Your First Funeral: What To Expect

Some people are lucky enough not to have to attend a funeral when they are children and teens. If you are one of these people, but now you have reached adulthood and are about to attend your first funeral, you might be feeling a bit unsure of yourself and uncertain as to what you should expect. Every funeral is different, and different religious traditions perform their services differently. However, the following is a general summary of what you can usually expect.

1. A Viewing

Most, but not all, funeral services begin with a viewing period. During this time, attendees can go up to the casket, see the body, and pay their respects. If the person was cremated, which is becoming more common these days, the urn that holds their ashes may be there for you to pay your respects to. You can also greet the family of the deceased at this time. You do not have to participate in this viewing if you do not feel comfortable doing so. You can simply arrive, sit down in the church or gathering space, and quietly wait for the service itself to begin.

2. A Somber Service

Most funeral services are not terribly long. You can expect the preacher or leader to spend between 20 and 30 minutes leading those who have gathered in prayer, speaking about the life of the deceased, and delivering a reassuring message to the family and others who are feeling a loss. Most funeral services are quite somber, and if the participants are called upon to sing, the songs will also be somber. Again, do not feel like you have to participate. If you are unfamiliar with the songs or do not wish to sing them because of religious differences, simply sit quietly and politely, and spend that time reflecting.

3. A Meal or Refreshments

After the service, there will often be a less formal gathering with a meal or refreshments. Sometimes, this is only for the close family members of the deceased. Other times, all those who attended the service will be invited to participate. It should be clear which approach is being taken. If you are invited to attend this part of the funeral, spend the time chatting with others about the deceased. This part is usually less somber; you can reminisce about good times and try to be cheerful.

Every funeral is different, so understand that you won't be the only one attending who does not quite know what to expect. Go with the flow, and follow along with others. For more information on funeral services, contact a local funeral home.