What to Expect at the Funeral

If you, like many young people, haven’t been to a funeral before and certainly haven’t been to the funeral of a close family member before, the funeral can feel like a huge chore to get through, filled with potential pitfalls and likely run-ins with unwelcome family members. Or, you might envi-sion a room full of people —mostly elderly people—dressed in black, because that is how your grandmother’s funeral felt.

The truth is that no two funerals will be exactly alike. Funerals very by culture, by religion, by fami-ly tradition. A funeral for a young person will be different than the funeral of an octogenarian. Ide-ally, funerals reflect the person who has died, and take cues from how that person would have wanted to be celebrated or remembered. So the music, decorations and overall feel of the event will always be different.

However, a close loved ones’ funeral will also always have some common emotional elements. If this is your first experience with a funeral, here are some things to prepare yourself for.

You’ll Laugh and Cry

Funerals are about remembering a person, which includes telling stories about good times you had together. You’ll also be surrounded by people you love, both family and friends. Jokes will be told, and you might laugh. It’s perfectly normal to crack jokes at a funeral and to laugh when re-membering the good times.

Someone Will Say or Do Something Wrong

Just because it’s normal to laugh at funerals (at the appropriate moment, of course), doesn’t mean that all behavior is ok. If you’ve lost a loved one, chances are there will be at least one per-son at the funeral (and probably more than one) who will say or do things that anger you. It could be someone you already dislike, or it could be someone you’re close to making an ill-advised gaffe. Either way, it will hurt.

You’ll Find Some Closure

There is a reason that we hold funerals—the tradition of having an event to mark the death and remember the life of someone who has passed on is nearly universal in human cultures. Whether you hold the funeral immediately after your loved one’s death or a couple of months later, you’ll likely find it brings a feeling of relief immediately. Part of the relief is that the stress of planning and attending the funeral is over, but funerals also help you say goodbye and start moving for-ward with your life.

Funerals can be incredibly stressful. They are very emotional events for everyone involved, and it’s hard to make everyone happy. But there is a payoff—funerals can help everyone find a way to start rebuilding their life.

If you’re dreading your spouse’s, sibling’s or parent’s funeral, working with a professional counse-lor can help you find ways to handle the event in a way that you’ll be proud of later, whether it’s negotiating a truce between your divorced parents or ensuring that your spouse’s last wishes are respected. I can help you focus on what’s important to you in your loved one’s funeral and use the tradition of a funeral to find closure and start moving forward with your life.

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