People around the world celebrate and mourn life's changes in many different ways. One constant, however, is the outpouring of love and caring when a loved one dies. A kind friend with a sympathetic ear can make a world of difference for someone who has lost.
One good way to show you are thinking of the family is by sending a beautiful floral arrangement from 1-800-FLOWERS.COM. You can also drop by the home with food or offers of help, send a personal card or note or make a donation in the deceased person's honor. Here are other tips for good condolence etiquette:
Comfort of Friends
Family and close friends usually gather at the home of the deceased or another designated family member immediately after the death. While there is comfort in the company of others, this also means someone will need to feed all those people at a busy and traumatic time in the family's life. Gifts of food are usually very welcome, as are offers of help or child care.
Most families also announce a special date and time when they will formally receive visitors. You can find out more by checking the obituary in your local newspaper or calling the funeral home. Otherwise, it's usually acceptable to visit the family's home any time before or after the funeral, although you might want to call first and ask. It's also OK to visit the family more than once to see how they're doing and remind them support is available. However, keep your visit short--15 minutes or so--unless they indicate otherwise.
Healing with Words
It's hard to know what to say to someone who is suffering. Sometimes, just being there is enough, although it's always good to say something kind about the deceased and what they meant to you. You should also feel free to share funny or poignant moments you and the deceased may have shared before he or she passed on.
Just remember: Don't give advice and don't say things like, "I understand how you feel" or "at least he didn't have to suffer a long time." Such comments belittle the person's feelings and diminish their loss. In short, if the bereaved wants to talk, let them. If they don't, sometimes all a person needs is a friendly hug.
A Note of Sympathy
Whether you visit or not, most families also treasure a note or card that expresses your sympathy. The key is to make your note personal and hand-written. Definitely say you are sorry for their loss, but you also might want to share a special anecdote about the deceased.
Flowers Lift the Spirit
Brighten the family's day with a beautiful arrangement of flowers sent to their home or the funeral home. Your florist can arrange the delivery at the appropriate time. Flowers are a simple expression of your love, but they go far to buoy the family at a time of great sorrow. Be aware that some families will request donations to a charity or memorial fund instead of flowers. You should honor their request.