Funeral Etiquette

Should I attend the funeral?

Funeral services are generally opened to everyone unless there is a dispute amongst the kin of the deceased person or some disparity between the person wishing to attend the funeral and members of the family

Funeral services are sensitive occasions, it is an opportunity for the relatives and friends of the deceased to pay their last respects to the deceased and can be used as an occasion for relatives and friends to meet and greet under to same circumstance of grief and forgiveness. It is therefore advisable, should your presence at a funeral service have a potential to disrupt the sanctity of the occasion that one should stay away. If, however, you must attend the funeral service, be discrete and non-intrusive in the immediate affairs to avoid unnecessary confrontations

Where should I sit?

Family members are usually seated at the front of the chapel, the first three rows are normally reserved for this. Immediate family members are seated upfront, members of the kin of the deceased are seated next. Important guests such as dignitaries, workplace colleagues, representatives from organizations to which the deceased belonged, caregivers, in-laws, close friends and neighbors are afforded the opportunity of selected seating.

Some family members may opt to not be seated in the reserved seating locations, this is okay. An important issue is to ensure that the immediate family members are afforded seating accommodation for the funeral service. Reserved seating allows for ease of access for mourners to greet the family without having to search for them. It also gives family members the opportunity to be in proximity of each other and be a source of comfort and support this arrangement can send a message of oneness to guest at the funeral service.

What do I wear to a funeral?

Traditionally, black is the color of choice worn to funeral services. Generally, the colors of choice to be worn to a funeral are usually subtle and these include mono tones such as, dark or navy blue, dark creams, white, greys, mauve or any combination of these hues. Within recency however, we have seen a change in the color scheme worn to funeral services with the change in fashion trends and now acceptable styles.

Some deceased may stipulate through [pre-planning] a color of choice for mourners to wear at their funeral and one is guided by this. Notwithstanding some of the new trends in fashion however, one should be mindful that the occasion is that of funeral service and as such, chose a dress code that is suitable to the occasion.

When should I arrive at the funeral service?

Protocol suggests that guests attending a funeral service should arrive at earliest thirty minutes prior to the start. When guests arrive after the service has commenced it can sometimes be disruptive and causes distraction to the proceeding. Arriving prior to the start of the service gives guest the opportunity to meet and greet with family members before the service begins and to let them know that you are there to offer the needed support them.

Not all persons attending a funeral may want to be part of the funeral service and not all may want to be at the cemetery or the cremation site. People can make a choice, whatever it maybe however attendees should be mindful that due respect must be given to the grieving relatives and their presence at any part of the funeral should show empathy and respect for the bereaved family.

What should I say?

It is difficult to communicate to the bereaved family members who are grieving and finding the right things to say can prove difficult. At times we use phrases such as “time is a good healer”, “I understand what you are going through”, “she/he is in a better place” should be avoided. It should be remembered that your role at the funeral is to pay respect to the deceased and give support to the family.

Our support should focus on giving supportive and encouraging words, these can include “she/he was a wonderful person”, “I am sorry for your lost”, “I will miss him/her”. Although some of these may sound a bit cliché, they offer comfort and support in a subtle manner to the bereaved family at a time when they truly need to hear encouraging, positive words.

Should Young Children be allowed to attend a funeral?

Children also need to mourn, they should also be given the opportunity to say their goodbyes to the deceased. At most funeral services, the infants who are present are normally immediate relatives of the deceased person. They maybe grandchildren, children, nieces or nephews or close kin and it is important that they attend the funeral to be part of the experience of the final goodbyes.

For the most part, mourners usually do not bring children to funeral services unless the departed themselves is a young person. Funeral service are not the ideal events for children to attend, the solemnity of the occasion may not be the ideal setting for them. Children can become easily distracted and can cause disruptions during the funeral service. Some churches allocate seating for children and mothers with infants usually sit close to exits or to the back of the church for easy of departure should they become impatient.

It is important to ask children if they want to attend a funeral, this opens the door to them asking questions about a funeral and what it entails. The process helps prepare the child’s mind about attending and too, can work to allay concerns which they may have regarding dying and other related concerns about the funeral process.

What if I do not share the bereaved family religious belief?

If the funeral service is being held at a religious institution especially one that is opposite to your own religious convictions and you want to participate in the funeral ceremony it is advisable that you find out information about the religion of the deceased and be familiar with the pros and cons of that religion.

We should remember that our presence at the funeral service is to support the family and to pay respect to the deceased. Although our religious background may differ to that of the bereaved our presence should be calm, consoling, and respectful which is acceptable regardless of religion or faith. It embraces an open willingness to accept different traditions at the time of bereavement

Complex relationships

Managing complex relationships at a funeral can prove to be difficult, the deceased may have had relationships prior to the present one and they too may want to be part of the funeral planning and funeral service. Dealing with situation such as this can prove difficult, it is imperative that tact be employed in working through this situation if the prevalence of peace is to be preserved for the funeral service.

There may be children involved from the previous relationship/s wanting to pay their respects to the deceased, open communication should be practiced. Prior to the day of the funeral service parties can come together and decide on seating arrangements and involvement in the funeral planning. The meet session should focus on information to be included on the funeral program seating allocations and pall bearers to name a few.

Where the relations maybe more complex it can warrant more serious planning to ensure that all goes well during the funeral service. It should be remembered that the funeral service is the final tribute that family, friends and well-wishers will be paying to the deceased. Due respect should always be made to the deceased and the bereaved family members. Compromises must be made to ensure that the process runs smoothly and without incident.

After the Funeral

A repass is often planned and here people use the opportunity to socialize, well-wishers are offered a light meal. It is the norm for mourners to visit the home of the deceased after the funeral, in some instances, they are invited by the bereaved family to come and share with them. Funeral services can be regarded as social events and it gives attendees the opportunity to greet each other and it is also an opportunity for distant relatives/family members to be introduced or get re acquainted. The occasion is also used to reminisce on the deceased. The process of gathering after the service is considered as a comfort event for the bereaved family and because of the tone of the gathering create an atmosphere for them to meet and greet well-wishers and acknowledge their presence at the funeral service. The repass is an important aspect to the funeral, it brings a fitting end to the process.