Supporting families in the days and weeks after the funeral
People often have their family and friends around them soon after a funeral, but a church that stays in touch now prepares the way for future contact. There are practical and pastoral opportunities suggested in this section for supporting people in the days and weeks immediately after a funeral.
Friends, neighbours and family may be there for each other in the weeks immediately after a funeral, but deeper questions and needs may arise as time goes by. Also the family may not be aware of what happens next regarding the ashes, or that the church can be involved. It’s important to be available to them and show the continuing care of their church; civil and independent celebrants will generally not be able to offer this.
The family may well appreciate a ‘how are you’ visit, but there are other ways to show your care:-
- If a family has chosen to have a cremation, remind them that you can be there for them when the ashes are interred.
- Liturgy can be simple but ought to off a message of hope and comfort.
- Staying in touch and offering to be there when the ashes are put in the final resting place can also ensure the family have actually collected them. Funeral Directors report many unclaimed ashes and you can support both the family and the Funeral Director by checking the ashes are laid to rest.
NB: Families might keep the ashes in their home in the weeks soon after the funeral. This can be part of a grieving process, perhaps holding on to a sense that the person is still in some way there. As time goes on, the ashes may move from the mantelpiece to less visible parts of the home. Notice this when visiting, because it can be a hook for pastoral care over time, and open the door to discussing the actual final resting place when the family are ready .
C in W version
- Around one month after the funeral, sympathy cards are often taken down and messages of support may begin to subside. This is a good time to assure the family of the continuing support of the church. A special card can be used for this.
- There is also a series of other cards available which can be sent to the family as time goes on, for example one month after the funeral, one year, two years. One example, showing both sides, is pictured above. They offer the continuing thoughts, prayers and support of the church. There is no prescription for when they should be sent – the appropriate intervals of time between each card may differ for each family.
- If your church has a pastoral team with training in bereavement support, this may be a good time for them to visit the family and introduce themselves.
- Don’t forget that friends and neighbours may also be grieving, and that a recent death might link back to other losses experienced over the years.