Writing 101 #10 People Watching

I ‘People Watched’ at a funeral recently I learned a lot

It was sad for everyone who knew the deceased but devastatingly sad for the family. The deceased wasn’t an old person but had been unwell for quite some time. In theory her family should have been prepared but in reality nothing really prepares you for the passing of a loved one, be it a parent or spouse. I know this from personal experience. Even though you know that they are not in pain any longer it is still heartbreaking that you will never see them smile or hear their voice again; there will always be an empty place at the table and a space in your heart that can never be filled.

One of my greatest concerns at funerals is what to say to the family of the deceased, particularly if you do not know them well. “Sorry for your loss” sounds so banal and meaningless. It is so impersonal.

The immediate family were sat in the front row with shoulders slumped and spirits depleted of energy as mourners came to pay their respects. I sat at the back of the undertaker’s parlour and watched as these people streamed past the family. I could see from my vantage point that most people were just trotting out the usual phrase probably because they couldn’t think of anything more appropriate to say. One young lady caught my eye as she stopped with each family member and spoke with them, just for a moment. Whatever she said had an immediate impact on the person with whom she was speaking. She obviously eased their burden for just a split second. Then the fast moving mourners resumed their parade and the family slumped once again.

I don’t enjoy funerals but I made a pledge to myself to be a better ‘funeral person’ than I have been. I promised not to use the hackneyed phrases anymore and make a decent effort to say something meaningful to the family. It seemed to me that the family were ‘uplifted’ by the young lady, even if only for a very brief moment and in times of sadness every little boost helps.

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Categories: Just thoughts | Tags: | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Writing 101 #10 People Watching

  1. Very well written, I suspect the woman shared a personal thought about what the deceased did or said that made a difference in her life. After all, that’s what everybody wants to know about themselves or a loved one – that s/he made a difference. Hearing that a difference was made is a comfort. It takes very little time to think ahead about what can be said about the deceased and deliver that meaningfully in kindness. What a great reminder you’ve given all who read this.

    • Declan Groeger

      Funerals are always tough and anything that eases the burden is good

  2. Wandering Soul

    I learnt something today, because of this post.
    Although, I would like to know what that lady said. Must have been so comforting that their body stance and frame of mind changed. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  3. Such a good post and unfortunately so appropriate given the killings in France.

    • Declan Groeger

      At a time like this we all need support and contact, support and understanding.

  4. Eleni Politi

    Sometimes silence shouts out all the sympathy needed. We attend a funeral no matter what the religion is , so that many souls are gathering to wish a nice voyage to the departed person . Soul contact is giving an honest consolation. Thank you D.

  5. This is a great post and something we all can relate to. I’ve struggled to find the right words in these situations. I know what “lifted” me up when my dad passed…hearing a funny or happy story of how he touched someone else’s life and made a difference. Thanks for getting us thinking about how we can do better as well!

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