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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 Eliot

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,, 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 all."

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 and family.

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
More Info/Contact

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.



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