Monday, January 14, 2013

Expressing Yourself When Someone Dies

One of this society's most taboo subjects is death. So, no wonder people have trepidation when it comes to attending funerals and expressing grief. If you have ever wondered what to say or do when a death occurs, keep reading.

What to Say:

    Say something. Silence is very hurtful to the grieving.

    Be compassionate and kind. This is not the time to air your grievances about the deceased or anyone else. Share a good memory or experience you have about the deceased.

    Keep it simple. "I'm sorry for your loss," is often enough. Don't go on and on. Remember that grieving people feel tired and emotionally spent. They cannot take in or process your emotions on top of their own.

    Be real. There are no magic words in situations surrounding a death. Don't think you have to say the "right" words to remove someone's grief. Grieving takes time. No special words will speed the process.

    Avoid mystical words. "He's in Heaven now" might be comforting to some, but not to everyone. Remember that when a death occurs, those left behind have very heightened emotions. Even well-intended messages can seem offensive. So, unless you know that mystical words will bring comfort, stick to a hug and an "I'm sorry."

    Don't speak in cliches. "Time heals all wounds," "she lived a long life," "at least his suffering has ended," "you'll love again," "God needed another angel." Such cliches seem trite to grieving people.

    Avoid advice. "You need to get on with your life." "When my mother died, I... " These types of offerings are not helpful. You simply cannot fix someone else's grief, so do not try. Each story is unique.

    Remember the Golden Rule. Say to others what you would hope someone would say to you. Empathy goes a long way.

What to Do at a Funeral:

    Attend if you knew the deceased or one or more members of the family. The purpose of a funeral is to show support and compassion for those left behind and/or to show respect and honor to the one who died. Don't attend out of morbid curiosity, to air your grievances, or accomplish some hidden agenda.

    View the body at the visitation or funeral to help get closure and to say goodbye. Yes, it may be uncomfortable, but death is a natural part of life and something we all need to accept. If you really cannot bring yourself to view the body, then don't.

    Leave the front rows at the funeral services or all the chairs at a graveside service for family members. This is a sign of respect.

    Turn on your headlights in a funeral procession.
    Sign the register so the family will know you attended.
    Offer your respect, condolences, and affection to the family.
    Contribute to the memorial if you are able.
    Send flowers if you want to, but notice if the family requests memorial contributions instead of flowers and be respectful of that request.
    If the obituary states that the funeral is private, don't go unless you are specifically invited to do so.

What to Do Before & After:

    Send a card. Do not email your condolences. And, do not express your condolences on social media alone.

    Listen. If the bereaved seeks you out, try to offer a supportive ear. Don't try to talk them out of their grief. Just pay attention and express your compassion for them.

    Offer to house relatives if you have extra bedrooms.

    Send food and paper products. Funerals bring a host of out-of-town company. Extra groceries are appreciated. Remember things like fruits and vegetables as often times, casseroles are in abundance. Bring food in disposable and freezeable, containers, so the family doesn't have the extra burden of returning dishes. Toilet paper, napkins, and paper towels are another good idea and an added expense for the family.

    Offer help after guests leave town. Take home the towels and bedding to wash. Offer to dust or vacuum or clean bathrooms. You also can address and stamp the thank-you card envelopes.

    Mean it when you offer help. Don't just say, "Call me if you need anything." Check in a few days after the services and ask what you can do to be helpful, and even suggest a few ways.

    Invite the bereaved to join you for a movie, dinner, tea..anything that can serve as a friendly distraction and a needed break.Grieving is lonely.

    Be patient. Grieving takes time. Normal grieving can take six months to two years depending on the relationship to the deceased. It cannot be hurried.

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