You can surely imagine that through the years we have seen and heard just about everything! There is definitely more to funeral etiquette than simply wearing black, and in fact, that’s the least of it. Through the years, traditions and customs will change - we know this. However, we are of the opinion that courtesy and caring never goes out of style. Some insight follows that may help you to help someone you care about through a difficult time. If you have a specific question and aren’t sure – call us at the funeral home and we’ll be glad to give you specific information or advice.
Your Presence Can Make a Huge Difference…
Part of being a compassionate and caring friend is knowing what things you need to consider at a difficult time. Remember that not all people are the same, and everyone mourns differently. Different doesn't mean wrong. Be respectful of the feelings and emotions of close family members and friends. Here are a few things that could be expected of you:
• Offer words of encouragement.
Often we are at a loss for words when encountering something as final as death. Simply saying "I'm sorry for your loss" is usually enough. Don't try to "make it better" with your words. Know that you can only make them feel loved and cared for, you can't fix this. Be respectful and listen attentively when spoken to, and offer your own words of condolence - speak from the heart. Be sincere, say what you feel, or say you don't know what to say - but that you simply are sorry.
• Dress appropriately.
Sometimes, bereaved families may request guests to wear certain colors, or to avoid wearing black. Often the obituary will mention this if it is the case. As a rule of thumb, dress as you would for church, or for a professional job interview. When in doubt, dress up - not down.
• Do something in memory of the deceased.
It doesn't matter if it is flowers, a donation to a requested charity or a simple commitment of some sort of helpful service to the family at a later date. Even a handwritten note with a story about their loved one is a wonderful gift. And...as with any gift it is truly the thought that counts.
• Sign the register book.
Include not only your name, but your relationship to the deceased: co-worker, gym buddy, or casual acquaintance from the golf club. This helps family place who you are in the future, and believe us, it matters to them. Years later, someone will be looking at those pages and this information is treasured.
• Keep in touch.
It's sometimes awkward for you to do so, but for most people the grieving doesn't end with a funeral. In fact, it's when the phone stops ringing and everyone else has gone back to "life as usual" that a phone call or note can mean so much. Don't assume there are plenty of people staying in touch.
That's all good information...but...what SHOULDN'T You Do?
• 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. These stories are what keep the lost loved one alive, and a story the family may not have heard can bring a smile or a laugh, and that in itself is a real blessing.
• Don't feel that you have to stay for a long time.
If you make a visit during calling hours or to the home there's no reason your stay has to be a lengthy one. It's the thought and that you took any time to come by and offer support.
• Don't feel you have to view the deceased if there is an open casket.
Act according to what is comfortable to you.
• Don't allow your children to be a distraction.
If you feel they might be, then leave them with a sitter. Period. But, if the deceased meant something to them, it's a good idea to invite them to share in the experience. Remember that anyone old enough to love...is old enough to grieve. Just communicate fully, and let us know if we can help you with tools to guide your child through what may be a mysterious new situation.
• Don't leave your cell phone on.
Don't leave your cell phone on. This bears repeating. There is really no excuse, and it happens all too often. It will interrupt an important moment, distract guests or speakers, and certainly be alarming to the family. Switch it off before entering the funeral home, or better yet, leave it in the car. All too often, we see people checking their cell phones for messages during the services. If you are attending services, we encourage you to be fully present!
• Don't be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake.
Don't worry if you feel you may not have said the just-right thing. If you make a mistake in word or deed, remember everyone does...and you can be sure that an apology may be all that's needed to mend and soothe.
Ok, after the services are over, what then?
When it's all over, remember to continue to offer your support and love to the ones left behind. Don't assume there are plenty of others doing so. The next few months are a time when grieving friends and relatives could need you most, phone calls or notes can mean the world. Let them know that your support did not end with the funeral, because we can tell you - their grief is continuing. As the "firsts" roll around - first birthday, first holidays, first year anniversary - keep them in mind...let them know you remember. It matters. Trust us.
Need help or a suggestion now?
Feel free to call on us at 478-953-1478 if you have a concern about an upcoming funeral or memorial service. We are here to help our families - and our community in general. We've got a lot of experience and we are more than willing to share it with you.