I get it. When I’m the friend, co-worker, client, or neighbor, I’m either tongue-tied or babble. Neither’s pretty, but pretty’s not important; making a connection matters.
Spit out that stilted “Sorry for your loss,” and be unable to force another word past your lips. It’s okay. The thought counts, as does the fact you drove an hour in lousy weather.
Tell the story that depicts the deceased as the class clown, office cut-up, or rebel in a suit and tie. You’re brightening the atmosphere and showing the family a side of their loved one they’ve forgotten or never knew. Babble on because the mourners sense the urgency behind your story and know you must get it out before its message is lost forever.
Sometimes, distraction is the better part of valor. My friend Sue had the presence of mind to share her recent kitchen-remodeling woes with me. Her integrated-sink-that-wasn’t leaked on her floor and drenched her shoes. Maybe I shouldn’t have laughed, but I did, and it felt good.
Avoid one-upmanship and don’t point out your loved one died younger, after a longer illness, and in worse pain. Chances are the bereaved know those things and understand that crossing the threshold to a funeral home forced you to relive your loss. Unfortunately, right now, we don’t have a lot of comfort to give. In another week or two, we’ll be able to listen.
For years, I’ve opted to attend funerals rather than wakes and have gone to graveside services rather than stop in while a family is sitting shiva. Why? Because I thought I was intruding on private time. I was wrong. Families need the one-on-one connection with friends and acquaintances. I’m kicking myself.
Next week’s blog post will NOT be about death. I promise.
Meanwhile, a question: When you’re nervous or upset do you get tongue-tied or babble?