GRIEVING AND CONDOLENCES
“... the rituals observed after the death of a loved one or friend salve our grief” — Peggy Post
How To... books abound. We are drawn to the idea of obtaining a book that tells us how to use a computer, lose weight, invest wisely, or perform countless other technological and personal activities. Unfortunately, the books can never cover all the angles.
How to handle death, memorials, and grieving cannot be put down in a simple formula; we are each different and our ways of handling the deaths of family and friends will be different. As we work with bereaved families at Waller Funeral Home, we are ever conscious of letting families express themselves and of conforming to their wishes. We are not critical of their choices and are respectful of differences in beliefs and practices. We do, however, offer guidance as plans are made for funeral services.
A new edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, which defines etiquette as “a code of behavior based on thoughtfulness,” contains a chapter on how to deal with death and grieving. The chapter begins with this introduction:
“As they have in every culture from the beginning of time, the rituals observed after the death of a loved one or friend salve our grief. All religions hold that the soul or spirit is sacred and that the embodiment of that spirit deserves respectful and ceremonious treatment. Yet things change with time, and the trend in recent years has been to both mourn the deceased and celebrate his life. The result is services that are more customized to reflect the person’s personality, interests, and accomplishments.
“More and more of today’s families are deciding what the nature of a funeral or memorial service should be, then taking an active part in planning it. It only makes sense, after all, that the choices everyone will find the most comforting—from the music to the burial clothing to the tone of the service itself—are more important than following a preordained script. Funeral directors and clergy are willing to see that the family’s wishes are fulfilled....
“If some things about funerals and mourning have changed, others have stayed the same: the ways to go about notifying others of the death and the particulars of the funeral, enlisting participants, and offering and accepting condolences.”
Much of the following discussion is quoted or paraphrased from this 2004 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette.
The choice of burial clothing is more relaxed than in the past when subdued solid colors in a conservative style were expected. The decision now rests on what the deceased would have wanted and choices can include a uniform, a favorite brightly colored dress, or sport clothes.
An honorarium is sometimes given by the family to the officiant who presides at a funeral service, with the amount varying from place to place. Musicians who take part in the funeral service may also be due honorariums. Checks are presented after the funeral by a member of the family or they may ask the funeral director to pass the family’s check(s). A personal note of thanks accompanying each of the checks is appropriate.
When sending flowers, you should get them to the bereaved as soon as possible—either at home or to the funeral home in time for the visitation or funeral. Flowers are also appreciated after the funeral, showing a lasting reminder of love and concern.
Ms. Post makes the following suggestions when the family suggests memorials to a special charity or to a charity of the donor’s choice:
“(1) Try to give at least what you would have paid for a flower arrangement.
(2) When you send a check to a charity specified by the family, include a note saying whom the donation memorializes: ‘I am enclosing a donation in loving memory of Rowan McGuire.’ Include your address in the note so the organization will know where to send an acknowledgment, which also serves as your tax receipt. It’s a good idea to confirm with the charity they will notify the deceased’s family of your donation.
(3) If you do as the notice advises and send a contribution to ‘your favorite charity,’ choose one that might mean something to the bereaved family as well. You’ll also need to include the address of the deceased’s family so that the charity will know where to send an acknowledgment.
(4) Ordinarily, cash is not sent to the family in place of flowers or a charitable contribution, but exceptions can be made. For example, if the bereaved person is having financial difficulties, a group (fellow employees, club or lodge members, neighbors) could take up a collection.
(5) If you want to be sure that the bereaved knows of your contribution, it is all right to mention it in person or in your sympathy note: ‘We’ve remembered dear Maria with a contribution to the Benevolent Society.”’
Ms. Post offers advice on offering condolences: “Don’t feel that getting in touch with someone who’s just lost a loved one is an intrusion. It’s the support of friends and acquaintances that helps ease the pain of the bereaved. Give them your condolences and offer specific ways in which you might help, such as assisting with meals, child care, or notification.”
Most important is to stay in touch. Notes and letters of condolence, she says, are too personal to follow a set form. “One simple rule should guide you: Say what you truly feel. A single sincere line expressing the genuine feeling you had for the deceased is worth more than an eloquently written treatise. As you write, don’t
dwell on the details of an illness or the manner of death. Nor should you suggest that the loss is a ‘blessing in disguise.’ Also remember that those with an aching heart shouldn’t have to wade through condolences that go on and on. Do, however, ask if there is something you can do to help.”
If you are asked to give an eulogy, here are some suggestions from Ms. Post.
whether to accept is a personal decision. If you decline because you are too upset, be honest with the family and explain that you don’t want to risk detracting from the important things that need to be heard about the life of the deceased. If you accept, approach the task with great sensitivity. While the officiant(s) will review the person’s life and accomplishments, you should speak of the attributes that exemplify his or her humanity.
“When writing the eulogy, don’t be afraid to ask others to share their memories of the deceased. You might also want to ask the family if there is anything about the person that they feel should be mentioned—or not mentioned. It’s wise to have a friend read over your eulogy before you finalize it, and you’ll also probably want to practice reciting your words a few times.
“Relate stories that show the deceased in a positive light, and handle any humor with care. If you like, include a poem, passage, or anything else you feel reflects the life of the deceased...the subject of your eulogy is the person’s best qualities, not your feelings. And the more eulogies that are to be delivered, the shorter yours should be—no less than two minutes but usually no longer that eight or ten.” Ms. Post’s discussion includes statements of common sense and common courtesy, but including the obvious is necessary to a clear consideration of how to handle death, grieving, and condolences, and we gain confidence that we are doing the right things.
Ms. Post’s 847 pages of guidance concerning all kinds of social concerns is well indexed and offers a helpful approach to a multitude of etiquette concerns in today’s times. Pages 529-546 offer a clear, thoughtful approach to funeral and memorial services, grieving, and condolences. We highly recommend this book to you.
All of God’s children share in God’s love
The near-cataclysmic devastation caused by the tsunamis after the suboceanic earthquake in southeast Asia brings the world closer together because news coverage has been intense, graphic and constant.
The tears, grief and suffering remind people everywhere of humankind’s basic commonality: We all are God’s children.
The late Harry Rutherford, the Daily Journal’s esteemed, longtime editor until his untimely death in 1977, wrote in one of his most-remembered religious editorials, “In the Christian world every individual is considered to be a child of God, each with a divine spark in his makeup as surely as it includes traits inherited from his human forebears.
“Each person’s wearing a name tag reading ‘God’s Child’ would have a twofold advantage.
“One is readily understood.
“That is to help each of us better appreciate the other, eliminating snobbery or condemnation with which we frequently view some groups among our fellow men.
“And admittedly there would be another great advantage to ‘God’s Child’ name tags which we usually overlook.
“That is the help such tags would provide in enabling each individual to recognize that he is as valuable in the eyes of God as the richest, most powerful or most handsome of his neighbors.”
Rutherford’s powerfully persuasive editorial went on to say that “the teachings of Christ are strong in emphasizing that to God all people are important.”
Simply remembering that basic precept at the beginning of every New Year sets the tone for individual and public behavior.
It shapes our response personally and as a community, state and nation to the pain of those affected by the tsunami disaster and all other adverse situations.
It determines our response to those who suffer from the heartaches and injustices of human behavior in our own communities and within our state.
It should mold our thinking and action in faithful response to every relationship in life.
Rutherford went on to say, " The important thing to remember in regard to our self-evaluation as well as in our consideration of others is that God never made a Nobody. He made only individuals of great worth.
“To God, we are repeatedly told by Jesus, each of us is important. And if one is more important than another in God’s eyes, it is on the basis of some standard we will never know, hence might as well forget.”
Rutherford, a New Albany native who helped shape and build Northeast Mississippi’s prosperity after World War II, understood the meaning of Christian servanthood and why it is the foundation of Christlikeness.
We continue to believe that and strive to practice it as a business.
—Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, January 3, 2005
(Amen. We also believe that and strive to practice it as a business
— Waller Funeral Home)
A BOOK SUGGESTION AND GUIDELINES
Understanding Grief: Helping Yourself Heal, by Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt, provides an opportunity to learn about and deal with personal grief. Dr. Wolfelt says “Work with thousands of bereaved persons, combined with my personal losses, have convinced me of one thing: you can not heal without mourning or expressing your grief outwardly. Denying your grief, running from it, or minimizing it only seems to make it more confusing and overwhelming. To lessen your hurt, you must embrace it.” He dispels common myths and offers suggestions about what to expect and how to handle grief. While many of his suggestions are self-help (including workbook sort of activities), he provides suggested guidelines and activities for support groups. Most of his book contains suggestions for the bereaved, but he also includes the following guidelines for friends to help the bereaved.
Listen with Your Heart
Helping begins with your ability to be an active listener. Your physical presence and desire to listen without judging are critical helping tools. Don’t worry so much about what you will say. Just concentrate on listening to the words that are being shared with you.
Your friend may relate the same story about the death over and over again. Listen attentively each time. Realize that this repetition is part of your friend’s healing process. Simply listen and understand.
Give your friend permission to express his or her feelings without fear of criticism. Learn from your friend: don’t instruct or set expectations about how he or she should respond. Never say, “I know just how you feel.” You don’t. Think about your helper role as someone who “walks with,” not “behind” or “in front of,” the one who is bereaved.
Allow your friend to experience all the hurt, sorrow, and pain that he or she is feeling at the time. Enter into your friend’s feelings, but never try to take them away. And recognize that tears are a natural and appropriate expression of the pain associated with the loss.
Words, particularly cliches, can be extremely painful for a grieving friend. Cliches are trite comments often intended to diminish the loss by providing simple solutions to difficult realities. Comments like “You are holding up so well,” “Time will heal all wounds,” “Think of all you still have to be thankful for,” or “Just be happy that he’s out of his pain” are not constructive. Instead, they hurt and make a friend’s journey through grief more difficult.
Understand the Uniqueness of Grief
Keep in mind that your friend’s grief is unique. No one will respond to the death of someone loved in exactly the same way. While it may be possible to talk about similar phases shared by grieving people, everyone is different and shaped by experiences in his or her life.
Because the grief experience is unique, be patient. The process of grief takes a long time; so allow your friend to proceed at his or her own pace. Don’t force your own timetable to healing. Don’t criticize what you believe is inappropriate behavior. And while you should create opportunities for personal interaction, don’t force the situation if your grieving friend resists.
Other Practical Help
Preparing food, washing clothes, cleaning the house, or answering the telephone are just a few of the practical ways of showing that you care. And, just as with your presence, this support is needed at the time of the death and in the weeks and months ahead.
Your presence at the funeral is important. As a ritual, the funeral provides an opportunity for you to express your love and concern at this time of need. As you pay tribute to a life that is now passed, you have a chance to support grieving friends and family. At the funeral, a touch of your hand, a look in your eye, or even a hug often communicates more than any words could ever say.
Don’t just attend the funeral then disappear. Remain available afterwards as well. Remember your grieving friend may need you more in the days or weeks after the funeral than at the time of the death. A brief visit or a telephone call in the days that follow are usually appreciated.
Write a Personal Note
Sympathy cards express your concern, but no substitute for your personal written words exists. What do you say? Share a favorite memory of the person who died. Relate the special qualities that you valued about him or her. These words will often be a loving gift to your grieving friend, words that will be reread and remembered for years.
Use the name of the person who has died either in your personal note or when you talk to your friend. Hearing that name can be comforting, and it confirms that you have not forgotten this important person who was so much a part of
your friend’s life.
Be Aware of Holidays and Anniversaries
Your friend may have a difficult time during special occasions like holidays and anniversaries. These events emphasize the absence of the person who has died. Respect this pain as a natural extension of the grief process. Learn from it. And, most importantly, never try to take away the hurt.
Understand the Importance of the Loss
Remember that the death of someone loved is a shattering experience. As a result of this death, your friend’s life is under reconstruction. Considering the significance of the loss, be gentle and compassionate in all of your helping efforts.
While these guidelines will be helpful, recognize that helping a grieving friend will not be an easy task. You may have to give more concern, time, and love than you ever knew you had. But this effort will be more than worth it.
By “walking with” your friend in grief, you are giving one of life’s most precious gifts — yourself.
Think of the benefits of prearrangement of funeral services. Handling your own or a loved one’s personal choices and financial arrangements in advance brings a secure and satisfied feeling at the time of completion and greatly reduces stress at the time of a death. Fewer decisions have to be made at a time when families are often tired and emotionally drained and when time is limited. Families separated by long distances can come together in advance to make arrangements, thus avoiding the delay that awaiting the arrival of family members from some distance can cause. The price of funeral services and merchandise is frozen by the prearrangement agreement.
The first step in taking care of funeral plans for yourself might be to write down some of the information that will be required at the time of your death—information needed for planning the funeral and burial, preparing the obituary, and completing the death certificate. Forms to record this information are available at Waller Funeral Home. A few minutes now will lessen your family’s tasks at the time of your death and will also make your wishes known to them.
Prepayment is not required but is highly recommended to relieve your family of financial stress at the time of your death. Various prearrangement plans are available including payment in full or a monthly payment plan to fit your budget. (Trust prearrangement contracts with your prepayment and our agreement to provide services are nonrefundable and nontransferable. Our insurance-funded prearrangements are portable and transferable.)
The extent of prearrangement varies. Specific choices can be made of casket, content and location of funeral service, pallbearers, place of burial, monument, etc. We are prepared to work with you to whatever extent you desire. There is no obligation for a consultation to consider the possibilities, and we promise that no pressure will be exerted. Just call 234-7971 and talk with us about arranging a conference at your convenience.
We dedicate this issue of Seasons to those who died and whose families we served from November 15, 2004 through January 31, 2005.
Mr. James A. Jackson / November 15
Mrs. Dortha Ramsey Ivy / November 15
Mr. Rudolph Feller / November 16
Mr. Edmund Peyton Lowe, Jr / November 17
Mr. Richard Lewis Rowland / November 18
Mrs. Juanita Denton Crowson / November 19
Miss Mary Kate Heard / November 19
Mr. Samuel Covington Marcus / November 19
Ms. Peggy Lynne Lipe / November 20
Mr. Richard W “Dick” Elliott, Sr / December 3
Mr. Ralph Glen Daniels / December 9
Mr. Daniel Scott Collins / December 10
Mrs. Lola S. Moss / December 16
Mrs. Winnie Ree Franklin / December 16
Dr. Maeburn Bruce Huneycutt / December 20
Mrs. Eunice Rice Hayles / December 21
Mr. Charles Wayne Estes / December 21
Mr. Bonnie Lee James / December 23
Mr. Bernice Napoleon “B. N.” Rea / December 26
Mr. J. D. James / December 27
Mr. Eddie Alan Harwell / December 31
Mrs. Marjorie Childress Fincher / January 1
Mr. Laban Wilton Cost / January 2
Mr. Charles Wilburn “Red” Ivy / January 6
Mrs. Maxine Elliott Hitt Malone / January 8
Mrs. Kimberly Dawn Tidwell Ingram / January 8
Mr. James N. “Norris” James, Sr / January 8
Mr. Alvis Grover Moore / January 14
Mr. Felix Webster Mills / January 17
Mr. Billy Wayne Collins / January 18
Dr. E. K Landis / January 25
Mr. Samuel Dewey Hawkins, Jr / January 27
Mr. Roy Samuel Leister / January 27
Mrs. Shirley Pearson Edwards / January 29
Mrs. Alma Matthews Hollowell / January 31
Mrs. Mary Cutshaw Fudge / January 31