Attending funerals or memorial services can be uncomfortable for some people because of the emotions involved. Though you can never fully prepare yourself, there are some things you can be aware of to ease the discomfort and make the event go more smoothly.
In many cultures, the first event that follows a death is a visitation, calling, or wake — a courtesy call at the funeral home where the family receives visitors who come to greet them and offer words of comfort and support. Sometimes the body is in an open casket on one side of the room, giving those who want to pay their last respects the opportunity to do so.
Should I Attend?
If you know or feel that your presence will upset the family of the deceased, or they might have a difficult time putting hard feelings aside, it’s kinder to send a note or flowers. Otherwise, do your best to attend (unless the obituary says it’s a private service). The family knows that attending a funeral is inconvenient, and that’s why they will very much appreciate your presence and words of support.
When to Arrive?
You don’t want to show up too early or late so make sure you know when the wake or visitation is scheduled to begin. If it’s not listed in the obituary, you can call the funeral home to ask what time the funeral service is scheduled to start. Sign the guestbook or registry with your first and last names, and your relationship to the deceased (e.g. friend, colleague) so the family will know who attended the service.
How to Offer Condolences?
There are various ways to offer your condolences, but the conventional thing to do is to send or bring flowers to the funeral (check if it’s appropriate with the family members or funeral director), or you can verbally express your sincerest sympathies to the bereaved.
Where to Sit?
Generally, the front rows of seating are usually reserved for immediate family members, relatives, and close friends. If you are neither of those, sit towards the middle or the back. Once you’re seated, stay put and keep your phones away for the ceremony’s duration.
What If I Cry?
It’s okay to grief and cry. However, if you find yourself weeping uncontrollably, it is polite to excuse yourself until you regain composure.
When to Leave?
The length of your visitation depends more on how long it takes to offer condolences to the family and speak to other visitors. After you have expressed your heartfelt sympathy, asked if you can help in a meaningful way, and perhaps offered a warm memory or two, leave – unless you are lending a hand or are encouraged by the family to stay longer.