When a friend of a loved one passes away, there likely will be a viewing and a funeral or burial the following day. This leaves you with a decision to make: Which one do you attend? The answer will depend on the relationship you had with the person who passed and/or the family, but how do you decide? It’s not always easy, as formal invitations are not sent out for these types of services.
Which Service Should You Attend?
Most funerals incorporate three events — the visitation or wake, the funeral or memorial service, and the burial. The burial is the most personal of the three, and as such may not be appropriate for all guests. Generally only closest members of the deceased’s family and friends will attend the burial. However, everyone from distant relatives and family acquaintances might be invited to the visitation and/or funeral.
When deciding which portions you should attend, consider what your relationship was with the person who passed away.
When you Should Attend the Funeral
As a general rule, if you want to attend the funeral or memorial service and the event is open to guests, you should probably go. Your presence will show support for the family and gives you a chance to remember the person who died. By making the effort to attend the service, you make a gesture that is appreciated by the grieving family and one that they will not forget.
Even if you did not know the person who died very well, if you have a close relationship with the bereaved it is still appropriate for you to attend the funeral. The visitation offers friends and family a way to help make the grieving family feel supported and cared for, and attending the funeral can show your friend incredible support. If you’re uncomfortable going alone, it’s OK to bring a friend or spouse along with you.
Reasons Not to Attend
There are some situations in which you may not be able to attend, in which case sending flowers to the bereaved family is the next best thing to do. Firstly, if your attendance is going to make members of the grieving family uncomfortable, you should not attend the services. You might also face some logistical complications in getting to the funeral. If you live far away, the effort and expenses involved in trying to get to the funeral might be inappropriate given the relation you have to the person who died or the family.
If you’re feeling conflicted, try asking yourself how you will feel a year from now if you don’t attend. Will you regret it? Or do you think you will be able to say that not attending was the best decision for you and the family?
The most important thing to remember is that if you have known a person well, regardless of your relationship to them, attending a funeral is usually appropriate and a mark of respect that is always cherished. If you cannot go for any reason, send flowers instead, but be sure to accompany them with a letter or card expressing your sincere condolences.