How to Participate in a Funeral
When you want to show your support for a loved one’s loss but are unsure of what is expected, you might offer to help with the funeral. We do not mean help with planning and burial—things usually taken care of by the family—but help with things such as food contributions, setting up and cleaning up, or even fulfilling a role during the service.
There are several different ways you can participate, but these tend to be the most common.
- Pallbearer: Pallbearers typically have to be asked to participate, as the role is an important one. These are the people who carry the casket from the funeral home to the hearse in a ceremony of departure.
- Usher: For large funeral gatherings, it may be necessary to help people find a seat in the church or funeral home (especially if there will be elderly or disabled guests in attendance). Ushers can help guide guests where they need to go, and also provide both physical and emotional support to those in need.
- Readings: It is common for individuals to come to the front of the funeral service to give a reading (either a Bible verse, a book passage, or a personalized message/eulogy). These readings are often open to anyone who wants to participate, so you should come prepared.
- Musician: If you sing, play the piano, or are trained in another instrument that is appropriate for a funeral, you may want to offer your talents. Remember, though, that your own grief may make it difficult to get all the way through the performance, so it may be better to make a recording ahead of time.
- Post-Service Reception Setup: Setting up chairs and tables, decorating a community room, and getting food ready for the guests may not be glamorous, but this is one of the most helpful jobs you can perform. If there will be a gathering after the funeral, do what you can to help setup (and tear down afterwards). Cleanup is not a job people love, but it needs to be done.
- Webcasting: Being technologically-savvy can be a big help during a funeral. If you have the ability (and tech) to webcast a funeral or set up a memorial website, make the offer to the family. They might appreciate being able to reach out to loved ones who live far away and are unable to make it to the service.
- Food/Flower Donation: After the memorial service ends, there may be lots of food left over or an abundance of funeral flowers that the family cannot take home. Offer to take these items where they can be put to good use—a homeless shelter will often take the food, and nursing homes tend to be a great place for extra flowers (just make sure they do not look too funereal).
- Thank You Notes: Writing thank you notes can be difficult for a grieving family, so offer to help out with this task. You can order the note cards, do the actual writing (while someone else dictates), address and send the cards, or even just keep your loved one company while they do the work.