The grieving process looks different for every person and every loss. Sometimes, it involves long periods spent crying, or reminiscing about the good times you spent with your loved one. Other times, mourners appear stoic and steady – perhaps they want to stay strong for their families, or simply can’t express their feelings at this moment.
Here at Mountain View Funeral Home, we understand that grief is individual. If this is the first time you’ve lost someone, you may feel uncertain about how to act during a funeral service. Or perhaps it’s been awhile since you last attended a service. If you aren’t familiar with funeral etiquette, we’ve compiled a short list of tips to help you get through the day with grace.
- Try to Relax: It’s ok to feel nervous when attending a funeral service. Think back to a moment when you felt similarly anxious, such as meeting your girlfriend’s parents for the first time. Remember how they responded positively when you showed respect, and try a similar approach here. If you spot someone you know, greet them with a handshake or hug. If you are unsure what to say, “I’m sorry for your loss” is always an appropriate response to friends and family of the deceased.
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings: When attending a wake or funeral for the first time, try quietly observing others. There are likely many people present who have attended funeral services and know what to do. Follow their lead. If they line up to pay their respects at the casket during a wake, follow suit. If everyone takes a seat, do the same. Also, make sure to silence your cell phone before approaching the service.
- Respect Roles and Seating: Some people may have been asked by the family to take on a specific role or given seating instructions for the funeral service. It is not uncommon for the front row (or rows) of a funeral service to be reserved for immediate family. Pallbearers and relatives who have been asked to give a reading may sit near the aisle. If none of these situations apply, sit with a friend or family member you feel comfortable supporting and being supported by during the service. A gentle squeeze of the hand can make all the difference during tough moments.
- Dress for the Occasion: Traditional funeral attire is conservative and dark-colored. If the deceased’s culture or religion is different than your own, ask if the family has requested a specific dress code. Some cultures wear white to funerals, for example, while men attending a Jewish service are often requested to wear a yarmulke (head covering).
- Remember, it’s OK to Have Emotions: You may see a variety of emotional responses during services. You might also personally experience varying emotions throughout the day. It is completely normal and acceptable to cry; no one will judge you for expressing your feelings. If you are unsure how to help others, ask them if they need anything. Your friends or family are here to support you during this difficult time, so don’t be afraid to ask them for help.
Above all else, be gentle with yourself and others. No one expects you to know exactly what to do your first time at a funeral service. Many funeral attendees have been in your shoes before and will understand if you’re unsure what to do or say. The staff at Mountain View Funeral Home is also here to help should you have any questions or concerns.