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How to Get Through a Funeral of a Loved One?

It is never easy to get through the funeral of someone you loved. It can be hard to know what to do and when to do it, but the most important thing is that you are there for them in their time of need. 

It is often difficult to know what to say or do when someone we know experiences losing a loved one. 

The death of a loved one is filled with intense moments and emotions, many of which are centred on the visitation, funeral service and burial. 

The grieving individual often is overwhelmed – both by the loss and the outpouring of support by others.

Losing a loved one is never easy. After the death of someone close to you, you'll likely experience feelings of grief and loss. 

People deal with these feelings in different ways and may use healing rituals to cope with their grief.

One ritual people often turn to is a funeral. A funeral is a formal gathering of friends and family held to remember a person who has died. 

What occurs at the funeral depends on the cultural practices, religious beliefs and wishes of the person who has died and their family. 

A funeral may include:

  • a visitation or wake (set hours to view the body and visit the family)
  • a celebration of life or memorial service (a more casual gathering to commemorate the person who has died)
  • a burial (the casket/coffin is placed in an underground grave at a cemetery)
  • a procession or parade (attendees drive or walk to where the body will be laid to rest)
  • a burial (the body is placed in an above-ground grave such as a tomb)
  • another death ritual

The funeral usually happens soon after the death and may take place over one or several days. Looking for funeral services in Melbourne? Look no further, Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals is here.

What to Expect at a Funeral

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Here are some things to expect and keep in mind about funerals.

You May Notice Or Feel a Range of Emotions

Everyone experiences loss differently and may show their grief in diverse ways. For example, they may cry, laugh, smile or stay silent or expressionless. 

You may also notice people showing emotions they don't usually (e.g. you may see an adult in your life cry for the first time at a funeral). 

There is no right reaction to the death of a loved one. So it's important to express whatever you're thinking and feeling comfortably for yourself.

You May See the Body of the Person Who Has Died

Depending on the family's beliefs, you may or may not see the body at the funeral. Sometimes, there is an open casket/coffin where you're able to view or touch the body. 

The body may look different than you remember (they may be wearing makeup, have their eyes closed, have a blank expression, etc.). 

Other times, there will be a closed casket/coffin, a photograph/slideshow of the person who has died or no representation of the body at all. 

If the body was cremated (transformed into ashes), you may see an urn (a sealed container for the ashes). 

Before the funeral, you can ask someone involved in the proceedings (a friend, family member, etc.) what to expect to prepare yourself.

There May Be People Offering Their Condolences 

Condolences are when people say things like, "I'm sorry for your loss" or other kind words to show their sympathy. 

It's OK to say, "Thank you", or say nothing at all. Other people may try to shake your hand or hug you. You only need to do what you're comfortable with.

You May Be Able to Participate in the Funeral 

Some funerals include speeches, songs, poems, eulogies (a tribute to the person who has died) or other readings. 

It's OK for you to ask to say a few words, listen, or leave the room if you need to. 

You may be asked to be a pallbearer (a person who helps carry the casket/coffin), walk with certain people in and out of the service, greet other attendees, join in prayer, sit/stand in a specific place contribute in another way. 

It's OK to ask questions about your role in the funeral or to say "no" to anything you're not comfortable doing.

Some Funerals Are More Extensive Than Others 

Some funerals are very formal with official proceedings, while others are more casual. 

Some funerals may have many people from the community in attendance, while others only have close family members and friends. 

You may be interacting with people you know or meeting some individuals for the first time.

Funerals Take Place at Different Times or in Different Places 

Depending on the type of funeral, the proceedings may take place at different times of the day. 

Based on the family's beliefs, the service may happen at worship, a funeral home, a mausoleum/tomb, a burial site or somewhere else. 

The funeral may also include a reception or party afterwards. If you're unsure of where to go, what to do/say or what to wear, you can ask a friend or family member for more information.

Some Funerals Contain More Traditional/religious Practices. 

People attending the funeral may be wearing traditional dress or clothing of the same colour. 

Religious ceremonies or other activities may also occur during the proceedings. For example, you may see people (e.g. religious leaders) lighting candles, scattering ashes, saying prayers, giving blessings, offering flowers/gifts or doing other things.

It's OK to Ask for Support 

Before, during or after the funeral, it's important to get help if you need it. You can talk to a friend, relative or other safe adults about what you're going through. 

(There's a chance they may be feeling the same way you are.) You may find it helpful to bring someone else (e.g. a friend who isn't directly impacted by the death) to the funeral for support.

Tips for Surviving the Funeral Reception

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If a close friend or family member has passed, you may be in the position of hosting a funeral. 

Whether or not you are the primary organiser, as a dear loved one of the deceased, you will likely be a centre of attention during the memorial and subsequent reception. 

If the thought of this is overwhelming, don't worry! Here are some tips to help you navigate the reception with poise and greater ease. 

Plan the Reception Thoroughly in Advance.

The greatest way to set yourself up for success during the funeral reception is to plan everything well in advance. 

Organise any catering, venue and clean-up considerations so that you have few obligations on the day of the funeral. 

Your job today is to mourn, and even minor tasks could be overwhelming in a state of heightened grief. 

Keep Your Outfit Simple.

Many people worry about their funeral attire. 

There are many articles online that can help you plan your outfit, but above all, it is essential to wear something that will keep you comfortable throughout the service. 

If you are iffy about an article of clothing, bring an alternate that you can easily change into if need be.

Though you will want to wear shoes and dress clothes appropriate for this sad event, the ensemble must be wearable for the duration of all the funeral events. 

You don't want shoes that haven't been properly broken in, clothing that is too tight, cold or warm. 

Try to think ahead so that you can be as emotionally present at the reception as possible.

Surround Yourself With Support.

Unless the funeral is close friends and family only, there are likely to be many people in attendance from all parts of the deceased person's life. 

You may not know everyone, and you may not like everyone. So keep those you love close. 

Flank yourself with them all day. Surround yourself with all the love and understanding you need while you mourn. 

This is a social occasion that demands some level of interaction with strangers, acquaintances and extended family. 

However, it is also acceptable to be subdued and somewhat reclusive during your mourning period. 

You can choose how much you want to chat with funeral guests by using your support system as protection from those you may wish to avoid.

Maintain Distance from Conflict.

Though many people expect death to draw families and loved ones closer together in grief, often the exact opposite occurs. 

The stress of losing someone, finances surrounding funeral expenses, the pressure of organising legal affairs and unresolved conflicts between family members can contribute to issues at the funeral reception. 

If this is the case, it's best to have a game plan for your behaviour during the reception. 

Avoid any guests that are likely to invoke conflict, be polite to everyone and save intense conversations for another day. Give as much space as you expect to receive or more.

Keep Your Wits About You.

Depending on the family, funeral receptions can include alcohol. 

While drinking in moderation is OK, some folks tend to overindulge during bereavement. 

The funeral is a lousy time to drink to excess. You know yourself and your drinking habits best, so regulate your drinking accordingly—or avoid consuming alcohol entirely. 

This is not the time to lose control. You don't want to say things you'll regret, embarrass yourself or accidentally mar the memorial of your loved one. Need help in arranging a funeral for your loved one? Worry no more, Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals Melbourne has you covered.

Speak from the Heart.

If you're making remarks to the funeral congregation, try not to worry about speaking eloquently. 

There is no need to feel pressure to be overly gracious or insightful as you interact with other mourners. 

Speak from the heart to your guests, and be as simple and concise as possible. 

Don't Try to Make Everything Perfect.

If you are the funeral host, you might feel responsible for your guests. Hosting a funeral is different from hosting a dinner, party or wedding. 

You don't need to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves or fuss about the details. It may be unfamiliar to you, but your guests are there to ensure your comfort. 

Relax as much as possible, and focus on paying tribute to the life and character of the person of honour. 

The memorial is about telling your loved one's story and honouring their life, not about unnecessary social graces.

Receive Condolences and Share Memories.

The funeral reception is your chance to engage with others who knew your loved one—perhaps in ways that you didn't know them. 

If you organised a fairly hands-off reception, you could use this time to share memories with others and fully explore the life story of your loved one. 

Collective mourning is the purpose of the funeral. 

The reception is your chance for one-on-one chats and informal sharing of stories. It's where the most genuine and personal support will emerge. 

Guests will be eager to show off photos of your loved one, offer words of comfort and share special memories. This time is invaluable, so make the most of it. 

Take Breaks.

Some funeral days include a visitation, funeral procession, memorial service and reception—and sometimes even a post-reception gathering. 

It's a marathon, not a race! Make sure you take time and space throughout the day to have the energy to continue bereavement events. 

It's OK to excuse yourself for a breath of air, glass of water or private cry to feel grounded for the rest of the day. 

Organise a Post-Reception Event for You and Your Closest Loved Ones. 

After the reception, many folks prefer to retreat to a more private location for family time. 

Surrounded by only your closest family and friends, you can process the events of the day in a safer and more secluded environment. There is no need to linger too long at the reception.

The Beginning of a Grief Journey

The funeral day marks just the first step of the grieving process. After, you will be left with a lifetime to process the loss and form your coping strategies. 

If the loss were quite recent, likely, you wouldn't remember much of the funeral or reception anyway. 

Spend your time caring for yourself and your loved ones and learning as much about your deceased loved one as you can. 

This may be your only opportunity to hear stories from some of the folks who knew your loved one.

Getting Through the Weeks Following the Funeral

For many people in the immediate family, the real grieving starts after the funeral is over. Loved ones and friends have returned home, and a sense of reality and loneliness sets in.

Stay in touch with the family members that were drawn to the funeral services. All of you are still in the grieving process. 

The support and encouragement that were staying in touch with each other will be powerful.

Do not set expectations on yourself to "return to normal." You and your family are in a period of adjustment, learning how to proceed from the painful events. 

The new "normal" will be life without the deceased. But, unfortunately, there is no timetable for when that will feel more comfortable.

Organise and schedule the items that need to be handled in an orderly manner. Some of the deceased's affairs have deadlines, but the funeral directors or attorneys will often see that those things are handled.

Plan ahead of time how you will go through the possessions of the deceased. Gather some of the closest family members and talk about items that need to be distributed within the family. 

Are there items that can be given to charities or those in need? Think about who needs to be there to go through the items. 

Probably two or three people would be enough to move through the items and few enough that problems will not arise. Do not feel the pressure of having these items sorted immediately.

Ways to Help Someone After the Loss

While you cannot take away the pain of the loss, there are many ways to help a grieving friend or loved one through the painful days following the funeral by providing comfort, strength and support. 

Here are some things to keep in mind:

But, first, don't Expect the Loved One to Call You. 

Often at the funeral home, we will remind our loved ones that we are only a phone call away amid an embrace. 

We begin to part with the reassuring words, "Promise you will call me if you need me." 

A nod makes us feel better, and when we don't hear back, we assume that healing has begun and that life has begun to move on. 

Usually, the grieving individual does not want to trouble someone else with pain, feels weak and guilty for not being able to progress quickly, or feels embarrassed to seek help. 

Even though you may not know exactly what to say, you need to make contact. Phone calls, cards, email messages, or brief texts affirm that your door is always open.

Create a New Tradition. 

Most of life has been shared with an individual who is now gone. Even trips to the grocery store can bring back memories and re-emphasise the pain of the loss. 

As a caring friend, you can help make new memories that do not include the departed loved one. 

New places to eat or shop, local events that were not celebrated, or even short trips to places not visited can go a long way to making new traditions.

Write Down Important Dates.

Some days will be more difficult than others to process and overcome. 

You can make anniversaries, birthdays, holidays or other special occasions easier by sending a card or making a phone call. 

Make sure that your loved one does not spend those days alone. If you are uncertain of those days, ask another close family member to inform you of the days most likely to be difficult.

Share When the Deceased Is on Your Mind. 

One of the most isolating feelings that the grieving individual will have is that no one else will remember the departed loved one. 

When something in your life reminds you of that person, send a card or note to let the person know that you remember and care. Let Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals help you select the type of funeral service that best fits your needs.

With just a few moments of planning and care, you can make the days that follow the funeral feel less awkward and alone. You can reassure your loved one that you care and that together there will be strength and encouragement for the road ahead.

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