Michael Newhard, who runs Bartholomew Funeral Home here in Valparaiso, is no stranger to the potential tragedies of life, and has been on that side of the fence himself with his sister and, more recently, his father. Still, he finds it important to concentrate on what he can do in those moments of purest heartbreak to make the lives of those who come through his doors a little easier.
“I feel that we have a responsibility to help them get through a very devastating time in their lives by actually showing them and assuring them that they are not alone. That they will get through it and at my funeral home, I show them that we’re going to do that together with them,” said Newhard of how he handles these sensitive matters.
For Newhard and the staff at Bartholomew, they don’t see their responsibilities as ended after the funeral is over and try and keep tabs with those who have lost a loved one even after the ceremony is over. He finds it important to let clients know that he has an open-door policy and they can return for comfort or just to talk whenever they may need. Where another funeral home might see the job as done when the funeral service is over, Bartholomew doesn’t see it that way.
“Sometimes people will even come by to tell us good news, like that someone in the family has had a baby and we like to hear those things as well,” said Newhard, speaking of the positive news that can help him and his staff to keep their eye on the bright side at times.
Newhard can recall times when, years after seeing a family, he will occasionally drop them a card to see how they are doing or where life has taken them. When it comes to preserving the memory of their loved one, he also finds this important in reassuring them that their loved one’s memory still lives on in some way and they are not forgotten, something many who have lost a family member or loved one fear.
“One of the things I like to do when I sit down with a family is to find out about their loved one and to bring in pictures as well. It helps us get a better idea about a person’s life, it helps the client, and it helps us to see the happier times in their lives,” said Newhard about the importance of showcasing those memories.
When it comes to comforting people who come to Bartholomew during their time of need, Newhard is quick to say that he empathizes with them and always tries to adapt to their needs, regardless of what they are going through. For example, having never lost a spouse himself, Newhard will always tell them that he hasn’t gone through exactly what they are feeling, but he and his staff will walk through those steps of grief with them and be present in any way he can.
Urging those who are grieving that they are not alone is one of the cornerstones of Newhard’s philosophy on really being there for people, because isolation can be the hardest aspect for many to deal with, and he wants to be sure that he can assuage that pain.
“Everyone here thinks of each other as a family, and we just extend that to anyone who needs our services. It’s an extension of who we are inside. When people ask me how we do what we do, I always say, ‘that part’s easy because you treat people the way you want to be treated,’” said Newhard.