Funeral Etiquette: How to Pay a Condolence Visit
When a family member or friend experiences a loss, it is common to pay them a visit to show your love and support. This meeting, often known as a condolence visit, is not a required part of the funeral process, but it can help your loved one feel less alone during this difficult time.
Where to Pay a Condolence Visit?
Most condolence visits are held in the home of the person in mourning. Although few people hold a formal time for guests to stop by with food, flowers, and messages of comfort, you tend to be welcomed most days during normal daytime hours. Call ahead if you are unsure about when they will be home or when they are receiving visitors.
If you are uncomfortable stopping by someone’s house (or if they have requested privacy), you can also pay your condolence visit at the funeral or memorial service. The setting will not be as private, but you can still offer your regards and well-wishes.
When to Pay a Condolence Visit?
If you are close to your relative/friend (or were close to the deceased), you should pay a condolence visit soon after you hear of the death. This will not only help you come to terms with your own grief, but can also provide comfort to others who are in shock or need to talk through their feelings.
If you are not as close, you may want to wait until after the funeral occurs. This will give the individual time to get over the immediate shock and be prepared for guests. You can also wait for the obituary to come out and see if the family has any special requests around visiting.
It is also important to pay additional visits in the weeks and months after death occurs. Oftentimes, there is a lull after the funeral that can be very difficult for a family in mourning. By stopping by with gifts and offers of support (or even just lending an ear), you can help them keep the memory of their loved one alive in their thoughts.
How Long is a Condolence Visit?
Traditionally, a condolence visit lasts anywhere from fifteen minutes to half an hour—long enough to have a conversation, but not so long that you are a burden on the family. In most cases, you can take your cue from the family to determine how long you should stay.
What to Say at a Condolence Visit?
The best thing to say at a condolence visit is what is in your heart…and then switch and put on your listening ears. Express your sadness and share memories, but also be prepared to support your friend or relative however they need. For most people, this means offering your understanding without intruding in the conversation.
For example, you should avoid giving advice, sharing stories of a similar death in your family, or offering platitudes like, “He’s in a better place.” You should also avoid asking nosy questions about the cause or details of the death. Instead, talk about the things that you remember and loved about the deceased, and keep the focus on those closest to him or her.