Preparing For a Funeral Service
Could there be anything more difficult than preparing for a funeral? Certainly, such an end-of-life event is hard to look forward to with any great enthusiasm. And it doesn't matter if you're a member of the bereaved inner circle of close family, a co-worker, neighbor or family friend; preparing for a funeral service takes time and forethought.
If you're preparing to attend a funeral, memorial service, or celebration-of-life; the following tips and suggestions can certainly help in your funeral preparations. Naturally, if you have any questions about preparing for a funeral, you should call us at (718) 331-8000. We would be pleased to serve you in any way we can.
What Does "Get Prepared" Really Mean?
There's a line in William Shakespeare's play Henry V, which cuts to the heart of preparedness: "All things are ready, if our mind be so." Readying your mind means strengthening it for what's ahead: all the people, sights, sounds and strong emotions of the day.
In other words, getting ready to attend an end-of-life service is not just a matter of picking out the right clothes to wear; it's also essential to prepare physically, mentally and emotionally for the occasion. After all, you are going to be there to support the bereaved family, as well as the others who attend; and that takes inner strength and emotional fortitude. Never underestimate the importance of your presence there—to everyone in attendance.
To make it simple for you to find the information you need, we've grouped those details together under two headings: Dressing for the Occasion and Getting Physically, Mentally and Emotionally Prepared.
Dressing for the Occasion
What is expected of us when attending a funeral service today is far different from the expectations of those living in the Victorian era. According to Alison Petch, a researcher Oxford University, "in those years, black clothing was worn for the funeral and for a year following the death...by close relatives, gradually being replaced by other dark colors."
As we moved into the twentieth century, the Roman and Victorian demands became less strict; "people attending a funeral wore semi-formal clothing, which for adult men would usually mean a suit and tie in dark colors".
Without a doubt, these strict special dress requirements have fallen by the wayside, at least to some degree. Although many websites proclaim that black is the right color to wear for a funeral today, wearing a color other than black isn't seen as disrespectful; but you want to avoid wearing brightly colored or wildly patterned fabrics (unless actually requested to do so by the family). And for women or girls, a modest appearance is preferred.
Certainly, if you've got additional questions about what to wear to a funeral, call us at (718) 331-8000.
Get Physically, Mentally and Emotionally Prepared
The death of a loved one is among the most stressful experiences we will ever endure. The early days of bereavement, are a time of frayed nerves, when emotions run high and hours of restful sleep are hard to find. These difficult days are then followed by the funeral service (where, even though you're grief stricken, you're expected to perform with some social grace). How can you possibly survive; or better yet thrive, during such trials as these? Here are some suggestions we believe you'll find valuable:
Maintain a state of "mindful awareness". The tendency when something bad happens to us, like the death of a loved one, is to detach from our physical, emotional and social selves. To "get numb, and stay that way" - but this effort to separate ourselves from what's happening isn't always in our best interest. Instead, you should seek to be "mindful": to keep your awareness on the present moment (not the past, and certainly not the future); all the while acknowledging (and accepting) your feelings, thoughts, and bodily reactions to your loss. Only then can you, in the words of Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer, accept the things that cannot be changed, have the courage to change the things which can (and should) be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. Certainly, you cannot change the fact your loved one has died; but you can change (at least to some degree) the way you react to the loss–and that takes a certain sense of mindful self-awareness.
Do everything you can to stay physically healthy. The list of physical symptoms of grief is long: fatigue, body aches and pains, loss or change of appetite, shortness of breath, digestive issues, feelings of heaviness, and tightness in your throat or chest. When faced with an onslaught of physical symptoms like these, it's hard to know exactly how to deal with them. The first step is to recognize and name what your body is experiencing. Only then can you do something to change the way you're reacting to the loss. During these days before the funeral:
Stay hydrated: drink eight (8 ounce) glasses of water.
Eat regularly: small meals and snacks are often better-accepted than large, calorically-laden one.
Rest regularly: you may find nights are long and sleepless, so don't be adverse to taking short cat-naps throughout the day.
Move your body: take a walk or hike, go to the gym, or enjoy a leisurely swim.
Nurture your senses: listen to music or the sounds which abound in nature.
Engage in prayer or meditation: tap into, or get reacquainted with, your spiritual side.
Reduce your list of necessary activities and chores: now is the time to delegate tasks to others, so you can devote your time to self-care.
Reach out to your support network. Neighbors, friends and family members can be your lifeline right now - and some of them may even be coming to you right now to see how they can help. Don't turn them away; instead, give them the opportunity to give the gift of service. Allow them to walk this path with you for as long as, and in whatever ways, they can. The same goes for the network of professional caregivers: don't neglect to turn to clergy, your family physician, therapist, or grief counselor if you feel your bereavement to be more than you can handle (now, or at any time in the future).
Prepare to speak less and listen more. End-of-life ceremonies (whether a "traditional" funeral, memorial service or celebration-of-life) offer those gathered the chance to share their feelings, tell stories and take comfort from one another. Don't spend too much time talking, unless it's to share something truly meaningful (about the deceased and your relationship to him or her) with others; instead, be ready to listen with a whole heart. This is a time for respectful interactions with other mourners; a time for focusing on the life of the deceased, and also a time for renewing the ties which brought you all together in the first place.
Let Us Help with Your Preparations
Who better to turn to for assistance in preparing for a funeral? We've got the experience and insights which could make this situation easier for you and those you love. If you have questions about preparing for a funeral service—either as a member of the family or as a guest—we're here to support you in any way we can. We're standing at the ready; simply call us at (718) 331-8000.
Shakespeare, William, "Henry V"
Petch, Alison, "Funeral and Mourning Clothing", England, the Other Within, accessed March, 2015