, but we have learned much about one another during these exchanges. I look forward to our continued correspondence in 2014. Thank you, friend…….
      XOXO Lori

  • Becky Finch Lomaka

    Thank you for a great blog, Lori. I think my favorite words you wrote are “It is how you go through and emerge from these trials that helps define you.” You play such an important role in helping the families we serve do just that! I agree that some of the simplest gestures make the biggest impact and help the most. I am proud to be your friend and I thank you for the comfort and compassion you give to our families.

    Becky

    • Lori

      Hey Twin,
      I am glad you enjoyed reading my post. I have to say that getting older (cough, cough) and my faith have helped me to mature when going through trials. I used to freak out and be useless. Now, even though I may freak out initially, I look for the learning experience in the pain.
      Thank you for your sweet comments about comforting the families we serve. I truly think it is what I am called to do.
      I am so happy to call you friend! I look forward to the trouble that I am certain we can get into in 2014!
      Love,
      Lori

  • Anne

    Lori
    Depression has a mind and life of its own. Often the participant is an unwilling member of the team and only time and developing desire can shake you free of its grasp once more. We are such complex creatures. Often these sad parts of us make us all the more gentle and understanding with others we are trying to help through their stuff. You were recently called one of our treasures. And you are.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Love
    Anne

    • Lori

      Annie,
      Yes, depression definitely shows up uninvited and renders us useless during it’s visit. Fortunately, it does not linger for me as long as it used to. I believe the gift in it is that I can FEEL with the families we serve as they are going through their grief.
      Thank you for thinking I am a treasure. Funny, because that is exactly what I would call you in my life. I LOVE your “tell it like it is” approach with me. You challenge me when necessary and I love that about you. I also love that we have our faith in common and the wonderful discussions we have. I look forward to more of these interactions in 2014.
      Love you back!!
      Lori

  • Lori,
    I was just telling someone that one of the things I love so much about my job is the fact that we get to just call something sad when it is sad. There’s no pushing it away, covering it up – it’s a depressing job and you know what, it always will be.
    The other side that you bring to this though, the grace extended/received, the compassion you hold & the purposeful interjection of yourself into people’s lives when they are most sad are incredible gifts that few hearts can really give. I’m so proud of you, of your honesty with your own journey in and out of sadness, and the compassion you have let it show you.

    All of this, beautifully done & clearly, from a beautiful heart.

    Love, Molly

    • Lori

      Molly,
      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. This is where I think the job is more of a calling than a career. I don’t come to work thinking, “I’m going to say something to make this person feel better today”. They are moments that just happen and often I don’t even know what I am going to say until the words present themselves as needed. No matter what your faith, I know for me, it is a God thing that I am provided with the right thing to say at the right moment. (an awkward moment or two may find it’s way in occasionally too) Sometimes I hear myself saying things that I know were given to me in His perfect timing.
      I feel a bit selfish because I truly think I often benefit more from the connections that are made from Family Care/Marker appointments than the family does. How many people can say they walk away from appointments with a full heart? I am grateful daily for where the path at O’Connor has led me.
      I look forward to our years here together. I am thankful for you and your support of me……
      Much Love,
      Lori

  • Chuck Ricciardi

    Lori,
    Thank you for sharing with us both an intimate moment with a grieving person and your own trials in your personal life. No, life is not perfect, as I believe John Lennon said,
    “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.”
    We all have ideas and plans of how are life will be or turn out and we are jolted when the control we thought we had becomes an illusion. The powerful, sacred moments we are blessed to share with people in pain remind us what is real and what is important. No matter my path, many glorious ones and some that can take me to my knees I try and take them on with gratitude. Hard to do and failure is part of it, but eventually I realize that it is all part of this glorious walk as a human. Without darkness, the glorious light would mean nothing. Lori, You are exactly where you need to be right now. Thank you for all you do to brighten our grieving families darkness.

    Love,
    Chuck

    • Lori

      Chuck,
      You are an example of somebody who definitely takes whatever comes your way with a grateful heart. Since I have known you, you’ve gone through trials, some personal, some shared with your work family. What impresses me about you is even in the midst of a major trial last year, you always had a smile and encouraging words for those around you.
      It’s amazing to me how that building transforms us. We can’t curl up in a ball or hide out as we would like because we are wired to be concerned with the needs of the families we serve and set our personal stuff aside.
      Thank you for saying I am where I need to be. I traveled an uncertain road, at times, to reach this glorious mountaintop. Thank YOU for trusting me with these special families and for letting me talk to people for a living…a dream come true for me!! 😉
      Love and Gratitude,
      Lori

  • Lori

    Carrie,
    Thank you for offering your support and I know you would be there for me in an instant. As you mentioned, “engaging with families …is a great distraction”. Nobody would have realized I was depressed at work because here I am focused on caring for others. It is in the quiet moments that the sad and desperate thoughts can overtake my mind as it did at the holidays. As I mentioned, fortunately the cloud does not hover for as long of periods as it used to….
    Thank you for responding, sharing and caring….
    XOXO Lori

  • Tom

    i believe every event in my life is an opportunity for growth. And, beginning with mind set drives me forward, without quarter.

    • Lori

      Tom,
      Thank you for your perspective on life events and growth.
      You experience trials every other weekend when having to work with me. 🙂
      Appreciate you putting up with my nonsense…

  • Mark

    Lori….Thanks for sharing part of your own personal journey…..I too have battled depression in my life…..your words were very accurate when you said, “We live in a broken place that is full of heartache and disappointment”…..this is true…..Mark

    • Lori

      Mark,
      I know 2013 had to be the hardest year of your life. I am so sorry for the devastating loss, highs and lows the year brought for you. I know God has great plans for you in 2014. On top of that list will be the happiness you so deserve.
      Love,
      Your Sister……you never had and never wanted……

  • Jodi

    Lori, you have such a compassionate heart and soul!! First of all, thank you for not being afraid to talk about your personal problem with depression. Not an easy subject to talk about! Secondly, dealing with grief is so overwhelming and having someone who truly cares about your life with that person and what that person was like, brings joy and comfort! I lost my 19 year old son (as you well know) to prescription pills overdose and family members change the subject when Jarrod’s name is mentioned by ME!!! Little do they know, I want his name mentioned!! SO, thank you for expressing your love and devotion to so many who grieve! Couldn’t think of a more beautiful woman for this job!!!

    • Lori

      Jodi,
      I am still amazed at the way we were placed in each other’s paths, seemingly by mistake, but we know better…..
      With all of the common connections we have discovered and your wonderful heart, I know we are destined to be friends for years to come.
      I think people get so nervous they are going to say the wrong thing that they try to avoid the topic all together. “Maybe she won’t think about him if we don’t talk about him.” People need to be educated to the fact that you still think of Jarrod every day and if you bring him up, then you WANT to talk about him! You know I will listen to stories about him any time.
      Looking forward to helping out with Overtaken in 2014!
      Thank you for the sweet compliment too…
      XOXOXO Lori

  • Lori

    Karen,
    Thank you for taking the time to comment a second time. You are much too kind.
    I love being able to make connections, as you and I have. Nobody can ever have too many friends. I am happy to count you among mine.
    Love,
    Lori

  • Lori

    Neil,
    You are correct. It is up to each individual to decide what bright spot or learning experience they can seek in those dark places. The answer may not be readily available, but always reveals itself in perfect timing.
    Thank you for trusting me with the families we serve and for encouraging me each time I ask to learn something new. Your support means so much.
    XOXO Lori

  • Sharon Watkins

    Lori
    As I told you in person, I am so sorry that I did not know you were suffering so much during the holidays – and we even share an office! How did I miss seeing that? You are very good at covering up and moving forward here at work at least! I hope next time you will open up and share when you are suffering and let me and others help lift the sadness.
    Because I too have gone through a time of debilitating depression in my life – my heart aches for anyone that suffers with deep depression. Not just the type that makes us feel blue and lasts a relatively short time, but the kind when death looks better than life and we can’t seem to pull ourselves out of it. It is the darkest feeling I have ever experienced and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
    But the article that came out of you here on this page is testimony to me that you are able to teach yourself and us about how to deal with it. Thank you for all your encouraging words.
    I’m so grateful you are part of my life.
    Lots of love,
    Sharon

    • Lori

      Sharon,
      Thank you for your sweet heart. It was not hard to hide at work because my focus was on others, not myself. It’s during the quiet times, away from work when my mind had time to wander. That is when the sadness can set in , especially around the holidays.
      It has been a long time since the really dark thoughts have invaded my mind as you described here. As you know, when the cloud that hovers is really dark, it’s hard to imagine the light on the other side.
      I am glad you found encouragement from my post.
      I hope neither of us is in that dark spot ever again!
      I am equally grateful to have you in my life…I am going to miss you sooo much!!
      Love you,
      Lori

  • Shasta Cola

    Great blog, Lori. I am sure you are bringing great comfort to the families you get to meet. I am sorry you were feeling so down during the holidays. I like the quote about life not being perfect for anyone, I think that we are all given obstacles, heartache, and disappointment. It’s just a matter of time and in what area of a persons’ life. However, it’s all about how you handle those things, and I think you are very strong, have a great outlook and also a source of strength to others in their hard times.

    • Lori

      Shasta,
      Thank you for your encouragement about the comfort I hope families are receiving from the time I have spent with them.
      You are someone I look up to, believe it or not, since you are MUCH younger than me. What I appreciate most about you is that no matter how busy you are or what is happening in your life, you have a smile to share with everyone. That tells me you are wise about the ways you have handled heartache, learned from it and have forged on to help others.
      You are so sweet and I have never heard you snap at anyone, ever!
      I am so grateful for you!!
      XOXO Lori

  • Kari Lyn Leslie

    Lori,
    I have had people say the same things to me. Or their first response is “Eeewww! How can you do that? I could never…” They immediately grab onto the sorrow, or tragedy of what death can represent, and there’s no room left for the blessing and gratification that comes. Mourning is such an integral part of our soul’s. Not only in the case of death. We mourn or should mourn all sorts of loss throughout our lives. What we provide is a safe, peaceful, and meaningful opportunity for individuals to begin that journey. Yes, it’s true that some are not ready, and their first days may be in utter darkness. Others welcome the passage and step into the light right away. In my estimation, it’s a priceless gift. I must say that I enjoy opening the window on our business and allowing the past views of the spooky, creepy, money hungry mortician out of the shadows. O’Connor’s is on the cutting edge of our industry, and it’s a blessing to be a part of. Everyone will need us at some point in their life. Shinning for them and loving them is so rewarding. But of course, you “get it.”

    Thanks lady!!
    kari

    • Lori

      Kari,
      Yes, mourning is so important, no matter how big or small, we must grieve our losses. Like you, I am proud to be associated with such a family friendly mortuary instead of the old, preconceived notions of creepiness. We are very blessed.
      Thank you for your comment that I “get it”. That is a huge compliment and much appreciated.

      Thank you!
      Lori

  • Patricia Kolstad

    Lori
    Isn’t it interesting that sometimes we all wear the “I’m fine” mask, when in fact, we are hurting beyond what we can express. Our lives are filled with days of wonderful joy, and then can plummet into the depths of sadness and pain. I know that you are a wonderfully compassionate and caring woman. And I know that you would push aside your own sadness to bring comfort and support to that family sitting across the table. As my mentor, Dr. Bill Hoy, who has taught me any wonderful antedates, says, “You cannot give what you do not have.”. I make sure that I “talk out” with my family and/or friends, those things in my life that would interfere with my personal or professional well being. II know that it’s taken me years to realize that I need to be in a good place before I can provide support and care to my own family and friends, and those families we serve each day. Thank you so much for sharing from your heart!
    Lovingly,
    MP

    • Lori

      MP,
      Sometimes “I’m fine” is what we feel we need to do in the moment because we don’t have the time or energy to “go there”. Fortunately I do not go into the depths for the length of time that I used to. Sometimes it is easier to hide out for awhile. That doesn’t solve things though, does it? Then, I finally realize I have to turn to those I love to hear me out. I am blessed by many wonderful friends who I can be “me” with and I count you among them. Thank you for the love and guidance you have shown me along the way.
      Much Love,
      Lori

  • Shayna Mallik

    Lori,
    Great blog and so true! Most people I know think the same when they here I work in the mortuary business. But I dont consider my job depressing either. I love my job! I love the fact that I get to help families who need the help. I feel so happy when families come to us to help them with their loved one, we are the best! I think this is because we all are truly here to help other not just because it is out job. Love you

    Shayna

    • Lori

      Shayna,
      I hear over and over from families that it comes through how important relationships are to our ownership and company as a whole. It is not just our perception that we love what we do…..we are putting it out there! That is huge! I do not know of many companies, period, let alone a mortuary who can have that positive influence. We are extremely fortunate….
      Love you!
      Lori