My heart goes out to anyone who loses a loved one. The loss can be so devastating and it affects people’s lives to the core of their being. They not only have to deal with the grief of losing someone, but immediately after, they have to deal with the funeral/memorial services. These services can help bring healing, which they should. Ministers should show up only with love, kindness, and compassion, and be of service to the family and friends to help bring comfort for their loss.
This isn’t always the case. I’ve been told some real horror stories about some funerals and how the minister or officiant did anything but bring comfort. They spoke words of judgment and condemnation and didn’t have anything kind to say about the deceased. Some even went so far to say that the deceased was now in hell. Can you imagine having to listen to such a diatribe about someone you loved?
The only words that should be spoken are words from a heart of love. It doesn’t matter who the deceased was or what kind of life they lived. Nothing can be done about that now, so let’s just bless them and send them out with love on their new journey.
Thornton Wilder said, "The highest tribute to the dead is not grief, but gratitude." There is always something good we can find to say about someone regardless of the life they lived, even if we have to go back in time to find it. Some people have lived tortured lives and we don’t always know their frame of mind or why they lived the life they lived. They only did the best they could with what they knew at the time. Personally, I believe that souls came here to play a role, whatever that role may have been, and they accomplished what they came here to do. We may not always understand it on a human level, but Spirit knows.
What good does it do to bring people down and make them feel even worse than they feel now? Funerals and memorials are for the living, to help bring some kind of comfort to the surviving families and friends. The words spoken should be uplifting and inspirational. They should motivate the living to live the best life they can live, to be grateful, to keep doing the best they can do, and to keep learning and growing.
Tears are good; they can be very healing. But so is laughter. Don’t be afraid to share stories at the funeral/memorial that invites this healing emotion. We had a lot of laughter at my friend’s memorial because he had such a great sense of humor. But we also had tears. No matter what emotions we go through, it’s okay. We need to honor and embrace them. But most of all, we need to honor the person who passed, celebrate the life they lived, and let it teach us to try to live a life of joy and happiness for own lives.
What can we say to those who lost a loved one? Sometimes we don’t say anything because we don’t know what to say. “I’m so sorry. What can I do for you?” That’s all we need to say. Saying anything else can sometimes do more harm than good. Just love them and be there for them. Send a card. Make some meals. Babysit the children so the adults can have some time for themselves. Just love them. But please don’t do nothing only because it’s uncomfortable. Just knowing you care can make a huge difference.
Roger Bertschausen said it best: "Grief can awaken us to new values and new and deeper appreciations. Grief can cause us to reprioritize things in our lives, to recognize what's really important and put it first. Grief can heighten our gratitude as we cease taking the gifts life bestows on us for granted. Grief can give us the wisdom of being with death. Grief can make death the companion on our left who guides us and gives us advice. None of this growth makes the loss good and worthwhile, but it is the good that comes out of the bad.”
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 14, 2013.