The only true rule of a funeral is to be respectful. Everything else is a guideline to help you remain unobtrusive, helpful, and supportive during a time of intense emotional upheaval and grief. Funerals can be relaxed, formal, informal, celebratory, religious, secular, musical, solemn, or a mixture. It's always a good idea to take your cues from the family of the Deceased or the officiant, if there is one. Otherwise, use general respect when attending a funeral:
- Dress for the occasion. Pick muted and dark colors unless directed otherwise. Stick to business-casual in style.
- Make a judgment call about bringing small children. If they are able to sit quietly for a long time, it should be okay. If you're not sure, find other arrangements. A funeral is already a very emotionally charged situation. Crying toddlers or children who are running around can be stressful for grieving family members.
- Silence your cellphone or pager before you arrive.
- If the funeral includes a viewing of the body on the way in or out, do not feel like you have to stop and pay your respects that way. It is understandable if you feel uncomfortable doing so, and you may skip the line. If you do view the body, you may kneel (if a kneeler is present) or stand and pay your respects. Try to be conscious of others who wish to do the same.
- Unless you are a direct family member, avoid the first two rows and sit somewhere farther back. The front is often reserved for immediate family.
- Be quiet and attentive during the service. This is not a time to talk, answer a phone, or make jokes. It is understandable to feel and process grief in your own way; just be respectful of the other people around you.
- Follow the cues of others for when to sit or stand. Look at the program for guidance if there is one.
- Wait until the immediate family, pall-bearers, and casket have exited before you leave the service.
- When trying to determine whether or not to send flowers or make food for the bereaved, check in with them. They might be overwhelmed in some areas and understaffed in others. Offer concrete suggestions as to how you can contribute and listen to what they really need.
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