When people find out I am a funeral director, they often don’t know what to say. Similarly, it can be extremely difficult to console a friend or family member when they have lost a loved one. It’s natural for us to want to have an answer for the grieving to make them feel better about the death.
Unfortunately, clichés such as “They are in a better place,” “God needed another angel,” “At least they are not suffering,” and the worst, ”I know just how you feel,” are just not helpful.
Sometimes we need to say nothing. Yes, nothing.
The bereaved need a listening ear. They need to verbally work out their thoughts and feelings. If you need to say something, “I’m sorry for your loss,” is the most comforting.
However, the most powerful comfort you can offer is the power of presence. Your presence during their pain will speak volumes. Oftentimes it’s the non-verbal expression that will be remembered.
In particular, I’ve noticed that, after an individual has suffered a loss of their own, they will come to funerals and visitations more often to show their support—they realize how important and comforting that gesture was at the time of their own loss.
Oftentimes we are unable to show up for a funeral or visitation due to other commitments, but most funeral homes will list their website on obituary notices, and they often have an area where you can send online condolences or tributes to the family. This gives family and friends an opportunity to send a message of comfort to the grieving family. You may want to recall a funny story about the deceased or a special memory from your heart.
The funeral home makes a copy of these messages and gives them to the family. This way, the family is touched by your remembrance as well as reaffirmed that their loved one truly had an impact on others and that they will be missed.
Losing a loved one is extremely difficult, even if the deceased lived a full 100-year life. The bereaved have a difficult time letting go of the relationship because, when you love someone, loss hurts. We need to learn to be companions to each other through the grief journey because its length varies from person to person. Family and friends must be patient with the bereaved until they learn to find their new normal.
Marsha Linnemann is a registered nurse and funeral director for Linnemann Family Funeral Homes in Northern Kentucky. She offers support groups for the bereaved.