Keeping calm in the run up to a funeral

Posted by AK Lander | On June 30, 2017 10:44

It is a difficult time that many have to go through, and yet it is hard to know how to act in this crucial time of grieving. While you may be inundated with well-wishers it is impossible to convey how you are feeling and with so much to organise it can often be overwhelming.

It is a difficult time that many have to go through, and yet it is hard to know how to act in this crucial time of grieving. While you may be inundated with well-wishers it is impossible to convey how you are feeling and with so much to organise it can often be overwhelming.


It is often such a short space of time that you have to make many decisions, on everything from caskets and grave stones to hymns and flowers, especially when you don’t feel fully up to that level of responsibility. There are often many people who wish to influence the funeral, whether that is siblings, spouses or children so retaining family harmony can be tricky.


We asked those who had endured that week, for their best advice for managing at that difficult time. Jessica and Shane are part of a blog, Losing a Puzzle Piece that deals honestly with grief and loss. When speaking of that time, they summarise the general confusion:


“When we think back to the week of our sister’s funeral, like many grievers, our recollection of events is a little blurry. We were sleep deprived, delirious humans who spent our days looking through pictures, thinking and writing about our sister while preparing her eulogy, helping plan a funeral mass by picking out songs and readings, and attempting to read and respond to messages from friends and family. To prepare for a funeral for our 39 year old sister was surreal and devastating.”


supportive hand holding

In a typical British manner, we often try to maintain a stiff upper lip and go on, without needing a shred of help from anyone. Though retreating from social platitudes and day-to-day life may feel like the only way to keep things together, it may not be the best.


Many people want to help at this time, and the key thing is to let them. Though it may not be immediately apparent or make you feel better, it will allow them to know they are helping and you will look back and realise you did in fact need it.


Rachel Amondson wrote a refreshing blog ‘Why I love funerals more than weddings’ which is as intriguing as it sounds but having gone through her own personal loss, she is able to understand and crave the deep connections that are made at funerals as you share some of the most important moments in people’s lives.


Rachel’s advice on delegation is as follows: “Put your energy into those showing warmth. Though you may prefer food not flowers, it is traditional.  It means a lot to send food as food is nourishing and people forget to eat when they are grieving. Take people up on their help. I will call a restaurant in their town and send food to them. Sometimes it can be hard to know what you need at that point.”


Jessica and Shane elaborated on that point, adding: “If people offer to help, take them up on their offers. We felt the need to act like we could keep it together, but we wish that we would have used the support more, especially offers to entertain the kids.”


man with photos

Often when you pause in the funeral planning, the memories of your loved one come flooding back, though these are not always positive. If the deceased endured sickness, the image of your loved one is often altered. Jessica and Shane also had some ways to counteract this: “Looking at pictures was the more positive and rewarding part of the planning. It allowed us to remember our sister during happy times and to see her healthy, which was important to distract us from the sickly image that we had in our minds.”


Remembering often goes hand in hand with visitors as people wish to help and share their love for the deceased. This is why it is so important to share this time with others. Often people will have different memories or previously unknown anecdotes that will make you smile and shed light on your loved one. This is why Rachel states it is so important to welcome people during this time:


“The important thing is to focus on the people who are reaching out and showing love and compassion, but also forgive those who do not know how to. As much as you can, embrace the visitors at that time. The week before the funeral is the best, after that it peters out. Grieving should be a shared experience.”


Family at a funeral

It is hard to see outside your own grief at this time, and take on board others opinions about funeral arrangements. Grief is a unifying experience and you are rarely alone in grieving a loved one, whether in laws are missing a child, or siblings have lost a parent, there are often other people who wish their opinion to be heard. At this trying time is can lead to family disputes, as Rachel knows too well:


“My brothers and I are super close and even we were bickering at this time. Choosing your battles is key, as is remembering what is important is the person who has passed. They won’t care about the details, and would rather you grieved and moved on with your family whole.”

Taking a step back

Lady grieving in a field

Throughout this week it is important to be aware when things may be getting too much. Taking the time to look after yourself, whether that is ensuring you’re eating and sleeping or just collecting your thoughts, is important. Jessica and Shane have some parting words on taking care of yourself:


“When it gets overwhelming, take a break and get back to planning when you're ready. It is important to celebrate the person and they wouldn't want us worrying and stressing out over the small details.”