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Attending a Service

Gentle Care is Our Cornerstone

When attending a remembrance gathering (visitation, funeral or memorial service), you might find yourself uncertain of what to say or what to do. Here are some suggestions:


Religious & Ethnic Customs
Traditions and customs differ among various communities, ethnic groups and religions, and it’s often helpful to ask beforehand about any special considerations you need to take into account.

A remembrance service is an emotional time, and mourning, (the outward expression of grief), is a natural part of the healing process. Don’t feel uncomfortable if you or the bereaved begin to cry.  At that moment, tears might be just what is needed.

What to Say
Express your sympathy in your own words. Kind words about the loved one who has died are always appropriate, and a simple “I’m so sorry” or “My thoughts and prayers are with you” can be meaningful and comforting for the bereaved.  One of the nicest treasures you can give bereaved persons is a memory or story about their loved one, that they don't know.  The memory or story must illuminate a positive attribute or unique and valued characteristic of the loved one.

What Not to Say
Don't attempt to minimize the experience for the bereaved.  While you'll hear people say things like, "He was so sick and now he is out of pain" or "She lived a wonderful, long life", don't make that mistake.  All those things may indeed be true.  But euphemisms do not substitute for listening to and acknowledging what the bereaved person is feeling.  In fact, such coping mechanisms typically impact as a lack of understanding.  If you are trying to find the right words to take away pain; you can stop.  Such words don't exist.  A sympathetic set of ears is a gift to the bereaved. If the person you wish to console is unable to share thoughts and feelings, just your physical presence communicates volumes of loving support.

Paying Respect
At a service with an open casket, it’s customary to show your respects by viewing the deceased and, if you wish, spending a few moments in silent prayer. The family may escort you to the casket, or you might approach on your own.
After you’ve offered your condolences to the family, it’s perfectly appropriate to engage in quiet conversation with friends and other associates of the deceased who attend the gathering. Don’t feel that you have to stay longer than you feel comfortable; your presence means a lot to the family, no matter how long or short the visit.

Signing the Register
Be sure to add yourself to the register book, using your full name so that the family can identify you in the future. It’s also helpful to add information about how you knew the deceased—through work, social clubs, school, etc.

Flowers and Gifts
Sending flowers, making a donation, or giving a memorial gift are all meaningful gestures to let the bereaved know that they are in your thoughts. The simplest of tributes can be of great comfort to the family and can express your sympathy when words just aren’t enough.