Weeks' Funeral Home and Crematory
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Helpful Articles 

Helping a Grieving Friend

by Catherine Johnson, MA, FT

Helping a friend or family member who is grieving the death of a loved one can be challenging. Not knowing what to say, some people choose to say nothing, hoping to avoid saying something that may result in hurt feelings. Such silence is difficult for the bereaved. Their world seems turned upside down and they wonder how their friends can act as if nothing has happened.

Here are some suggestions of ways for you to be helpful for those who are grieving.

  • Offer practical help, such as grocery shopping, lawn mowing, binging dinner. Vague offers to "let me know if you need anything" are rarely helpful. 
  • Be willing to listen, even if you have heard the story before. Talking may be your friend's way of making sense of what happened. 
  • Allow him or her the freedom to cry without giving advice, handing him a tissue, or conveying the message that the tears make you uncomfortable. 
  • Remember that even though you may have experienced a similar death, there is no way thatyou can know how anyone else feels. 
  • Call or send a card on important dates, such as a wedding anniversary or the birthday of the deceased. It is reassuring to know that you have not forgotten. 
  • Let go of expectations that grief should be over after a certain length of time. It will never beover 100% - it just gets easier to live with. 
  • Accept gracefully any limits your friend puts on your time together. Sometimes grieving people feel better being with others; other times they need to be alone. 
  • Share your memories of the one who died. It is comforting to know that others have not forgotten how special s(he) was. 
  • Give up the expectation that she needs to get back to her old self. Her life is changed forever and she must incorporate that into her new reality. 
  • Eliminate the word "should" from your conversations with your grieving friend. Only she can know what she "should" be doing or feeling. Never assume that you know what is best for someone else. 
  • Send occasional cards just to say that you are thinking of him. 
  • If you leave a message on voice mail for your friend, let her know that you do not expect a return call. Bereaved people have limited energy for returning a lot of calls. 
  • Give advice ONLY when it is specifically requested. 
  • Honor any ritual suggested by your friend, whether it is lighting a special candle at a holidaydinner table, planting a memorial garden, or taking flowers to the cemetery. Such personal rituals can be healing. 
  • When you don't know what to say, a simple pat on the shoulder, a hug, or a squeeze of the hand is enough. 

Why Bother?

by Dr. Duane Weeks

The value of funeral rituals was reinforced for me when my wife and I recently attended a funeral in Goodhue, Minnesota. It was a touching service, a fitting tribute, and provided three valuable opportunities for a couple of hundred family and friends. 

First, the lady who died had lived in her small town for many years, and her funeral provided the occasion for folks to honor and remember her. Second, by attending, people demonstrated to her husband and children how much she was loved, appreciated, and will be missed. Third, all of us who attended were able to grieve, acknowledging our loss.

I was reminded once again that funerals are for the living, not the dead.

In the Pacific Northwest, we often forget the values associated with the funeral. We do not have the generations of tradition that guide death rituals in the Midwest and East. 

When we experience a death, we ask for help and advice. Sometimes well-meaning friends answer us by saying, "Death rituals are out of style," or "Funerals are a waste of time," or "Just try to forget and get on with your life." They may add, "The cheaper the better" or "Why bother?" These are wrong answers.

You don't attend a funeral because someone has died; you attend because that person has lived.

The person, while living, contributed to the community, family, friends, and to you. Anyone who has lived is valuable enough to be remembered and honored. Surviving family and friends need to feel the love and support of others in the community. You deserve to grieve someone you will miss. 

Honor, remember, love, support, and grieve. These are opportunities and purposes of funerals. 

Am I Going Crazy?

by Catherine Johnson

There can be a wide variety of experiences that accompany grief. Physical ones may include inability to sleep, loss of appetite, tightness in the throat, and heaviness in the chest. Emotional experiences may include not being able to believe that the death is real, feeling the presence of the deceased (i.e. looking up, fully expecting to see him lounging in his favorite chair), feelings of anger and guilt, and inability to concentrate or complete tasks started. Unaccustomed to such symptoms, a grieving person may well ask, "What's wrong with me? Am I going crazy?"

The answer is, "No, you are experiencing normal grief." Grief is not a disease or a mental health disorder. It is a natural, if sometimes painful, reaction to the loss of someone you love. The reactions described above will not last forever. In the meantime, try to be patient with yourself, and above all, kind to yourself. 

 

Grief Resources
In the days, weeks, and months following the service, people continue to need others to lean on for understanding, encouragement, and guidance.