Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Rules for Attending Funerals and Related Events

A primer on appropriate behavior for those visiting grieving families.

You may hug me upon greeting me and wishing me goodbye. You may hug me if I indicate a willingness to be hugged.

Do not hug me when you are distressed. It is upsetting to be hugged by someone who is freaking out. Your desire to hug me is not indicative of my wanting to be hugged.

Do not cry on me. I have to wear these clothes all day.

Do not dab at me with your Kleenex, even if it is clean.

Do not tell me that she is in a better place. Unless I ask for your input, your spiritual beliefs have no place in my grief.

Do not ask me about her relationship with any of the spiritual things you deem significant. If she did not discuss her spirituality with you before she died, she did not want you to know.

Do not say either of the following:
She looks so peaceful. (That is because she is dead.)
They did such a good job with her. (Is that your professional opinion?)

You may tell me how beautiful she is. You may tell me how much I look like her.

Please tell me what you loved about her.

Please tell me a funny story about her.

Please tell me how much you admired her.

Please send me a copy of your favorite picture of her.

Please call and send cards and letters and emails. It is important that I hear from people who care about me.

Do not be offended when I do not respond. You are not the only person who has gotten in touch with me, and my energy for talking about this is rapidly waning. Just know that I appreciate hearing from you.

When you ask if there is anything you can do to help, do not sound disappointed when I suggest something.

Do not make any kind of mess in my house that you do not clean up yourself. Suck it up and take your shoes off at the door. Take the initiative and find a dishrag on your own. Be creative and rinse your dishes before you go.

When you bring food, put a return address label on the dishes you want back. I cannot keep track of which casserole dish belongs to whom. Do not make me guess whether you want the GladWare returned.

Unless you are my boss or my catsitter, do not ask me when I am coming home and going back to work. When my plans change, I already have a lot of people to inform. I do not need to add someone else to the list.

Do not probe for specifics about how I am doing. When I give you vague answers to your questions, understand that I am telling you politely that I do not want to tell you.

Remember that my grief is a process for me, not for you. I may take my own sweet time with it. I may never be completely back to the way you knew me before. My life has changed dramatically.


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