From the outside, funeral directors might appear to be the kind of people who are immune to the emotional effects surrounding death; however, the opposite is true. We are human like you or anyone else and have each felt the deep sense of loss and sadness that accompanies the death of a loved one. In fact, these are the experiences we draw upon as funeral directors to better serve you and your family.

As caregivers, funeral directors wear many hats, including being listeners, advisors and supporters. We are trained to answer

questions about grief

, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping and recommend additional sources of professional help.

Truth is, no one can really understand someone else’s grief, but we hope the suggestions and guidelines provided on this page may help you understand more about what grief is, and how you can help someone who is going through the various stages of grieving.

How to comfort a grieving friend.
If you have a friend who is grieving the loss of someone, you may be facing some puzzling situations. Here is some sound advice for supporting a friend in ways that will help and comfort them best.

First of all, attend funeral services or visitation, even if you didn't know the deceased. These services are really for your friend and the others who knew and loved that person. For them, your presence is comforting. Even if a casual friend or co-worker has experienced a loss, go to the funeral or visitation. Your presence is felt, and it is appreciated.

You may be reluctant to attend funerals because you are not sure what you should say or how you should act. "I'm so sorry" is always an appropriate condolence, as is "I hurt for you." "I know just how you feel" may not be as comforting as you think. This might suggest to the grieving person that their feelings are not unique. If you cannot find the words, a warm hug, an arm across the shoulders, or a firm clasp of the hand are always comforting.

Call or pay a visit.
A phrase commonly heard at funerals is "If there is anything I can do..." The problem is that very few grieving people will call on you later for help or companionship, no matter how badly they want to or need the help. It might be best to call after the funeral with specific offers, "I thought I'd come and mow your lawn this Saturday.” Or, "Here's a casserole you can heat up and eat some night when you don't feel like cooking." Offer something that you know is needed. Vague promises to stay in touch are too often forgotten after the funeral.

Let them know it's okay to talk about it, or cry.
What about the weeks following the funeral? These may be some of the loneliest times of all for your grieving friend. Call or pay a visit soon after the funeral. You don't have to stay long. In fact, you probably shouldn't. Spend this short time focusing on their feelings. Refer to the deceased naturally, by name. Don't hesitate to ask how they are feeling. Let them know that it is okay to talk about their loss, or cry. Listen carefully to what is said. Don't reassure with phrases like, "It's probably for the best." Such reassurances, no matter how kindly they are meant, often seem insensitive to the newly bereaved. The most important ingredient of this is successive visits, and the acceptance of your friend's feelings.

Remember them on weekends, holidays, and special family times.
These occasions are often the most painful, because they are full of memories. Invite your friend or family member to join you on an outing, to a movie, or just for a quiet evening visiting or watching television at home. At first, you may get a lot of refusals. Your friend may not feel up to socializing, and it is important for you to not be insistent at this time. Try to understand and offer again later.

Over a period of months, your friend will start making some plans for their new life, and will feel like socializing and getting back into the mainstream of life. When this happens, you will realize how much your presence and caring has meant to your friend, and how valuable it was for you to keep the channels of communication open.

“I lost my best friend, grandmother, and fathers of two close friends all within months. Grief counseling helped me.”

Andy Stencel