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When someone you know dies, you want to reach out and comfort that person’s family and friends, to show them you care. It’s human to wish you could take the pain right out of their hearts. Unfortunately, we can’t remove a person’s grief. There are ways to help support a family who has experienced loss, and attending the funeral and other services is part of that. However, a funeral isn’t something we usually experience often, and you might not always know what to say or do when you’re there.
Below are some tips to keep in mind when attending a funeral, wake, or rosary. And remember that what matters most is that you are there for your family, friends, and community.
As in life, different occasions call for different attire. Every family, too, is different. When attending a wake at someone’s home, you may be a better judge of what’s appropriate or not depending on the family, but it’s typically ok if you dress down. If you’re not a close acquaintance and you’re unsure of what to wear, a nice button-down shirt and pants, skirt or dress are always suitable.
For the funeral service or rosary, it is better to wear more formal attire, as you would for any other church service. A suit, slacks with a dress shirt, or a knee-length dress are good choices. Wearing nice clothing is one way to show respect for the deceased and grieving family.
Words may not seem like they could comfort during such a difficult time. But little gestures can go a long way when someone is grieving. The family doesn’t expect you or anyone else to make their loss any better. What is most valuable during this time is reassurance, love, and your presence. Tell the family, “I’m sorry for your loss,” “Mi más sentido pésame,” or “Que esté con Dios.”
A token of your sympathy can be thoughtful as well as helpful. Cooking a dish or bringing something to drink for people to share at the wake is not only a kind gesture, it helps take some of the work off the family when receiving family and guests. Prayer cards, money given inside a sympathy card, or flowers sent to the family’s house are welcome gifts. And remember, showing up at the funeral, vigil, or las novenas, sharing your stories, giving hugs and offering your help will stay close to a person’s heart long after the flowers are gone.