What to say to a bereaved family

Posted by: Author scentandviolet April 5th, 2017

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When someone you love dies, especially suddenly, you can barely think at all because you are in shock and disbelief at first. You keep wondering if this is real.

 Your loved ones are so important at this time and friends are a true treasure. I know because I lost my beloved son at age 35. He left his two children age 10 and 16. I can tell you what a bereaved family wants to hear. This probably isn't your standard list but it comes from someone who has 'been there' and everyone was so wonderful and supportive so I'll pass along their comments.

Here are words and actions that comforted my bereaved family during the worst days of our lives:

1. He was a good person and a great father. I will miss him.

2. I am so sorry.

3. A hug whether they said something or not. I needed and wanted hugs from everyone. I think everyone at the funeral hugged me and I couldn't seem to get enough.

4. I liked when someone came up, introduced themselves, and told me a memory about my son. It was especially nice if it was something I didn't already know. To know so many people loved him was extremely comforting.

5. I liked offers of help but had trouble making decisions. I loved when someone stepped up and just decided for me and then took care of all the details. The best thing my sister said to me was "I will call and make arrangements for food to be delivered to the house for the family when they come back from the funeral." She also paid for it.

6. I loved when anyone signed the online Guest Book and left comments. I read them over and over and checked each day for more. It wasn't what they said but that they were kind enough to leave comments.

7. I loved when good friends would call and just say "Do you feel up to going out to lunch today?" Usually I didn't but I did a time or two. Then I loved the follow-up calls every few days or so. "Just wondering how you are doing today."

8. I loved to get sympathy cards in the mail because they came on different days. That made it feel like each day someone was thinking of us. Some had a memory of my son to share but most just said simple things like "Thinking of You", "So sorry for the loss of your son, brother and dad", "Our deepest sympathy." I think the most touching was that one of my son's old friends sent not only a card to my husband and I but a separate card to my two grandchildren on the loss of their father. It was so sweet and thoughtful.

9. I actually liked when I shared a funny memory of my son with someone and we laughed, even at the funeral home. It was good to laugh a little as my son was so funny and we'd always be joking and laughing as a family.

10. "I'm sorry for your loss", "Your family is in my thoughts", or even "I don't know what to say but I'm sorry you are feeling bad" are all things that help.

11. I loved all the food and gift baskets sent from all over the country. 

11. Funeral flowers are always appreciated by the family. The beauty of flowers just has a calming effect. They are like hugs for the senses. They were a small reminder to me that 'something beautiful remains in this world' even in the darkest of times.

- Barbara