We previously talked about how to help someone in grief, but wanted to address a particular time period in grief. A friend of ours recently asked for advice on how to be supportive to a family member during the week before a funeral. It got us thinking back to this hazy time and what could be helpful. We are glad that she asked so that we could offer a few specific and realistic suggestions. Actually, we have been working on this post for a while, but just realized that this posting date is the week of the second anniversary of our sister’s death. We hope to focus on one positive, in that we do have some advice to share in order to help others in the unwanted position of planning a funeral.
When we think back to the week of our sister’s funeral, like many grievers, our recollection of events is a little blurry. We were sleep deprived, delirious humans who spent our days looking through pictures, thinking and writing about our sister while preparing her eulogy, helping plan a funeral mass by picking out songs and readings, and attempting to read and respond to messages from friends and family. To prepare for a funeral for our 39 year old sister was surreal and devastating.
But seriously, the list of tasks involved in planning a funeral is pretty ridiculous. Not to even mention, the hundreds of thank you notes that we wanted to send following the services to those who sent flowers, food, and donations. The only way we could manage the notes was to divide them up. And keep in mind, we were doing this work while wishing that we could just stay in bed and hide under the covers.
Somehow, we did it but did we have to do all of those things? Probably not, but we were too tired to make reasonable decisions, which is why we did things like wander the mall looking for an outfit or extra tights for the children to wear to the funeral, but wishing that we were home on the couch with our family. You can learn from our mistakes and help your friends and family who are preparing for a funeral by following any of these tips:
- Delegate jobs. The immediate family may not be capable of figuring out what they need in order to ask for help, so just offer specific help like, “Can I go to the mall and pick up any accessories or clothing for the ceremony?” Or, “Do you need a courier to drop things off at the funeral home?”
- Entertain the children. Take them on an outing, let the kids get a much needed break and burn off some energy.
- Offer to pick up arriving family at the airport or sponsor their transportation costs in a metro car service.
- If you live far away, you may want to do something but can’t physically be there to help. Maybe a care package of fun distractions would be nice. Include things like magazines, funny books or other distractions, a comfy shirt to lounge in.
- Organize dinners to be dropped off at the house - simple, comforting meals.
- Send wine.
- You can plan out tasks as a family or group to offer lots of rotating help.
- You may feel like you wish you could do more, but just remember that your simple presence at memorial services, if you are able to attend, can be very comforting. When we looked out at the crowd of people who showed up to remember our sister, the sheer number of faces was amazing and heartwarming because we knew she had touched so many lives.