One of, if not the most, painful thing someone can experience is the loss of someone they love. When someone you know has experienced the death of a friend or family member, you will want to reach out, but it can be daunting knowing what to say or do because nothing you say or do can take away their grief. There are, however, things we can offer that can provide comfort, however small. There are also words and actions that can make things uncomfortable, or worse, even more distressing for the bereaved.
What do you say to someone who is experiencing such a profound loss? While there are probably no perfect words, short and simple is best. “I’m so sorry about Jack,” or “Please accept my sincere condolences/sympathies,” are acceptable. Following such statements with a personal touch can be very meaningful for the bereaved. “I’m sorry for your loss. Fred was my favorite teacher in high school,” or “My heart goes out to you and your family. Your grandmother sounds like such an incredible person,” are examples of how to make your condolences a little more personal. Oftentimes, listening is more comforting than words. Providing a grieving person your time and undivided attention is a priceless gift.
Telling the bereaved you know how they feel is rarely comforting. You don’t know how they feel, because every loss and grief is different and extremely personal. Comparing their loss to your own experiences is discouraged. Even as a sincere attempt at empathy, it can diminish their feelings. Also, do not say, “It’s for the best” or “They’re in a better place now.” Even if the deceased had been suffering, it’s poor taste to offer a “silver lining” for death and loss.
In this day and age, text and email are common ways of communicating. But nothing compares to the significance of an in-person visit. If you can’t call on the grieving family in person, a handwritten card or letter, or a personal phone call is a heartfelt way to show a family or individual you took the time to acknowledge such a monumental occasion and to send them words of comfort. However, if you must email or text your words of sympathy, any method of sending your condolences is better than not sending them at all.
Attend the visitation, funeral, or memorial services, and sign the registry. A few minutes to leave a kind statement can bring a family much joy. Even if you didn’t know the deceased, it means a lot to the survivors that you took the time to be here to honor their loved one and support their family. If you can only attend one event, go to the visitation. It provides the best venue for connecting with the survivors.
If you’re close with the bereaved, bring a meal to their home, or contribute a dish at the wake or funeral reception. Instead of saying, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” be more specific. The bereaved will most likely not take you up on a general offering of your help. Ask if you can walk their dogs, mow their lawn, pick up any family members from the airport, or watch their children for a while so they can run errands. And, when appropriate, a hug can be one of the most comforting gifts you can give.
Flowers are a thoughtful way to show a family you’re thinking of them and to pay respects to the deceased. If the deceased’s family is planning services through French Funerals & Cremations, we give you the option online to send flowers to the memorial service or to plant a memorial tree in their honor. To do this, just visit the deceased’s online obituary.
If the family is Jewish or Protestant, flowers are not a traditional way to show sympathy. Instead, consider a gift basket with baked goods, dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruits or chocolates. If the family is Catholic, consider giving them a mass card in the deceased’s honor, through a donation to their church. You give the mass card to the family, and the church says a prayer for the deceased during services.
Grief doesn’t magically end when the last funeral guest goes home. It can get very quiet for most survivors the weeks after the funeral. Extended family has returned home, friends and co-workers have gone back to their daily routines. Call them to check in and just say hello, ask them out to social events or over to dinner. They might decline your offers for a while, but eventually they will feel ready to go back out and be around other people. They will appreciate how you kept them in your thoughts. And on the anniversary of the deceased’s death, call the bereaved. It will mean so much to them.
French Funerals & Cremations is always here to help guide our communities in Rio Rancho and the greater Albuquerque area through loss and grief. Reach out to us with any questions, or call one of our locations nearest you.