Funeral etiquette – What is expected
IF you are going to attend a funeral, you may not be sure what is expected of you, here are some tips which will help you to feel more comfortable that you are doing the right thing.
Most of us would wear black or dark colours at a funeral in Spain, unless specifically told otherwise. Although the dress code is not as strict or formal nowadays and casual attire is acceptable, make sure that you are dressed appropriately and that you are showing respect for the deceased and their family.
Sunglasses are acceptable for both men and women when used to hide the face and emotions, but should be as plain as possible. People will also understand if you wear them indoors, but try to remove them if you are talking to someone, as eye contact is very important.
Make sure to express your condolences to the bereaved relatives at the funeral or memorial service, even if you have already contacted them and/or sent a sympathy card. Many people find it hard to approach somebody who has just lost a loved one as they are not sure what to say, which is understandable, but do not avoid taking a few minutes to show them your support.
When you are talking to the relatives of the deceased, this is a good time to ask what you might do to help or to offer your assistance on matters such as providing them with food, offering to take care of children or pets, helping to clean the house, do their shopping, do some gardening or take them to appointments. They are likely to appreciate your gesture although they may refuse help. If they do refuse, don’t be offended, they most likely don’t want to put you out, but if you are close, look out for clues to what you could do for them anyway and try to help out over the coming weeks. Expats may appreciate help with the language barriers so if that’s any area you could help out with, offer your services.
Children at funerals
Unless they were immediate relatives or very close friends, it is best to keep small children, especially babies and toddlers, away from funerals, even in child-friendly countries such as Spain, as it can be difficult for them to remain quiet and settled, which could be disruptive and upsetting for others.
On the other hand, older children should attend as it is important for them to get a better understanding about death and what is expected from them at a funeral. If you do bring a child to the funeral, if he or she becomes disruptive, leave immediately and keep to one side.
Where to sit
The first few rows of seats at a wake, memorial or funeral are for the immediate family, after that, it is OK to sit in any of the remaining places. Make sure you get there on time so there is no difficulty finding a seat. If you’re not sure, just ask if a seat is taken and sit where you can.
After the funeral
Most expat funerals will end with a gathering, often for lunch at a restaurant or at the home of the family. Whenever possible you should attend, but don’t stay for too long. The rules of etiquette are more casual at these events and children as welcome, but it is important to remember why you have all got together and not engage in inappropriate or disrespectful behaviour. While it is a nice opportunity to remember the life of the deceased and the good times you have shared with them, and it’s OK to smile and laugh, unless something different has been arranged by the family, keep the conversation subdued and respectful.
Although the pain of losing a loved one never goes away, the weeks after the funeral will continue to be particularly painful for the family. Make sure that you don’t just disappear after the event and take some time to check in with them periodically to see how they are. Do not avoid speaking of the deceased when you are with them, but do so when appropriate.