What to Say: Part One

Courtesy Dannel Funeral Home

Many of us search for the right words to provide comfort to a grieving family. We want to say something meaningful.

Charles Dannel, fifth-generation owner of Dannel Funeral Home, reassures us that a simple statement like, “I’m so sorry for your loss,” is sufficient. If you’re comfortable saying more, Charles suggests you mention something relational, like: “John was a wonderful man. We played golf together and I always enjoyed his company.”

It’s important to stay positive, when appropriate, and to the extent possible amid your own grief. “Your smile and affirming words will bring comfort to the grieving family,” says Charles. “I realize it seems counterintuitive, but if you can, offer the bereaved family members a warm smile. It’s a nonverbal message that demonstrates your good memories associated with the deceased.”

Your presence is the most meaningful thing you can offer. “Don’t agonize over what to say,” says Charles. “If you can be a light, the family will remember and be grateful.”

The grieving family may not recall the exact words of what was said, but they will appreciate that you were there.

A Note About Privacy

It’s a delicate subject. Occasionally, there is curiosity about how a person died, especially if it was unexpected. Some families choose to be open about circumstances and causes, but others elect not to do so. In either situation, Charles says it’s best to be guided by the family, honoring their wishes and their privacy.

“Even though you have concerns, avoid asking the family what happened,” Charles says. “Focus on supporting them in their loss and grief, whether or not you know the full story. Your presence is a wonderful gift to the family. So is showing respect for their privacy.”

Receiving Condolences

It’s also hard to know what to say if you’re receiving heartfelt expressions of sympathy. Obviously, it’s a difficult time for families, and fatigue can affect our ability to be as articulate as we’d like. In our next article in LIVING WELL Magazine, Charles shares thoughts about how to respond.

Visit the Dannel Funeral Home website at www.dannelfuneralhome.com, or call Charles at 903-893-1171.