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All around the world, in almost every culture, people gather together to share important events and milestones in their lives like births, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and even job promotions

The celebration or the rites are important events.

It is a time to gather together to support the living and honour the life of the person who left us. The celebration or the rites allow us to share a loss with our friends and family. Sharing is an important part of healing.

Without a funeral, many of us would find it more difficult to accept a death. The celebrations or gatherings are the beginning of the healing process.

Why proper funeral etiquette is important.

Socially, these gatherings bring us all closer together. We draw strength from each other as we say goodbye to the one we lost, and solidify our relationships with the living.

But for many of us, giving our condolences to family and friends who are grieving can sometimes make us feel awkward and uncomfortable. That is why we created this page. It offers helpful information and advice including important things you should know or do before, during and after the celebration.

We hope this will help both you, and those who are grieving, get through a difficult time.

How to support those who are grieving.

Listen to them. Simply be there for them. Listen more, talk less. Give hem your love and understanding, but also give them space if they need it.

Validate their feelings. Everyone grieves in different ways. Some people talk continuously about their ordeal. Some stop talking entirely. Others cry and show tremendous emotion; some show no emotion at all. Try to understand these reactions; do not judge, but simply offer your support.

Be patient. Many grievers need to repeat, over and over, how a loved one died, or other stories. This is part of healing and requires great patience on your part. Repeating the details of a death or fond memories is an important part of the healing process.

Refer to the deceased by name. The deceased may no longer exist on this earth, but to the grieving family, their memory is very much alive. It is important to refer to the deceased by name when speaking to family members to reassure them that their loved one is not forgotten and that his or her memory lives on.

Do not talk for the sake of talking. Sometimes silence is golden. Trying to fill the gaps in a conversation can sometimes lead to inappropriate comments. Just be a good listener.

Emotions: How to be prepared.

Be ready. People who are grieving sometimes demonstrate an overwhelming array of emotions from anger to resentment, denial and depression. You must be ready for all or any of these emotions. If this seems overwhelming for you, imagine what it must be like for them. Try to be as supportive as possible.

Speak gently. Saying the right words is important. Something as simple as I am sorry for your loss or I want you to know that I care or just I love you can be very healing for a grieving person. There is a time to listen and a time to say kind words.

Be affectionate. A kind, loving hug can give great comfort to a grieving person. If this is awkward for you or the griever, a gentle pat or a firm handshake both send a message of compassion and caring

How to support all family members

Grieving Grandparents
Do not forget the grandparents during the funeral of a child. On this occasion, the suffering and grief are unimaginable. Not only are the parents suffering terribly, but the suffering of the grandparents is twofold: they are grieving for their grandchild and also for their child who lost a son or daughter. Make a special effort to give your condolences to the grandparents as well as the parents.

Remember the children
Children are often forgotten at visitations and memorials. While adults are busy comforting each other, children may be left out. If a child has lost a family member, they too need comforting. A few kind words will make a lasting impression on them. Sometimes just giving them a little job to do will make them feel important.

What not to say…What not to do.

Do not judge grievers. Do not correct a griever or express your opinion on a personal matter. Even if a griever is acting strangely, do not be condescending. 

People who are grieving are going through a terrible time. Be compassionate and supportive.

Do not take over. Be available for a griever, but do not try to take over their life. Grievers need to stay busy and involved. Let them do things at their own pace. Try not to "fix" things for them unless you are asked for help.

Personal belongings.

Some mourners are anxious to remove the belongings of their loved one from their home shortly after a death while others want nothing moved for years following their loss. 

Support the griever in either situation and allow them to deal with it in their own time. Do not touch anything belonging to the deceased without asking first.

Shared medication.

Never give a griever or anyone your personal medications. Providing a griever with sedatives or other drugs can be very dangerous. Only a physician can prescribe and monitor drugs for someone.

Inappropriate comments

Be careful to avoid remarks like these: 

  • I know just how you feel.
  • Get a grip on yourself.
  • I never thought you would take it this way.
  • Calm down, it will be all right.
  • Now, now, no tears.
  • Why do you keep repeating everything? You are making it worse.
  • Why didn't you call me?
  • It is a blessing in disguise.
  • I never did trust that particular hospital (doctor, etc.).
  • You are young. You will marry again.
  • You must get on with your life.
  • I know what you are going through.
  • You are so lucky to have had her for so many years.
  • You must be relieved that this ordeal is over. It has been such a strain on you.

Stay away from these insensitive comments after the death of an unborn or newly-born child: 

  • It is better this way.
  • At least you did not really know the child.
  • You can get pregnant again.
  • How to provide ongoing support

Maintain contact.

For many who have lost a loved one, the grieving becomes more intense in the weeks and months following the celebration. This is an important time for friends to maintain contact through regular visits, phone calls and letters. An invitation to go out may offer welcome relief from the loneliness, but do not insist if the griever prefers time alone.

Be thoughtful. For the first few years after a death, send a card to the surviving family on the birthday of the deceased, date of death or wedding anniversary. 

This will demonstrate to them that the memory of their loved one is still alive and that everyone has not forgotten.