In today’s society, funerals can take many forms so there is no one standard answer for this question. The scenarios given below are usually what might happen at a funeral home or a church.
Is a funeral religious?
If a funeral is in a funeral home, it may be less religious than a service in a church. However, there may still be a minister present, and elements of a religious service. A funeral in a funeral home can be entirely non-religious also.
How might I educate myself in advance regarding any faith-based or cultural practices that may be different from my own?
If you know the person’s faith, or know they type of church where the services are going to be held you can simply Google that type of service to find out what the basic service might be like. Once inside the service, watch what others are doing: stand when others stand, sit when others sit.
What will happen when I arrive at the funeral home?
Once you arrive at the funeral home or church, sign the provided register book and determine if you would like to greet the family or view the remains. If the answer is no to both, you can quietly take a seat and wait for the services to begin. If you would like to greet the family quietly make your way to where they are and introduce yourself as a kindness, as in these days of mask wearing as you may not be recognized. “I’m Sue, and I worked with John. Please accept my condolences.” Now move on. Don’t engage in long conversation. If you choose to view, make your way to the casket, pause briefly, say a prayer if you are inclined and move on. If this is a memorial service, you can admire the urn, look at flowers and greet the family.
Is the body of the person who died always present? If the body is present, am I required to view it?
If it is noted the service is a memorial service, the body probably will not be there, although there may be an urn. This type of service may be similar to one if the remains are present. If you go to a service and the casket is open, you certainly do not have to view if this makes you uncomfortable; your presence is enough. If an attendant asks if you want to view, you can simply say no.
How long does a funeral last?
Most funerals last about an hour but allow for variations. Arrive in a timely fashion.
What should I wear?
Wear something subtle to the funeral in fitting with your community norms. Pants suits for women, and shirts without a tie for men are acceptable in some areas of the country, while in other areas women often wear dresses and men suits, shirts and ties.
Do I bring a card to the funeral? Will I be expected to give money to the family or make a donation?
It is always a nice gesture to take something to the bereaved family. This is not required but will certainly be appreciated. The nice gesture might be a card with thoughtful memories of the deceased you have written, a mass card if the deceased was Catholic, or flowers or a plant. You can tale these items to the funeral home or church, or you can send or take them directly to the family’s home. Often it will be noted if the family would like donations in their loved one’s name directed to a certain charity. Money is welcome especially if there are difficult circumstances. A book of stamps is a simple, effective gift when paired with a card. Baked goods such as a casserole would be welcome too.
Your attendance at a funeral can be a big boost for the family. The funeral can also be an educational experience. Open your eyes and your heart and remember your purpose for attending.