It’s not unusual. You have a vacation booked, a work commitment, or family plans, and then someone dies. The funeral or memorial service is scheduled and you are unable to attend. What do you do when a loved one, friend, or colleague dies and you can’t change your plans? Will the family be hurt by your absence? Do you contact the family ahead of time to explain? Or, do you miss the funeral rituals and not mention it at all?
There are times when it is absolutely unavoidable…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on September 28, 2012 at 12:00pm — No Comments
We live in a multicultural age where many of us have family members from different faiths and nationalities. And yet when someone in our social circle or community dies and they’re from a different culture or faith, we often seem at a loss for what’s appropriate to do. If we ignore the religious and cultural rituals of the bereaved, we run the risk that our thoughtful gesture may cause confusion rather than solace.
For example, a friend was perplexed after his…Continue
A member of my community died last week. The death was sudden and unexpected and the bereaved were overwhelmed. There were so many people who attended the reception after the funeral that they couldn’t fit into the home. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those people will be around to comfort the bereaved when real mourning occurs in the weeks and months ahead.
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on January 23, 2012 at 8:00am — No Comments
One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is, “How do I write a sympathy note?” Most of us know how to write a note; after all we’ve been writing thank you notes for many years. But addressing the topic of death is challenging; what can we possibly say to make someone feel better after losing a loved one?
Loss is painful and when someone is hurting, it’s…
Along with society’s shift toward informality, the funeral industry appears more flexible, moving away from the rigid formality of the past. This became clear when some funeral attendees shared how they dressed, not in dark and somber clothing, but in unconventional colors or attire, at the request of the bereaved family and even the deceased, as detailed in their funeral instructions.
While formality does prevail and you can’t go wrong in dressing in traditional and dark…Continue
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on April 18, 2011 at 7:00am — No Comments
Upon hearing difficult news, we instinctively want to comfort. It’s a logical response since the word comfort means a relief from sorrow and pain. Our family experience and cultural heritage shape the ways in which we comfort. Often the women in our families, our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts, used some form of food for consolation.
It seems only natural that when we look to extend comfort, we most often think in terms of food. And the foods we choose…Continue
A recently bereaved sister was in a dilemma. Her brother’s friends and colleagues sent cards, flowers and gifts after his death and she wanted to acknowledge the caring gestures. But she knew few of the individuals and puzzled over how to proceed.
It is very thoughtful to thank individuals for their kindness following a loss. Notes are very personal and what you say depends on how you feel about writing the notes. Some individuals create a template and use the same format for all…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on June 24, 2010 at 9:00am — No Comments
We live in a world where anything goes. And yet I’m still surprised at some of the things people wear; jeans and sweatshirts to church, shorts at a fine restaurant on a Saturday night, and flip flops for all occasions. But when it comes to funerals, most of us sense that there are some rules of protocol that should be followed.
A friend recently shared that she attended a funeral and was surprised that a teenage family member wore casual clothing and flip flops. I was…
When a death occurs in the Jewish faith, there are very specific rituals concerning burial and mourning that provide comfort to the bereaved as well as a framework for what to say and do.
It is custom for burials to take place as soon as possible, usually within twenty-four hours, but no longer than two days following the death. An exception is made only if immediate family must travel long distances. All aspects of the funeral are as simple as possible. There is no wake or viewing…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on November 23, 2009 at 10:00am — No Comments
The Unitarian faith is a practical religion that believes in economy. Most members cremate their dead and they hold memorial services that are a celebration of life, scheduled at a date convenient for the family.
Their memorial services are personal with favorite music and readings. The families are very involved in their planning and they often share funny and poignant stories of the deceased. Attendees are invited to participate so if you knew the deceased and have a story to…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on October 20, 2009 at 8:30am — No Comments
A reader shares: “My brother’s funeral was in another state and my immediate family was unable to attend. I’m coordinating a memorial service for him in our hometown. How can I make it appropriate for all in attendance who have many thoughts and religious beliefs?”
If you are holding a memorial service in a house of worship, you’ll need to check with the pastoral staff for guidance. But if you’re not holding the service in a house of worship, I believe you have a lot of flexibility…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on May 27, 2009 at 12:00pm — No Comments
It’s easy to feel uncomfortable when you don’t know what to expect and that’s what happened to someone who recently attended a visitation. Visitations and funerals are not the same but they usually go hand in hand.
The visitation is a little less formal than the funeral and it’s an opportunity to provide support to the bereaved and spend some time visiting and speaking with the family. Funerals don’t afford that interaction. Some folks go to the visitation and the funeral…
When it comes to doing the right thing, even I make mistakes. This week, I accompanied my daughter to a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. The funeral was a beautiful tribute to her friend’s dad and extremely memorable, in more ways than one.
The two of us did plan; what to wear, where to make a donation, and what time we should leave. Since we live in the Washington, DC metro area and rush hour traffic is terrible, my daughter suggested we leave at 7 AM and take the…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on March 12, 2009 at 7:30am — No Comments
When someone you hardly know has died, it can be shocking to experience strong emotions. This happened to me several years ago; I read the morning paper and realized that the 15-year-old who died in an automobile accident was the daughter of long ago friends. I had only met the daughter once, shortly after her birth, and yet I remember sobbing as I read her name.
We can’t possibly predict how we’ll feel when someone we know dies; and it’s even harder to imagine how a loss…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 24, 2009 at 7:00pm — No Comments
It can be really awkward when someone you know is grieving a loss and you never met the deceased. Should you participate in the burial and mourning rituals at the funeral, cemetery, or home? Do you pay a personal call days or weeks following a death? Maybe you did know the deceased, but you’re afraid to say or do the wrong thing and contemplate staying away.
Many folks have questions on what’s appropriate etiquette following a death. I’ve come to the conclusion that just…
Added by Robbie Miller Kaplan on February 10, 2009 at 2:00pm — No Comments