This past week I had a very difficult funeral.
A young person passed away under traumatic circumstances. During the visitation, I found myself making up excuses to steal their mother away so she could come and sit in the office with me for a few moments. She needed a break.
Each time she would tell me that all of the callers were saying the same thing over and over again to her. She was drowning in her grief as it was, and the amount of people who came to pay their respects was overwhelming her.
I told her that each person would tell her things from a good place in their heart, but during times of grief words fall short.
When someone dies, no matter the circumstances, we don’t know what to say. We tell the grieving that we are sorry for their loss. That their loved one is in a better place. Or that their loved one is not suffering anymore.
These are sayings that have become so familiar with those of us who visit funeral homes that at times we may not really know what we are saying.
And nothing that you say can make a death better. No words can bring someone back to life. So what do you say? Maybe, instead, it should be what you can do.
You would be amazed at the healing work a hug can do. Or the next time you have to go to a funeral, you could share your favorite story of the deceased with their family. Or maybe in the weeks following the funeral, you’ll stop by with a warm meal, or you could offer to take them out to dinner so they can get out of the house.
Words cannot fix a death, but actions can help us feel less alone.
Words can be empty promises, but actions are proof that people care.
Sometimes, you don’t need to say anything at all. Sometimes, you just need to be there.
I know that this person’s mother appreciated all of her family and friends coming to pay their respects. But I have a feeling that in the days and weeks to come, she’ll remember those who were there for her in other ways a lot more than some of the “I’m sorry for your loss” statements that she received during the funeral.