Pfc Shane M. Reifert

Pfc Shane M. Reifert
Shane during a sweep of the Shuryak Valley, approximately 3 weeks before he was killed. Photo Credit: PFC Sean Stromback

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Funeral Home Phrases

Phrases that I never want to hear again:
  • I'm so sorry for your loss.
  • Things will get better.
  • How are your parents? 
  • How are you doing? 
  • You are so strong.
  • Let us know what you need.
Does this make me sound ungrateful to most of the people who attended the funeral home over the past 2 days? Absolutely. Am I really ungrateful? Definitely not; the outpouring of love and kindness has been overwhelming. But hearing these same phrases and questions on loop from family, friends, strangers, etc. mean that the questions and my responses begin to lack meaning. I felt like I was stuck on repeat. I know that everyone means well, but maybe we need to come up with some new funeral home catch phrases to mix things up.

The most meaningful comments were when I was told that this would not get easier, that it would get harder. That the pain never really goes away. That this sucks, is awful, etc. Or even silence.

I am exhausted after the past 2 days, and my family and I have 2 more long days ahead of us. I will write more after things have calmed down and I am able to get more than 2 hours of sleep a night.  


  1. I can't imagine feeling any other way. It's a nightmare that you can't wake up from. I wish that you didn't have to go through this. I think of you constantly and wish that I could be there to give you the mother of all bear hugs... because I know that there is NOTHING I could say that would convey the depth of my sympathy for you. The more I read about Shane on here, the more I wish that I'd known him as an adult. If you keep writing, I'll keep reading. When all of the chaos is over and you feel like other people are moving on -- just remember that your brother has touched too many lives to ever be forgotten. I wish I could be there to say goodbye tomorrow. War hero aside, he was a sweet kid, and apparently a good man too.

  2. Life is eternal, and love is immortal,
    and death is only a horizon;
    and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.

  3. Oh I hated those phrases too when going through a recent funeral of a loved one then I got slap happy from no sleep and walking around like a zombie and started saying silly phrases like "Happy Shark Week" or "so anyone know when it is going to be shark week on Discovery?" just to completely change things up and make myself smile! It has been almost a month since my heart was broken and it has not gotten easier. I got mad at the world for still rotating without him and thought why isn't everyone just stopping and standing still like my life? So to avoid saying one of the dreaded phrases I will just say I hope you have A Happy Shark Week!

  4. Just a thought to share:
    "Let us believe,
    That there is hope for all the hearts that grieve;
    That somewhere night
    Drifts to a morning beautiful with light..."
    ~ Frank L. Stanton

  5. I know all these phrases are hard to hear. I lost my best friend over two years ago and I still cant breathe at the thought of life without her. Just know these people are trying their best to comfort you. These phrases come from a place of love and although they will never fill the void that you feel know that love is behind each one.

  6. Thank you for your ultimate sacrifice.

  7. I am but a complete stranger who met you at Shane's wake. If i remember correctly my words to you was "this sucks" followed by a "this really fucking sucks".

    I am no stranger to standing next to a casket having lost two brothers, my father and my mother. By the time my brother & sister were burying our mother we were pretty callused to the "standard sympathy remarks". My brother added a bit of fun with his responses...

    To: "Is there anything I can do" he responded with "Yes, could you please pay off my care for me" or "Yes, my kids need their college paid for". To: "I am so sorry for your lose" he responded with "You should be, it is all your fault". Kinda cruel... but then again it was fun to watch the reactions.

    May God Bless You Elizabeth.

    The lose of Shane totally fucking sucks.

  8. With all due respect, it does sound rather ungrateful. Yes, I'm sure it does get old really fast hearing the same things over and over again, but you should be grateful to those who have taken the time to express their condolences to you, in whatever form they so choose.

    I suspect, if the tables were reversed, and no one expressed anything to you, you would be hurt and upset about the lack of support you were getting.

  9. You can grief in anyway you so choose there is no being ungrateful or grateful in mourning. It might not make sense to you, me or anyone else, but that is just how grief is. I for one never know what to say at a funeral - it is a place where small talk seems burdensome and worthless, but you feel the need to say something.

    I am truly sorry for your family. Your brother was a hero. Things will get harder and easier - possibly all in the same hour. Words can never truly express how horrible this is.

    Lindsey (Whitenight) LaForte

  10. To the 11:53 post: please go back and re-read Beths post carefully.

  11. I just lost a lifelong friend, 34 years old, to pancreatic cancer. He left a 12-year-old little boy behind him. When he called me to tell me he was sick, I just started bawling. When he came back to Michigan to have a party and see all of his friends one more time, I was an hour and a half late, even though I got there on time. I spent the whole time in the parking lot, crying so hard I think they heard me in Space. On the way to the party, I threw in a random Metallica CD I had in the car to try and take my mind off things with some good, loud music, and what #@$$%! song comes on but Fade to Black, just as I'm pulling in the parking lot. That was it. I just collapsed. A big, gigantic, "strong" guy just crying like a little girl. I felt so desperate. My buddy, father, veteran, bravest guy I'd ever known was going to die, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. I couldn't even get back at what was killing him. I was powerless. For a while I did not know what to do about that. Saying goodbye to his picture (he had already been cremated) at his memorial service just about broke me.

    Something that helped was that I had a chance to give part of his eulogy. I just got up and started talking. And one thing I realized, and said that day, is that those of us who are lucky get to know a small handful of people who really change our lives. No matter how long we have them with us, it's not long enough, but most people never get to know a person like that, and you did. And you'll always have that in your heart. Until I realized that, I didn't know it was possible to cry uncontrollably while grinning from ear to ear, but that's what thinking about him does to me sometimes. It hurts, but I'll take the pain to have the memories.

  12. People who come to the funeral home feel just about as awkward as you do-there aren't words to say so those catch phrases are the people's security. The words sound right, so they say them. So you, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings become the robot. You smile, you hug, and you say thank you-even though you just want to be alone and vomit and scream and anything else that could possibly release you from the pain that no one else could ever imagine you are going through. The worst phrase for me is -things will get better or it will pass. No it won't it, never does! There will be a time when you are caught totally off guard and you will cry for no apparent reason, and only you will know that the pain is still there and it is unbearable once again. You are right, I wish people could understand that it is so much better to say things like-"this sucks" and the worst is yet to come- that these are much more appreciated. Maybe funeral home etiquette will advance, but I doubt it as people feel helpless so they stick to what feels more secure to them. Just remember later down the road, that the funeral phrases and the people you don't even remember from earlier in life, and all the complete strangers that have passed through over the last few days are all part of the healing process. It may not seem like it now, but it is. Oh and this healing process, it takes forever. It really never does end. It has been over 35 years since I lost my mom, and I cry just as hard some days now as I did when I was a child without her mother.

  13. Beth,

    Only real way I know to deal with these times is to try and deflect or turn it around. I know with the thouands who passed by you you dealt with a greater magnitude then anyone else. Here is what I would of tried to do.

    Thank you but we are here today to celebrate the life of Shane. He would want us to celebrate as we would have at a family gathering. So please tell me one of you fondest memories of Shane. If you are here to honor his service to the country and did not know him then please tell me one of your memories when you served or about a family member who served.

    Thanks for all your kindness the past few days.