What to Expect During the Funeral
Much like any other social event, a funeral service can present us with unique challenges–especially if we don't know what to expect. Here's a short list of things you can expect during a funeral:
We do our best to provide adequate parking facilities. Yet, parking may be hard to find, so do your best to arrive 10-15 minutes early.
Depending on the location of the funeral, your entrance may be governed by protocol. Often, guests are asked to remain unseated until the family has taken their seats. Sometimes ushers are provided to escort you to your seat. If you're unclear as to what's expected, just watch others for your cues--or ask the funeral attendant.
Again, depending on the location, the ceremony may be officiated by a pastor, minister, celebrant or funeral director.
Remember that the front seats are intended for immediate family members, so choose a seat near the middle; or if you didn't know the deceased well, sit near the back of the room.
You may receive a copy of the funeral order-of-service, which details what will happen during the ceremony. It will tell you exactly which hymns will be sung, and specifically names the prayers to be read. It's like a program at a theater or symphony performance: the funeral order-of-service is a very handy thing to have. If you're given one, hang on to it.
Depending on what's in the order-of-service, you will have the opportunity to participate in various activities. You may be asked to stand to sing a hymn or kneel in prayer; only participate to the degree you feel comfortable.
If the service is less traditional and more a celebration-of-life, you may be asked to close the service with a release of a balloon. Or you may find yourself requested to place a flower in the casket. Some families ask their guests to write a note to the deceased and place it in the casket. We suggest doing only as much as you feel comfortable doing.
Will People Cry?
Even at weddings and baptisms, people cry. Just like at a funeral, these pivotal life moments are very emotionally-charged. That means you can certainly expect to find people crying at a funeral. It's always helpful to remember to bring a travel pack of tissues with you; however, the funeral home staff will also have access to tissues if you—or the person seated next to you—has a need to wipe their eyes.
But, here's something you should also know: people laugh at funerals too. A funeral is a rich bittersweet mixture of sorrow and joy. In fact, when we're at a funeral (which is fairly often) the behaviors of guests remind us of the well-known remark from Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss: “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”
You'll see tears, and you may hear some laughter. Without doubt, emotions run high at funerals; sometimes there's even a demonstration of anger by one or more of the survivors. Expect people to be on their best behavior, but also know that anything can happen.
How to Leave the Funeral
The funeral officiant will make it very clear that the funeral service is over. They will invite the the immediate family and close friends to leave the building first. Unlike at the end of a theater performance, people don't simply stand up and walk out. Instead, they wait for the rows in front of them to empty before stepping out into the aisle.
Guests and family may collect outside the location for some quiet conversation. If you are now ready to leave, do your best to say a sincere good-bye to the bereaved family.
If you choose to follow the hearse and casket to the cemetery or crematory, you'll be given clear directions by members of the funeral home staff.
If you choose to leave at this point in the funeral, make a quiet, discreet exit. Make a note to yourself to contact the bereaved family by phone in the next week or so. Offer them some time to for them to talk about their loss; and if you're willing, make a few suggestions about chores and other things you could do for them. Know that even if they decline your offer, they'll be delighted to know you're thinking of them enough to call.
Call Us to Learn More
Whether this is your first funeral service, or your 100th; it can be an unnerving experience. If you've got specific questions about what to expect during a funeral service, give us a call at (718) 331-8000. We'll be privileged to assist you.