The customs of dress and behavior in a funeral have changed over time, so knowing what to wear and what to say is not always easy. It is helpful to remember, though, that courtesy never goes out of style.
Making the Most of a Difficult Time It’s important to always consider the religious, cultural, or personal preferences of the family and the deceased. Being respectful of the emotions of family members is always important. Everyone grieves differently, so it is not unusual to experience or encounter a wide range of emotions and reactions when a loved one has passed. What people need and want most at this time is support.
These suggestions may be helpful as you think about supporting friends and loved ones during this difficult time.
Offer a genuine expression of sympathy. Sometimes we are at a loss for words when encountering something as final and complex as death. Words can seem so inadequate at the time but simply saying, "I'm sorry for your loss" speaks volumes. Be respectful and offer your own words of condolence. Family members often enjoy brief but personal comments about happy memories or shared experiences with their loved one.
Listen. Often loved ones and family members just need a listening ear. What we say is far less important than being an attentive listener. Be prepared to listen during visitation at the funeral home and during the days ahead after the service.
Think about the dress code. Usually, dress is much more casual today than in years past but always consider what the family will expect. Sometimes the family may have a special request, or the deceased may have even requested a special theme. For example, “no black clothing” is a common request. If you are not sure of the family's wishes, then dress conservatively and avoid bright colors.
Consider providing a gift or token of remembrance. Families certainly do not expect gifts, but a small gift is an excellent way to honor the one who has passed and to serve as a remembrance of your thoughtfulness during the time of loss. It doesn't matter if it is flowers, food, a donation to a charity, a commitment of service to the family at a later date, or another gesture; as always, "it's the thought that counts." Be sure to include a signed card with your gift.
Sign the register book. Many families rely on the register book to remind them of who was present during the visitation and service as it is difficult to remember everything that happens during the loss of a loved one. If your connection was primarily with their loved one and there is less familiarity with the family, it is also appropriate to Include not only your name but your relationship to the deceased: co-worker, gym buddy, or acquaintance from a group or activity. This helps family place who you are in the future.
Keep in touch. It's sometimes awkward for you to do so, but for most people the grieving doesn't end with a funeral. The days following the service can be the most lonely and challenging, so even a quick phone call or text to let them know you are thinking about them can be so very reassuring.
Are there things I shouldn't do?
Don't feel that you have to stay. If you make a visit during calling hours there's no reason your stay has to be a lengthy one. Your time and presence will be appreciated regardless.
Don't be afraid to laugh. Remembering their loved one fondly can mean sharing a funny story or two. Just be mindful of the time and place; if others are sharing, then you may do so too. There is simply no good reason you shouldn't talk about the deceased in a happy, positive tone. Focusing on the good is a powerful coping strategy that helps begin the healing process.
Don't feel you have to view the deceased if there is an open casket. Act according to what is comfortable to you. You are there to show love and support to the surviving family and friends.
Be sure children are well supervised. If your children will be uncomfortable or you may not be able to supervise them while you visit with the family, you may want to consider leaving them with other family members or a sitter. But, never hesitate to involve your children in visitation or the funeral service if they had a relationship with the deceased and are comfortable in doing so.
Don't leave your cell phone on. It is best to silence cell phones or perhaps leave them in your vehicle. Receiving calls or checking messages and social media may be perceived as a distraction by grieving family members and friends.
Don't neglect to step into the receiving line. Be sure the family is aware of your presence by simply stating how sorry you are for their loss and sharing your name and how you knew the deceased.
Don't be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake. No one is perfect, and mistakes can happen. If you feel you have made a mistake, simply apologize and focus on supporting the family.
Most importantly, let the family know they have your support no-- and in the days, weeks, and months beyond the funeral service.
We are Here to Help
Perhaps you've got special concerns about an upcoming funeral or memorial service? We're here to provide the answers you're looking for. Call us at (270) 524-4400.