Funerals aren’t fun. They aren’t like other social events where friends and family gather to celebrate an occasion. There are often awkward moments, as both those who are immediately-impacted, and those who come to honor the dead and pay respects to the living, are at their most vulnerable – or raw.
There will likely be unfamiliar faces. There may be travel involved, or time taken off work; or, you may be inconvenienced in some other way. No one likes to attend a funeral, but it truly is part of the journey of life.
Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to. It’s part of being an adult. Funerals aren’t a requirement, and occasionally circumstances may truly prevent us from being able to attend. People usually understand this. However, if your best reason for not attending the funeral is inconvenience, or time, or the ick factor, you may want to take a step back and rethink your decision to skip the service.
Here’s your one loophole: if services are happening on two days (a wake one night and a funeral the next day), you may opt to attend one or the other.
What Do You Say?
Conversation might be difficult – what could you say to someone who suffered such a major loss? It’s actually not that hard. Share a short story about the deceased, or something you liked/loved/admired about them. If you don’t see the person often, or were connected to someone else in the family, introduce yourself and tell them how you’re connected and why you’re there. Or, simply offer your sincere condolences on their loss. You really don’t have to do more than that.
A Small Gesture Goes a Long Way
What may seem like an insignificant gesture to you, goes a long way to someone who just suffered a great personal loss. Attending the funeral of someone who isn’t necessarily a close family member or friend might seem like it doesn’t matter, and because of that, many people choose not to attend. Don’t be that guy.
To the family and friends of the deceased, your mere presence makes an impact. You may spark fond memories, or simply make the family feel better by knowing that their loved one meant enough to one more person to attend their funeral.
Whether the deceased is a family member, a friend, a work or former colleague, an old neighbor, or other social connection, it’s always appropriate to pay your respects and attend the funeral. Not only will your actions be appreciated and remembered by the family and friends of the deceased, but you’ll know in your heart that did the right thing.
Losing a loved one is something that’s hard to describe with words. It’s different for everyone. But the comfort of knowing that others cared for and about someone that you’ve lost is more powerful than most people know.
If you’re considering whether you should go to a funeral, the answer is, always, yes.
This blog was inspired by an NPR article first published in August of 2005, Always Go To The Funeral.
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As a youngster I was told that only family members and very close friends should attend the burial after the funeral service.
Greg: Nowadays, immediate family, relatives and any/all friends may attend the burial site