When someone passes away, there are typically two gatherings: a visitation and a funeral. Depending on how well you knew the deceased and their family, you may attend one or the other or both. Here we will discover a little about each gathering and what you can do to put your best foot forward to ensure a pleasant exchange with everyone present.
What Is A Visitation?
A visitation is an informal gathering usually held the evening before the funeral. You may also know this type of gathering as a wake or viewing. The visitation may not always have the body present as the emphasis may be placed on the visit.
What Should You Say at the Visitation?
If you’ve never met the family before, make sure to introduce yourself at some point during the evening. Feel free to share a fond memory of the person who has died. Many mourners will treasure the stories they hear about their loved ones. This is the reason for the visitation in the first place.
Know that anything you share will be welcome. Do not feel like you have to make a conversation with the family if the moment is more solemn or if you are struggling to find the right words. A simple “I am sorry for your loss.” is fine.
What Should I Wear to the Visitation?
If you choose to attend the visitation, dress appropriately. You should dress nicely, but you don’t need to be as formal as you would at a funeral or memorial service.
The standard protocol for attending a visitation is to stop by, introduce yourself to the family, pay your condolences and then leave after a short time.
Attending A Funeral
Attending a funeral is never easy. Depending on your relationship with the deceased, you could be struggling with feelings of grief and sadness.
What to Say at a Funeral
Offering your condolences is an essential part of a funeral service. This is your opportunity to pay your respects and offer support in the family’s time of need. There are, however, some things to be aware of when interacting with a grieving family.
When to Approach the Family
Most funerals end with a repast or informal gathering for guests. This is the best time to approach the family and offer your condolences. When you speak to the family, try to keep your comments short. They may not be ready to discuss the passing, so don’t ask any intruding questions. If you are unsure what to say, “I’m sorry for your loss.” is always a respectful choice. Less is more when it comes to funeral services.
What to Wear
Expectations can vary when it comes to funeral attire. When choosing an outfit, something to keep in mind as that black is traditional and always appropriate. You don’t have to wear black, but make sure your clothing isn’t brightly colored.
A good rule of thumb when dressing for a funeral is to keep your outfit subdued, not to attract attention. Dress as you would attend church or a job interview.
Other Things to Consider
Funerals are emotional occasions. Make sure that you are following these practices to stay respectful:
- Devices: make sure your cell phone or other electronic device is silent at the beginning of the ceremony. Unless there is an emergency, your phone should remain out of sight. Should you receive an emergency call, you should take the call outside where you won’t be a distraction.
- Children: Children are often welcome at funerals. If you are bringing your children, keep an eye on their behavior. It may be difficult for them to sit still during a service. Come prepared with a book or quiet game to play. If they begin to make noise or become a distraction, take them outside quickly.
- Emotions: Emotions run high at funerals. If you were close to the deceased, no one expects you to stay strong the entire time. If you begin to cry uncontrollably, excuse yourself until you can regain your composure so as not to distract others.
Whether you attend the visitation, funeral, or both will depend on your relationship with the deceased and their family. It’s OK to participate in one or both; the choice is yours. If you are unsure and have questions, always ask the family or reach out to the funeral home for assistance.