For many reasons, it can be difficult to make it through a funeral service. Whether you’re still grieving or the orator is struggling through their speech, the event can be uncomfortable. However, knowing these 10 things you should never do at a funeral will make it easier for you to navigate the gathering without accidentally disrespecting the family or their late loved one.
Because you’re attending a funeral, which is a more formal event, you’ll need to be there on time. In fact, you should give yourself a little grace and arrive at least 15 minutes before the service begins so that you won’t stick out when looking for a seat. You might even miss out on something important if you’re late, such as a service announcement that you’ll need to help guide you through the whole procession. Without it, you’ll feel lost throughout the entire process.
A funeral is a solemn time to reflect on and grieve loved ones who have passed away. For this reason, the dress code is fairly simple. For many funerals, you will want to wear dark clothing, which represents the closure and passing of the individual into darkness at the end of their life. If you’re unsure, coordinate with the hosting family or funeral home to determine the appropriate outfit.
If you wear something too casual or themed for something entirely different, you will stick out and distract from the purpose of the gathering. People may view this as disrespectful and could even ask you to leave if your attire is too distracting. Make sure you’re being thoughtful of the deceased before showing up for the funeral, and pick something at least semi-formal and appropriate for the occasion.
One thing that most people can agree on is that phones can be a nuisance in a silent space. With all the bells, whistles, and chimes that they have, it’s hard to ignore something buzzing in your pocket during a quiet service to honor the dead. Even if you set your phone to silent, there is always the chance that it might make sounds. It’s best to turn it off altogether out of respect for the grieving family.
There is rarely a time when it is acceptable to answer your phone, text, email, or surf the web while in the middle of a funeral procession. If you choose not to turn off your phone, it’s still important to avoid browsing apps or otherwise using your phone in a way that suggests you are bored.
It’s easy to become distracted when you’re in a long and prolonged service, but if it’s for someone you genuinely care about, you need to honor them. Even if your mind does wander, it’s important to avoid distracting others or allowing discussions to stray too far from the purpose of the gathering. Consider how the family is carrying themselves and what kind of behavior the venue expects. If the family is creating a more casual atmosphere, engage with others in the same way while still ensuring that any behaviors are respectful of the deceased.
You might come across feelings of chaotic grief, regret, and even pain sometime before the service. This experience could happen after the service and even during it. Whatever you do, make sure you prepare yourself in advance so that you can avoid being overcome with grief in front of the family. It’s to cry and mourn with others who knew them, but beginning to process this loss before the gathering ensures you can make it through these discussions and comfort others.
Not everyone’s kids will be attentive to the service, and they may even act out. If your children begin misbehaving, you will need to calm them quickly and subtly, if possible. Often, the best course of action may be to just step outside with them. It may not be ideal at the moment, but the rest of those in attendance will appreciate you departing momentarily to help your kids calm down.
When you’re out with friends or in the comfort of your own home, it’s alright to speak your mind. But at a funeral, you should avoid speaking negatively about the deceased or anyone affiliated with them. The point of the funeral is to honor and celebrate the individual, and processing unresolved conflicts or bad memories can always wait until after the gathering.
A funeral service is an opportunity to remember, reflect on, and appreciate the person who has passed away. The orators and funeral directors will work to ensure the event revolves around the late person and their loved ones. At no time should you redirect that attention to your own personal ambitions or make the crowd redirect their attention to you. If possible, ensure that the stories you share and the well-wishes you offer revolve around the deceased person and their family.
If you’re at a funeral, it’s alright to catch up with family and friends that you haven’t seen in some time. However, you should avoid taking an excessive number of photos, or any at all for that matter. Pulling out your phone can cause a distraction, but more than that, the photographs could cause discomfort for the family. Allow the immediate family members to arrange casket photos of the deceased, and wait until after the service to take photos with your family and friends.
After exploring these 10 things you should never do at a funeral, there should be no mistaking what is acceptable and what isn’t. Follow these guidelines to conduct yourself properly at the gathering. Remember, you can be a source of comfort for friends and family of the deceased, or you can use this opportunity to seek comfort from your community as well.