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MUST do's and don'ts for Funeral Etiquette

After spending the weekend  at a viewing and the funeral that followed, I observed so many things that we, as ministers and friends need to keep in mind during these challenging times. I lost my brother at 28 and my sister at 32 years of age The losses occurred 4 years apart. This past weekend reminded me of so many do's and don'ts. When dealing with a death we need to understand the following:

1. Everyone handles grief differently. What we may think appropriate, may be inappropriate for those suffering the loss. Everything from the length of time spent, to the length of time on the phone, to discussing the future without them is sensitive during this time.

2. Even if it is a relief, there is still grief. Cancer, Alzheimers and other terminal illnesses may prompt us to feel that the suffering is finally a relief for all, BUT there is still a period of grief.

3. Listen, Listen, Listen!!!! When I was greiving over the loss of my siblings, I could not believe how many people would share their story or their previous losses. I felt like I had to be the one sympathizing! Never miss a good chance to be quiet. Just be there for your friend or family member.

4. Do not play 20 questions. Allow the person to speak on their terms about the subject they choose. Do not allow yourself or others to bombard those grieving with too many questions.

5. The next 4-6 weeks. With so many people wanting to pay their respects, it is more critical to be there after the adrenaline rush that enables those suffering to get through the actual funeral process. Americans forget in 2 weeks. True love and service should be displayed in the following weeks and months after the crowds, flowers and cards are long gone.

My grief process consisted of the need to quietly meditate on the Lord, His goodness, my siblings seeing HIS face and our memories together here on earth. I DID NOT really want to talk or answer questions. Others may want to talk and unload and that is totally appropriate for them.

Finally, the thing that I really dispised the most was listening to others tell me how they "could relate" due to a loss they had suffered at some point. To me, that is the cardinal sin of funeral etiquette. No one should ever pretend to "relate" to those grieving.  Simply allow some space. Resist the temptation to tell your story, simply live theirs.

If we really want to help, pray and serve the family. Be what they ASK, not what you THINK they need. Remember, it is a physically and emotionally draining experience. Pray without ceasing. God is the strength and the Holy Spirit the comforter.