Funerals, especially unexpected ones, can be difficult to decipher for families (or relatives) of the bereaved and friends alike.
Here are some suggestions for those at a loss as to how to react:
The appropriate dress code might vary from funeral to funeral, but in general, something that does not intend to draw attraction (or take it away from families of the bereaved) would serve as a guide. If still unsure, opt for a conservative outfit as the safest bet. Keep in mind that most funerals tend to be formal affairs.
For men, suits, shirts and ties that go with a job interview come to mind – so do dress shoes or shoes that have been polished. For women, a tailored jacket or one that fits well over party dresses would be enough to complete the formal look. Try to prioritise on dark colours instead of flashy ones.
Alternatively, a mix of both genders’ formal attire (muted colour palette) would be the direction to head in.
Since not all family members of the bereaved would personally know each and every guest that attends, offer a brief introduction (but not too long that others are kept waiting) as a form of courtesy, upon arrival.
Avoiding the front row sections (to make room for families, relatives and close friends of the bereaved) is also a thoughtful move. This would also make arrivals of latecomers less obvious, although reaching early or at least in time for the service is preferred.
Where possible, consider not bringing along infants (and toddlers) for the service, or at least carry them out of the venue when disruptive, so as to minimise noise disturbance for other guests.
While there is a natural need to offer words of comfort to families of the bereaved, uttering some of the more common aphorisms, like “it’s probably for the best”, can be viewed as being insensitive.
A helpful way to keep things in perspective would be to imagine families of the bereaved as the most affected network (in terms of suffering and grief) in a circle of concentric rings.
It goes without saying that the people who grieve the most are the most emotional, and therefore more irrational when it comes to decision-making or interpreting the words of others.
Words can also be expressed in writing when signing the condolence book that AGBC offers as part of its funeral packages. An additional option to providing words of sympathy would be to write of how news of the bereavement was discovered.
4. Mobile devices
It might be common knowledge that selfies at funerals are disrespectful. However, if used correctly, photos or videos can be encouraging to their viewers, what with the recent addition of paid geofilters for funerals and increasingly common tribute videos (or recordings of the service itself).
In a nutshell, taking photos or videos at a service can serve as a visual record for honouring the bereaved as well as everyone else who attended the service.
Flowers or financial donations (to families of the bereaved or their desired charities) are immediate go-to’s when considering what to give to those affected, but alternatives such as offering to volunteer with chores or personal gifts are also worth looking into.
In short, appearing respectful will best help families and relatives of the bereaved cope – when in doubt, think the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), as with every social facet of life.