All The Ways We Have For Saying Our Final Goodbyes

We used to have grandma’s body “laid out” in the parlor and family and friends came to our home with support and food. Grandma died in the home and we said goodbye to her in our home.

Gradually, we moved from home gatherings to funeral homes and churches. An internet search says funeral homes began as the result of the Civil War when soldiers were brought home. Since then, they have become the main provider of funeral burials.

No matter the choice or location of saying goodbye, please consider:

Whether or not you plan on having a viewing and visitation, set up a time with the funeral home to have a private viewing with just family and significant others. It is the final private goodbye and a healthy part of your grief journey. It opens the door for grief to flow.

Write a letter. Put all your thoughts, misgivings, tears, and love (or perhaps not love) on paper. Place the letter with the body. If there is not a visitation, the funeral home will take the letter and place it with the body. 

Have children draw pictures and/ or write letters. These are also placed in the coffin.

It’s okay to touch and kiss the body goodbye. It’s okay to tell the funeral home “dad has too much makeup on” or “I don’t like the way his hair is” or “I’d rather he have his glasses on.” Together, you can fix it. This is your last sight of him. You want it to be right in your mind.

There is no specific “dress code” for the dead. We often think they should wear a suit and tie or church dress, but what about the favorite golf pants and shirt for the avid golfer? My mother chose to be buried in a lovely bathrobe she selected before her death. Said she was going to be asleep for a long time and wanted to be comfortable. Let the attire represent who they were in life.

Don’t put anything of value, monetary or sentimental, in the coffin. Those items belong to the living.

Create a memory board of pictures. It can be as simple as a bulletin board with photos attached. A celebration of life in pictures. 

I know visitation (gathering in the funeral home with the casket open) is becoming a thing of the past, but I’ll just put this thought out there: Visitations are a social gathering.They are a time for visiting, for sharing, and for comfort as well as tears. They are community interactions. Funerals in church and memorial services are about listening, are about words. Yes, there might be a gathering after the burial, but it just isn’t the same. Our attention and memory has moved on from the body to the burial.

Again, funerals are for the living. They are our final goodbye. Make them meaningful and personalized.

Something More… about All The Ways We Have For Saying Our Final Goodbyes

We have gotten calls and emails from bereaved families who have chosen to give My Friend, I Care: The Grief Experience to those who attended their special person’s funeral/ memorial service. They write a note on the inside of the cover of the booklet to thank the person for attending. The booklet then serves as a memento of their loved one.

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Sharon Garcia

Thank you, Barbara for all your great knowledge and advice. I have followed you for a while now, and thoroughly enjoy reading your words. I am a firm believer in hospice and all they can do for the patient, as well as the family. I was a hospice volunteer and it was very rewarding. I just wish people would call hospice in earlier and give up on the idea that hospice kills people. Blessings to you and your work.
BK Books replied:
Hi Sharon, I agree with you. There is support available months before death arrives if people would call hospice sooner. Blessings to you. Barbara

Dana Jones

Posting an obituary in a local newspaper is very expensive too. The obituary placed on the funeral home site is safer and free.

BK Books replied:
Thank you, Dana. Blessings! Barbara

Paula Schneider

Hi, Barbara. It might be interesting to write about the many situations where the beloved is not able to say goodbye to those left in the physical realm. How do people then get closure? I’m sure there are many ways and then sometimes closure never happens. I chose to visit a medium after my sweet one crossed over and was able to learn a few things that helped me experience closure (not anger).
BK Books replied:
Oh, Paula, mediums are a risky way to have closure. I think writing a letter, putting thoughts, concerns and goodbyes on paper, burning the letter and scattering the ashes is a safer and less expensive way to have closure. Blessings! Barbara

Sheree Belanger

Hello Barbara,
I am sorry for the loss of your husband last fall. I wanted to add one more way to honor and say goodbye is an obituary. They can be costly but for those who may not be close to the family, it can be a notification to distant friends. When my parents passed, we put on in their local paper and one in the paper for the town they grew up in. Months later I was in the town my Mom grew up in and one of her distant friends thanked me for posting her obituary. Thank you for sharing all your knowledge about hospice, death and dealing with it.
BK Books replied:
Hi Sheree, I thought about obituaries. Yes, they are a way of letting people know of the death BUT in this crazy world today it also tells of a grieving widow or widower who is very vulnerable. Blessings! Barbara

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