Here’s something I’ve been pondering in light of recent events; not just my Dad’s funeral, but another that I heard about.
I’ll put my view, how I feel about it, then you discuss. Agree or disagree. Like always.
There’s no manual for this, and every situation is different, of course, so inevitably this will be a generalisation:
I think there are two reasons to go to a funeral.
1. You knew the deceased. Family or friend or acquaintance or colleague. You want to go and grieve for them/celebrate their life.
2. You know one or more of the bereaved very well, you are a good friend, and you want to support them.
Edit: Just to be clear, the rest of the text is about point 2.
How well should you know them? I think if you’re a good friend, or a close colleague, or you’ve known them a long time, then it’s appropriate, you should consider going.
But something I’ve noticed in a couple of cases recently, is people who work with a bereaved person, but don’t socialise with them (so they’re not a “friend”), have no strong personal link with the family, and didn’t know the deceased… being keen to attend.
I think this is inappropriate.
It’s absolutely important to show empathy, it’s important to listen, it’s important to act sensitively, it’s important to help where you can.
But to go to the funeral where you don’t know the person who has passed away, and you don’t know any of the bereaved very well?
I think no, you shouldn’t go. Give them some space to grieve.
And this is my main point: A funeral is an extremely personal and emotional event, and the bereaved people are at their most vulnerable.
They should be in a place where they can feel free to let their emotions out, as much as they want, without embarrassment or constraint, without any self-consciousness because of people they know, but don’t know very well, being there.
So I think, if you’re not close to the deceased or the bereaved, don’t go. Send some flowers instead. Or a donation to the designated charity. Or a card. Or a message of condolence.
Like I said, this is a generalisation, perhaps a bit black and white, but it’s how I’m feeling right now.
Agree? Disagree? Are there exceptions? Arguments for or against? What do you think?
PS. I should note that at my Dad’s funeral, I was not personally bugged by the presence of any other attendees, nor was I self-conscious at all, and did not feel constrained, which I think made the whole event very therapeutic for me.