Planning a Funeral after a Traumatic Death
In some form or another, death is always a traumatic experience, and planning a funeral only slightly less so. There is no way to be 100 percent prepared for death, and the emotional kickback when a loved one is gone is something most people struggle with for years…if not the rest of their lives.
However, some deaths are more traumatic than others—meaning that your loved one’s passing was sudden, violent, unexpected, or otherwise considered newsworthy. In these situations not only is the death itself difficult, but so are the surrounding circumstances. At what is inarguably one of the worst moments of your life, you may find yourself surrounded by news outlets, police and other investigators, curious onlookers, and vast communities who want to offer their support.
This kind of response can be overwhelming, to say the least. And planning a funeral for your loved one can be difficult. Instead of planning a quiet send off for family and friends, you may find yourself dealing with public scrutiny and the overwhelming sense of loss and shock that accompanies this kind of death.
Planning the Funeral
A funeral takes on new and important meaning when a death was traumatic or sudden. Instead of being a ritual or tradition for laying the deceased to rest, a funeral becomes a way to cope with the sudden reality of loss and what it means for the future. Like a kind of starting bell for grief, planning an unexpected funeral allows you a few days in which to process your loss before you must find a way to move forward in your new life.
Ideally, you should find a funeral home that is accustomed to dealing with traumatic loss or public events. The right funeral director can help guide you through planning a fitting farewell that does not negate or overemphasize the manner of your loss. Other funeral planning tips include:
- Decide early on if you want a public or private funeral. Opening the funeral up to the public could mean an outpouring of support, but it could also intrude upon a difficult family moment.
- Take safety measures, if needed. Too much public interest could mean putting your funeral guests in danger. The most important thing is creating a safe place for relatives and friends to mourn.
- Don’t worry too much about the actual burial/cremation. When you aren’t released a body right away (because of investigation or transport reasons) or you don’t expect to have one at all, plan a funeral anyway. A memorial service can be just as effective as a traditional funeral with a body viewing.
- Understand how community grief works. You may not be the only one mourning, and it is important to recognize the role your loved one’s death may play in the media. Although no one can tell you how to mourn, recognize that there may be others out there who share your grief and also need an outlet.
The most important thing to do is get help when you need it. Whether you rely on a funeral director or a grief counselor, do not be afraid to ask for support. No matter what the manner of death, you face a long road ahead of you—and the funeral is just the first step.