Can't we all just get along?

Published: March 17, 2021
by Lawrence A. Carnevale, Sr.

In my line of work, I occasionally have the unfortunate and miserable opportunity to play referee. Not all families get along, and we understand that, but most people pull it together, put down the sword and work towards the common goal of remembering and honoring their loved one. But not always. Sometimes it gets ugly.  

Two parties come in, they want two different things, they don’t want the other party there, and so on and so forth. It’s awful.  And the funeral director is tossed in the middle. When this occurs, it makes me especially sad for the family  I’m serving. In addition to managing the grief of their loss, they are also coping with the stress of an unhappy family dynamic. This can make grieving more complicated and (in some cases) take the energy away from celebrating and remembering an important life. The tension between the opposed parties can easily become the center of focus for both the funeral director and the deceased’s survivors when disagreements arise during the arranging of a funeral.

I’m going to say something that most funeral professionals won’t admit to. Funeral directors absolutely hate it when this takes place.  We will of course politely remain neutral and attempt to accommodate both warring parties within the boundaries of the law. But in our hearts, we are sad for the family. An opportunity to come together and fondly remember their loved one has been lost. Instead, they are fighting. They are strictly focusing on the negative feelings they have towards each other, instead of, the mutual love they both share for the person who has passed away. What a shame. I’m going to tell you something else a funeral director will rarely admit to, some families leave us drained and discouraged.

Our lifelong relationship to death and dying has granted many funeral directors the ability to appreciate how fragile and short life can be.  So, when we witness bickering and fighting while planning a tribute for a deceased relative, we also see an opportunity lost. An opportunity to remember, honor and celebrate someone we love has now taken a backseat to old beefs, petty nonsense and spiteful vengeance. And when you throw your funeral director in the middle, we hate it. In all honesty, we can be and have been disgusted by it. This is not a time for that. But as professionals, we endure and try to work something out between the fighting family members.

While prearranging your funeral might assist your survivors to the extent that they will have fewer things to disagree about, it’s not a cure-all. The cure-all is simple.  Everybody be nice. This moment is not about our differences, or disagreements or our bad blood. This moment is about a life that was lived. And there is little if any dignity in being awful to one another during someone’s funeral. While funerals are important, the most important tribute to a life that has passed, is how we treat one another. So, check your baggage at the door, remember that you both love the same person, and they most likely loved both of you back. More of this attitude won’t just make for a dignified death, it will also serve us in life. Kindness, in all situations, is always the answer.

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