In “hints for funerals” from my experience of being pretty near to the centre of one …
There is nothing you can do or say that can make it any better or worse. That’s a good thing to remember. Just showing up sends the message, or sending a card or flowers or phoning. You can’t get it wrong, ok?
What I do suggest, when you make your move, is notice the grieving person, tune in with them, feel what you feel yourself, and respond, the best you can.
My experience of being in the intense first stage of the grieving process is that I felt extremely vulnerable. For the first few days, I could barely eat anything. Bananas and soup were ok. I wanted to be able to focus totally on myself and retreat under a blanket if I wanted to. There was actually quite a lot to do with visits to the morgue, greeting people, funeral arrangements etc.
I valued being able to take the time to be with how I was feeling. I valued breaks from it, too but only if I chose them. I didn’t much want to be drawn into someone else’s questions or story, unless I initiated it. Selfish, I know but I’m ok with it for that moment (there’s more about this, tho).
Of course, most people don’t know what to do or say because there isn’t anything to do or say that really makes a difference. And I knew that. It really is ok, however you are. That’s what it’s like at those times.
I think if it was me, I’d be touching, gently and listeningly. Arranging a soft blanket, maybe. But that’s another post, too.
Two things that people said really hit the spot, tho. The first was Lloyd (happy 50th, Lloyd!). When we first talked on the phone, he said “you poor bastard”. When you said that, Lloyd, I knew that you had some idea that what I was feeling felt really really bad and that that was because I had lost something that really really mattered. Thanks.
The other one was Ron Palmer, the Funeral Director (recommended, by the way). The first moment he met me, he figured out how I was and said gently “it knocks you about”. Go, the blokes.