Guidelines for Attending a Funeral Service by Fitzgerald Funeral Home
Funerals are occasions of reflecting and sharing the life of someone deceased. They offer family and friends opportunities to say their final goodbyes. Knowing some basic guidelines can help ease the discomfort of attending occasions that are often solemn and emotional. The following topics provide information to help ensure that the proper respect and honor are provided to the family members of the deceased.
After receiving the news of someone's death, it is customary to offer condolences to the bereaved; that is, expressions of sympathy about the deceased to those who are grieving. Condolences can be expressed in several ways:
- They may be offered through a personal visit to the family - certainly the preferred way if at all possible.
- They may be offered through a short telephone call especially if you live out-of- town.
- They may be offered through a sympathy card with a brief hand-written sentiment included.
Condolences can include such things as:
- Recalling anecdotes or short stories about the life of the deceased;
- Commenting on the person's contributions and accomplishments;
- Reminiscing about how much the person meant to you and the reasons why; or
- Other words of comfort that honor and remember the deceased.
Additional gestures of caring for those who are grieving can include answering telephone calls, helping organize paperwork, arranging transportation for visitors, sending flowers to the funeral home or to the home of the deceased, making donations to a designated charity, providing food (be sure and use disposable containers or dishes), or even something as simple as watering plants.
Funeral services do not require that you wear black, but it's important to dress conservatively. Bold jewelry, jeans and other fashion statements are generally unacceptable along with excessively short skirts and low-cut blouses and pants. When attending a funeral, it's important to observe the utmost in modesty. Be aware that different cultures and faiths may wear different attire. If you're not sure, contact the funeral director or the clergy to confirm appropriate attire.
During the Service
Be sure all cell phones, pagers and other electronic devices are turned off. Discard any food, drinks or chewing gum. Arrive on time. Sign the guest book as soon as you arrive. Quietly shake hands or offer a hug to the family of the deceased. It's also proper to pay your respect to the deceased by approaching the casket for a brief period of time.
Follow their lead if someone is escorting you to your seat. Close family members typically sit together.
Follow the lead of the officiate during the service. Most priests, pastors or rabbis will guide visitors on how to follow religious traditions.
Behave in a natural way remembering that funeral services are ways to remember, honor and share a life that was lived, but also occasions that are generally dignified and solemn. It is certainly acceptable to cry or laugh during the service if that's the tone set by family and friends. Some funerals can be intentionally humorous with the officiate sharing witty stories about the deceased person's life.
After the Service
Graveside services are normally held after the funeral service. Attend the graveside services if you are a relative or close family friend. Sometimes this is the only service so all who are interested may attend.
Attend the reception if there is one. A reception provides an opportunity to reflect on the funeral service. It is a time that allows the family to share their experience and to hear the experiences of others. With the strain of the service now over, longer and less constrained conversation with the family of the deceased can take place.
Sometime in the days and months following the funeral service when the routine and quiet have returned, grieving family and friends will welcome your continued support. Stop by for a brief visit…make a simple phone call…extend an invitation to lunch…include them in your social plans. Let those who are grieving know that your support and concern are still there as they resume the challenges of everyday living without their loved one.