Doing the Hard Thing

Doing the Hard Thing

I’m kind of a terrible traveler. I go to many cities all over North America, but I’m there to work. I see the airport and hotel and don’t get out and look around. Not much of a tourist. But, if there is a memorial museum somewhere, I’m going to figure out a way to see it. I don’t care about art museums and statues and parks have no appeal to me. Give me a place that tells a story. Open the doors to an experience where we can learn from our past and dedicate ourselves to creating a better future. That’s my kind of must see.

The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis took my breath away. The Holocaust Museum in Washington DC required a couple of hours to just sit and take it all in after I left the building. The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield IL, reminds us of a past that still seems to be part of our present. Of course, we in Oklahoma City are very proud of the Oklahoma City National Museum built on the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and I’ve taken many visitors there to experience the horrors of that day when the world seemed to stop. . .for the first time.

This summer, I was privileged to go to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. It was just as you would expect—heartbreaking, awe-inspiring, terrible and wonderful. Words cannot explain the wide range of emotions that one experiences while walking through that sacred space.

When I joined the tour group of about twenty people who had stood in pouring rain for an hour to get in, the guide asked each of us where we were from. The answers were typical—people from all over the US and a few from other countries. One woman said she was from New Jersey and the tour guide almost hugged her. He explained that he always glad to see people from the area because so many native New Yorkers, and those from surrounding states who lived that awful day in person, refuse to come to the Memorial. It’s too hard, it’s too close, it’s too real. I told one of my funeral director friends from New Jersey where I was going and he said, “never been, never will.”

I understand that sentiment. I was in Oklahoma City the day of the bombing. I could see the black smoke rising from the building and thought, in that moment, that it was a gas explosion until the reality sank in. I watched my city try to figure out how to find bodies and comfort survivors. I drove with my lights on for weeks to honor the dead and wore ribbons to symbolize the grief for innocence lost. Some people say that they will never be able to walk into the memorial. The memories are too close, even 22 years later, and they do not believe they can survive the pain.

There is a myriad of reasons why people refuse to engage in these situations that bring distress and grief. As a funeral professional, I see this every day. Individuals who choose not to have a funeral because it will “be too hard”. Families who refuse to see their loved one after death, fearing what that look might do to them. People who sit with me at family meetings as we plan a service and say, “Nothing sad or morbid. Just make it happy. And quick!”

We are a civilization of avoiders. We do not want to look into that abyss of reality, loss, sadness or hurt, because we are afraid that we’ll never recover. So, we find every way imaginable to absent ourselves. When I was in Brazil this year and learned that their funeral traditions called for a viewing and committal the same day of the death, I was taken aback at the speed. When I asked why, the professionals said, “So they can feel better quicker.”

When did we become so fearful of pain?

Perhaps we should create a new narrative for those situations that make us uncomfortable or present the opportunity for pain or sorrow. Perhaps we should bravely go and face those fears, embrace the sadness, walk into a building that can bring you to tears and let them flow. Go to funerals because it’s good for the family and good for your soul. Encounter those demons of unknown in order to learn something from them. Know that the apex of physical and emotional pain always finds a way to diminish.

The one message of all the books that we sell at InSight Books is that what you feel after a death is NORMAL and it will find a way to soften and lessen as you walk the path of grief. Our customers find great solace and hope in the fact that they will survive. They will be forever changed and forever touched, but they will walk on at some point.

We all need to know that sometimes our bodies or our hearts are going to hurt, but it will pass and we will endure and, maybe even, celebrate. We might just be a healthier and happier nation if we could bravely go where we are afraid to tread.


Glenda Stansbury is Marketing Director of InSight Books and Co-Founder of InSight Institute Certified Celebrant Program. She is also a speaker, a trainer, and an observer of life, and one of Doug Manning’s adorable and talented daughters. You may email Glenda at