Funerals are often difficult for everyone involved. While the family and close friends typically have the hardest time, even work colleagues or acquaintances may feel moved to pay their final respects, too. Sometimes, knowing exactly how to do this can be confusing, especially if you weren’t as close to the person who has passed away.
You likely want to give this person an appropriate goodbye and let the family know that you share some of their pain. The hard thing is,what’s considered “appropriate” can differ wildly between cultures and countries.
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Mourning in New Zealand
Take New Zealand, for example. Kiwis tend to focus on the person’s life and often make the funeral a celebration of who that person was. As such, New Zealand funerals are often celebration of life parties, rather than a more somber day of mourning.The services are personal, often accompanied with slide shows and photo-boards, and mourners are sometimes invited to come forward and share memories.
Of course, this customization often comes with a higher price tag. The average cost for a funeral in New Zealand is around $8,000. Because of this expense, funeral insurance in NZ is becoming a popular way for people to help their families cover the bill.
However, like many countries, New Zealand is full of many different cultures, each with their own funeral customs. Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous group, usually hold a traditional ceremony called a tangihanga. This important rite involves the entire community, and there are many traditions that lead up to and follow the burying of the body.Each fulfills a spiritual need for the deceased or the living. Visiting a tangihanga can be a very different experience for people outside the Maori community.
New Zealand is also home to people from many other cultures, each with their own rites and traditions. Attending a funeral in the country may mean that you’ll see and experience important customs that might be unfamiliar to you.
Respecting others’ funeral customs
With all these different traditions, it can be difficult to know how to properly show your respects. No matter what faith or culture is part of the service, the following tips should help you prepare to honor those who have died:
- Unless the funeral is a private event(or you know that your presence will make the family uncomfortable), family, friends, and even acquaintances are generally welcome at a funeral. Attending the service is an important way to pay your respects and gain closure in the face of an untimely death. If you are able to go, you should.
- Arrive early and don’t sit in the front. Usually, the seating closest to the front is reserved for close family and friends. If you’re late, enter quietly and sit in the back. If you bring children, remind them beforehand to be quiet and respectful. If they aren’t able to do so, it might be a good idea to hire a babysitter.
- It’s usually wise to dress professionally in muted colors, unless you’re told otherwise. You don’t necessarily have to wear black, but anything bright and colorful might send the wrong message to the grieving family.A skirt, dress or slacks for women and a suit for men are acceptable clothing for most funerals.
- Know the culture of the person who has passed and be respectful. If their beliefs differ greatly from your own, you don’t have to participate in everything that happens during the service. However, you should stand or sit quietly and listen. You might also want to read up on what may happen during the service, as this may help you avoid accidentally offending anyone. But remember, most families will appreciate seeing their loved one’s friends at the service and will understand that people from outside their community may not be familiar with their funeral rituals.
- There is often a funeral processional and recessional, particularly if the casket is present. In many cultures, it is traditional to stand as the casket is brought into and out of the room. Usually, the family and friends in the first few rows follow the casket out, and then those who are further back follow, as well.
- If the memorial is more relaxed, it is okay to enjoy yourself. If the family feel it’s appropriate to send off their loved one with a celebration, then celebrate with them.
- It’s often hard to know what to say to the grieving family. Usually, something simple and kind is appropriate. Expressing love for the deceased and sympathy for what the family is going through is usually well-received. Often,a silent hug is appropriate too.
- Before you attend the funeral, try and think of your favorite memory of the deceased. Sharing those good memories with the family is often a welcome gesture. If the funeral has a portion where guests are invited to speak briefly about the deceased, you can share then if you’re comfortable. However, if the funeral is short and formal, the memory could be shared in a letter to the family instead. The family may not be ready to hear these kinds of stories at the funeral, but eventually these could bring them smiles instead of tears.
Funeral etiquette can vary between cultures or even between two families from the same background. However, the most important thing you can often do is show up to pay your respects. Even if you make some slight mistakes, the fact that you came to show your support usually means the world to grieving family and friends.