funeral 21

How To Know If You Should Attend A Funeral

Attending a funeral or memorial service shows support for the surviving family members and offers you a chance to remember the person who died. As a general rule, if you feel like you want to attend the service and you've been invited, then you should attend. If you didn't know the person who died, but you have a relationship with the bereaved—even if only a casual relationship—your attendance can help make the bereaved feel cared for and supported. If you're uncomfortable going alone, it is appropriate to bring a friend; on the whole, the more people that show up to a funeral or memorial service, the more supported the family will feel.

If the funeral or memorial service is for family only or if you think your presence would make the bereaved uncomfortable, then you should not attend. There also may be logistical complications in getting to the event that could prevent you from going or make an effort involved inappropriate given your relationship to the person who died or the family.

If you're feeling conflicted about whether or not you should attend a funeral or memorial service, try thinking about how you'll feel a year from now. Will you regret not attending the service? Or do you anticipate feeling like not attending the service was the best thing for you to do?. Check out our extensive list of Melbourne Funeral Services to help you arrange a funeral for your loved one.

What is a Funeral?

A funeral service is a formal event where loved ones and friends say goodbye to someone who has passed away. A funeral, unlike a wake or viewing, typically involves an actual burial. When we experience the death of a loved one, we naturally experience a very emotional and difficult time. Funerals serve to help us come to grips with the death of a loved one by acknowledging the passing in a formal ceremony. A funeral is also a celebration of the life of the person you all knew.

People often share fond memories of the person they loved, and in doing so, help one another to find meaning in the wonders of life and death. In this way, friends and family support one another during a difficult and sometimes emotionally bewildering time. For the family, a funeral is generally very conducive to a healthy grieving process. When they see how much their loved one meant to other people, it's comforting and helps them say goodbye.

When and Where Do Funerals Take Place?

A funeral can occur at the family home, a funeral home, or a place of worship such as a church. The funeral itself usually takes place anywhere from a day or two to a week or so after someone has passed away. Timing will partly be influenced by family preferences, such as how long it takes to gather remote family members for the funeral.

What is a Viewing?

A viewing is an unstructured gathering of friends and family where visitors can pay their respects to either the deceased after being prepared by a mortician or a cremation urn or series of memorial photos. A viewing, compared to a funeral, is generally a more informal event. A viewing allows mourners the opportunity to share their grief, support one another, and say goodbye on a personal level. This is also considered an important event for showing your respects to the family.

The viewing has had many name changes over the years. If you're of a certain generation, you'll know it as "calling hours". Some call it a visitation.

Viewings can take place at the funeral home or the family home. They take place before the funeral, sometimes the day before and sometimes the same day. The body or a memorial to the deceased will likely be displayed to allow mourners the opportunity to pay their respects. Guests come and go as they see fit, some staying for hours while others drop by for just a few moments. Many deceased acquaintances consider a viewing the evening before a funeral the best time to pay their respects to the bereaved by appearing, offering their condolences, and then leaving.

The Do's And Don'ts Of Funeral Etiquette

 While there is no "right" thing you can say to someone who just lost a family member, friend, or significant other, there is general funeral etiquette that you should follow. Knowing the basics can help prevent an embarrassing mistake when emotions are already running high. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide religious and traditional funeral services.

DO: Dress More Conservatively

Modesty reigns during a funeral. You don't go to a funeral to stand out or steal the limelight. Instead, you go to a funeral to listen, learn, and comfort the grieving members.

Stay away from distracting or flashy accessories or outfits. Stick to darker colours, but you don't have to wear all black. You should also make sure that everything is tidy, neat, tucked in, and combed. If it's a funeral for a different culture, ask what colours are appropriate.

DON'T: Be Late

Ideally, you'll want to show up at least 10 minutes early to any funeral you attend. If you think it will be crowded, you can show up a half-hour early to get a seat.

If you end up showing up late, stay unobtrusive by entering a back row through a side aisle. If there is a procession at this funeral, stay outside until it finishes. Most people will be too distracted to pay much attention if you slip in through the back a little late.

DO: Act Normal

If you're like a large majority of people, you won't know what to say to a person who just had a loved one pass. This is okay. There are no magic words or phrases that will make everything better or help you get across just how sorry you are.

Instead of freezing and tripping over what you want to say, act normal. Bring them a snack and water if you see they're getting stuck talking to people. It's also nice to express sympathy by sending a card or flowers to the family member's workplace or residence. Send these things sooner rather than later.

DON'T: Sit Anywhere You Like

dos and don ts of funeral etiquette

Generally speaking, the first few rows of the funeral home or church are where close friends and family members sit. If you don't fall into either of these categories, sit more toward the middle or back of the venue.

Once you pick a seat, stay in it and stay quiet during the ceremony. If you start crying or coughing, feel free to excuse yourself to the lobby or bathroom until it passes. Just be mindful of the people sitting around you if you do choose to exit.

DO: Bring Kids

While you may want to leave babies with a sitter, kids over six or so should be okay to bring to the funeral. Often, they bring joy and lightness to members of the family.

Don't worry that this will make them sad or anxious. If your kid is close to the deceased, they might want to participate in the funeral somehow. They can speak, read poetry, or sing. All you have to do is make sure they can stay occupied throughout the ceremony or be prepared to take them out to the lobby.

DON'T: Put the Funeral on Social Media

Put your phone on silent before the ceremony. Better yet, leave it in your purse or pocket. It's very inappropriate to Instagram, tweet, or Snapchat a funeral unless you're an immediate family member who already talked about it to other family members.

As for taking pictures, you shouldn't take any during the ceremony itself. However, it's okay to snap a few when you get away from the mourners. It's also okay to set up a group shot with family members or friends you wouldn't normally see if they're okay with it.

DO: Laugh

Funerals are for the living, so no hard and fast rule says they have to be solemn affairs. If the deceased was the life of the party and loved to have a good time, the funeral could feel more lighthearted. If someone cracks a joke, it's okay to laugh with them.

A light laugh can break the tension in the room and help everyone relax. Don't overdo it with fake laughter, though.

DON'T: Shy Away From Religious Aspects

Maybe you're not so religious, but the deceased and their family was. If so, the ceremony will most likely have more of a religious aspect to it. If so, you don't necessarily have to participate. If they ask you to stand, bow your head and pray for the person, all you have to do is stand and quietly bow your head. No one will notice if you're praying or not, and you still get to participate.

DON'T: Overindulge

If the family serves drink and food, don't overdo it. It's a good idea to have a bite to eat before the service. The last thing you want to be is that person hovering by the food.

If they serve alcohol, try not to drink more than one or two to keep yourself mostly sober. It's easy to have too much and do something embarrassing. If you feel pressured, switch to tonic water with lime or even a coke with a lemon or lime wedge in it.

DO: Follow Up with the Family

The hardest part about losing someone is after the funeral and memorial services when you go back home. So, it's a good idea to make a point to follow up with the family a few weeks after the funeral. Don't be afraid to send a card or flowers right away.

What to Do If You Can't Make a Funeral

If you can't make the funeral for any of the reasons above, you can still show your support. Taking some time to do something nice for the bereaved family leading up to or after the funeral shows you're thinking of them. Need help in planning a funeral service? Check out Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals in Melbourne.

Call the family

The easiest way to show your support is also the simplest. In the age of technology and social media, picking up the phone and talking to someone means a lot. To let the family know you're thinking of them, give them a call. Offer your sincere condolences, and ask if there's anything else they need. 

This is also an appropriate time to inform them that you're unable to attend the funeral. However, keep your explanation short. This isn't the time for a long-winded chat. Short and sweet is always best. 

Send flowers

Flowers are a powerful way to show sympathy. In many cultures, flowers play a large role in the symbolism around funerals. Sending flowers to the family's home or the funeral service in advance lets you be there in spirit if you can't attend. 

Your local flower shop likely has arrangements specifically for funerals. Include a sympathy note with your flowers and make sure they're sent in time. Alternatively, you can order a vase of fresh-cut flowers from Amazon and send it to their address. Flowers are a sign of respect in most cultures, and this is a welcome gift. Alternatively, you can 

Mail a sympathy card

Delivery your sympathy messages via snail mail. Picking up the phone is always a kind gesture, but so is mailing a sympathy card, like one of these simple, blank sympathy cards. Offer your condolences with a thoughtful card addressed to the family in their time of need. 

Your card is enough on its own, but you might always wish to include some extras since you're unable to attend the funeral.

Here are some ideas of appropriate sympathy gifts to include with your card:

  • Family photographs (especially ones with the deceased)
  • Sympathy or religious quotes
  • Gift cards for take-out or other food delivery, like to a place like Amazon, DoorDash, Uber Eats, or another similar company
  • A donation to a cause that meant something to the deceased

Bring the family food

If you're unable to attend the funeral, there are other ways to show your support. One of the best ways is through food. When the family is grieving, they're not always able to focus on cooking or other chores. These might seem like small things, but they add up quickly. 

Preparing a home-cooked meal or purchasing something from a favourite restaurant is a kind, thoughtful gesture. When delivering your meal, ensure it's in a disposable container or a dish you don't want back—gifting comfort food that's quick to prepare offers sustenance in a time of need. Food brings people together, and funerals are no exception. 

Help with housework

Similar to the idea above, housework piles up quickly after losing a loved one. Offer help if you live locally. Helping with housework and other chores is often welcome days or weeks after the funeral. 

The deceased family is usually spending this time managing their grief. Taking over on the cleaning and other chores lends a helping hand when it's needed most. When in doubt, ask the family what they need from you. Some easy chores to take over are:

  • Pick up older kids from school
  • Babysit older children
  • Clean the home
  • Do yard work
  • Go grocery shopping for the family

Make a care package

If you're not local to the grieving family, it's hard to know what to offer if you can't attend the funeral. You're not able to do acts of service, like cooking or cleaning. What else is there? Creating a care package is a great way to show your support if you can't physically be present.

There are a lot of things to include in a grief care package. Consider how you felt if you've ever suffered from a similar loss. What did you need most? Think of comfort items, like a warm blanket or a favourite snack. These small tokens of kindness mean the world to those you love. 

If you don't want to make your DIY care package, you can send a pre-made box, like this sympathy gift box, and send it right to their door.

Follow up after the funeral.

Attending the funeral is a great way to show your support. However, as we already covered, this isn't always possible. You can still show you care by following up with the family after the funeral. The family doesn't stop their grief after the funeral. This continues for weeks or even months. 

Being there even when others are moving on shows they're in your thoughts. Call every other week to check in, offer to help when you can, and just show up for those you love. 

Scroll to Top