Funeral Wake or Viewing

A funeral wake-or viewing-is often held one to two days before a funeral. The viewing gives mourners a chance to say goodbye to the honoree, while giving family and friends a chance to show their support to those grieving. It's often held at a funeral home, late in the afternoon or early evening so the people who work can attend. There is usually a guest book that visitors sign when they enter. You'll be expected to provide your full name and address so that the family can contact you or send thanks after the funeral.

In the main room, the casket is present, open or closed. Flowers sent to the funeral home are on display. The honoree's family may stand together, receiving condolences and words of comfort from mourners.

Expressing Your Sympathy

If the casket is open during the viewing, visitors are expected to pass the coffin before making their way to family members. There may be a kneeling bench beside the coffin, which you can use to kneel and say a prayer. Or you may simply stand in front of the coffin. If you are uncomfortable viewing the body, you may pass the coffin and go directly to the family.

What do you say to the family? It depends on your closeness to the honoree. If you are an acquaintance or casual friend, you needn't say more than "I'm so sorry" or "He was a wonderful person." Closer friends can be more personal, saying "We're going to miss Josette very much." Do not ask about the details of the death. If a family member does mention their last days, try to comfort them. Click here to see our suggestions for what to say - and not say - to the grieving family. After you've expressed your sympathy to each member of the family, the choice is yours on how long to stay.

Show respect to the family's religious customs during the viewing - but you are not expected to do anything contrary to your own faith.

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