As funeral directors, we’re intimately familiar with grieving; residents of Watford and its surrounds visit us in its throes, and the services that we work closely alongside them to plan and tailor to the interests of the deceased, family and friends, are ways of addressing that grief – getting it out into the open and giving it its own space. While funerals don’t dispel or even dilute the strength of grief that individuals feel, they are a healthy means of communication between all those impacted by the passing.
But if you yourself aren’t directly impacted by the passing of a person, for example if a friend or family member lost someone who you weren’t intimately familiar with, how can you be a supportive and understanding influence? After all, it can be difficult to know exactly what to say – often the immediate pain of losing someone can transcend language, and we struggle to find the vocabulary to either express it or confront it. In this latest blog from Watford funeral directors J & S Funerals, we consider the “dos and don’ts” of expressing condolences.
While some might find it awkward, it’s important not to try and go around the subject: acknowledgement is key. By avoiding the subject, it won’t go away, and it can’t “re-open wounds” that haven’t, and might never heal. The next thing to ensure is that you’re sympathetic in your approach. While rarely ever actively cruel, by coming from an overly-empathetic angle and saying: “I understand how you feel, as a family member or friend of mine also died not too long ago”, can trivialise grief and make it seem like you’re turning the conversation toward your own situation.
Part of the job of our funeral directors, when planning funerals in the Watford area, is to try and translate the unique aspects of a relationship into the service itself. It’s also important that fellow mourners and well-wishers realise that everyone’s grief has a different quality and a different effect on them. So “I can’t imagine how you feel”, and similar pronouncements, is far more indicative of this.
You may have known of them, even by second hand stories, and making your condolences personal by talking about the deceased is in almost all cases a good thing. Grief is about open communication and thinking about the good times. Remarking on how funny or kind they sounded from stories you’d heard, or brief interactions you’d had, feeds into this.
And don’t be afraid to ask questions, specifically regarding the impact the loss is having. Asking how they are holding up, if they need any help, if they’re eating enough and getting sleep, whether there are support networks in place for them, are all incredibly considerate and powerful things to ask. In our line of work, as funeral directors for the Watford area, we’ve seen family members and friends take the news of a love one’s with a sense of resilience and an almost reluctance to mourn – some are just this way inclined; for others, the news hits hard. Ensuring you keep in touch, and offer anything that might make their life easier, can be a vital lifeline for some.
But you shouldn’t let any of these tips make it seem that the impact on your own psyche is minimal; even if you are only partially familiar with someone who has passed away, you may be struck harder by the events surrounding the death than you might have previously thought. Express your sadness to other mourners, and just as you listen to their feelings – put your own out into the open. Sharing the weight of grief can be a valid and effective means of getting through a particularly hard time; in many ways, this encapsulates what we do as local funeral directors in Watford.
17 School Mead, Abbots Langley,
Watford, Herts, WD5 0LA