WATERTOWN — Helping people move through the painful grieving process after losing a loved one is a special calling.
I’ve known several individuals who work in the mortuary industry, and I don’t envy them. Their work involves interacting with people who are hurting deeply and wish they didn’t need to go through this experience.
But I greatly admire them for their ability to embrace each case with the sensitivity needed to help family members plan ceremonies that commemorate their loved ones in an appropriate manner. I’m fortunate to be acquainted with one person who has taken on this ministry, a fellow member of the Jefferson County Suicide Prevention Coalition.
Darien Cain is a licensed funeral director at Cleveland Funeral Home in Watertown. According to Cleveland’s website, she received her bachelor of science in biology from SUNY Potsdam in 2017 and her bachelor of technology in funeral service administration from SUNY Canton in 2018. Darien began as an intern at Cleveland Funeral Home in 2017 before her residency in 2018 and licensure in 2019.
As the JCSPC prepares for a summit this fall to assist in redrafting its strategic plan, I’ll be highlighting the profiles of various members. Here are the responses Cain offered for a Q&A:
Q: How long have you been a member of the JCSPC?
A: I have been a member since 2017/2018 (I cannot believe it has been this long). Prior to that, I was a member of St. Lawrence County’s coalition from 2015ish to 2018.
Q: What prompted you to join the organization?
A: I originally joined in St. Lawrence when I was interning with Hospice of St. Lawrence County in its bereavement department. This is a topic that is extremely important to me as I have lost friends to suicide, and I have seen the devastation left behind as a funeral director and college professor.
Q: Is your involvement in the JCSPC based on a personal experience or your occupation?
A: Both! The death of a family friend in 2014 became the catalyst that led me to become a funeral director. As a funeral director (Cleveland Funeral Home), I deal with suicide cases quite often. As a college professor (I teach funeral services at SUNY Canton), I not only teach about suicide but also find I am often in safe discussions with students in which they tell me their personal history with suicide.
Q: If it’s a personal experience, in what way is your participation most meaningful for you?
A: I will be honest that I have not been able to be as involved as I would like due to the demand of both of my careers. However, I love seeing so many people who care and are willing to go out of their way to help those who are struggling.
Q: If it’s a professional experience, how does being involved benefit you in your career?
A: As a funeral director, suicide cases are very tough (personally). Many times, we are trying to help the surviving family members navigate the grief of suicide. This grief is typically mixed with shame, guilt, blame and anger. I have suicide prevention information, bracelets and cards on display at our funeral home for families and funeral attendees to look at and take if they wish.
Q: In what ways do you contribute to the JCSPC’s mission?
A: I have promoted the JCSPC for many years and have contributed as much as I can to the coalition when I have the time! Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, I was able to attend many of the in-person meetings. Unfortunately, I have not been able to attend in person since.
Q: What is it about the work carried out by the JCSPC that appeals to you the most?
A: What appeals to me is that we have the resources and the people who can actually make a difference in this county. Many of us have dealt face to face with suicide, and many of us have stopped completions in some capacity. Having the tools and knowledge to give to others can be so beneficial. I keep the mental health first aid guidebook in my student lounge at SUNY Canton so that way students are able to read it and hopefully share the resources if needed.
Q: How do you believe the JCSPC enriches our communities?
A: I believe JCSPC has been able to participate in many community events and has been able to give resources to many people. Its partnerships and participation from so many different agencies is beneficial in getting those resources out to a variety of people.
Q: What are some comments people have made to you about the JCSPC?
A: I have only heard positive things about JCSPC.
Q: If encouraging someone to become more involved with the JCSPC, what would you emphasize the most about the work it performs?
A: I would emphasize that through it you can access a variety of mental health trainings and are able to participate in many community events to help spread awareness, end the stigma and help others.
Q: Are there any other thoughts about your participation in the JCSPC that you would like to add?
A: I truly have cherished being a part of this organization for so many years.
The JCSPC summit will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 23 at the Elks Lodge in Watertown. We’re inviting stakeholders in this region to attend and help us sharpen our focus in confronting suicide. More information about the summit will be forthcoming over the next few weeks.
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. They also may follow him on Twitter: @WDT_OpEd.