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How Long Will It Take?

Grief is hard.

Seems obvious and unnecessarily blunt, right? So what's the point in such a statement? I bring it up because it applies to most people we serve.

I'll start by pointing out another obvious fact that I think most people can agree with: I do not envy healthcare professionals that are tasked with sharing the worst possible news that anyone can hear- that a loved-one has passed.

While I, as a memorialist, am far removed from that stage of grief in people's lives, I am sometimes not far enough away that I don't see tears and other visible signs of someone's struggle with loss. Having done this for many years, I can't help but to imagine what I would be like in the shoes of any of my clients on a pretty regular basis.

It's also probably obvious to everyone that grief and loss are not distributed evenly among us. I think it's safe to say that we all know, or at least have heard of people that have been dealt a loss so profound that you wonder how it is they can still get out of bed every morning and carry on in any normal capacity.

This disparity in grief and pain among all of us, and all of the myriad circumstances in which loss is imposed upon us means that there exist at least as many ways of dealing with it. But there are also trends. One of those trends is a need for closure. Timely closure, to be specific.

Alas, we have arrived to the relevance between the topic of grief and the memorial process. Whether you are someone still struggling with grief on a daily basis or someone that has endured through the various stages of grief and have returned close to a state of normalcy, almost everyone desires the closure brought by having a memorial at the cemetery. After all, erecting a memorial for someone is often one of the last acts taken after losing a loved one. A memorial can be a tangible symbol of the finality of life, and until it is present at the cemetery, that final act and the closure it brings those grieving remain unfulfilled. So, when will it be done?

Make no mistake, it's appropriate to ask and indeed, expected that we provide some reasonable timeline in response to the question of how long it will take to complete a memorial, but I often see reactions to my answer weigh on people as if the heavy memorial itself was hung around their shoulders.

The timing of memorial completion depends on many factors that may include, but are not limited to:

What color granite did you choose?

Is it a standard shape or is it something custom?

What is the size of the memorial?

What finishes are requested?

What engraving styles?

What kinds of artwork?

What cemetery is it going to?

When is the memorial plan finalized and ready for production?

What seasonal weather issues may exist when it comes time to do the installation?

Most memorials are completed in about three months. Some memorials that are relatively small and simple, and made from a stone that we have in-stock could possibly be done in closer to two months. Larger, more complex memorials can often take closer to four. Like any projects done outside, weather plays a part. A rainy week can delay installation more than a week since the ground needs to be sufficiently dry before we can drive into cemeteries and do the necessary digging. So, not only can we not work in cemeteries when it's raining, we sometimes can't work the day after, either.

The season- being that we are in Wisconsin- also matters. If spring shows up early, and warmth is also met with dry-enough weather, we may be able to surprise customers with an early installation. However, we all know the opposite could also happen. Winter could linger and refuse to leave like a disgruntled patron of a bar who has had a few too many drinks at closing time. Only after being dragged out, kicking and screaming well into the month of May can we resume normal operations.

At the time I am writing this (September), I tell virtually everyone that installation before winter is unlikely. While it may be possible in some cases, and as much as I know how much relief it can bring some people, earning business by getting someone's hopes up only to be dashed when winter decides to make an unwelcome entrance in mid-October is bad practice. It's always better to set realistic expectations up front than it is to paint a rosy picture for the sake of short-term customer satisfaction.

People often ask what they can do to expedite the process. My answer, in short, is to try to reconsider your priorities. While rushing through the design process and signing a contract and drawing as soon as possible will certainly help timing, it will also increase the likelihood that a mistake will be made on the design. Rushing the design process also increases the likelihood of disappointment years down the road for not doing something a little differently had we taken the time to really explore all options and design possibilities.

Sometimes people ask if paying additional money would expedite the process. It does not, nor do we offer opportunities to move a memorial up in the production line for a cost. We believe someone's ability to part with money should not afford them preferential service.

As much as some people need closure, I always insist that we take our time and try to resist the urge to expedite the memorial process. As one of the final symbols of someone's life and legacy, this should be handled carefully and thoughtfully. After all, a memorial should, in theory, last hundreds or even thousands of years. Besides surviving descendants, a memorial could be the last remaining evidence of someone's life on this earth. Why rush it?

Grief is hard. But for the sake of my customers and fellow community members, I will always encourage them to take their time and to resist the urge to complete the memorial as fast as possible. The stress of short-term inconvenience is soon be forgotten. The satisfaction of knowing you did the right thing will endure for years.

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