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Funeral and Wake Etiquette: When to Attend the End-of-Life Celebration of an Acquaintance

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When someone you know experiences the loss of a loved one, your first reaction may be to help. But, you may not be sure what to say or do, especially if the deceased is only an acquaintance. This is a normal feeling, but there are several ways to address the emotional and practical needs of those grieving.

For instance, you may consider attending either the funeral or wake to show your support of those close to the deceased. When is it appropriate to do so? Generally speaking, the public is invited to attend a wake, even if there’s no personal connection. On the contrary, funerals tend to be more intimate with close friends and family in attendance. That being said, general funeral and wake etiquette dictate that a wake is more appropriate to attend if you are an acquaintance.

For help deciding when to attend the wake of an acquaintance, continue reading below.

1. To provide comfort.

One reason to attend the wake of an acquaintance is to provide comfort to those grieving. Even if you have no personal connection to the deceased, it’s important to consider those who were. Grief takes many forms, and no two people cope with loss the same way. Those who are grieving find comfort in the presence of their close friends and family.

A simple way to be of comfort to the bereaved is to offer your condolences at the wake. Your presence is a reassurance to survivors that while their loved one is gone, they are not alone in this emotional process and have someone to share their loss with as they grieve.

2. To be supportive.

Another reason to attend the wake of an acquaintance is to be supportive of those grieving. As a sign of respect, ask them if your attendance can help them through the grieving process. If so, the survivor will recognize your presence as a sign of support.

Oftentimes, the bereaved feel alone in their grief. Although it may be difficult to know what to say or do, don’t let discomfort prevent you from being supportive. You don’t need to have the right answers. It’s your supportive and caring presence that will help the bereaved gradually begin to heal.

3. To show respect.

Finally, it’s important to express your sympathy to the deceased’s friends and family. One way to acknowledge their loss is to attend the wake, even if the deceased is only an acquaintance.

While they have just suffered a great loss, they will find comfort and support in your attendance. Remember to always follow your heart when deciding to attend. Unless the deceased’s family opted for a private wake, your presence is most likely welcome. If you’re still unsure about whether to attend the wake of an acquaintance, there are other ways to show respect, including the following:

  • Help out with practical tasks like preparing a meal.
  • Make a donation to a charity in honor of the deceased.
  • Have a conversation and be a good listener.  
  • Send flowers or write a letter of sympathy.
  • Help them find the support they need.

As you can see, there are several ways to honor the deceased. For other reasons why you should attend the wake or funeral for an acquaintance, consider reading our recent post: When Should One Attend a Funeral or Wake? 5 Ways to Decide, or subscribe to our blog for more information.

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Cathy Nichols
Cathy Nichols
Considers it an honor as a Certified Celebrant to listen to life stories, and then design and conduct meaningful tributes. Cathy also trains celebrants nationally, equipping them to share those legacies in ways that comfort and enlighten. Honorably serving Busch families since 2004.

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