Disclaimer: Before you read the following I want to say very clearly and unapologetically that I do not care if you are offended. I have to say that because, especially in America, we feel that we have some sort of constitutional right to never be offended. I am writing about death…a subject some deal with really well and then others never seem to get over. Please understand I have experienced death in ways I never wished I would have experienced them, losing my mother when I was 12, my father just a few months ago and countless numbers of friends and family members. What you will read in the following blog article are the things that I would strongly advise you NOT to do when someone you know dies.)
People, all people, including you are going to die.
It’s a fact…and, it’s not meant to scare you; after all, there are far worse things than death (such as when people put raspberry sauce on the chocolate dessert that I ordered.)
And, I would say from personal experience that one of the worse things about people you love and are close to dying are the comments and behaviors of those who show up after the death of your loved one.
So…the following is a guide of things I would STRONGLY suggest you NOT do…EVER, these things are NEVER a good idea!!! (AND…if you have done these things in the past…it’s ok, you didn’t know better…but now you have no excuse!)
#1 – Do NOT Stand Beside The Open Coffin And, While Looking At The Dead Body Of The Deceased Person Make The Comment, “They Look So Natural!”
This is dumb! People who do this should be drawn and quartered on the spot.
This first hit me when I was 12 and standing beside the coffin of my mother while countless people filed by to offer their condolences. I can not tell you how many people made this ridiculous comment to me.
STOP ARGUING…it’s RIDICULOUS! As a 12 year old I can literally remember thinking, “She (my mother) doesn’t look natural…she looks dead! I’ve known her for 12 years and she’s NEVER looked like that! She has numerous chemicals in her body and her jaw is most likely wired shut so that it doesn’t just randomly fly open and all of us wind up peeing our pants!”
The person DOES NOT look natural!!! STOP IT!
#2 – Do NOT Resort To Classic Christian Clichés Because You Are Nervous And Do Not Know What To Say.
Let me be very honest, when someone you know loses someone near to them one of the best things you can do is BE THERE with them and for them…but in doing so PLEASE resist the urge to offer theological explanations as to why the death happened OR say really ridiculous things such as, “Well, I guess God must have needed another rose for His garden!” (BTW – that phrase is one of the dumbest things a human being could ever utter out of their mouth!)
I know ALL of us have felt the tension to try to offer explanations as to why what is happening is happening; however, and TRUST ME when I say this…people need your presence during this time…not your presentation of what the Bible says about death. There WILL be time for that…and if they ask then by all means talk to them. AND please, they’ve heard EVERY well meaning Christian quote Romans 8:28 to them…BELIEVE ME, they don’t really want to hear it 100 more times!
MOST of the time people should just resist the urge to talk during this time period!!
#3 – Do NOT Walk Up To Them After The Funeral, Tell Them If They Need You To Call You & Then Walk Away And Never Follow Up With Them.
When someone dies the family and close friends experience a whirlwind of emotions and the decisions that have to be made come at them fast and furious. For about 24-48 hours they are an emotional roller coaster.
And then the visitation and then the funeral…everyone is there and the crowds seem to be endless.
Then the funeral is over and everyone goes home.
I am speaking from personal experience…one of the loneliest times in my life is when my dad and I went home after my moms funeral and no one was there. And, literally for three days no one called or came by. Everyone said to call them…but people who are grieving will rarely do so because they are trying to wrestle through intense emotions.
I often tell people that if someone you know experiences the death of a loved one…the time after the funeral and for two to three weeks after are CRUCIAL in regards to follow up, encouragement and just the presence of a friend.
#4 – Do NOT Send Flowers
I don’t know who came up with this idea…but it ranks up there with the worse ideas of all times!
Folks…don’t get mad…stay with me!!!
You send them flowers and then what do the flowers do?
ANSWER: THEY DIE!!! Slowly, over time they get to watch the flowers that were sent to them to remind them of their loved one DIE…does ANYONE see a problem here?!?!?!
(And PLEASE don’t tell me that they could take care of the flowers…do you REALLY think that is what they want, something to take care of?)
I remember being at my moms funeral and seeing one of the most horrifying floral arrangements EVER! It was a bunch of flowers all put together with a play telephone on the top of the arrangement with a sign next to it that said, “Jesus called!”
AHHHHH! It freaked me out…it still does! I was 12 years old and never wanted to answer the freakin phone again for fear that it might be Jesus!!!
I know it’s something people do…and people mean well, I’m just saying there are probably better things to send!
#5 – Do NOT, Upon Seeing Them EVERY TIME For The Next Month, Give Them Sad Eyes, Take Their Hand In Yours And Ask Them In A Really Soft Voice, “So, How Are You Doing…Really?”
Many times people cannot get past the death of someone they love because well meaning people keep bringing it up!!!
What they could use during those times is a smile, an invitation to dinner and even a hug. If they want to talk about it…let them. And, asking them one time isn’t a bad idea; however, if this is the question you are always asking them they will begin to avoid you!!! (As they should!)
#6 – Allow Them To Grieve In Their Own Way
People grieve differently…and that is cool!
I grieved DEEPLY when my mother died; however, I often did it in private, alone, away from people…it’s just my thing.
Honestly, I am still grieving the loss of my father. I miss him deeply! There are days when I am overwhelmed with the feeling of loneliness as the fact that both of my parents are gone.
I have wept over the passing of my father and it hurts…but, I have done that, for the most part, in private…and it is getting easier to deal with as time passes.
So…don’t judge them if they do not grieve in the way that you do! Let them grieve in the way that seems best to them.
AND…let me be VERY CLEAR for those who are grieving…there is a time to grieve, but then there is a time to move on. Yes, they are dead…but YOU ARE ALIVE and you cannot allow their death to take the life out of you!!!
AND…one more thing, if you need an EXCELLENT RESOURCE in dealing with death, grief and such…PLEASE order this resource RIGHT NOW!!! I know the author personally and she’s AMAZING when it comes to dealing with death and grief! (Pastors, this is an EXCELLENT RESOURCE to have on hand for people in your church! TRUST ME!)