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Old 19.07.2016, 10:41
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Swiss Mourning Customs - any advice?

So whilst I was working from my home office yesterday, one of my neighbours had a dear family friend come and visit, who then literally dropped dead in their house. Despite their attempts to call me for help, I remained blissfully unaware of the situation until hours afterwards - the ambulance had been and gone by then.

All black humour aside, can anyone share whether the Swiss have any special customs that I should be mindful of and/or sympathy gestures that I should know about that are unique to the Swiss?

Where I come from, plying the affected (living) persons with booze and food is the norm, but I don't want to assume that is the case in this instance.

The deceased chap was a best friend for my neighbours, they've known each other for years. My neighbours are very traditional value Swissy's and gorgeous people.

Thanks in advance...
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Old 19.07.2016, 10:45
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Re: Death customs - any advice?

Other than (usually, but not always) drinks and nibbles after the funeral, usually at a bar or restaurant, none that I'm aware of.

Tom
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Old 19.07.2016, 10:46
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Re: Death customs - any advice?

Here's a good thread that discusses Swiss customs around funerals, sudden death, etc.

Grieving/Sympathy/Funeral Protocols

My own 5Rp:

Be as sensitive to the family's needs, including the need for privacy or public support, as possible. My experience of sudden deaths among friends is that, Swiss customs notwithstanding, there isn't really one 'right' response. Offer your sympathy and understanding wholeheartedly, and offer your practical help gently. Sometimes best to do so in a note, so as not to put the grieving person on the spot. Your friend may or may not take up offers of practical help, but the offer itself will most likely be appreciated.
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Old 19.07.2016, 10:49
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Re: Death customs - any advice?

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So whilst I was working from my home office yesterday, one of my neighbours had a dear family friend come and visit, who then literally dropped dead in their house. Despite their attempts to call me for help, I remained blissfully unaware of the situation until hours afterwards - the ambulance had been and gone by then.

All black humour aside, can anyone share whether the Swiss have any special customs that I should be mindful of and/or sympathy gestures that I should know about that are unique to the Swiss?

Where I come from, plying the affected (living) persons with booze and food is the norm, but I don't want to assume that is the case in this instance.

The deceased chap was a best friend for my neighbours, they've known each other for years. My neighbours are very traditional value Swissy's and gorgeous people.

Thanks in advance...
Booze isn't the norm, certainly not until after the funeral. Ring (not at a mealtime), express your condolences. Optionally, ask if you can be of assistance. Depending on where the deceased lived they might ask for a ride to the trainstation/airport, or for you to look after a pet while they attend the funeral.
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Old 19.07.2016, 11:27
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Re: Death customs - any advice?

Below some general Info about it all from yours truly.


However, in your situation, I think it would be a good idea to go up to your neighbours, tell them that you heard of their ordeal and ask if you can do anything for THEM straight away.
This may also be an opportunity to (if need be) apologize/explain why you didn't hear them calling for help.



From your post I gather you didn't know the deceased person personally, so in this case it will be sufficient by Swiss Protocol to offer your help to your neighbours only.


If you did know the deceased person, then of course a condolence card is the thing to do as a general sign of your caring.



******************************************



Bereavement/Funerals, a small explanation


The Swiss value it highly if
someone pays the last respect,
[Letzte Ehre erweisen] to a
deceasedperson.

If you feel as an intruder’ to go to the burial (which is often a
a family only affair), and are not exactly sure of what to do, then
attend only the eulogy (Trauerfeier) in the church.

On things like that I go with MY gut instinct!!


I have been to funerals of my patients when I was working as nurse
in retirement homes, a thing that's also not very common, but if I
liked my patients very much and got on very well with their family,
I felt it was my 'duty' to attend.




Some back ground on funerals in Ch:


Often in
Switzerland the family gathers with the coffin or urn first
at the cemetery, where the deceased is laid to rest and the priest
already says some words. Then the mourners move on to church, before
leaving the cemetery the closest family lines up and the attendants
usually shake hands or hug the family members and say:


"Ich kondoliere or Mein Beileid" [mes condoléances].

Then they leave the
cemetery and move on to the church where the service is held. At the
end of the service the priest says, if there is a 'Leidmahl' and
where, where the mourners then gather to sort of celebrate the life
of the deceased.


************************************************** **************

Bereavements

In
Switzerland it is highly estimated by bereaved families when
someone pays the last respect to the deceased by attending the
funeral.
Often people bring small crowns of flowers or a `Schale' a large
bowl planted with flowers to the funeral service.

If you want to give something and don't want that to be flowers, you
can give money to the bereaved family, this is usually done plainly
by putting the money in the card of condolences and handing it to a
family member, (often someone is designated to collecting that by the family), this money goes towards a tombstone or flower decoration on the grave.


It is often written in the obituary notice, instead of flowers think
of…
(Anstelle von Blumen gedenke man…..) and then the name and
account number of a charitable trust or similar. If you pay an
amount towards these charities, the family of the bereaved will get
a list of all people who did so, and you will get a letter of thanks
of the family.

Often, in the Canton of Bern this is still traditional in rural
areas, the life of the deceased is `celebrated' after the funeral by
a so-called `Grebt' (Leidmahl)


The family invites the attending guests to a meal, hereabouts almost
traditionally consisting of cooked ham and potato salad and green
salad.


At first all people are quiet and don't know how to behave, some may
even feel awkward, but soon they start to talk about the person that
just has been laid to rest and this is what the Grebt all is about,
to remember that person, to celebrate that life and yes, also laugh
about that person by telling stories and anecdotes.
This is also often a great comfort to the family of the deceased, to
see how many people remember their dear family member and to hear
good memories about that person's life.


©EE2005
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Old 19.07.2016, 11:46
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Re: Death customs - any advice?

Thanks all for the input, very useful.

I did not know the deceased. The neighbours concerned though have become valued friends and we share meals together at least every other month. The wife took the time last night to come to our house and apologise (!!!) for the ambulance being on our driveway and for all the fuss (but I think she was really seeking an excuse for a hug and a brandy; or certainly she was quick to take both!) She mentioned last night that their friend liked red wine (as do they), so a case of it was magic'd onto their doorstep this morning. When they come home tonight, they'll find some casseroles in their fridge - magic fairies at work again.

Aside from the death of their friend, the wife is upset about the death happening actually in their home - and I cannot help her with that aspect.

On a happier note, it has been another example of how limited language (my broken German, her broken English) doesn't get in the way of communication and understanding and friendship.

Last edited by smileygreebins; 19.07.2016 at 11:58.
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Old 19.07.2016, 11:54
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Re: Death customs - any advice?

From my Swiss Point of view you did really very well....now you can only follow up, for the time being, by enquiring if she's/they are all right/ need something.

Offer them the possibility of a kind of shoulder to cry on,e.g. if you need a chat and cuppa or brandy, do not hesitate and come over...stuff like that.

Invite them over for a meal, as you mention you shared in the past, to take their mind of things and them out of the house......I can understand the upset of your neighbour about the death in their house.

They may not take you up on the cuppa & chat suggestion, but I can tell you out of personal experience, just to KNOW that the possibility exists to have someone to go to for a natter, is a solace and helps already a big deal.
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