"I wouldn't miss it" won't work either...
October 24, 2012 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Introvert needs help with social niceties at a funeral.

My elderly uncle died and I have to go to the viewing tomorrow. Based on past experience it will be awkward because I don't see my cousins much and don't feel comfortable around that side of my family, plus I'm not good in social situations in general and never feel like I'm saying the right thing. I know several people will say to me "Thank you for coming" -- what is the ideal response to this? In the past I have almost defaulted to "My pleasure" (!) before I caught myself. "You're welcome" doesn't seem right, I am drawing a blank on this, please help?
posted by miaou to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am so sorry about elderly uncle. If there is anything I can do, please let me know.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:54 AM on October 24, 2012

You can blame everything awkward on grief. I am totally serious, this is one of those situations where people doing things one would generally consider grossly socially inappropriate -- being angry, weeping openly, getting too personal -- are okay because they're part of the grieving process. You're expected to be out of sorts.

Also, the correct response to "thank you for coming" is either "I'm sorry for your loss," or a handshake and sympathetic eye contact.
posted by griphus at 11:56 AM on October 24, 2012

Best answer: I know several people will say to me "Thank you for coming" -- what is the ideal response to this?

"Of course."

Then follow it up with, "I'm so sorry for your loss."
posted by adiabat at 11:57 AM on October 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: If you've already said "I'm sorry for your loss" or equivalent, try saying, "Of course." (with a sympathetic facial expression) to the "thank you" comment. It's "I wouldn't have missed it" without the connotation that it's something that you would look forward to.
posted by cider at 11:57 AM on October 24, 2012

Best answer: Definitely blame awkwardness on grief. Another response is "I'm glad I could be here." Even if you're not super sad (it's okay not to be if it's someone you didn't know that well), just fake it.
posted by radioamy at 11:58 AM on October 24, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Oh and there are the old standby "let me know if there's anything I can do" (don't worry, if there was, you'd have known already.)
posted by griphus at 11:59 AM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the responses above and add that you don't really need to say much here. The immediate family will be glad to see a face they haven't seen in a while there to give them support. They will be too busy morning their lost father/brother/etc. to give any thought to "we haven't seen miaou in a while..."
posted by Flamingo at 12:17 PM on October 24, 2012

Usually when appropriate, I just hug.

Don't worry, just about everyone there will feel sorta awkward.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:28 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're expected to be out of sorts.

This. It's good to show up and be supportive and show the flag for family members who were closer to the deceased and/or having a hard time and pay your respects. There is not a lot of actual required stuff and it's fine to leave early. If you want to do some preparation you can think of a good memory of your uncle or some time you all spent together as kids to have available to talk about if it's appropriate or someone starts having a conversation with you. This is not one of those required things, but often a thing that people do at funerals/memorials/viewings that is appropriate even though it sometimes seems like it might not be. "I'm sorry for your loss" can sound formulaic but there's something about it being the well-known mannerly thing to do in this situation that makes it totally okay even if you're a person who might find it odd sounding or awkward. It's like please and thank you, it's the expected thing for this situation, no need to get fancy.
posted by jessamyn at 12:32 PM on October 24, 2012

I always go with "I'm very sorry for your loss". Occasionally, "It's lovely to see you, I'm sorry it's under such unhappy circumstances" works, too.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:36 PM on October 24, 2012

Response by poster: THANK YOU ALL so much. I can't tell you how helpful this is. My uncle's wife died last last year and I had no trouble with "I'm so sorry for your loss" and hugs and kind words about what a wonderful woman their mom/grandma was, but when we got to "thank you for coming" for some reason I was flummoxed. This is such a relief. I love AskMefi.
posted by miaou at 12:38 PM on October 24, 2012

"It's an honor to pay my respects to NAME OF DECEASED." Then add a personal touch - like, "He was always so kind to me" or "He taught me how to xxxx" or "I never forgot how he xxxx."

It's not a pat phrase you would say automatically, but it shows you cared enough to come and remember the goodness of someone.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:54 PM on October 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

One thing I've found at funerals is that if you can say something personal about the deceased that it's a nice thing to do.

"I'm going to miss the way Uncle Sam used to...." Or whatever.

Your being there to pay your respects is probably the best thing you can do for your family.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:06 PM on October 24, 2012

Give yourself something nice to do after the viewing, like sitting in your favorite cafe with a magazine and a hot chocolate or going for a walk by the river. It will help recharge your introvert batteries (at least, it would for me).
posted by shiny blue object at 4:12 PM on October 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're family. Chances are that you will not be walking up to family, nor will they be coming up to you (fellow family) with "I'm sorry for your loss" since it is your loss and theirs as well. What you may want to be prepared with are answers for when complete strangers who knew your uncle come up to you with "I'm sorry for your loss" - the other side of the conversation.

My own aunt just passed away about 10 days ago, and we had a 5 hour wake last week. After the initial "I'm sorry for your loss." "Thank you." I would often ask how they knew my aunt. They would typically share that information, and something about her. I would respond with something about what they said ("Oh, you taught with her. I remember her tutoring me in quadratic equations.") or "Thank you for coming." I frequently had to answer where I fit in the family, so "She had 12 nieces and nephews, I'm one of them, my dad is her brother John" was something else I said a lot.

I don't know if you're expected to stay for a while, but if you are, and you really get stuck/feel odd/need to escape, excuse yourself for a tissue. No one should question that.

Also, keep in mind that no one feels comfortable at these things; it's all awkward. It's often two strangers having to talk to each other because of a death - nothing about that is comfortable.
posted by booksherpa at 7:28 PM on October 24, 2012

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