Funerals serve several purposes. In addition to commemorating the life of the
deceased, a funeral offers emotional support to the bereaved and an opportunity for
friends and family to pay tribute to their loved one. The process of going through the
planning and final disposition helps the family come to terms with the fact that a death
has occurred. This is a necessary part of the grieving process. It is common for people
to enter a period of denial when a family member or loved one has died.
Friends offering fond remembrances are often helpful during this time. Customs for
expressing sympathy vary according to religious and ethnic customs. The following
information is offered merely as a guideline for what is generally accepted in various
circumstances during a funeral.
General guidelines for guests:
Expressing Sympathy: Simple, brief expressions of sympathy are usually best. While
most people find themselves at a loss for words, the family will appreciate a sincere
expression of condolence-however brief. "I'm sorry," or, "I'm so sorry to hear of your
loss," are the most commonly used expressions, and they are perfectly adequate when
said in a sincere, sympathetic voice. If you knew the deceased well enough, it is often
helpful to say so; "I always counted Bob as a good friend," or, "Jane will be missed by
everyone." Kind words are always welcomed. Follow the lead of the family member. If
they want to talk about the deceased, lend an ear and a few minutes of your time. Being
a good listener may be the best solace you can provide for them.
When attending calling hours, do not feel you have to stay for a lengthy period of time.
Follow your instincts as to how long to stay. If the deceased was a good friend, you may
feel it necessary to stay longer, to tend to your own grief at the same time as paying
your respects to the family. If you have never met the family, introduce yourself and let
them know how you are connected to their loved one. Colleagues and co-workers of the