Words have their way of eluding you just when you need them the most. It’s like getting ready for a perfect picnic when the sky goes dark and rain pours hard. What do you do when you are given the last chance to show your manly character to a deceased and to his family?
Silence says it all
When you don’t know the proper sympathy words to say, don’t say anything. As a line in a song goes, ‘You say it best when you say nothing at all’, you’ll do better with silence than blurting nonsense. Nuisance is the last thing the bereaved needs at the moment. Sit beside the bereaved, squeeze his hand gently or a quick pat on the back, and be silent. Don’t overdo this though. A quick silence feels insincere while a long one becomes awkward in the end.
Don’t dress to impress
If you like someone in the family of the deceased, this is not the time to attract attention. Ask around or read the death notice if there’s any particular color the family calls for those who want to attend the service. If so, follow the dress code. If there’s no specific color requested, settle with dark colors. Black was the safest bet in the olden times but not so true these days. You can show respect and empathy wearing blue, brown, or even white. Light colors are also good when the family’s focus is on the celebration of life, not on its loss. Avoid the color red unless it is the deceased or the family’s request.
Choose the words you utter when talking to a bereaved. They are quickly absorbed by a sensitive heart that’s grieving. If not sure what to say, simply talk of the memories you shared with the deceased; how he touched your life and end the conversation saying, ‘our deepest condolences’ or words of the same import. Avoid saying, ‘he is in a better place’, ‘at least he’s not suffering anymore’, or ‘he’s better off where he is now’. These words have negative implications toward the family left behind.
Do some errands for the family. If you’re a neighbor (or even if not), buy them ready-to-eat foods during the early days when everyone’s disoriented to even prepare meals. Take care of the kids or baby sit for them while they’re out to do some final arrangements. Don’t ask of how or what they need from you as they may not even know what to do. Just be sensitive enough.