Monday, April 04, 2011

Mourning with Those that Mourn

When my father passed away last June, his ward banded together and reached out to us with so much true service and compassion, we were amazed.  I compared it to other experiences I’ve had with the passing of a friend or loved one, and realized that there were certain little deeds of kindness that made all the difference.

As part of our baptismal covenant, we are asked to “mourn with those that mourn” (Mosiah 18:9).  I’d like to share some of the things I learned as a result of my dad’s passing to help us all more fully live this scripture.

Do Bring in Meals.  It’s not necessary to wait for an assignment—if family is coming and going from the house, the food won’t go to waste.  In the flurry of planning a funeral, contacting friends and relatives, and dealing with emotions, family members tend to forget to eat.  Having food prepared and on hand is a true blessing.  Include protein-rich items, and yes, be sure to include a few fattening items as well.  The human brain is made to function best when a little bit of fat is in the diet.

Do Use Disposable Containers.  It’s so nice to be able to throw away the containers rather than worry about returning them to the proper person.  Salads can be brought in Ziplock bags, casseroles do well in aluminum baking pans. Also include paper plates and cups—thereby reducing the need to wash dishes.

Do Share Happy Memories about the Deceased.  When all those who have gathered in mourning can laugh about the good times, it makes the event a joyful celebration of life.  My sisters and I sat and laughed until our stomachs hurt after my father’s funeral, recalling all the little moments that burned brightly in our memories, and we all consider that one of the most healing things we’ve ever experienced.

Do Pray for the Family.  During this time of heartache, it’s the unseen hands of strength that are so crucial.  Pray for comfort, peace, and healing.  Pray that each family member will be touched with sure knowledge that their loved one yet lives and loves them.

Do Offer to Help Keep an Eye on the House.  Thieves are opportunistic, and if they know a house will be empty during a funeral, odds are, they’ll try to break in.  Can you imagine how awful it would be to come home from a funeral and find that you’d been robbed?  If you’d like to attend the funeral, arrange for your spouse or a friend to park in front and read a book, or in some other way establish a presence so the house doesn’t look like an easy target.

Do Use Sensitivity.  Don’t say, “Well, at least they aren’t in pain anymore” or “They’re in a better place now.”  These are true statements,  but they can come across as downplaying the genuine emotions being felt by the mourner.  Instead, support the family’s right to miss their loved one.  Say things like, “I’ll miss him too. He was a good man.”

Don’t Be Too Anxious to Get Your Dishes Back.  If you didn’t have the chance to get disposable dishes to transport the food you brought in, be patient with the family and understand if it takes a little while to get your dishes back.  This is not high on their priority list, and they need time to sort through the everyday details like dishes and laundry and dusting.

Don’t Hesitate to Stop By with Expressions of Love and Support.  I think we often feel hesitant to visit, afraid we might be intruding, but in reality, it’s good for the family to have visitors.  It’s especially good for the spouse of the deceased to be surrounded by friends and loved ones.  Of course, everyone needs time alone to pray and to process what happened, but they should not be alone for long stretches of time, and your friendly visit can mean the world.  The exception to this would be if the death was caused by a criminal act or in some other way was unexpected and tragic.  In these situations, there may be police involved and additional grief to sort through.  I recommend calling a neighbor and assessing the situation before visiting.

Don’t Feel Awkward about Sharing Your Testimony.  Death brings beautiful opportunities to share gospel beliefs and to reaffirm how blessed we are in the knowledge that there is life after death, that our loved ones wait for us on the other side, and that we are bound together through ties of love eternally.  There is no better time than this to remember our testimonies and to rely on them for strength.

No death is easy.  Even if it does come about as a relief after a long period of suffering, it is still a difficult process.  Emotions are tender and sometimes raw.  But with the love and support of caring friends and family, it can be turned from a time of utmost sorrow into a time of remembrance and peace. 

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Angie said...

Thanks, Tristi. Sometimes it's hard to know what to do. Those are all great suggestions.

Lillian J. Banks said...

This is an awesome article! (Especially the whole dishes returned part) :) Thanks

Dan Olsen said...

I'm always a little happier after I've come to visit your blog. Thank you for being you.

Lee Ann Setzer said...

Thanks for this fabulous, practical list!

When the husband of a friend of mine died, my daughter and I went by with some rather ugly flowers from the yard, and a little note. More than a year later, in testimony meeting, my friend pulled my note out of her scriptures and read the things in it that had comforted her. It wasn't a fancy, big thing, but I had no idea of the power of small and simple.

mormonhermitmom said...

Excellent advice...and I hope you're doing okay after losing your dad.

CL Beck, author said...

Great suggestions, Tristi! It's always hard to know what to say and do, so your list is greatly appreciated.

And congrats on this article being featured in the Neighborhood.

Oh ... before I forget, thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on "Universal Laws." I always enjoy hearing from you!

Sheila said...

Oh Tristi this blog post is so relevant to my family and me right now. I am so grateful that my Mom's friends,neighbors and ward members have been so loving and caring to my Mom. These ideas should be shared with everyone. These are very important ideas that help the family so much. ((HUGS)) to you as you still miss and remember your dad.

T said...

all good advice!

The disposable dishes may seem small - but I remember going to one home to drop off a meal (probably their 20th...) and seeing a large box of dishes labeled "to be returned". I took it with me and found the owners.
*hmmm... yeah, never got mine back though...

Patty Ann said...

Very good list Tristi!! It is sometimes hard to know what to say, and very easy to put your foot in your mouth! Hugs to you as you remember your father. I am sure he is loved and missed.

giddymomof6 said...

I love you.

And great advice. :D

Stephonie said...

Thank you. When my husband's grandfather was in the hospital and his parents called to say he wouldn't last long I had my husband come home from work and we all went to the hospital to say goodbye. I left my husband there with his family and my little girl and I came home and fixed two trays of cheeses and lunch meats. I purchased some rolls, and frozen eclairs and took them over to my inlaws house and put it in the fridge. I left a note on the counter telling them where things were. My husband came home several hours later but his parents, aunt, and uncle didn't leave the hospital until after 3 am. The four of them were exhausted, drained, and starving. They were so thankful that they could have a small bite to eat without having to fix it. They only got a couple hours of sleep before they had to be up and start working on the details of funeral and estate stuff.

It is the only thing I was able to do to help my inlaws. They are always so .... self sufficient that they don't often accept offers of service.

Sue said...

You are spot on. My dad died a year ago, and all the support meant a lot to our family.

Taffy said...

Thanks for the tips Tristi!

Mrs. N Steah said...

Thank you! I just returned today from burying my husbands grandfather on the Navajo reservation. Even though they had a traditional Navajo service,it made me thankful for what the church provided, everything the Relief Society did for my own grandma when she passed last year.
Thank you again!

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