Hosting a Funeral or Memorial Service
There is no rulebook on what to do, say, or how to behave when
we grieve. To lessen some of the burden and sadness, we need to
feel free to deal with our emotions in our own way, even when
comforted by others' love and support. Because there is no single
way to grieve, there are no guidelines on how to
behave at any point in time, including when one is hosting a funeral or memorial
But how can we effectively host a funeral or memorial service?
Just as people grieve differently, everyone faces the role of host
in his or her own way, too. Some might actually find that planning
and hosting a funeral or memorial service is a welcome diversion.
Others may feel so overwhelmed about being a host at such an
occasion that they don't know how they're going to manage. Whatever
the case, it makes sense to recruit assistance. Help with hosting
duties is an appropriate job to give to friends who ask, "What can
I do for you?"
Tips for planning a service
Plan the service from a guest's perspective,
too. It's a good idea to have a bulletin or service program printed (for the
funeral or memorial service). Include the order of what will happen
at the service and relevant information, such as religious or cultural aspects
that might be unfamiliar to any of the attendees. The program may
also include information about burial or interment of ashes, if either
follows the service. If there is a reception after the service, the program can
mention those details, too ("all are invited afterwards to a
reception at…" with the address and directions).
Plan for guests' comfort. Attending a funeral
or memorial service is almost always uncomfortable for the visitor.
A key goal of the host (and helpers) is to make every effort to
make guests feel comfortable and at ease.
Arrange for help with hosting. Plan with those
who will be helping you. Line up one or two greeters. Ask someone
to oversee a guest book (if there is one) for visitors to sign. If
someone has offered to provide refreshments after the service, be
grateful and let them take the lead.
Greeting and introducing guests. Along with
visitors you see often and know well, it's also common for old
friends and people you may not know to show up. As guests enter the
room, have someone greet them, make introductions, and direct them
to the receiving line. The seemingly small details of being greeted
and escorted to the family will help the visitor feel more at ease.
These steps can also save family members from introducing
themselves to someone they already know but haven't seen in a long
Graciously thank guests for their kind words.
So many people are apprehensive about what they'll say to the
family; sometimes they say things that are not as helpful as they'd
hoped. Most people don't know what to say to a grieving friend. In fact, a
guest might think his or her words are comforting, while they may
actually come across as insensitive. Your guests may not know how
to express themselves. Try to focus on their concern and on the
fact that they are present to offer their condolences.
Don't apologize for your emotions. However you
are feeling is acceptable. You may - or may not - manage to remain
composed as you greet and visit with guests. You might find that
you need privacy. That's OK; your guests will understand if you
retreat to a more private area.
Thank guests for joining you. Whenever
possible, either you or someone helping you can thank each guest
for paying their respects. If there was no opportunity to thank
them that day, you can tell them later that you appreciated their
coming to the service.