Coping With A Funeral
By Sharon Jacobsen
When the death of a loved one occurs, regardless or
whether it was expected or not, you will find yourself
having to deal with a great number of people. Some you
will know closely, others may be complete strangers; all
will be claiming some kind of relationship to the
Whilst grieving for your loved one you may find yourself
not wanting contact with anybody other than those to
whom you are closest. Having to deal with so many people
can be very difficult so it's important to understand
how to handle them.
Relatives and Close Friends
Those who were close to the deceased need to be
contacted before the funeral. When you break the news,
remember that they will also need the chance to express
their grief and this must be respected, no matter how
deeply distressed you are feeling yourself.
Sometimes it can be difficult, if not impossible, to
trace certain family members. Don't feel guilty if
you've not been able to contact all of them.
Some of those who you'll need to contact may be people
who you do not know personally. If they come to the
funeral and you have not been able to speak to them
properly it would be a good idea to write or telephone
them later, to thank them for attending.
The Small Funeral
Perhaps you have decided on a small funeral, either
through your own personal preference or because the
deceased made their own preference clear. Perhaps the
financial side of the funeral will force you into this
decision. Make the decision clear and stick to it.
You may find that some friends or relatives insist on
attending even after you've explained this to them. Be
polite but firm. Explain that you appreciate their wish
to attend, but that it is a family decision to enforce
such a restriction. If they still insist, they are
simply being insensitive and you may have to take a
different approach. You might tell them that the date of
the funeral has not yet been decided and leave things at
that. Whatever you do, don't allow anyone to emotionally
blackmail you into changing your decision. And don't
feel guilty if you need to lie. They are being
insensitive, and you are simply trying to deal with
matters as best you can.
Unless the funeral is very small it will probably be
impossible for you to speak to all of the attendees.
Don't even try. Most people will understand that you are
not going to feel like making polite conversation. You
will find that those will any degree of sensitivity will
simply approach you, kiss your cheek/shake your hand and
offer their condolences. They will not expect more than
you are able to offer.
Most people organize some form of refreshment after the
funeral. This can be a good way of accepting condolences
from those you were unable to speak with during the
actual service. By offering refreshments you are showing
that you are willing to share your grief with those who
are also suffering through their own loss.
Enlist the help of a friend or two. You may feel that
you will be able to cope but having support close by
will be very helpful should you find that you are
feeling too upset to appear.
It's an unfortunate fact that funerals can often bring
out the worst in people. Some of the most long-lasting
family arguments have started at a funeral, with
squabbles over who should get what. You may find
yourself surprised at just who is able to throw
themselves into such arguments, even though they are in
the midst of their own grief.
You may find yourself being quizzed at the graveside.
People can be very clever in their approach, offering
condolences and then adding the innocent question of
what the deceased has left to whom. You may also find
yourself the target of malicious comments regarding your
'improved financial situation'. There can be more hidden
rivalry within families than most would imagine.
You mustn't allow yourself to be drawn into arguments.
Simply pretend to ignore any unwanted comments and
questions. If they persist, explain that you are far too
upset to think about such matters at the moment and that
if they've been mentioned in the will then they will be
contacted in due course.
In the case of a will never having been made and where
there is any disagreement regarding who has the right to
what, explain that you will appoint a solicitor to
handle the estate and explain, as above, that they will
be contacted in due course.
The Following Days
Some people find themselves terribly alone in the days
following the funeral, whereas others feel that they
never have any time to themselves to grieve. Remember
that others cannot read your mind anymore than you can
read theirs, they're simply doing what they believe to
If they choose to stay away, they are probably doing so
out of respect for your privacy. If they choose to spend
as much time as possible with you, this will be because
they fear for your ability to cope alone. Explain to
them what your needs are. If you need people around you,
phone some friends and ask them to visit. If you need to
be alone, explain this politely and ask if you may phone
them should you need their company. You'll find that
most people are very accommodating as long as they
understand your needs.
The loss of a loved one is never easy and nobody will
ever expect it to be. For some the funeral seems to pass
as just a hazy memory, leaving a feeling of guilt at not
remembering the details of this last farewell. Remember
that it's the memories you have of the person when alive
that are important, and it's these that will remain
clear to you in the future. During deep grief it can be
very difficult to grasp details of what's happening but
this does not mean you didn't care. Quite the opposite
About The Author
Sharon grew up in East London but moved to Norway at the
age of 19, returning to England in 1998. She now lives
in Cheshire with her partner and two of her three
children. Besides writing, she is currently studying
Social Science with The Open University, runs a web site
where women in the UK can meet other women for platonic
friendship (www.friendsyourway.co.uk), potters in her
garden, knits and reads everything she comes over.