Funerals are momentous occasions. They can be raw and inward-looking, with anguish and pain exposed for all to see. Or they can be outward-looking, as mourners gather to celebrate the departed’s life.
Neither one is right. Neither one is wrong. They’re just different.
What they do share though is the necessity for well-planned funeral arrangements, whether it’s a simple service or a lavish affair. Whichever one the bereaved chooses, you can be sure the list of funeral arrangements is long and difficult to carry out: contacting the departed’s friends and loved ones, securing official documents, and choosing a coffin, wreath, and hearse, also deciding what the departed will wear, organising transport and accommodation for mourners, laying on catering, organising a wake, and more.
Worst is that those who suffer the most from their loved one’s departure are also those who have to make all the arrangements. Just when they are at their lowest and dealing with a devastating loss, they are expected to continue with their daily lives, and, on top of that, navigate the complexities of a funeral.
Your task, as a supporter of the bereaved, is also challenging. Most people are unsure of what to say or do, and you don’t want to overstep or under-step the mark.
Now, we all know that there are many ways to show the bereaved that you care, from sending a card, to bringing over a homecooked meal, donating to the departed’s favourite charity, or just showing up to say hello.
It will be appreciated if you consider doing all of them to offer your support.
But you could also show that you care by helping with funeral arrangements.
Now, it goes without saying that it’s the nearest and dearest who will have the most accurate idea of the funeral they want. So, you have to listen to them, understand them, and find out exactly what they want.
With that in mind, you can think about what you can do to help, obviously without imposing your own ideas. It’s their vision. It’s your job to help make that vision a reality.
Now, most of the choices that go into funeral arrangements are intensely personal and will most likely be undertaken by the ones closest.
For instance, a wife might want her husband to be buried in his favourite suit. If that’s the case, you could offer support by having it dry-cleaned.
A husband may want to serve his wife’s favourite starter at the wake. You could help out here too, by compiling a list of the best caterers for the task.
Most importantly, DO NOT try to impose your ideas on the essence of the funeral. If you want to help with funeral arrangements, be practical. Offer practical tips, assistance, and solutions. Make the bereaved ones know that you are there for them and that you are happy to run errands.
You could also help with funeral arrangements by letting the bereaved take charge of it themselves, and you help them out with their daily chores instead. You could pick up the kids from school, bring over a home-cooked meal, help tackle a stack of paperwork, walk their dog, or even do their gardening.
Much of the level of support you can offer will depend on the level of your relationship with the departed and the bereaved. The closer you are to them probably means you can offer more support. But even if you’re not close, say you are just a work colleague, you could always help out with the bereaved’s workload.
Funeral arrangements during these times of COVID restrictions are still just as important. They are just done at arm’s length.
So, why not help create an online memorial book? It could be filled with the words of well-wishers and happy memories of the life of the deceased.
Needless to say, with social distancing rules, many funerals are being hosted virtually. You could help with organising the requirements of a virtual farewell, as they can be tricky.
So, don’t leave it to the bereaved to manage all the funeral arrangements. Help them. Show them that you are there for them even in their darkest hour, especially in their darkest hour. They will thank you for it.