I am going to a memorial service. What should I wear?
Traditionally, funeral attire has been quite somber and formal. Women wore black dresses and men wore dark colored suits, white shirts and a tie. And just as society became less formal, so did funeral attire. Dresses gave way to pants suits and suits and ties became sports coats and khakis. Now, it is common to see both men and women in blue jeans and a nice shirt or sweater.
Some families request that those coming to a visitation or service dress in a certain way. If this is the case, of course you should join in. For example, the Red Hatters show their pride in bright crimson outfits. Harley-Davidson enthusiasts dress in black, orange or their biking leathers. Sports enthusiasts wear their team colors (you can never have enough green and gold in Green Bay). These tributes truly make the visitation a celebration of the life our loved one lived.
Remember, honoring your loved one and supporting the family is the most important thing you can do. Wear what you are comfortable wearing. Your presence is more important to the family than what you are wearing!
How can I express my sympathy to a friend who has lost a loved one?
There are many ways to offer express sympathy and offer support to a friend who has lost a loved one. The following are examples of how to help in the days and weeks following the death. The simple act of attending a visitation or funeral service is a gift of presence, letting your friend know that you are there for them. Please sign the guest book and provide your full address to make it easier your friend to send thank you cards. Sending a letter or card letting your friend know that you are aware of their emotional difficulties is another way to express sympathy. Messages of "I am sorry for your loss", "I'm thinking of you", or "I will miss him" acknowledge the pain and loss and remind the bereaved that they are loved. A traditional way to offer support in a time of loss is sending flowers. Flowers, plants, chimes, benches and statuary lend beauty to a service and may be brought home after the service to be enjoyed for days, months, or even years to come. A gift to memorial fund or a gift of money to the family is another way to express sympathy. Check the obituary to see if the family has a favorite charity, otherwise memorial fund envelopes are usually present at the service. As grief saps both emotional and physical energy, doing the laundy, cutting the lawn or shoveling the sidewalk, making a meal or grocery shopping may be overwhelming to your friend. Offering to complete everyday tasks is much appreciated.
As the weeks turn into months, the reality of the loss settles in and usually support from the community begins to wane. The bereaved often have the most difficult time during evening hours or on the weekend. Plan a visit, take them to a movie, make a phone call, offer to take them to church during these times. Know that your friend may say yes and then cancel, or say no and then ask if they can change their mind. Social interactions often cause anxiety for those who are grieving. Do not be afraid to bring up the name of the deceased. Those mourning usually long to hear their loved ones and continue to share their story. Acknowledge anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays with a card or a phone call.
Your friend may grieve for a long time following a death, but your expression of sympathy will be remembered, appreciated, and will help to ease their burden during the transition to their new normal.