The rules of tradition
Whether you're attending a formal traditional funeral or a unique personalized funeral, there are some unwritten rules of etiquette to follow. It's important to be aware of these expectations to avoid offending anyone or embarrassing yourself. It can be difficult to know what to do or say when you or someone you care for has lost a loved one. Most people don't have to deal with death on a regular basis and it may even be the case that you're attending your first funeral. The etiquette that surrounds funerals focuses on:
Grief and Sympathy
Grief is a difficult emotion to deal with, and you may sometimes find that it's tricky to express your sympathy in the appropriate way. In general, you want to remember that all you need to do is offer your condolences and support. Sometimes the best thing to say will turn out to be the simplest.
On the other hand, if you're close to the deceased, you're going to have a lot of people coming to you to express sympathy. Sometimes these expressions won't come out the way they were intended, and you have to be prepared to overlook ineloquent responses. The rules of funeral etiquette will help you in these regards, but you have to remember that each situation will be different and each person will react in a different manner.
While there are general rules for what to say and do throughout a funeral, you have to customize them to your situation. The funeral will be a different experience depending on what kind is being held. As personalized funerals become more popular, you may find yourself in an unfamiliar situation. Memorials and celebrations are now common ways to acknowledge the passing of a loved one.
You also need to base your responses on who is involved in the funeral and who has passed. Things will be quite different if there are children involved in the funeral, or if it's a child who has died. The same can be said if the deceased was a public figure or followed a religion different from your own.
While rules of etiquette can be helpful to let you know what you should wear or do during this difficult time, always remember that the best way to help people through a funeral is to be sincere. If you're offering support to the bereaved, say what you mean and always follow through on any promises that you make. If you're one of those grieving the loss of a loved one, don't be afraid to express your feelings; and remember, those surrounding you at the funeral share your sense of loss.