When someone you work with dies, do you feel the loss any less than if it was a family member? It depends on many things: like how long you worked with this person, or if this person was your “office spouse”? Regardless, employees do experience grief after the loss of a coworker.
Many years ago one of my coworkers died from cancer. It was a great loss for all of us as he was such a gentle and compassionate man. He not only cared deeply for the residents, but he also made the employees feel like a family… and his own family knew how much we all cared about him.
So his family did something wonderful. Not only did they have a traditional funeral at the funeral home, but they made arrangements to have a “corporate funeral” at the retirement home. He had a love for cooking and using fresh herbs, so the family arranged to give each person a fresh herb to plant for their home garden. There was a book of his favorite recipes and samples of some of his best dishes. A video played with pictures taken at the retirement home with the residents and his coworkers. And the village chaplain gave a wonderful eulogy that left no eye dry. It was an amazing gift to all of us.
But what about other companies? Recently I read about some local companies who lost employees and decided to have a service of their own to honor the beloved coworkers of their office families. Here is what our celebrant wrote:
“On Thursday, the Worthington Chapel hosted a memorial service for a local company executive. I presided and presented the main eulogy; other company executives shared memories, too. We played two of ‘his’ favorite songs, which generated both laughter and tears. The company did this because this executive was beloved within their company, and because ‘his family’ had a small, private memorial service at home. The ‘company family’ wanted something for themselves; and, to their pleasant surprise, several of ‘his family’ members attended. There were about 60 in the room, with a catered lunch afterward at the funeral home. Company executives pronounced the experience “perfect”.
Last weekend, a Mexican migrant worker died in his home near Eastlawn Cemetery. He was a beloved employee of the Brickman Landscaping Group, which contacted our funeral director in the middle of last week. The employee’s family all live in the Yucatan Peninsula; he spent 9 months each year here, working and sending money home to his wife and children (two of their daughters are to be married this summer). I will be the celebrant at a memorial service at Brickman. Yesterday, I met with his closest friends in the company, who are crushed by the sudden and tragic loss . . . but eager for a way to remember their buddy. Jeff Rupp, an executive at Brickman, is serving as the “director” on this service, is my point person and is procuring all the things I’ve asked for: An enlarged photo of the employee, a podium for speakers, a translator for the service (roughly 70% of the staff is Spanish-speaking)…and lunch will follow for the whole staff.
People need a chance to grieve, remember and celebrate. I am honored to be part of this emerging area of our work together. I hope the word will continue to get out, that Schoedinger is able to meet new kinds of needs in our changing world. Let’s keep our ear to the ground so that — as we personally hear of these needs — we may be able to reach out to folks who need healing experiences.”
Andrew Hoover, Celebrant
Michael Schoedinger recently received another letter in which a coworker expressed gratitude for being able to honor their coworker by having “corporate ceremony.”
“When we lost our coworker, Jack, our entire team felt a tremendous sense of grief. Then we learned his family was not offering a service. In turn we would not have an outlet for expressing our sadness for his death or our gratitude for all he did and gave us during his life. I called Schoedinger for guidance and comfort. What a relief to learn of your celebrant services. Your associate, Andrew H, made a lasting and powerful impression. He led us through a reflection that helped us heal with a sense of humor and style which Jack would have been proud.”
I also recently heard a story of a memorial service held for a Director of Nursing at a local Assisted Living community. She had been with the company nearly eleven years – building her career there. She started out as a nurse’s assistant, put herself through college and got her degree, and became the Director about two years ago. She was a compassionate caregiver and strong leader. When she died from a car accident, the family had her cremated without any funeral or memorial services. Her coworkers were devastated by the loss and needed and opportunity to show how much she was loved within her work environment. The Assisted Living Administrator decided to hold a company memorial service where coworkers could share their memories and support each other through this very sad time. Many shared humorous stories and others shared more serious stories of how she valiantly handled difficult situations with grace and strength. It was a great healing experience for all the staff.
These stories serve to illustrate how important it is to allow people to grieve after the loss of someone special to them. Companies do their employees a great service by allowing time to honor beloved employees and coworkers. I can’t tell you how much it meant to all of us when we were able to honor our lost coworker many years ago.
To learn more about how you can arrange for a “corporate funeral”, please call (614) 224-6105 and ask to speak to a funeral director.
Visit http://www.schoedinger.com/what-we-do/ to learn more about ways we create healing experiences.
Julie is the Director of Community Relations at Schoedinger Funeral Service.