It can be really awkward when someone you know is grieving a loss and you never met the deceased. Should you participate in the burial and mourning rituals at the funeral, cemetery, or home? Do you pay a personal call days or weeks following a death? Maybe you did know the deceased, but you’re afraid to say or do the wrong thing and contemplate staying away.
Many folks have questions on what’s appropriate etiquette following a death. I’ve come to the conclusion that just showing up is what’s most important.
There’s a common theme to the stories I hear from those who’ve experienced loss. “My colleague came to the visitation. We’re not even close but I was so glad to see her.” Or, “I’ll never forget my friend from out of town who came to the funeral, the cemetery, and back to the house.” And sadly, “I'll never feel the same about one of my closest friends who in three months couldn't make the time to see me.”
Whether you choose to show up or stay away, your actions will make a lasting impression. And remember, there is nothing magical you can say that will take away the pain. The bereaved just want to know they’re not alone and that you’re standing by their side. Share with them how sad you are that they’ve lost a loved one and then take your cues; listen if they want to talk, mingle with the other guests, or lend a hand with the serving and clean up. Just keep in mind that your presence is what’s important.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons / Elvert Barnes