Tag Archives: Grief

The Generations on Wakes & Funerals

Many members of the  Y generation and Mellennials  [born 1977 to 1995]  say they do not want to be viewed in a casket after they leave this world.   They think caskets, viewings, funerals and people getting together when they are grieving is distasteful to them and not their expression of sympathy.  They also feel that attending a ‘gathering’ or ‘luncheon’ afterwards is like ‘having a party’ and is not something they want any part of for themselves.   They don’t want anyone to see them laid out – and they don’t want to have a lot of folks around them if they lose a loved one and are sorrowful  – they want to just go home – and be alone with their loss/grief.

As I was growng up, I used to dread wakes, and the traditions surrounding them. As I got older, I realized the need for the grieving family and loved ones to process the loss they were going through.  Attending the services is an expression of respect for the deceased and their loved ones.  Some people die unexpectedly and the wake is the reality that the loss did happen.  When a wake is not attended, there could be a thought or denial that it did not happen, ie, ‘I did not see it therefore I can’t believe it’.

Wakes, viewings, and services are a part of life for many Generation X members [(born 1965 to 1979] and Baby Boomers [born 1946 to 1964]  and Traditionalists or Silent Generation born 1945 or before.

The bereaved need the comfort of family, friends and acquaintances during this most grieving time. As difficult and tearful as it is, it gives the bereaved an opportunity to give needed expression to release the grief that most of us feel at these times in order to heal and accept their loss.

it is your presence that will be remembered and not your words.   Acts of comforting via touch, hugs, or listening help heal the loss feelings – which could be overwhelming into a depression if they are not expressed – and your presence may foster acceptance and healing.

In today’s culture,  wake or viewing times have been shortened to sometimes to just one day [it used to be 3 days followed by the funeral the next day [or fourth day].  It may be a drain on a family who may have not slept in days or experience long travel times or accommodations  for out-of-time relatives. There are closed caskets, cremations and different memorials for the deceased.  Wakes are a part of a person’s life just as baptisms or weddings are.  Attending Services are acts of respect for the deceased and their loved ones.   Sometimes there are quips and laughter in remembrances of the deceased and is not meant disrespectfully but in remembering and cherishing memories of him or her.

There are lunches after the cemetery or interment….It’s closure.   It is better to be with people who knew and loved the person who died than to go home right after the cemetery – alone with a heavy heart.  It reconnects people who have lost touch. Shared grief will share the loss for all.   Wake viewings and funerals serve this purpose.

If you are a faith person, the viewing and church services are a celebration of a new life in eternity with God.  Many churches focus on this positive affirmation instead of the negative of loss. If you believe in the resurrection of the dead, then the wake is a celebration of their life here on earth and the new life they are entering.

Marie Coppola July 2017

How to Comfort Someone in Grief


Some of us have the gift or talent to express sympathy easily to others.  Gestures and words are expertly expressed and people are comforted.

Many others dread seeing the survivor(s) at a viewing or even for the first time after a death occurs.  They feel awkward, not knowing quite what to say in offering condolences. It is difficult and sometimes emotional  to see someone who is in grief and it can makes us feel uncomfortable especially when we are not sure of what to do or say.

I used to feel that way until I experienced grief myself and some time afterwards, joined a bereavement group at our church.  At these meetings, we would have a speaker’s presentation on how to adjust to grief or sometimes have individuals express their personal experiences.  Comfort, presence and listening are key.

You may find yourself in a bereavement situationif you ever have to comfort someone who has a death in their family; and/or if you desire or are asked to help others work their way through grief. Here are ten ways to offer condolences or to help someone heal:

•    You might say, “I’m sorry”; or “I’m sorry for your loss”, or say a kind word about the    deceased . . . .

When you don’t know what to say, say ‘nothing’. This was the number 1 rule in bereavement training.  There’s not much you can say anyway to relieve their loss.   Let them talk and get their feelings and emotions expressed.  Your presence, your caring and your listening is balm to a griever.  If you are a hugger, this is a good time to give a hug or hold their hand or put your arm around their shoulder.   Touching is healing.   If they aren’t touchers, you’ll know;  back off and let them set the pace.

•    never say  ‘it’s for the best’ or ‘they’re in a better place’ or ‘they’ve lived a long life’ . . . .

We learned that the bereaved are grieving for a lost loved one and they do not think it was for the best – even if the beloved was ill.  They want them back on earth and don’t want to know they are in a better place.   If it is an elderly person who died, they don’t want to hear ‘he lived a long life’ — they want to keep a loved one as long as they can and it’s never long enough.

•    never say it was God’s will for them . . . .

We don’t know what God’s will was for them. God doesn’t plan accidents or cause cancer. Death is a life event that will happen to everyone.  To say that God willed it, isn’t going to comfort anyone.  It may even cause anger at God and faith is needed more than ever when someone you love dies. Don’t say it was God’s will to a couple who has lost a child either in stillbirth or a miscarriage.  A couple who may have finally gotten pregnant after trying a long time, and have it end in miscarriage or a stillbirth after nine months will feel the loss tremendously and it is not comforting to say it is God’s will or it is for the best. It certainly is not for them.  It’s a devastating loss.

•    encourage them to join a support group or or seek someone who has experienced a similar event . . . .

Perhaps you can suggest they join a support group.  There are many kinds of support groups available through churches or the newspapers.  Losing Someone, Living Alone, Widow/Widower’s seminars offer multiple support groups. People gain strength when they know someone else went through what they did and survived.  Although ‘misery loves company’ is a cliche – it has truth to it.  You may even mail or drop off announcements of such groups.

•    encourage him or her to speak about their loss and emotions with someone . . . .

Sometimes a family or close friend may not be the best choice for grievers to talk to;  they may be experiencing grief themselves.  It is not uncommon for people to have purged their grief with a stranger they hardly knew.   If they have trouble verbally expressing themselves, you may suggest writing a letter to the deceased telling them things they might have said or didn’t say; or any regrets they have.

•    visit or stop by occasionally even for a few minutes . . . .

It is uplifting for them if you visit bereaved persons, especially widows or widowers, who now spend time alone.  Bring a small gift, even a book of additional support  or a magazine on bereavement.   They will know they are not alone; others are going through similar losses.   And they will enjoy the break.

•    get them out of the house and go for a walk . . . .

The bereaved sometimes get motionless in their grief and stay at home.   Offer to go for a walk with her – walking is good for depression and releases endorphins, a group of chemicals produced in the brain that reduce pain and improve mood.  It might allow her to open up to release some pent up feelings while walking and feeling companionship.  Remember – caring, presence and espcially listening.

•    calendar and note the birthday and anniversary dates of the deceased . . . .

Their survivors feel the loss especially on these dates and may experience setbacks in their healing.    Remember to call them with an uplifting call those days.  You don’t have to mention the date, but, if they do, give them reassurance or if in person, give them a hug. Holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukah, etc., are very hard for the survivors, especially if it was a person who lived with them.   Try to include them or their family  in some way, either by phone, mail or in person to let them know they are being thought of.  Love is always welcome.

•    suggest a physical with a physician and/or a visit to a therapist if the survivor is having difficulty adjusting and seems to be backsliding more than moving forward . . . .

Unresolved grief can cause depression or even suicidal tendencies.   If you notice during visiting that the survivor seems distracted, unkempt, depressed or not themselves, be a friend and tell a family member or gently suggest if you could take them to see a doctor.

•    offer to take them to church . . . .

Since death usually raises spiritual issues, and people are either strengthened in their faith or are turned off and angry at God, offer to join them in prayer services at your church or their place of worship.  You may offer to read Scripture or passages in the Bible together.   If you share faith with them, they may share their sorrow with God, the Great Comforter.   Let it be their choice.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.   Matthew 5:4

© Marie Coppola  Revised December 2012