Generally, the loss of a loved one is not a welcome circumstance. However, in many cases, individuals have a chance to say goodbye or make proper arrangements. In other situations, a death may be caused by an unexpected event.
Unexpected deaths can be a great burden to and create confusion for those who are left behind, so it is important to understand how to approach these very sensitive situations.
Speak of the Deceased in the Present
During funeral services, memorials and wakes for those who passed of unplanned circumstances, family and friends will often still be processing the loss of their loved one. Rather than using the past tense, referring to the individual in the present tense, such as "He is a great person," can help ease this transition. It is also appropriate to use the deceased's name in conversation as a way to show that while they have left, their memory lives on.
Do Not Inquire About Circumstances
In cases of unexpected death, many may wonder how an individual passed away as a way to understand why the loss has occurred. However, probing about the circumstances of the death is inappropriate, as it often forces individuals to relive the details of an event, rather than focus on celebrating the life of the deceased.
It is also inappropriate to ask family members about future circumstances, such as how they will move forward. Instead, simply offer support and ask if there is any way you can help.
Offer a Sense of Normalcy
Survivors of an unexpected death often experience shock and uncertainty - feeling as if the loss has turned their world upside down. For those attending any services for the deceased, it is important to help these individuals feel supported as possible. Behaving as naturally as possible can help family and friends move forward.