Family members are typically at the center of the grief universe. They’re the ones notifying the world, making arrangements, dealing with logistics. But I think we can all agree on what most people expect friends of the deceased to do: support the family. Just support the family.
I saw a lot of exceptions to this when I worked in the AIDS community. People, whose families had rejected and abandoned them, even as they were dying, relied on their friends for everything. But generally speaking, if a friend of yours dies, you’re relegated to a supporting role.
You do as you’re told, or asked. If you’re lucky, the family asks you to be a pallbearer, or say a few words at the service. You keep your mouth shut when the family does things that your friend would’ve hated, telling yourself that funerals are to comfort the living. You listen while people with tenuous connections to your friend exaggerate their importance in the life that you are trying to celebrate.
And you wonder who came up with the phrase “friends and loved ones”.
I’d like you to think about that phrase the next time you read an obituary or listen to a eulogy. Think about the separate designation for friends, as if you weren’t loved.
You don’t have to file a formal protest or create a scene – just make a promise to yourself to refer to all mourners as “loved ones”.
Because it’s true.