Talking with my friend Kara – she’s 30 – some time back, it dawned on me that she didn’t know how to go to a funeral. 

That stopped me in my tracks. I had to take a moment and think about it. How does one know and what’s important? 

Her friend’s dad had been struggling with cancer and now he’d died. It was a big time for them. 

Will you go to the funeral? I asked. 

Can I? she said. 

Yes, I’m sure he’d really appreciate it, going to a funeral is a wonderful part of being a good friend. It’s a mark of respect. But for funerals … well, you often won’t get an invitation. It’s not that the family doesn’t want you to go. It’s just …

‘Get in touch with him or with one of your friends about it,,’ I said.

  • People tend to find out funeral details through an advertisement in the paper, or on Facebook, or a group email. 
  • People ask when they ring the family to express that they’re sorry (condolences). Or it may come at the end of the call, like ‘The funeral’s going to be next Thursday at xx time at xx place. ‘
  • In friendship circles sometimes friends may let each other know and arrange to go together. 
  • You don’t have to wear dark colours or black. Dress in something nice that’s not flamboyant or over-casual. You don’t have to be dead serious. There’s often humour and laughter at a funeral. 
  • Make sure you know how long it goes for and allow enough time. You want to arrive at least five minutes ahead and be there till the end. 

Your friend will feel so supported by your presence. He or she will know that you’re right with what they and their family are going through. And there’s something about a good funeral – you learn a lot about the person.

A few weeks’ later I noticed a funeral program on Kara’s car seat. 

You went? 

Yes, she said, me and Cath went together. Kristy was there too. Davey was really glad we came. And it was amazing to find out about his dad and what a special person he was. 

Now she knew how to go to a funeral. You can find out a whole lot more practical things like this in my book Death, a love project, a guide to exploring the life in death and finding the way together.