A funeral is a very sensitive time for anyone involved in the loss of a loved one, especially for the family and friends closest to them. That’s why you must be respectful and act carefully, thinking about your actions and how to act at a funeral service. This blog is there to help clear up any confusion you may have.
It’s good to make sure you arrive ten minutes early to a funeral, although there’s no need to arrive any more than 20 minutes early to a funeral service unless you know it’s a particularly large funeral and you know it will be busy. Showing up far earlier than needed could be a burden on the family as they’re preparing for the long day ahead of them. If you do come late, the Emily Post Institute recommends that you remain unobtrusive by entering a row through a side aisle, if you’re arriving late with kids then slip in quietly at the back so you can make a quick exit if you feel one of your children may cause an issue regarding noise or interruption.
Where to sit
The general practice is that the first few rows of the church or venue are reserved for family members or close friends and loved ones of the deceased. If you’re neither of those, sit towards the middle or back depending on what feels most comfortable for you. Once you’re seated, stay put (and quiet) for the ceremonies duration, unless you’re instructed to do otherwise. If you begin to get overly emotional or have a coughing fit and want to exit to the bathroom or lobby, then do so but in a quiet manner and slip out of the funeral service without causing a commotion.
Turn off distractions/stay off your phone
As with any big life event, there may be a big temptation to take photos and document the occasion, particularly if you are reconnecting with old friends and family. However, it is wise to avoid taking any photos at a funeral service unless you have permission to do so from a close family member of the deceased. This includes selfies, which will likely come across as disrespectful to the family of the deceased.
If you have been given permission to take photos at a funeral, be subtle in your approach, turn off the flash and ensure you ask for permission before you take someone’s photo. Waiting until after the funeral service, when you are outside and away from the other mourners, is often the best time to take a photo with friends or family members you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
When it comes to posting on social media, it’s usually deemed as inappropriate to tweet, Instagram, or Snapchat, unless you’re an immediate family member (in that case, you might want to use social media to take advantage of digital memorial platforms or websites). Always take your lead from the family of the deceased – wait for them to announce the death on social media first before posting anything yourself. Often the most respectful way to engage in social media is simply to comment on a post that has already been uploaded by a family member, offering your heartfelt condolences.
What shall I wear?
Most of us know black as the traditional colour to wear to a funeral, but other colours are acceptable unless of course, the family of the loved one has specified that you are to only wear black to the funeral service. Warm but subtle shades such as maroon, dark grey, or dark/navy blue are usually acceptable but make sure to check! Attending a funeral simply isn’t the time to make a fashion statement or draw attention to yourself you must remember that. However, some bright shades are accepted if you’ve been asked to wear them. For example, if the deceased adored the colour purple, then their family may ask you to wear something incorporating the colour purple as a heart-warming tribute to their loved one.
Offer your condolences
Finding the right words to say to someone who has experienced loss can be challenging and you might be concerned about saying the wrong thing. Planning what you would like to say beforehand can usually help you find the right words at the moment.
Some sensitive phrases could include:
• I’m sorry for your loss
• He/she will be sorely missed
• You are in my thoughts
• If you would like to talk to me then I’m here
• Let me know how I can support you
Avoid platitudes that can be perceived as insensitive, such as “they’re in a better place now” and “the pain will lessen in time” as these are deemed to be incentive and are not appropriate.
Sharing stories and memories of the deceased is another way to offer your support to the bereaved. There’s also a lot of power and heartfelt meaning in a smile, a hug, and a pause.
Should I send a gift?
Bringing or sending a gift is always appropriate unless, of course, the family has specified this is something they don’t want. A gift shows the family that you’re thinking of them. This is especially true if they’ve asked for gifts or donations instead of flowers. If you decide to donate, then there’s usually a specific organisation or charity to which the family wants you to send this donation, this information is often found in the obituary.
What about after the funeral?
In the weeks that follow the funeral service, the family and close friends of the bereaved will most likely need you more than ever. When life goes back to normal, reality sets in, so make sure to check in and stay connected, try calling them or asking them out for a walk or lunch, just to get them out of the house. Remember that significant holidays and special dates in the calendar can be hard to bear alone.
Hopefully, this blog has cleared up some queries you may have had about funeral etiquette, if there’s more you would like to know or be assisted in any way regarding a funeral, then please don’t hesitate to contact us here at SC & BS Cocks as we are experts in this field and are always here for a sensitive and helpful approach, our phone number is 01452 617892.