What to Do After the Funeral
Oftentimes, we get so caught up in funeral planning we forget about things like all the funeral etiquette and bereavement issues that arise after the fact. No matter how well prepared you are for death, or how many funeral pre-plans are in place, it can be difficult for both you and the other bereaved individuals to navigate the days, weeks, and months following the death of a loved one.
The most important thing to remember is that everyone grieves differently, and there is no wrong or right way to do thing. As long as you keep honor and respect at the forefront of everything you do, you should be able to help those in need—as well as yourself—as you figure out how to continue on in this world without the deceased.
What Do I Do When the Memorial Service is Over?
In a traditional funeral, the memorial service or burial service is followed by a less formal gathering. Held at the funeral home, the house of a relative, or at a facility for hire, these gatherings almost always include food, friends, family, and the sharing of memories.
Because these gatherings tend to be small and private, it’s important not to attend unless you have been invited. This is not the time to air personal grievances or harbor hurt feelings about who might or might not have wished you to attend, so please respect whatever wishes the family has laid out. If you are asked to attend, you might want to offer your services (either in the shape of a place to gather, refreshments, or to help even clean up afterward). There is no need to make a grand gesture, but demonstrating that you are willing to help out can go a long way in making things easier on the family.
How Can I Help During Those First Few Days after the Funeral?
The days immediately following a funeral can be the most difficult. The emotions of reaching closure and trying to find a “new” normal routine can be very strong and very hard for some people to deal with.
If you are close to those in mourning, offer whatever support seems right to you. You might:
• Offer to keep them company a few days out of the week
• Help clean/cook/entertain visiting relatives
• Bring over some personal effects or photographs you have of the deceased
• Provide a shoulder to lean on and an ear for listening
• Direct them to grief resources, as needed
• Invite them to events, as you would usually do, but without any pressure to attend
• Maintain contact, and put aside your hurt feelings if that contact is not immediately reciprocated
If you aren’t that close to the bereaved, you may not be sure what you can say or do to help. In most cases, it’s best to simply indicate that you are aware what a difficult time this is, and that you’re happy to help in any way possible.
What Happens Next?
For some people, it takes years and lots of outside support to fully heal from the death of a loved one; for others, it might be a transition best completed alone. The only thing you can really do is provide whatever support you can without being an additional burden.
This is also a good time to consider your own funeral pre-planning efforts. Life is never appreciated more than after the loss of someone you care about. It is a time for personal reflection, for putting your own affairs in order, and for determining how you intend to support your loved ones even after you’re gone. You can’t prevent death, and you can’t always help others cope with it, but you can make it a little bit easier.