A Helpful Guide To Funeral Etiquette
When a friend or acquaintance dies, your first reaction may be to help. But you may not be sure of what to say or do. It is natural to feel this way.
While you may feel hesitant about intruding on the family during their grief, it is important to visit them. It lets the family know that while their loved one is gone, they are not alone; that while suffering a great loss, they are still connected to the living, and that life will go on.
When Should I Visit?
Upon learning of a death, intimate friends of the family should visit the home to offer sympathy and ask if they can help. You may prefer to visit the family at the funeral home. This setting may be more comfortable for you and the family, as they are prepared for visitors at that time.
How Long Should I Stay At A Visitation?
It is only necessary to stay for a short time; fifteen minutes or so gives you enough time to express your sympathy.
What Should I Say?
Using your own words, express your sympathy. Kind words about the person who has died is always appropriate. If the family wants to talk, they usually need to express their feelings; they aren't necessarily looking for a response from you. The kindest response is usually a warm hug and simply say, "I understand."
The Visitation At The Funeral Home
A formal visitation provides a time and place for friends to offer their expressions of sorrow and sympathy. This practice is most common among the Protestant and Catholic faiths. The obituary should tell you the visitation hours and when the family will be present, or you may call the funeral home for this information.
When you arrive, go to the family, and express your sympathy with an embrace or by offering your hand. Don't feel as though you must avoid talking about the person who has died. Talking can help the grieving process begin. If you were an acquaintance of the deceased but not well known to the family, immediately introduce yourself. Do not feel uncomfortable if you or the family members become emotional or begin to cry. Allowing the family to grieve is a natural healing process. However, if you find yourself becoming extremely upset, it would be kinder to excuse yourself so as not to increase the strain on the family.
Viewing the deceased is not mandatory. However, if offered by the family, it is customary to show your respects by viewing the deceased, and, if you desire, spending a few moments in silent prayer. Always sign your name in the register book. If you were a business associate of the deceased, it is appropriate to note your company affiliation or the family may not otherwise know you.
Your simple presence will mean a lot to the family. You do not need to stay for the entire visitation, but try not to leave during any prayers that might be offered.