I caught part of a rerun of an old “Law and Order” TV show. When Detective Mike Logan said to a family member, “I’m sorry for your loss,” I thought, “If this were a real situation, and I was on the receiving end, I’d be furious at how insincere that sounded!”

But it’s true: we don’t know what to say in those situations. We want to help and aren’t sure what to do. That means we fall back on rote condolences that won’t get us into trouble. But they also don’t really console the person we’re speaking to and are kind of a throw-away for us.

Having gone to two memorial services in the past week, this stuff has been on my mind. How can we do better?


This three-minute video contrasts what I remember about funeral services as a kid with the two I just attended. It talks about how the past affects the present (in our brains) and suggests a different approach: how we can 1) honor the person who died, 2) console the people who mourn, and 3) make our lives more meaningful.

For me, that sure beats standing around and feeling uncomfortable.

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