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Basic Funeral Etiquette

Dec 14, 2020

The Dos and Don’ts of Attending A Funeral

Memorial services or funerals can be difficult to navigate. With emotions running high for everyone involved, knowing what to say or how to express condolences can be stressful. While we probably place more pressure on ourselves than is necessary, it is important to be respectful and courteous.

Managing the Complexities of Funerals

How to Interact with the Grieving Family

Knowing how to interact with someone who has just experienced a loss can be challenging for some, especially when attending a funeral or memorial service. The simple rule here is to simply be genuine in your approach. A kind word or hug can go a long way. And sometimes, it may be appropriate to simply express that you do not know how to express your empathy, but that your thoughts are with them. In many cases, your presence and support, or offer to help with anything that may be needed, is enough to comfort them.  

Bringing Children to a Funeral

Bringing children to a funeral is entirely appropriate. It can often be a good way for a child to gain closure and/or say goodbye. It is also a lesson about life’s cycle. You can prepare a child for the experience by discussing what they should expect and what you expect of them, beforehand. Have a discussion to ensure that they are prepared for what they will see, how they should behave and what they may feel. Be sure to follow-up with them afterwards about their experience, so that you may answer any questions that may have arisen.

Where to Sit

Often, it can be nerve-wracking to know where to sit at a funeral or memorial service. There is worry about sitting too close to the family, which can imply too much intimacy, whilst sitting too far away can convey a sense of remoteness or make others feel isolated. It is often best to take a seat close to the front and offering your seat if you feel someone else should have it.

When to Arrive 

As a general rule, you should arrive at on time and stay for the entire service. If you must leave early, we recommend sitting close to the back and exiting quietly as to not disrupt the service. Arriving early is not taboo by any means. In fact, it can allow you to interact with a few of the attendees or family members and have a more intimate moment with them.

What to Wear

In many cultures, black is the colour of mourning and those attending a funeral were expected to wear black. The expectations today are not so rigid. Black clothing is always appropriate if you would like to keep it as safe as possible, but colored clothing can also be worn. The outfit should be conservative in style.

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As a general rule, if you are respectful, polite, and genuine, try not to stress about acting appropriately. Everyone understands that funerals can be a bit tricky to navigate but the most important part is to pay your respects and offer your thoughts and support to those who are grieving the loss.  

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