The loss of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult events, and the grieving process can be very complicated. Whether you are attending a traditional funeral service, a celebration of life, or scattering the ashes, the best way to show your support is to be respectful and follow some basic etiquette. Don’t bring up negative or controversial topics. It may be tempting to share your opinion on issues related to religion or the prevailing culture at the funeral or memorial service, but this is not the time for it. It will only make others feel uncomfortable and upset. Instead, wait until you can discuss these subjects with the family in a more private setting. Do greet everyone who attends the funeral or memorial service, but don’t feel obligated to have a lengthy conversation with anyone. If you don’t have anything to say, a simple “hello” and your condolences will suffice.
If you want to have more in-depth conversations, be sure to give those in attendance a heads up so they can prepare themselves for a longer talk. Avoid cliche statements like, “They’re in a better place now,” or, “They didn’t deserve to suffer.” These comments are not helpful and can even make those in mourning feel guilty for their feelings. Instead, express your condolences in a more genuine way by speaking about the deceased’s passions or their legacy. Do respect the wishes of the family regarding photographs and other personal mementos. Many families prefer not to have photos taken at a funeral or memorial, so be careful not to intrude on their privacy by snapping a picture without permission.
If you are unsure if it is appropriate to take photos, ask whoever planned the funeral for guidance. Don’t complain about the cost of a funeral, ceremony, or any other aspect of it. It is rude and insensitive to others at the service and it will not help the family heal. If you have a concern about the cost, address it with those who planned the event privately afterward. Do offer to help your friend in the days and months following the funeral, such as by dropping off a casserole, running errands, or mowing their lawn. It can be easy to leave offers of help at “if you need anything,” but more often than not, the grieving person will not reach out. Instead, be proactive and drop off a note or phone call letting them know you will do whatever they need.
Keep in mind that grief doesn’t have a set timeline, so don’t be surprised if months after the funeral your friend is still in intense mourning. Just check in on them regularly to make sure they are not feeling isolated or alone. You can also offer to remember their loved one fondly for them, such as telling a funny story or saying something like, “I just remembered your love for them.” That will let them know that you are still thinking about them.