Serving the Underserved: Caring for People Who Are Both Old and Mentally Retarded: A Handbook for Caregivers

By Mary C. Howell; Deirdre G. Gavin et al. | Go to book overview

62
FUNERAL AND MEMORIAL SERVICES
Henry A. MarquardtThis chapter offers some ideas on developing funeral rites, memorial services, and anniversary services for people who are mentally retarded. Churches and temples can be of great assistance to people suffering the pain of loss and separation through bereavement. One way is by providing the funeral rite. This service is not just for the person who has died but is primarily for the living, for those who are experiencing the deep and pervasive pain of separation. The liturgy or service is not only a ritual to be performed, it is also an instrument to assist those who are suffering to cope, endure, and use this period of pain as a time of growth and personal development.The liturgy or service should touch the various dimensions of the person--physical, social, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. The development of the service must be a joint effort. It is not the sole responsibility of the clergyperson; family, friends, relatives, and caregivers of the deceased should be involved. It must be a true tribute to the person who has died, and at the same time, a means to assist the mourners on their journey through the bereavement process. It should be both personal and individual. It cannot be a "canned" or pre-packaged liturgy. Everyone has something to contribute.The following are points to consider when preparing for a service:
1. The service has a twofold purpose: it is both a celebration of the life of the person who has died, and a means of helping the living to work through the grieving process.
2. Clients and staff who knew the person who has died should be informed of the death and should have an opportunity to express their feelings to one another. Be sure that notification of the death reaches all the necessary people with whom the person has lived, worked, or had other significant contacts (such as those in the infirmary and in the transportation unit).

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