Attending a funeral is rarely, if ever, a joyful proposition. Funerals are opportunities to honor the life of a recently deceased individual. While a funeral may be hardest on the immediate family of the deceased, it can also be difficult for extended relatives and friends of the deceased. If your significant other’s grandmother has passed away, you may be wondering what your role is and how to comport yourself during the funeral.
Present Yourself Respectfully
Behaving respectfully is one of the most basic etiquette rules, and the one that most people have the firmest handle on. One of the easiest things you can at a funeral is to dress appropriately. For women, a suit is always an option, as is a tasteful, dark dress or a skirt with a nice blouse. As a rule of thumb, if you would not wear it to work at a high-level professional job, you probably shouldn’t wear it to a funeral.
Be A Source of Comfort
Funeral services are the final goodbye a family will get with their loved one, and an opportunity to grieve together. This means that funerals often represent an emotional climax for the bereaved. When your significant other is dealing with grief over a death in the family, there is not necessarily anything you can or should say. The most important and therapeutic offering you can give is simply your presence and availability. This applies to the entire grieving process, but will be of profound importance during the funeral service itself. Simply having tissues handy or keeping a hand on your loved one throughout the service will speak volumes.
Your Relationship with the Deceased
A huge part of how you should carry yourself at a funeral depends on your relationship with the deceased. Honestly judge how significant the relationship was. The longer your history with your significant other, the more likely it is that you have had met his family and spent time with them. If you know your loved one’s family well, you likely have many fond memories and stories and are personally affected by the loss. If you have never met the deceased and are attending the funeral solely out of support for your significant other, do not worry about being out of place. It doesn’t make your attendance any less important to your boyfriend.
Interacting With Other Attendees
Interacting with others at the funeral can be a daunting task, particularly those you’ve never met. In many cases, you’ll find that extended relatives and friends of the deceased will come to you in droves to introduce themselves. Don’t fret. Whether introduced by someone to a new person or prompted to introduce yourself, only good manners and basic conversational skills are necessary.
Dealing with the immediate family of the deceased can be a little more difficult. If you didn’t know the deceased very well, you really need to say nothing more than, “I’m very sorry for your loss. I’ve heard such nice stories. I regret that I didn’t get to know her.” If you had gotten to know the deceased well, sharing stories would be welcome and appropriate.
Under no circumstances should you try to overstate your relationship with the deceased. Surviving family will find this odd at best and offensive at worst.
Based in Virginia, Chip Marsden has been a writer for more than eight years. He has covered film, politics and culture for regional newspapers and online publications. Marsden holds a B.A. in theater arts with a concentration in performance.