Stephen Palmer, reviewer for the funeral industry
newspaper, Yellow Book News published this review in February 2002.
A Way To Help
||"What do we live
for, if it is not to make the lives of others less difficult?" -George
Will Jenkins, a sixteen year old, was on his second day of work at
a fast food restaurant. At closing time, the restaurant was
robbed. William Benjamin Jenkins was shot and died instantly.
Out of his pain, and with a sense that other survivors of traumatic loss
needed a resource guide, Will's father Bill Jenkins has written such a
book. It is entitled What To Do When the Police Leave (WBJ
Press, Richmond, VA, www.willsworld.com, 1999, 3rd printing 2001).
After completing my last column on a traumatic loss in an auto accident, I
was made aware of Bill Jenkins' book. It is an excellent practical way to
assist families of homicides, suicides, car crashes and other tragic
accidents. It is written by someone who has had that visit from a police
officer at a late hour. He has felt the pain, searched for answers and
realized others needed as much help as he did.
The obvious question is, how is funeral service viewed by Mr. Jenkins? In
his chapter on funeral and funeral homes, he states, "Remember, a funeral
is your final duty to your loved one. It is a time for healing wounds, not
opening them. It is a time for reconciliation, not resentment. It is a
time for everyone to begin working through grief in their own way while
supporting others in their loss as well."
From Bill Jenkins' journal: "Tonight I saw friends, family, people I have
never seen, people I haven't seen in years. They came for William. They
came for the family. They came for themselves."
He openly discusses financial issues that are due the funeral home, he
favorably discusses the value of viewing, and he recommends discussing
after-care resources with the director. Mr. Jenkins even discusses
personalization: "If you want to do something special, or even out of the
ordinary, don't be afraid to ask the funeral director about it. It is
important that you begin to deal with your grief as you have the need.
There are few hard and fast rules when it comes to a funeral, or the
viewing for that matter. Don't be shy about making your requests to the
funeral director. You may find that your request is not unusual after
In his chapter, "Grief and Grieving," he states, "no one can tell you how
to grieve." In discussing the stages of grief, he reminds fellow
survivors, "you are grieving and your grief will be unique." He wisely
advises, "These 'stages' are not necessarily common to everyone in grief,
nor should they be taken as a defined pathway or schedule for you to try
to follow." I especially like his definition of 'acceptance.' "Accepting
a situation doesn't mean liking it or that it is 'acceptable' it simply
means that you recognize it's reality in your life and are willing to
determine how you will deal with that reality."
Other subjects touched on are roadside and other memorials, group support
and creative ways to deal with your grief and pain.
There are helpful and insightful ways to deal with police and the legal
system, victim assistance programs, media and also well meaning friends
Jenkins, in addressing 'long term grief,' concludes: "It is as if grief
is a tiger. At first he was on the prowl with razor sharp claws and fangs,
ready to pounce on me without warning at any time. Now, he has aged
somewhat. His weapons are duller than before and he seems to sleep more
and tear at me less."
For all funeral homes, I can only suggest that you get several copies and
have them available for those families who have the life changing
experience of having a police cruiser drive up to their home in the middle
of the night. Give several copies to police chaplains. These families will
look for you for help, for answers. What will you tell them? Let someone
who has been there talk to those survivors of traumatic loss. It is a
small gift that may be a big help.
"Infants cry until they feel better or can cry no more. I now know this
is true for an adult in grief." -from Bill Jenkins' journal
Steven Palmer entered funeral
service in 1971. He is an honors graduate of the New England Institute
of Applied Arts & Sciences. Licensed on both coasts, he owns the
Westcott Funeral Homes of Cottonwood and Camp Verde, AZ. Steve offers
his observations on current funeral service issues.