While recently attending my grandfathers funeral I realised how tricky going to a funeral can be. Most people have relatively little experience with funerals, and even then they are not often mourners. At my grandfathers funeral I was unsure where to go, where to stand, how to behave and so on. Despite the fact I have been to countless funerals. So even though I have been to funerals changing roles meant the whole thing was completely different. Thus it must be even harder for people with no funeral experience at all. So I made this post to help people through attending a funeral for the first time.
Know is the location and the time. Double check when everything is mean to start and where they will be located. Then make sure you know how to get to the location. This is a big source of stress or worry for people. They get lost, get there late or have trouble finding parking. So avoid this by looking everything up.
Be punctual. Do not get there too early or too late, instead aim to be there about 15 minutes before it is due to start. This means even if you have trouble finding parking or something goes wrong that you will not be too late.
Park smartly. People will sometimes park inappropriately or dangerously, especially as the time to start draws closer. It is simply because people panic and did not manage their time or look up the locations properly. Even if you are late do not park dangerously or inconsiderately, there is no excuse to park in a disability space. Nor is there a reason to park right on the corner in a no stopping zone and partially block traffic. Think of others when you park.
Go in. Something a lot of people do is group by by the doors. This blocks the passageways and means people will move in clumps rather than an even flow. So upon arrival sign the condolence book, collect the order of service and go inside.
Sign the condolence book early. By signing the book as soon as possible you save having to line up later. And while the undertakers will let you sign the book after the funeral they will not like it. They are busy running about getting stuff done as when the funeral ends it is rather busy for them. Getting the funeral staff to let you sign the book after the funeral holds up the funeral itself.
Do not worry. This is something people do, we worry, about what others think, about making mistakes, about too many things. However you should not worry at a funeral. As long as you do not do anything incredibly silly or inappropriate people will not judge you. As an undertaker I saw many strange or silly things on funerals. I also saw how the other mourners would either let it slide or not even notice. As a mourner I realised that the mourners are too busy, focused on the funeral, to worry about what other people are doing. So relax and do not worry what others think of you.
Practically. The most dangerous thing for a mourner is their own shoes, particularly with women. Nothing looks worse than a women who wore stilettos and insists on carrying the coffin. Or when they try and walk across a cemetery. You know you are going to a funeral, if you want to carry the coffin or walk across the grass do not wear heals. As a mourner or undertaker it is incredibly annoying to see someone with inappropriate shoes. Wear something more practical (especially at the cemetery) and even if it does not look as good people understand. Men also wear inappropriate shoes, but it is less common and generally not as dangerous.
Do not touch the hearse. The hearse is a very expensive vehicle, there is little excuse to touch it without permission. Having said that do not be afraid of the hearse. If you and the funeral staff have time they will probably be happy to show it to you.
Watch the funeral staff. They will quite often make little mistakes, watch them closely to see what you are getting. Many mourners do not notice the mistakes, they are nothing to most people, yet it is important. Just remember everyone has their off days, and everyone makes mistakes. So watch but do not judge.
Funerals are not special. Well, this is only partially true. But funerals are not as big a deal as many make them out to be. Yes, they can be sad, but they can also quite easily be happy. In the end a funeral is what you as the individual make of it.
In the end I can describe and explain as much as possible, but this is something best learnt through experience. This is perhaps the most important and helpful suggestion, to go and attend funerals. The only way to become comfortable with funerals is to go to them. So do not avoid a funeral because you are worried about it. Instead attend and make it a a decent or happy event.
If you have any specific questions or concerns about a funeral, or about funerals in general post here and I or someone else will be happy to help!