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Monday 3 July 2023

Funeral Community Workers Mental Health Crisis

When faced with a problem or something unpleasant, does anyone else’s mind go to worst-case scenario or down a rabbit hole of ‘what if’? This can be applied to grief, but it can also apply to some of the situations we, in the funeral community, face on a daily and monthly basis. We must protect our own minds and spirits if we are to best serve others. 

There is a way out or a way to save ourselves from this pit of a rabbit hole and it is called ‘scheduled worry time’. The strategy has even been portrayed in popular media in the TV show ‘Shrinking’. It essentially entails setting aside 15 minutes daily to truly immerse oneself in sadness, worry, or unpleasant feelings. It is actively sitting with these horridly intense and debilitating feelings for a set period of time that may otherwise come and go throughout the day.

In the Irish language, instead of simply saying "I am sad," we say “Tá Brón Orm” which is sadness is on me. As Pádraig Ó Tuama, the poet notes, "Something else will be on me another time, and that's a good thing to recognize." Having the 15 minutes of scheduled worry or grieving time means it has a place in our day, our week and it acknowledges the feeling we are feeling any way but usually in an erratic and debilitating way. ‘Sadness is on me’ is an Irish way of acknowledging the feeling but knowing that in another time something else will be ‘on me’ so 15 minutes of letting sadness or worry ‘be on us’ but that it is temporary and only here until tomorrow’s 15 minutes. 

It is not clear cut of course, grief and anxiety rarely are, but having these 15 minutes where you can truly let go and then put it back in its worry box until the next day, allows you to healthily deal with it daily without letting it control you. There are also different types of this. For me, I allow myself certain activities for a few weeks or a month – such as not going to the gym or going to bed at 8pm if that’s what I feel my brain and body need and then once that time is up, I must resume ‘normal’ behaviours and routines. The 15 minutes will look different to everyone and is even mentioned on the UK’s NHS website. It is a proven cognitive behavioural therapy.

So let us honour our emotions, knowing that they come and go like waves and that they are an important part of the human experience.

I spoke on May 16 last at the Funeral Professionals Peer Support Meeting on Zoom about the topic of mental health in our community. Read more on this topic here CANA Self Care I also chatted with Barbara Kemmis of CANA about this issue on my podcast – The Glam Reaper. Grieving is essential and that includes our own. Look after yourselves.

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