When a person dies, a little part of each of their family members dies as well. It is so difficult for them to bear the burden of their grief alone. You’d like to help, but what can you do? It’s a common problem faced by all of us when we know a friend has suffered a loss. You want to express your sincere sympathies to the family but its unclear just how to do that. You want to assure them that they are not alone in their time of sorrow – that you want to support them. Following are a few suggestions as to what you might be able to do to help.
Being in the eulogy writing business, the first thing that comes to our mind is to write a eulogy or memorial speech that honors the person who has passed. That’s probably a bit over the top and may seem a bit intrusive unless you were close to the one who died. Writing a eulogy or memorial speech is typically in the prevue of a family member (although it may, indeed, be helpful for you to recommend a eulogy writing service so your friend doesn’t have to be stressed about this important part of the funeral or memorial service. We’ll cover that a little later in this article. Meanwhile Let’s talk first about how minister to your friend or your friend’s family…
Acknowledging Death: One of the things that make most of us uncomfortable at a funeral or wake is that we are not sure what to say or do when offering condolence. In our society death can be an extremely uncomfortable topic. Nevertheless, if you want to help your friend or neighbor, you have face the awkwardness and talk about it. The worst thing that you can do is to gloss over the death as though nothing has happened. Whether you decide to offer your condolences through calling, sending flowers, cards, emailing or by visiting, the most important thing is that you need to make sure you are extending a gesture that lets the family know that you are thinking about them and you share their grief – at the death of their loved one. Note: some people are uncomfortable using the words death or dying or died. That’s O.K. Substituting “passed” or “passed away” works, too. But you must, in some way let them know you acknowledge their loss and aren’t just generally touching base.
When you hear the news: There are some ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ to keep in mind when you hear of the death that will affect your friend’s life:
Try to be a good listener, let your friends and family talk about the deceased, their loved one. Listen as they tell you how they died and what impact their death has made on their lives. Loved ones have a NEED to express these things. If you can be a listening ear without a lot of interruption or input you will be helping them a great deal. The other side of that coin is equally as important. If it is all too new and fresh and sharp, don’t pry and insist they talk about it. Allow them to talk if they want or not talk if that is their preference. Please be aware that sometimes sitting in silence (as hard as that is for most of us to do) may be exactly what is needed… just being there is the important thing.
Make sure to acknowledge the deceased’s life and refer to them by their name. This is VERY important. Even if you did not know the loved one, he or she had a name and using it personalizes your caring.
Sending flowers with a sympathetic note is always appropriate. For guidance on what to write, there is an excellent site to give guidance, thecondolencecoach.com. Making a donation to a charitable or research organization is often sometimes meaningful. Such a gift acknowledges that you care and know enouigh about the deceased to make a donation in a meaningful direction.
Don’t try to take control of the whole situation. The grieving family needs to be in control to work through the grief. If they ask you for help making funeral arrangements or in writing a eulogy or memorial speech or contacting family members to notify them of death, great. If not, step back. Sometimes people NEED to be busy at a time like this.
Try not to bring experiences of other people, let the grieving family focus on their loss. Don’t tell of losing your Aunt Judy and how her death parallels this one. Allow your friend’s loved one’s death be unique and stand alone. Don’t mineralize it by showing how others have experienced the same thing.
Don’t pressure the bereaved to clean out the belongings of deceased. It is better if they do this on their own. “Things” are often emotion laden. Let things be until the family is ready to dispose or distribute them.
Death of a loved one is a huge deal to the family or friends. Don’t expect things to get normal so quickly. Don’t suggest that they should ‘get over it.’ That will happen but everyone has a different speed for getting there. Allow it.
Make the Sympathetic Calls: If you are unable to visit the bereaved family in person, then you can always make a phone call and express your sympathy. It doesn’t have to be a whole over-the-phone funeral speech, but you can offer your condolences. There are some things that you should keep in mind when calling:
Don’t get surprised if your call goes to voicemail or is answered by someone who is taking all messages. This is because it may be a burden for the family to answer each call individually and hear the same things – and say the same things - over and over. Just leave your message of sympathy, it will still be appreciated.
As mentioned above, it doesn’t have to be a memorial speech over the phone. Keep your call short. Keep in mind that the family will probably be receiving a large number of calls during the period of bereavement. Try to keep the whole focus on them. Remember, this is not the time to relate to your own experience of losing a loved one or to talk about yourself.
The person in grief may want to cry or vent, so try to be a good listener. Other people’s tears are uncomfortable, but don’t try to stop them. Let them talk as much as you can – or weep; if they want to talk about the deceased or how they died, it is better to let them talk as it will reduce their grief. And if they don’t want to talk, then don’t pressure them into talking.
Don’t ask for details about the deceased or the circumstances of their death. Unless that information is offered, it is none of your business. Focus on the needs of the survivors.
It is always good to call the family from time to time after the funeral service to check on them especially if you were close to them or to the deceased. Offer them your help with anything, let them know that you care about them. Also, if possible, include them in your social plans while keeping their state of mind in your mind.
Write a Eulogy: It is an honor to be asked to write a eulogy and deliver the funeral speech at the memorial service. The honor comes to those who have been close and who have a history with the deceased. A eulogy is one of the best ways to offer your condolence IF the family truly wants it from you. Here’s how:
Take a look at some eulogy examples on the internet to make sure you have the correct format. There are a few eulogy samples on the site you are on. Take a look at them to get an idea for basic structure. Feel free, of course, to commission a eulogy to be written. TheEulogyWriters can have a completed eulogy to you within twenty four hours.
Try to make the memorial speech as much about the deceased as you can. Too many eulogies are as much or more about the one giving the memorial speech than the person being memorialized. This should never be the case.
When you write a eulogy, include some appropriate personal memories you have of the deceased.
Try to add a little element of appropriate humor in the funeral speech as it will lighten up the tense grieving environment.
Acknowledge the lifetime achievements and milestones of the deceased in your memorial speech.
Keep a water bottle with you so you don’t break down during your funeral speech.
If you write a eulogy, this will be a great way to express sympathy as you will be giving a tribute to the departed one and their loved ones will appreciate it very much. Finally, after you’ve finished go back and look again at some eulogy examples to give yourself confidence that what you’ve written is within the norms of a typically written eulogy.
Send Some Sympathy Cards: A sympathy card that is pre-printed is the choice for many people and it is an acceptable way to offer condolences. However, it becomes much more meaningful if you includ a personally written note on the card.
When you are writing the note, you can always address the deceased by his/her name.
You can recall a fond memory or share something about how he or she affected your life. Such remembrances are valued by the family and are often kept for years.
If you are unable to attend the service for some reason, make sure to express your regrets in the note that you include with the card.
The family members of the deceased will have a difficult time during the holidays. You can send them a card on such days to let them know you are thinking of them. This kind of post-funeral consideration is amazingly appreciated.
Bring Food for them: In many cultures, people bring food to the home of the departed. Since there will be many relatives arriving at their home and the family of the deceased are in deep grief, it is best if other people make the arrangements of the food to feed the people who are arriving at their home. Often, the church of the family organizes the bringing of meals or you can simply call ahead and ask them what is needed and bring that item with you. When you are bringing the food, make sure to use a disposable container so you don’t need it back as there will be a lot of people and you can lose the dish. But, if you are bringing your own dish, make sure to label it with your name and phone number so you do not lose it.
Follow Up with the Family: After the service has ended, don’t just disappear from the scene. Make sure to be in touch with the family and be there for them whenever they need you. Remember the anniversaries like birthdays or death and go to their home, if appropriate, on such occasions. If not, a call or a card, or even an email saying “I’m thinking of you” works well. The real grief begins after everyone is gone and the house seems empty. They need your support probably even more now.
May all your efforts be blessed.
The Eulogy Writers 4100 Old Dominion Dr. West Bloomfield, MI 48323