This post is part of our Perspectives on Grief series, where we ask our caring staff members to share their personal experiences with grief. For more stories like this, subscribe to our weekly grief support newsletter.
Few things compare to the pain of losing someone close to you.
But no matter how much grief you’re feeling right now, it’s important to know that there are healthy ways to cope and come to terms with those intense emotions.
This is one of the many reasons we put together the Perspectives on Grief blog series. Periodically, we share the perspectives of our caring staff members who have been personally impacted and touched by a loss. It’s our hope that these personal stories help you find a sense of comfort throughout your grief journey.
Continue reading to hear from Funeral Director and Embalmer Kent Berkheimer about his personal experience with grief.
Kent Berkheimer’s Personal Journey with Grief
Many of the 26 years of my career as a licensed embalmer and funeral director have been behind the scenes working in the preparation room—getting guests ready for their final arrangements. In my experience, those that work in the funeral industry must learn to control and limit their emotional involvement. The families we serve are in their darkest hour are in great need of care and compassion from us.
We in the funeral profession must do our best to guide them throughout the beginning of their journey with grief. Planning and handling services with our whole heart sets the family up to begin their new reality with closure. However, when a loss happens in our immediate circle, we must learn to shut off the professional in ourselves and allow our souls to grieve normally.
The greatest lesson I have ever learned and try to pass onto others is this: Grief never goes away, it changes.
A loss can be so impactful that you lose sight of taking care of yourself and those around you. Oftentimes we can get so caught up in the moment that you miss what possibilities lie ahead.
It was June 2004 when I lost the only grandparent I have ever known. I have heard several times that there is a special relationship between a grandparent and grandchild—this could not be truer for me. My grandmother and I were extremely close.
I know that my grandmother lived a full life but when she passed, I was emotionally devastated. The impact was so significant that I really didn’t care too much about anything but mourning. Most of my focus was on honoring her, which included visiting the cemetery and creating a shrine in my home with some of her personal items. As time went on, I learned that my grandmother would want me to focus on my own needs and not the needs of her gravesite.
Nobody can tell you how fast to grieve or what actions you need to take to help yourself. It’s important for you to make adjustments that incorporate the grief you’re dealing with into your daily life. I learned to lean on family and friends—and eventually I did engage with a professional therapist. Although this process took time, it got me through some of my darkest days.
Most recently, in October 2021, I lost my father. All that I went through in 2004 helped prepare me with this new loss. As with anything, you learn something from every life experience. With loss, it is my hope that the coping mechanisms from one experience help make the next one a little easier to bear.
There is only one part of the pastor’s sermon from my grandmother’s funeral that has stuck with me to this day: “We grieve hard because we loved so much.”
Get More Unique Perspectives on Grief
In the days, weeks and months following a loss, it’s important to remember the grieving process has no set timeline. To help guide you through your grief journey, we encourage you to sign up for our weekly newsletter, A Journey Towards Healing. When you subscribe, you’ll receive weekly emails of encouragement across an entire year of your grief experience.
Highly skilled and well-versed in crematory and embalmer techniques and care of the deceased. Kent is extremely proud of his Cleveland roots and enjoys attending Playhouse Square, Severance Hall, downtown restaurants and local museums. Honorably serving Busch families since 2005.