Going To A Funeral – Etiquette

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Attending a funeral or memorial service shows your support for the surviving family members, and offers you a chance to remember the person who died.

As a general rule, if you’re invited to a funeral you should attend.

If the bereaved and/or deceased are a close family member or friend, you should attend the funeral if at all possible. If you have a less close relationship, your attendance is optional but can help the bereaved feel cared for and supported.

Unless the obituary says it’s a private service, you can assume the public is welcome, and you should go.

Until you’ve lost a family member, you won’t understand what a comfort it is to the family to see “a full church [and] the pews packed with people who also cared for and remember the deceased. The family knows that attending a funeral is inconvenient, and that’s why they’ll never forget that you came.” (from The Art of Manliness)

Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from going.

Even if you’ve never been to a funeral of another faith, your presence is appreciated, and if necessary, the funeral director or clergy will tell the mourners what to do and when.

Arrive early.

If there is a registry or guestbook, be sure to sign it with your first and last names and, if appropriate, your relationship to the deceased (“co-worker,” “friend,” “colleague,” “college roommate”). It’s important to the family to see who attended the service, and they may use the registry to send thank-you notes.

Don’t try to seek out the family before the service;

if you find that they are greeting people, keep your interaction brief and find your seat quickly. Sit toward the front only if you are a member of the family; close friends generally sit behind the family, while those who are co-workers or acquaintances sit further back or in the rear.

Be respectful.

Don’t chat with those around you or eat or drink anything. Turn off your cell phone; the last thing the family wants to hear is a ringer going off. Resist the temptation to check your text messages. Unless you have a dire emergency, stay for the entire service. An open microphone for sharing memories of the deceased is sometimes available at memorial services. If you decide to participate, keep your remarks respectful and brief. Long-winded or off-color stories are inappropriate. If you are tempted to use your cell phone camera to photograph or record the service, think twice; this act can be seen by the grieving as an invasion of privacy. If you believe you have a legitimate reason for taking pictures, check with the family and/or funeral director or clergy first.

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