10 Things Every Funeral Guest Should Know

People at a funeral outdoors

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Attending a funeral can be difficult for most people, including someone who always appears pulled together and confident. Funerals are usually somber occasions that may leave you feeling inept because you don’t want to say or do something that will add to the suffering of the family members of the deceased. 

  1. Dress for the Occasion. Whether you are an impeccable dresser or someone who puts very little thought into your attire, make sure you wear clothing that is suitable for a funeral. You don’t have to wear all black, but you should avoid splashy colors that call attention to yourself.
    There are some instances when the family of the deceased may want to host a celebratory funeral. If they request bright colors, it’s fine to do so. However, this is the exception, not the rule.
  2. Follow Floral Arrangement Requests. Some cultures and religions frown on sending flowers to funerals, while others embrace the gesture. If you aren’t sure, do some research or contact someone who knows the family to learn what is expected.
    Many families request donations to a charity in lieu of sending flowers. It’s always a good idea to honor that request and donate at least what you would spend on a floral arrangement.
  3. Think Before You Speak. It’s easy to get caught up in the conversation trap, feeling as though you need to fill every moment of silence with words. This isn’t necessary at a funeral, but it’s always good to provide some comforting words to the family of the deceased. A handshake or hug and a brief comment to express your condolences are all you need.
    Avoid the urge to make people smile or laugh before, during, or immediately after the funeral. Jokes are inappropriate during this occasion and will make you appear...MORE
  4. Think Twice Before Bringing Children. Children from the family of the deceased will probably be at the funeral, but if your children didn’t know the person, it’s best to make other arrangements. If you must bring them, make sure you can control them throughout the service.
    Give your children detailed instructions on how to behave. Ask the funeral director or representative if there is a place you can take your child if there is a problem.
  5. Leave Your Cell Phone on Silent. If you can’t turn off your phone for any reason, put it on silent during the funeral. This is a time when you need to focus your attention on paying your respects to the family of the deceased. A ringing cell phone is disruptive and disrespectful.
  6. Write a Sympathy Note.sympathy note or card is a nice way of showing your respects to the family of the deceased. It gives you an opportunity to carefully choose your words of condolence without worrying that you’ll slip up and say the wrong thing.
    Jot down some notes on a sheet of paper before putting your thoughts directly on the card. You may bring this note to the funeral or mail it to the family’s home.
  7. Stifle the Urge to Take Pictures. Remember that this is a somber occasion, not a party. If you haven’t seen some of the funeral attendees in a while, and you want to snap a shot of the group, make arrangements to do it later.
    It is never appropriate to take pictures of the deceased, even if there is an open coffin. Doing so comes across as crass and insensitive.
  8. Pay Attention to the Funeral Procession. The funeral may be in a different location from where the services are held, prompting the need for a procession of cars. Listen to instructions on how to participate and don’t deviate from what you’re told to do. Turn on your headlights, stay in the line, and park in the designated area.
  9. Offer Help to the Family of the Deceased. After losing a loved one, the family may be numb and simply going through the motions of living. During this time, any offer of a meal, help with household chores, or other act of kindness will be appreciated. If they turn down your offer during the funeral, ask again later when they have had time to process their loss.
  10. Continue to Be There After the Funeral. In the days and weeks following the funeral, the loved ones of the deceased will have quite a bit to deal with. Be supportive by listening to your grieving friend. Pay attention to clues in the conversation that the person may be ready to resume a normal life, but don’t push them.
    Don’t leave them out of events that they might have participated in before losing their loved one. If you have always included them in lunch outings, continue to do so, but don’t be upset if they aren’t as lively and fun at first. It takes time to grieve a loss.

Always Be Respectful

All of the things you need to know about attending funerals boil down to one important element, and that is respect. This is a sad time for most grieving families, so show respect at all times.