The desire to ease another's pain is a human trait, yet we are never taught the art of condolence.
Don't let your fear of saying or doing the wrong thing stop you from reaching out to someone who is grieving. There may be times when you feel uncomfortable or upon reflection, feel you could have said or done something better. Remember it is better to acknowledge and try to offer support than to do nothing.
WHEN SHOULD I VISIT...?
This will of course depend on the circumstances of the loss, the bereaved, the relationship that you share and the amount of support available to this person through their friendship and family circles.
A call to offer your sympathy can give you an understanding of whether the bereaved is comfortable with visitors. Be guided by their response or those closest to them. Try not to be too hurt if they decline your offers of support at this time. The road through grief is a long and emotional journey, your ongoing support will assist them and reassure the bereaved that they are not alone, your presence can help to carry them through it.
SENDING SYMPATHY CARDS AND FLOWERS...
Cards and flowers are the traditional way to express your sympathy and to let someone know you are thinking of them. This still is an appropriate way to offer your condolences. Flowers are usually sent within the first 2 weeks of a loss, though it is appropriate to send a card at any time, particularly if there has been some delay in the news reaching you.
SENDING A SYMPATHY GIFT...
The first fortnight following a death can be an extremely emotional and overwhelming time. The bereaved is usually surrounded by a network of family and friends offering support and comfort. Flowers and sympathy cards are received, there is the funeral to arrange, people to notify, legal matters to attend to along with coming to terms with their loss. Eventually the visits, flowers, phone calls and cards start to dwindle and stop, this can be the hardest time for those who are grieving and when their loss is fully realised.
Although we have our own urgency to send something on hearing the sad news remember that even if a gift is received after the funeral service it can be very comforting. This gift will be cherished for its thoughtfulness and timing.
WHEN FAMILES REQUEST A DONATION IN 'LIEU OF FLOWERS'...
Sometimes families will request a donation in lieu of flowers. This usually means that the bereaved feels that a donation to their nominated organization may have a longer lasting effect. Some families see this as a way to help others in the hope that they will not have to experience the pain that they are feeling.
If you wish, it is still appropriate to send a personal sympathy gift to show your support and offer some comfort.WHEN THE FUNERAL IS PRIVATE OR THERE IS NO SERVICE...
There are times when families choose to have no funeral service or a private ceremony. This can be for many different reasons often it is at the request of the deceased. When families honour the wishes of their loved one it does not mean they do not need your support, a personal and private acknowledgement of loss and messages of condolence are certainly appropriate.
AFTER THE FUNERAL SERVICE...
Grief is a difficult and personal journey that will ebb and flow for many years. Your ongoing support can offer comfort to those left behind and adjusting to a life without a loved one. There are challenges that lie ahead on this voyage; special days, celebrations and milestones can be painful reminders of loss. A thoughtful gesture or empathetic acknowledgement can be gratefully received at any time.
Let them know you are thinking of them.