Things to Do
· Visit the family at home or at visitation at the funeral home (unless the family indicates, you need not stay long. Fifteen minutes gives you enough time to express your sympathy.)
· Volunteer to help – providing food, child care, phone calls, etc.
· Go. Attend the funeral in person. People never forget that you attended a funeral. You will bring the family comfort.
· Make plans to visit in the weeks following the funeral to let them know that they remain in your thoughts.
· Express your sympathy using your own words. Kind words about the deceased are always appropriate.
· Sending a card of sympathy is always in good taste.
· Contribute to the charity of their wishes or send flowers. It is appropriate.
· Out of town friends may telephone the family. Keep call brief.
· Enter funeral service quietly and be seated.
· After the funeral service, leave promptly and wait in your car. (Leaving for the cemetery)
· Turn on your headlights so you will be identified as part of the funeral procession.
· Dress in a way to show respect to the family and other mourners.
· Allow children to express their grief and share in the important ritual.
· Drop a note or make a phone call to the family on a regular basis after the funeral, especially on special occasions.
· Turn cell phones off when making funeral arrangements, attending the funeral or visitation.
· Do check on the correct pronunciation of all names to be read from the obituary, so when you address the family you say it properly.
· Do make the service personal. When sharing God’s word, reflect positively, genuinely, and realistically about the deceased.
· Do endeavor to add a light moment somewhere in the service if appropriate. It is sometimes helpful to share a warm, funny memory about the deceased, something that will bring a smile and a warm remembrance to the family and friends. This can help break tension, create more rounded picture of the deceased, and let people know that it’s ok to smile and laugh again.
· Do validate feelings of loss. Let people know it’s all right to cry and feel sad. A significant loss has taken place, and such feelings are normal and natural. In the midst of sorrow, we have the comforter and access to supernatural grace and hope. Both elements are real. This is why “sorrow not…as others which have no hope.”
· Do let those attending the funeral know that their love and support is very appreciated by the family. Also, encourage them to remember to support the family in the months to come.
· Do have the church provide a meal for the family at the church or at their home after the funeral. The healing process for the family is facilitated when they have such an opportunity to fellowship and reminisce.
Things to Avoid
· Do not ask the cause of death; if the family wants to discuss it they will bring it up.
· Don’t give advice. The family should be allowed to make their own decisions.
· Don’t make comments that would diminish the importance of the lost; such as, “you are young, you’ll marry again” or “he was suffering so much, death was a blessing” or “I’ve been through this myself.”
· Don’t feel as though you must avoid talking about the person who has died.
· Don’t feel uncomfortable if you or the bereaved becomes emotional or begins to cry.
· Don’t wear a cap or hat during the funeral service.
· Don’t chew gum during funeral service.
· Don’t worry if you are unfamiliar with the religious customs of the family. Follow the guide of others.
· Don’t sit in pews/chairs that are reserved for the family at the funeral or graveside service.
· Don’t keep a child in the funeral service who is cranky or noisy so as not to disturb the dignity of the occasion.
· Don’t be late.
· Funeral should not be long. Share the word, but keep your comments short and sweet.
· Don’t convey expectations that inhibit the family from experiencing or expressing their sorrow.
· Don’t use worn-out clichés that offer little comfort and may even be unscriptural. For example, saying, “God took John to a better place” implies that God is responsible for the death of their loved one. It is better to say that God “received” John and “welcomed him home” when his life on earth ended.
· Don’t over use quotes, stories, or illustrations at the funeral, they can be very effective when used properly.
· Don’t stand like a statue when visiting with the family. Have courage to express your condolences, make eye contact with the close family, and show them that you care with so little as a few words and a gentle touch.
· Don’t laugh unnecessarily loud or tell jokes.
· Don’t draw attention to yourself. Change the conversation if you must, especially when you don’t want the attention.
· Don’t say much if you have nothing useful to say. Words, once outside the mouth, cannot be taken back.
· Don’t discuss your body aches and pains and malfunctions in any gory detail.
Madison Avenue Baptist Church
Ministering at Times of Death