Close family and friends of the person who died will likely attend the visitation and funeral service. Others may attend both or may need to or prefer to attend one or the other but not both.
Visitation may take place the day before the funeral, the evening before or even just hours before the funeral service. Most often the visitation has less structure than a funeral service. What happens at a visitation is based on local tradition, religion and the preference of the family.
Often the body will be present for viewing. Visitors who find it helpful to see the body will approach the casket respectfully and take a moment to pray or say good-bye in their own way. Those who are not comfortable with this opportunity need not participate. If you are not comfortable with seeing a body don’t allow that to keep you from attending the visitation and offering comfort to the mourners.
When attending a visitation, friends and family will come and go during the prescribed calling hours as they choose. Attendees include people who knew or admired the deceased and people who did not know the person who died but who know one or more of the mourners. They come to offer condolences or to share fond memories and stories of the person who died.
When you are one of those who knew the deceased but did not know the family do not underestimate the power of your story. Introduce yourself, share how you knew their family member, use his name and share what you enjoyed, admired, or did with the person they loved and lost.
The funeral, on the other hand, is a more structured event. It will have a beginning middle and end. Attendees are expected to remain for the entire program. Funerals may be faith based or a celebration of life. They will usually include a eulogy and often pictures, music, or readings are included.
Attending either a funeral or visitation shows respect for human life and affection for those who have lost someone they love.