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AN EMBALMERS ROLE IN MEMORIALISATION

Pauline Tobin Faie
The significance of Memorialisation in assisting the grieving process has been at the forefront of the Death Care Industry for many years now. The value in a formal or informal gathering to commemorate and celebrate a loved one's life, to reminisce and honour a life lived, is almost a right of passage in our earthly journey, one of which the mourners respectfully attend.

Where once we would most likely attend an elderly relatives funeral service as a once in a decade occurrence, we are sadly attending funeral services at a much younger age and more frequently than yesteryears. What was once a shrouded event, sombre and colourless, held in the drab, cold walls of a hollow stone church, has significantly changed over the last few decades to places of light, warmth and colour, within natural surroundings.

Such inviting places have significantly changed the formality and structure of Funeral Services, ideally providing a comfortable atmosphere where friends and family feel welcomed and at ease in expressing the nature of the service reflective of the deceased personality and life lived. With this more recent shift in less formal funeral services we have noticed a greater desire and expectation of Open Caskets and Viewing of the deceased. A conscious request to spend time with a loved one prior to, or during, the funeral service has been a steadily growing tradition of recent years. Where a death may be sudden or tragic this need to see and spend time with their loved one has been recognised as an important process in the grieving and acceptance of an unexpected death. A few years ago a Funeral Director may have given the advice of "remember them as you last saw them" not realising their unintentional ill-advised words may have in fact added to the family's distress.

No one has the right to deny any family a chance to view their loved one no matter if their intentions are well meaning, and in this day and age, consumers are exercising their legal rights in all avenues to ensure their paid services and needs are met.

In saying this, I believe today's general society are somewhat de-sensitised to the many faces of death and dying, hence their acceptance of viewing the deceased no matter of the circumstances of their death. Qualified and dedicated Embalmers with specialist training in Post Mortem Facial Reconstruction can ensure the viewing can be a positive experience for loved ones, giving them a much better lasting impression of their loved one instead of being denied that chance and spending the rest of their life wondering about the state of their loved one inside the closed coffin. The imagination can do great harm to a grieving person, and denying them the chance for a visual goodbye can send horrid images racing through their minds causing a lifetime of torment. Whilst the results of a post mortem reconstruction will never be 100% picture perfect, it can be a respectful and dignified presentation of someone's loved one, allowing time and goodbyes to be had.

I have had many personal moments with grieving relatives expressing their gratitude for having a viewing time with their child, husband, father, after they had been told by the Coroner's Office a viewing was not advisable. One such family who actually made me realise why I am so dedicated to my profession and the role I am able to play in assisting with their healing, was a lovely father who found his son deceased after many days. He was referred to me by a funeral director who I do quite a lot of work for. Whilst I was on a coffee break in the office, the parents of this young man came in to deliver his clothing. I introduced myself and realised they needed to talk. I sat with them a while and the father said to me, "If you can take the last image I have in my head of my only son and save me thousands of dollars in psychologist's fees or stop me turning to drink, I would be forever grateful ". Four hours later I received a call from the funeral director telling me not only did the father sit with his son, his mum sat with him too, and they drank champagne and talked to him for an hour.

Memorialisation is the whole package - from the minute we die, the service and viewing, the gathered memories shared, to our final resting place. And the pressure to include every precious detail to complete this once in a lifetime event, a never to be repeated event, is what we commit to provide for the families we're honoured to guide.

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ACCANews Autumn 2018
 

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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

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