Funeral Guidelines for the Bereaved
Nobody wants funerals. However, funerals provide a good way to come to grips with death. You can easily enter into denial when someone you knew well has passed away. A funeral helps you - and those that knew the deceased - face death. This is an important step in the grieving process.
Funerals also provide a support structure of family and friends that help you during this time. Connecting with the love, affection, and sympathy offered helps the grieving process, and provides a support network that you can lean on while going through this difficult time.
Here are some guidelines to help you as go through the funeral and followup:
During the visitation, it is standard practice for the family to greet visitors. You don't need to keep track of all coming in, as they will approach you. Simply offer them your kindness and appreciation for coming, and ensure that they sign the sign-in book.
There will be many visitors that you have not seen for a while. You might easily want to spend a lot of time with them. However, make a point of addressing all of those that come to the funeral. Ask those visitors you wish to spend more time with to come visit you after the funeral. This provides the time you need to catch up, as well as getting additional support after the funeral.
There might be visitors you do not like. The best tactic is simply to be polite. In those rare incidents where a person is so disliked that an altercation could occur, simply ask the funeral director to lead the person out. However, a funeral is not a good place to air grievances. It is best to keep your tact and politeness, and try not to create a disturbance. It helps your grieving process, and helps others as well.
Often, the cause of death is a touchy subject at the funeral. You will be asked by those who are simply interested, or are trying to keep a conversation going. Reduce these conversations by including the cause of death in the obituary. You will still need to come up with some sort of answer to questions regarding cause of death, though. Don't feel you have to go into excruciating detail. Most of the questions are asked to help you talk though the details as a way of addressing your grief. If it doesn't help to talk through the details, provide a short answer and move on.
Despite the best intentions of friends and family, you may become overwhelmed by their words and presence. To protect yourself during this time, have a pre-arranged gesture for a close friend, family member, clergy, or funeral director to let them know that you need help.
Thank You Notes
Send thank you notes to those who have helped you, and those who have provided gifts, flowers, and memorials. Don't feel you have to send a thank you note to visitors.
It is recommended that thank you notes be sent within two weeks of the death. In the past, thank yous were sent with a long letter from the family. Today, a simple thank card with a signature is sufficient. You might also want to add a personal note to the card, or even a hand-written thank you.
Those who gave memorials and flowers. For individuals who gave you memorials or flowers, write a thank you note with a short personal message. If multiple names appear on the memorial or flower card, send a thank you note to each of the individuals. If an organization or other group sends you a memorial or flowers, send a thank you note to the leader of the group, and include all the group's members in the card.
Friends who have helped you. Send a personal hand written card to those friends and neighbors who have helped with tasks such as childcare, preparing food, and doing errands. Don't feel you need to send a separate thank you, though, for those who dropped in to visit you.
Clergy. A personal note to the clergy that provided spiritual help is recommended. This note, by the way, should be kept separate from any honorarium or offering that needs to be sent.
Pallbearers. A separate thank you note with a personal message to those who took on the task of pallbearer is highly recommended.
After the funeral
Often, the business of preparing for the funeral and following up helps people cope. After these distractions, though, you are often left with the pain of death. This is a time when you need to take care of yourself physically and emotionally.
Make sure you eat well, get exercise, and get the sleep you need. This will provide the strength you need to get through the grieving process. There are several steps you can take to mitigate the emotional pain: keep a diary, tell people what you need, and try to get out as much as possible. Don't be afraid to seek professional help - this is not an easy time!
The better you take care of yourself, the easier it is to remember the deceased and the good times. Take these important steps to start the healing process.