It’s easy to feel uncomfortable when you don’t know what to expect and that’s what happened to someone who recently attended a visitation. Visitations and funerals are not the same but they usually go hand in hand.
The visitation is a little less formal than the funeral and it’s an opportunity to provide support to the bereaved and spend some time visiting and speaking with the family. Funerals don’t afford that interaction. Some folks go to the visitation and the funeral but if they can’t attend the funeral, they may attend the visitation.
The death notice usually provides information on the visitation, or, you can call the funeral home. Visitations are often in the evening and sometimes there are two sessions; one in the later afternoon and one in the evening. You might encounter a receiving line or, the bereaved may be sitting down. There may or may not be a casket and if there is a casket, it may or may not be open, usually dependent on the customs of the bereaved. There is usually no food.
What do you say and do? The bereaved have so much on their minds so remember to sign the guest book when entering so the bereaved will know you attended. You can give each person in the receiving line a warm clasp with your hand while introducing yourself with your name and relation to the deceased. Add “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
If you have attended the visitation, the funeral, and/or reception and signed the online guest book, it is always appropriate to write a condolence note. Condolence messages are truly appreciated and it’s a good feeling to know you’ve made a difference.
Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons / DerrickT