This support group will begin April 10 and will meet Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. through June 19 in the Meditation Learning Center at Griffin Hospital in Derby. For more information, call Jo Clare Wilson at 203-732-1100. Please see the recent Connecticut Post Article about this new group:
The Shaughnessey-Banks Funeral Home will be hosting our annual “Holiday Remembrance Ceremony” on Sunday, December 2, 2012 at 1:30 p.m. at the funeral home, 50 Reef Rd. in Fairfield Center.
All those who have experienced the loss of a loved one or the absence of a family member this holiday season, are invited to join us and place an angel ornament on our tree to memorialize their loved one. This remembrance tree will remain lit each night during the holiday season as a symbol that the light of love never dims. During this difficult time, it is our hope that by coming together with others, it will allow you to share your grief and memories by knowing you are not alone.
Please feel free to bring a friend or someone you might have met on the road of grief that could benefit from this warm event.
It would be appreciated if you would RSVP to 203-255-1031 or firstname.lastname@example.org by November 30, 2012 if you are planning to attend.
We look forward to having you join us.
Our funeral home is working with John Vincent Scalia, Sr., who owns a funeral home in Staten Island regarding the needs in his community following the recent storms. We are reaching out to all other local funeral homes and contacts to help in this matter.
As we are all aware, Staten Island has taken a substantial hit with regards to loss of homes and power and many people are still suffering greatly. While we continue to support our local neighbors, we must be mindful of those that were truly devastated by these events.
What they need is the following: blankets, sheets, towels and wash cloths. Please feel free to drop anything off to us and we will make sure he gets it, or if you prefer, send us a check and we will buy the items he requests. It will go directly to the people who need it.
We are located at 50 Reef Rd. in Fairfield at the corner of Reef Rd. and Sherman St. near the police station. Our set hours are 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. but will meet you at any time to accept a donation. If in the off hours, please call 203-255-1031.
Our funeral home, which is female owned and operated, is a supporter of the Center for Women in Families, an organization dedicated to strengthening women and families through ending domestic violence. October is domestic violence awareness month. There is a major campaign in place to spread advocacy among MEN. All MEN please follow the link to sign the WHITE RIBBON PLEDGE to say you are against domestic violence and will fight for the protection of all women and children. There is nothing you need to do except sign the pledge and spread the word!
Healing Hearts Support Group
In conjunction with SolAmor Hospice, we will be offering a 6 week support group for widow and widowers, beginning Thursday, October 25th from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m., at the Shaughnessey Banks Funeral Home, 50 Reef Road, in Fairfield Center. This group will be led by Norma Schmidt, Chaplain of SolAmor Hospice. There is no fee for this program.
To register or for more information call Terese Travis-Horvath at 203-255-1031.
During a recent funeral I conducted, I was again reminded how our society has changed from a respectful community, to one that is consumed with self importance and impatience. The incident was of a sort we see quite often now; non-funeral cars cutting into a funeral procession. In light of these recent happenings, I thought perhaps it was a good time to discuss some funeral etiquette.
For the safety of our clients, the funeral staff, and others on the road, we have every car in procession marked with a bright orange funeral sticker. The driver is instructed to turn on headlights and emergency flashers, and we often have a police escort to help guide us through traffic. With all of these safeguards in place, one would think our travels would go smoothly. Unfortunately, without the cooperation of the general public, this is not the case.
When driving in a funeral procession it is important to remain in a tight, but safe train to avoid people cutting in, or to avoid being left behind. On city streets, a procession will usually be traveling at about 15-25 mph. One should note however, that if a procession is to go on any major interstate, the minimum speed for that highway must be met. This means on the highway, by law, we must go 40-45 mph. When all possible, funeral directors try to avoid the interstate, but when burials are going to distant towns or cities, interstate travel is not easily preventable. If you are on the road at the same time as a funeral procession, please use some common sense. You are witnessing a grieving family trying to put their loved one to rest respectfully. Please yield to a procession, and DO NOT attempt to cut through, or around the line. Think about how you would feel if you were traveling one last time with a beloved family member. Certainly you would hope for the general public’s respect and cooperation to that small degree.
While touching on the issue of funeral procession etiquette, it is appropriate to also revisit some general etiquette to keep in mind when someone you know is experiencing a death in the family. There are many ways to tastefully express sympathy during this time.
A popular way to extend your condolences could be sending flowers. When a family enters the funeral parlor for the first time to actually see the person they lost, flowers always seem to lighten the atmosphere. They are colorful, fragrant, and full of life. The funeral home will keep track of all arrangements being sent, and will construct a flower list for the family, to help them acknowledge those that have acknowledged the death of their loved one. It should be noted however, if an obituary requests memorial donations to be given in lieu of flowers, one should generally respect that decision. Many families feel that giving money to fight a particular illness the deceased may have had is much more valuable then sending flowers. Of course, there is always the option of giving a donation, and sending a small floral piece. Generally, organizations accepting donations will track all receipts and make a list for the family so they know who gave money in the deceased’s name.
Another way to extend your sympathy is to send food to the family’s home. During the difficult time of a funeral, family members are under immense stress. It is often hard enough to will oneself out of bed to attend services, let alone taking the initiative to prepare food. It can be a great relief to the family to have a meal ready in advance.
Many people also choose to send a Mass card or a general sympathy card. Mass cards can be sent by Catholic, or non-Catholic friends. If the family is of a religious nature, it is appropriate to go the family’s church to give a donation to have the church say a Mass in honor of the deceased. The church will give you a card to give the family, with a particular date the Mass will be said in their loved one’s memory. Sending a general sympathy card is also greatly appreciated. By writing a short note in a card and to share a special experience you had with the deceased, can truly make someone enduring a death smile, or at least grateful. If you are not sure of the family’s address, you can always mail the card directly to the funeral home, and we can certainly forward it to the appropriate family contact. Also, most funeral homes now have a website where the obituary and service times for all funerals are listed. Many of those sites invite visitors to send an online condolence by singing an online register book. When the family is ready, they can visit the website and access all online condolences. The funeral home will also try to print out any entries received by the day of the service to give to the family.
In addition, oftentimes people are not sure what to say to a friend during the time of loss. Obviously it is encouraging to hear positive stories of the deceased. Simple gestures of condolence could be, “My sympathy to your family.”, “He will be missed.”, “I am sorry for your loss.”, “She had so many friends.”, or “He truly enjoyed life.” Because a funeral is a very sensitive time, one should avoid saying things like, “He is better off now.”, “You can have other children.” or, “I know what you’re going through.” Every person handles a loss differently then the next. While it is important to express your feelings to a friend, remember this time is about them and their family, not a past tragedy, or death you may have experienced. Also, do not forget that after the funeral service is when a family needs support the most. Even if you came to the wake and funeral, and sent a card, or food, please check on your friend from time to time to let them know you still acknowledge they are grieving, and you are there for support.
Lastly, I would like to touch on the subject of proper attire for the funeral services. While the traditional all black clothing is not required, it is definitely nice to wear some sort of dark colored, professional outfit on the day of the funeral. Since many services are held in a church, one should be dressed as they would for Sunday Mass, or a similar event. The dress code for the wake is usually less formal than the service, but tasteful clothing of course, is desired. Although there is no “golden rule”, you should consider not wearing jeans, shorts, sandals, t-shirts, or hats. You are attending the wake to pay your respects to the family and the person who has died. So it goes without saying, you should dress in a respectful manner.
Hopefully this article has given you an opportunity to reflect on our practices of handling a grieving family during a sad time. Please treat everyone’s loss in the same manner you would prefer to be treated if you were in that situation. Let us be patient on the road, and be mindful of other’s losses. Take a moment of your valuable time to respect the deceased, whether or not you knew the person. Remember, we will all experience a loss of a loved one at some point in our lives. Hopefully we can pay tribute to the life lived, with the comfort and support of our entire community.
Over the years, we have written many funeral articles in the hopes of educating our community about the nuisances of the funeral business. For the beginning of our new year, I would like to give an overview of the funeral home and how it has evolved to suit our modern lifestyles.
When people think of a funeral home, they may envision a stoic man, sitting at a desk in a conservative office, offering advice about choosing a casket, embalming, church services and cemeteries. While that may have been the case in the past, many funeral homes are now taking the approach of being event planners, helping you to truly celebrate the life of your loved one. A traditional funeral consisting of a wake, church service and burial is still often desired, but it is the job of the funeral directors to help your family personalize whatever type of service you choose to reflect the life of the person who has died. You should not feel obligated to do the service in church if the deceased was not particularly religious. Consider having the service in the funeral home where you can truly personalize the service. In the funeral home, there is no restriction on décor, flowers, music or how many family members and friends can speak during the service. By using family photos, we can create a memorial tribute video that can play during the wake or service and would be yours to keep. The funeral director may also assist you in coordinating a service at another venue such as the country club, beach, or the backyard of your home. The important component is the celebration of the life a loved one. While difficult to do, it is essential to acknowledge the death and allow for a time where friends and family can safely grieve.
The funeral business has changed in other ways as well. For instance, the owner of the home typically no longer lives in the funeral home. The thought that funeral directors are always at the home, really no longer applies. If you need to speak with a director, you should call first to make an appointment. It allows the funeral director a chance to prepare for the conference so that he or she can help you to the best of their ability. We have had people stop by who are coping with a loved one dying while a funeral is going on and have unfortunately had to tell them we are assisting another family at the moment. With an initial call, we could have addressed their immediate needs and scheduled an appointment to go over all of the details. Also, many funeral homes have an answering service to handle incoming calls when they are not physically in the office. The director however, can always be reached. Now that everyone has a cell phone, the answering service simply contacts the director on call when attention to the business is needed. It usually takes less than ten minutes for the director to return you call and assess your needs.
Another changing aspect of the funeral business that should be addressed is the process of taking care of the funeral bill. In years past, it was common that a funeral home would simply send a bill to the family at the conclusion of the service and wait thirty to sixty days to be paid. This is no longer the case. Most funeral homes require that at least half, if not all of the bill be taken care of prior to services being rendered. Since funeral homes do not deal in financing, it is not feasible to just end on a handshake and assume the check will arrive. Be sure to ask the funeral home up front what their payment policy is. If you are considering using a life insurance policy to pay the funeral bill, be sure to check the policy in advance to be certain it is in force and the proper beneficiaries have been named. We had an instance not too long ago where the family was always told there was a life insurance policy that would cover the entire funeral and provide for other end of life expenses. When the family brought in the policy and we called to verify, it came to light that the gentleman had taken out a large loan on the policy to pay for some living expenses. Please consider this example and plan for the future. Please do your family a favor and verify that everything is in order and your final wishes have been recorded, then go on enjoying life!
‘Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.
- Alfred Tennyson
These lines are often used to refer to a lover, but they speak to all of us who have lost someone we loved.
A father whose daughter had died said to his pastor, “We’d rather have had her for those years than not at all, but there was a while when grief took over.”
Those of use who have been through the experience of sudden, untimely death can relate to both parts of that statement. Of course we could not wish the child had never lived. But there is a time when the pain is all we know.
Yet even when the pain is most severe, we know we would never exchange our life for another’s. A dear friend and mentor, who had had a distinguished career but had never had children, wrote to me after our daughter’s death. Along with her condolences and shared sadness, she wrote, “Some people never have that much to lose.” I couldn’t help thinking she was talking about herself, and the grief I felt for her that moment made me aware again of how much I had been given.
- Martha Whitmore Hickman, “Healing After a Loss.” Harper Collins, (1994).
“People bring us well-meant but miserable consolation when they tell us what time will do to help our grief. We do not want to lose our grief, because our grief is bound up with our love and we could not cease to mourn without being robbed of our affections.”
- Phillips Brooks
Of course time eases our grief, provided we let it follow its course and give it its due. Few of us would want the intensity and desolation of early grief to stay with us forever. That’s not what we’re afraid of. But we may be afraid that we’ll lose the intensity of love we felt for the one we have lost.
At first these two – the grief and the love – are so wedded to each other that we cannot separate them. We cling to the grief in desperation so we will be sure not to lose the love.
Perhaps the grief and the love will always be wedded to each other to some degree, like two sides of a coin. But maybe after a while, when we flip the coin, it will almost always be the love that turns up on top.
Martha Whitmore Hickman. “Healing After a Loss”. New York: Harper Collins, (1994).
We will be offering an 8 week support group “Healing Hearts” for widow and widowers, every Thursday, beginning on February 9, 2012 through March 22, 2012 from 3:00 – 4:30 p.m., at the Shaughnessey Banks Funeral Home, 50 Reef Road, in Fairfield Center. There is no fee for this program. The group will be led by Norma Schmidt, Chaplain at SolAmor Hospice. To register or for more information call Terese Travis-Horvath at 203-255-1031 or Norma Schmidt at 203-301-0489.