As a teenager, I’m sure the thought of going to a funeral is pretty low on your “want to do” list. In fact, you may be repulsed by the idea of seeing someone who has died or feel awkward. Inevitably, you will have to attend a funeral and, as you mature, you will resist the idea of attending a service less as you see more value in attending. Let’s investigate why you should attend a funeral and address your anxieties.
Why should you attend?
The most important thing to remember is that the funeral is as much about the living as the deceased person. The funeral service provides a way for family and friends to say farewell to a dear loved one. It is also the time when friends of the bereaved (those who lost the loved one) can show their support for them. Attending a funeral shows the bereaved that they and/or their loved one meant something to others.
From a spiritual perspective, attending a funeral has a way of refocusing our attention on what is really important in life. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” (ESV) We all like to have fun with our friends at a covered dish dinner or other party laughing, playing games, and talking. It lightens our heart but a heart that never considers the seriousness of life will become shallow and empty. Attending a funeral (the house of mourning) allows one to contemplate their own death and whether they are prepared to meet God (Romans 2:6-11; 14:10). Also, when we hear the testimony of a life well lived we can learn characteristics to apply to our own lives
What should I do? How should I act?
Many people are apprehensive about seeing the deceased person’s body. You do not have to do this if it makes you feel uncomfortable. If you feel you should but are uncomfortable, go to the casket with someone and spend as much or little time as you wish. Remember that death is not an unusual occurance but is a natural part of life.
You may feel that you don’t know what to say to the bereaved. A simple handshake or a hug means a lot–your presence conveys your concern and sympathy. There are no magic words that will relieve the person’s grief so avoid phrases like “It’s God’s will (or God took him/her),” “It is better this way,” or similar phrases. Instead, if the person meant something special in your life, gave you a particular piece of good advice, or was kind to you, share that with the bereaved. They want to hear how their loved one touched the lives of others.
During the service make sure that your phone is off or silent and NO TEXTING. Do not joke with your friends as it will be considered disrespectful to the deceased and the other mourners. Remember the passage from Ecclesiastes: listen to what is said and meditate on your life.
It is acceptable to attend the service but not the graveside service. Also, if you cannot attend the funeral, there is often a viewing where you can visit with the bereaved the night before the funeral. This is another opportunity to demonstrate love, kindness, and sympathy if your schedule prevents you from attending the funeral.
What a blessing it is to show love and compassion to those who are going through a most difficult time.