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Food and funerals

Published: September 20, 2019

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Why is food such a fundamental part of any funeral?

Food provides comfort and strength. A gift of food shows that we care. It’s natural to connect food with the healing process of a funeral.

When should you give food? What’s helpful without being overwhelming?  How do you accept food graciously without having to buy a second refrigerator?  

If you’re helping a friend who is dealing with the death of a loved one, a gift of food is appropriate before the funeral, at the conclusion of the funeral, and even weeks or months after the funeral. 

As you think about your gift, be aware that your friend may not even know they’re hungry. They likely won’t be able to tell you what they want or need.

Take the initiative and make it easy on them. Call with a simple offer that can be changed to meet the needs of those on the receiving end. You might say something like this:

“I’d like to bring your family dinner tomorrow evening. I thought I’d bring you a turkey roast with a broccoli casserole. Will that work for you? I’ll bring dinner by around 10:30 a.m. It’ll be all ready for you to warm in the oven or microwave.” 

When you’re on the receiving end, be gracious, but honest.

Your friends want to help you. If their offer won’t be helpful, give them an opportunity to make a different suggestion.

“Thank you for your offer, but we’re all set for the next few days. May I have a rain check?”

If you’re part of a close circle of friends, consider coordinating with others in your group to cover the family’s food needs on different days and with a variety of dishes.

Consider breakfast food. A basket with granola, muffins, or a breakfast casserole may be a nice change.  

Sheet pan dinners, where the entire meal is cooked on one pan in the oven, are easy for both parties. You can find lots of recipes online.

If you don’t cook, consider giving a gift card for a local restaurant that offers take out. 

Whatever you do, don’t forget your friend after the funeral is over. Most people find sitting alone at the dinner table one of the bigger challenges of their bereavement.

A loaf of your famous zucchini bread will be greatly appreciated and it’ll be even better if you can share it together over a cup of tea.

How to Dress for a Funeral

Published: September 6, 2019

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First, understand that what you wear to the funeral is much less important than actually going to the funeral or gathering.  Don’t underestimate the value of your presence. 

Your kind words, shared stories, or even just a hug will mean a great deal to friends and family when there has been a death. Don’t let not having a pair of dress shoes keep you from offering your support.

That being said, what you wear depends on several different factors. The first thing to consider is who died.

If your 80-year-old grandfather passed, the funeral is likely to be more traditional. His older friends will attend, so you will want to be more conservative.

A pair of slacks and a collared shirt for men and boys will do nicely. If you own a sport coat, by all means wear it. A tie with or without the jacket would be a nice, but not a required, addition. 

For the ladies and girls, dress slacks and a nice sweater or blouse will serve the purpose. A dress or skirt would also be lovely. Do pay attention to necklines and length of the skirt. 

When the funeral is for a younger person or will not be faith based, it may be more informal.

A celebration of life is typically more relaxed and may even have a theme that the family will ask attendees to support.  So if you’re asked to wear golf attire to the funeral of an avid golfer, don’t be surprised. 

Like the dress code for most events today, what we wear to a funeral has relaxed. Black is no longer required, but neat, clean, and subdued are always in good taste.

A funeral is not a place to stand out or be the center of attention. As you survey your wardrobe, think in terms of what you would wear to an important job interview or something you would want to wear to apply in person for a bank loan.

How to Say the Right Thing at a Funeral

Published: September 1, 2019

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First, take a deep breath and relax. We all worry that we’ll say the wrong thing.

Second, know that you don’t have to be eloquent. While we wish it were so, you can’t make everything all better with a few words.

Here are a few simple ideas to keep in mind to be sure you say the right thing when attending a funeral.

Don’t underestimate the power of your presence.

It’s important. Just being there says more than you can know.

 

Keep your words simple.

“I’m sorry for your loss” may be all that is needed.

 

Share your story.

If you have a brief anecdote about how you interacted with the deceased, share it. Knowing how her sister lit up her workplace may just be the most comforting thing a mourner can hear. 

 

Use deceased person’s name.

“Mary always made me laugh.” “John had the longest drive, too bad it wasn’t always straight.” “We always knew when Big Bad Byron was in the plant, everyone was on their toes.” “Nobody made better chocolate chip cookies than your mother.”

 

Avoid using common platitudes.

Resist the temptation to tell the bereaved how they must feel -- “grateful that he is in a better place,” “relieved that his suffering is over,” “grateful for a long life,” etc.

We don’t know how that wife, husband, mother, son, or daughter actually feels. Just say you’re sorry for their loss.

Let them tell you how they feel and accept it with a nod or hug.

 

Don’t forget about listening. 

Listen to understand, not just to hear. Listen to show you care, not to judge. Listen with love, even when you’ve heard the story before.

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