It goes without saying that the average person does not attend funeral services on a regular basis. If you are feeling apprehensive about how to act, what to say, or what to do when meeting with those who are grieving, you are not alone.
Never underestimate how much it means for you to simply be present to those experiencing a loss. Your physical presence sends a message of support in their time of need. Similarly, if you are unable to attend, a sympathy card, a telephone call or other form of communication lets these persons know you care.
Kelly Baltzell, M.A., CEO of Beyond Indigo, offers the following tips based on feedback from bereaved persons she has assisted:
Use the name of the person who has died. Not “your brother, your mother” but “Your mother Fran” was such a joy to me.
Share positive stories, not just how it is hard that their loved one is gone. Grieving people want to know their loss means something. Recognize the accomplishments in people's lives.
Tell them grieving is difficult. They know it is difficult. Don't say the loved one is better in heaven. They want their loved ones with them here, not heaven.
How can I continue to show support?
Do not forget that the loss the persons are feeling does not end with the funeral. While grief does affect persons differently and everyone deals with their loss in a unique way, their lives have still been profoundly changed.
Kelly Baltzell offers these ideas for ways you can extend your support to the bereaved in the difficult days, weeks and months after a death:
Remember the important days throughout the years - the birthdays, the anniversaries and events. The grieving person is remembering it and most likely alone. Reaching out through a phone call or email is an important thing after the funeral.
With the loss of a child keep talking about the child with their name, even years down the road.
Offer to do something specific. Don't ask, “Can I do anything?” The grieving person doesn't know what they need. Instead say, “I will bring over a hot dish for you to have. You can freeze it or eat it.” Or, you can say, “I will be over tomorrow to mow your lawn. I notice it needs to be cut.” Don't be afraid to take charge and just say, “I am doing it do you mind? And I won't hear ‘no’ unless someone else is doing it!”