Your presence at the visitation demonstrates that although someone has died, friends still remain. Your presence is an eloquent statement that you care.
Visitation provides a time and place for friends to offer their expression of sorrow and sympathy. The obituary/death notice will designate the hours of visitation when the family will be present and will also designate the times when special services such as lodge services or prayer services may be held. Friends and relatives are requested to sign the register book. A person's full name should be listed e.g. "Robert Jones". If the person is a business associate, it is proper to list their affiliation as the family may not be familiar with their relationship to the deceased.
Friends should use their own judgment on how long they should remain at the funeral home or place of visitation. If they feel their presence is needed, they should offer to stay.
When the funeral service is over, the survivors often feel very alone in dealing with their feelings. It is important that they know you are still there. Keep in touch.
The type of service conducted for the deceased is specified by the family. Funeral directors are trained to assist families in arranging whatever type of service they desire. The service, held either at a place of worship or at the funeral home with the deceased present, varies in ritual according to denomination. The presence of friends at this time is an acknowledgement of friendship and support.
This service is by invitation only and may be held at a place of worship, a funeral home or a family home. Usually, selected relatives and a few close friends attend the funeral service.
A memorial service is a service without the deceased present and can vary in ceremony and procedures according to the community and religious affiliations.
A eulogy may be given by a member of the family, clergy, a close personal friend or a business associate of the deceased. The eulogy is not to be lengthy, but should offer praise and commendation and reflect the life of the person who has died.
Funeral Procession / Cortege
When the funeral ceremony and the burial are both held within the local area, friends and relatives usually accompany the family to the cemetery. The procession is formed at the funeral home or place of worship.
Persons attending a funeral should be dressed in good taste so as to show dignity and respect for the family and the occasion. Wearing colorful clothing is appropriate for relatives and friends attending the service.
The time of death is a very confusing time for family members. No matter what your means of expressing your sympathy, it is important to clearly identify yourself to the family.
Sending a floral tribute is a very appropriate way of expressing sympathy to the family of the deceased. Flowers express a feeling of life and beauty and offer much comfort to the family. A floral tribute can either be sent to the funeral home or the residence. If sent to the residence, usually a planter or a small vase of flowers indicating a person's continued sympathy for the family is suggested. The florist places an identification card on the floral tribute. When the flowers arrive at the funeral home, there are usually two cards attached to the arrangement. One card is left with the flowers, and the other card is removed from the floral tribute and given to the family so they may acknowledge the flowers sender. Following the reception, the funeral home will arrange with the family to have the flowers delivered to the family residence, care centre or location of choice.
Mass cards can be sent either by Catholic or non-Catholic friends. The offering of prayers is a valued expression of sympathy to a Catholic family. A card indicating that a Mass for the deceased has been arranged may be obtained from any Catholic parish. The Mass offering card or envelope is given to the family as an indication of understanding, faith and compassion. Make sure that your name and address is legible and that you list your postal code. This will make it easier for the family to acknowledge your gift.
A large number of memorial funds are available, however the family may have expressed a preference. Memorial donations provide financial support for various projects. If recognized as a charitable institution, some gifts may be deductible for tax purposes.
Sending a card of sympathy, even if you are only an acquaintance, is appropriate. It means so much to the family members to know they are in good thoughts. The card should be in good taste and in keeping with your relationship to the family of the deceased.
Telephone Calls or Personal Notes
Speaking to a family member gives you an opportunity to offer your services and make them feel you really care. If they wish to discuss their recent loss, don't hesitate to talk to the person about the deceased. Be a good listener. Sending an email expressing your sympathy is also appropriate. This is a service available through our website.
A personal note of sympathy is very meaningful. Express yourself openly and sincerely. An expression such as "I'm sorry to learn of your personal loss" is welcomed by the family and can be kept with other messages.
Expressing Your Sympathy
When a death occurs, there are different ways of expressing your sympathy to the family of the deceased. The most common way of expressing sympathy is to attend the funeral or memorial service and send flowers to the survivors. In addition to traditional flower arrangements, there are other ways to express sympathy and remember the deceased person by assisting with gifts of food and baking. You may find a favorite memento associated with the person to present to the bereaved family. The best way to convey sympathy is to be sincere and be natural. Talk with the mourners and let them know how you feel. You may be uncomfortable about what to say, but mourners are seldom offended by honest expressions of support. Send a personal card to the family expressing your feelings about the deceased. Consider sending flowers to the home or sending a plant or shrub that can be planted in memory of the deceased. The best gift to give is yourself and your support.
Sympathy Expressions In Person
When a person calls at the funeral home, sympathy can be expressed by clasping hands, an embrace, or a simple statement of condolence, such as:
- "I'm sorry."
- "My sympathy to you."
- "It was good to know Bob."
- "Bob was a fine person and a friend of mine. He will be missed."
- "My sympathy to your mother."
- The family member in return may say:
- "Thanks for coming."
- "Bob talked about you often."
- "I didn't realize so many people cared."
- "Come see me when you can."
Encourage the bereaved to express their feelings and thoughts, but don't overwhelm them.
The family should acknowledge the flowers and messages sent by relatives and friends. When food and personal services are donated, these thoughtful acts also should be acknowledged, as should the services of the pallbearers. The funeral home has available printed acknowledgement cards which can be used by the family. When the sender is well known to the family, a short personal note should be written on the acknowledgment card expressing appreciation for a contribution or personal service received. The note can be short, such as:
- "Thank you for the beautiful roses. The arrangement was lovely.
- "The food you sent was so enjoyed by our family. Your kindness is deeply appreciated."
In most communities it is a practice to insert a public thank you in the newspaper.
Children at Funerals
At a very early age, children have an awareness of and a response to death. Children should be given the option to attend visitation and the funeral service. The funeral director can advise you on how to assist children at the time of a funeral and can provide you with additional information and literature.
Grief is different for everybody and needs to be experienced in our own way. It is healthy to recognize death and discuss it realistically with friends and relatives. Talking with loved ones and friends about what you feel can help you through grief. When a person dies, there is grief that needs to be shared. Don't hide your feelings, as this can make the grieving longer and more difficult. Expressions of sympathy and the offering of yourself to help others following the funeral are welcomed. It is important that we share our grief with one another.