If you've ever visited a funeral home's website for information on funeral arrangements, calling hours or directions, you've probably seen an online memorial, guest book or tribute to the deceased. These pages, which enable people to offer condolences or share memories, are more than just message boards -- they serve an important function in the grieving process. While you might be inspired to post a message out of politeness, a feeling of obligation or a genuine sense of loss, it's important that you do so. Here are three ways that your brief message can help others.
1. It helps the survivors learn more about their loved one's life.
Even if you knew the person well, you may not have known every aspect of their life. Likewise, the people closest to the deceased don't always know every aspect of their life, every co-worker or classmate or their wider circle of friends. When you post a story or memory or share the one thing you will never forget about that person, it creates a more complete picture of the person's life. Even if you only share a few words or a brief anecdote, it tells the survivors a lot about how the deceased lived their life. Whether you are close to the family, a family member yourself or don't even know the deceased's closest family or friends, the survivors will appreciate hearing about the things in the person's life that made them special to you.
2. It brings people together.
When a loved one passes away, survivors often feel very alone in their grief and loss. An online memorial brings people from the past and present together to commemorate the deceased's life and to offer sympathy to the survivors. It also brings together people who knew the deceased but may not have been in their inner circle, and people who didn't know the deceased at all but want to extend condolences. For example, you may be close with a co-worker or other acquaintance but never met their deceased family member. Messages of support, regardless of how you were associated with the person or the survivors, help bind everyone together to provide comfort and support. Reading messages from seemingly unrelated people can make the survivors feel that everyone has come together for their benefit, which is a very comforting thought at a difficult time.
3. It helps everyone's grieving process.
Stories, memories and public expressions of sympathy can help everyone's grieving process, no matter what their relationship was to the deceased. While the guest book is intended for those closest to the deceased -- usually the ones making the arrangements -- they can help everyone who will miss the person. Reading similar memories can reinforce that the deceased touched other lives and that other people will miss him or her as well. For those who can't attend the wake or funeral, it can make the loss seem more real. This helps with acceptance, an important stage of the grieving process.
Posting to the online memorial helps everyone who knew the deceased, from their closest family and friends to those who only knew the person briefly but were still affected by them. If you are hesitant to share personal thoughts online, you can use it to simply add your condolences to the family and follow up with a letter or card. You can always contact funeral homes for assistance in reaching out to the family directly or other ways to contribute to a memorial.