Is it appropriate for me to attend my friend's grandmother's funeral?
September 28, 2013 1:19 AM   Subscribe

After a slow, sad decline over the past decade, one of my best friend's much beloved grandmother has passed away. While I never met her ouma in person my friend has often shared stories of her life, the things she had taught her and more recently the sorrow of her drawn out illness and her fears for the future as it became clear she didn't have very long left in this world. My question is: is it appropriate for me to attend the funeral service this coming week?

I would really like to be there for my friend.. we are very close, and I truly want to support her in any way I can at this difficult time in her life. I haven't been invited- but suspect that my friend might just assume that none of our peer group would be interested- after all, who actually WANTS to go along to a funeral. If you feel that my attending the service would be appropriate- how would you suggest I broach the subject with my friend?

Thanks for your help with this saddening, sensitive situation.
posted by Philby to Human Relations (37 answers total)
 
I avoid funerals like the plague, but my grandfather would read obits in the newspaper and attend strangers' funerals, so who knows. I don't know why it wouldn't be ok to go to the service. I mean you are supporting your friend in a difficult time, isn't that the way it should be?

Also, are people ever actually invited to funerals? I just thought there was an announcement and people showed up.
posted by Literaryhero at 1:25 AM on September 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is the funeral by invitation only? This limit is usually only applied to prominent people in order to give the family some buffer from gawkers and the curious.
In most cases, the bereaved welcome friends who share their grief. If you are still unsure. ask your friend something like "what time is the funeral?" so she can say either "it is family only" or "how sweet of you to attend".
posted by Cranberry at 1:29 AM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ask your friend if she'd like for you to go. (If it was me, I'd say yes. If it's a private service, she may have ask family members if it's OK to bring someone.)
posted by nangar at 1:43 AM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


is it appropriate for me to attend the funeral service this coming week?

Yes it is.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:02 AM on September 28, 2013 [13 favorites]


Depending on the funeral, there may be a part that has general attendance, and then close friends and family do some further graveside parts. Funerals are for mourners. I think if your friend would benefit from your presence, you can go in good conscience even to the private bits.
posted by Mizu at 2:11 AM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd go to the funeral or one of the visitations, if they have those.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:17 AM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


When my grandmother died last year, we had a graveside ceremony in the morning which was close family only, and then a memorial service in a church that afternoon for all and sundry to attend (at her request).

A handful of my close friends attended the memorial service, and I think it was a lovely thing to do for me, and for the memory of my nanna. Nanna would have wanted me to be surrounded by friends to support me through what was a very difficult day.

I would really like to be there for my friend.. we are very close, and I truly want to support her in any way I can at this difficult time in her life.


Tell her exactly this, and ask her if she would like you to attend.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 2:24 AM on September 28, 2013 [22 favorites]


Many times, there's a 'viewing', before and separate from the actual funeral, where the family accepts condolences. For a lady you never met, perhaps this would be the more appropriate event to attend, and leave the graveside services to the family. If, however, the graveside services are the only thing planned, then yes: go and support your friend.
posted by easily confused at 2:53 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


When in doubt, ask. But I'd bet a fair bit of money that she'd find this very touching. If you do want to ask, you can say some variation of what you said here - that although you never met this grandmother, you felt as though you knew her, and you'd like to pay your respects.

And, yeah, it isn't typical for funerals to have invitations as they are typically short-notice affairs thrown together by people in grief. They're usually advertised in the local paper so people who want to come can show up without having to bother the family for the details.
posted by town of cats at 3:02 AM on September 28, 2013


I agree that you should ask your friend if she would like you to attend. I recently attended my best friend's grandfather's funeral (granted, I had met him, but I was still going to a funeral mostly full of people I had never met).

Also, read the announcement/obituary. Generally it will outline the funeral arrangements and states when it would be appropriate for you to go. Personally, I would attend the visitation/viewing and the funeral if it wasn't for close family only (and sit in the back).
posted by sarahgrace at 3:17 AM on September 28, 2013


I find it difficult to imagine that anyone would ever be offended that a friend showed up for a family member's funeral.
posted by Lame_username at 4:19 AM on September 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


In the culture of my dad's family, you would be obligated to attend as a close friend of a close relative.

Don't attend with the expectation of getting to talk to or spend time with her.

Flowers are another way to show your respect.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:29 AM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it would be polite to ask first whether she would like you to go. If you do go, I can't imagine anyone would think it inappropriate, so long as you "hang back" a little when it comes to a) seating, b) sharing memories, c) scoffing at any buffet there might be, d) attention of the immediate family, including your friend, because (unless someone tells you otherwise!) the other guests who knew the lady should have priority at all of those things.
posted by emilyw at 4:29 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went to the funerals for both of my BFF's grandparents, neither of whom I'd really met. I was there to show my best friend love and support in any way that she needed. Invitations are not required for funerals unless they are specifically closed to the public. And you're right - no one really wants to go to funerals and it would be a great kindness for you to go for your friend.

As the young rope-ride says, don't expect or demand her attention, she will be caught up in her grief and her family, most likely. (Though my friend latched on to me pretty quickly when I arrived at both services. I think it can be helpful to have someone at the funeral that is just there for YOU and not caught up in their own grief.)
posted by Aquifer at 4:44 AM on September 28, 2013


Expectations of funeral attendance can be very culture specific, so I think you should give particular weight to the advice of any fellow-Australians on this.

Where I live, in Ireland, no one is ever invited to a funeral - the funeral arrangements are listed in a newspaper death notice, and it's just assumed that friends will pass the word along and that anyone with any connection to the deceased will turn up. By our standards, there would be no question about the matter - of course you would go.

I was quite amazed years ago to find from German friends that in their part of the world people normally only attend a funeral if they've got a written invitation in the post. By their standards, you wouldn't go.

So I think a lot depends on the local norm.
posted by Azara at 6:26 AM on September 28, 2013


I would really like to be there for my friend.. we are very close, and I truly want to support her in any way I can at this difficult time in her life.

Tell her exactly this, and ask her if she would like you to attend.
This answer seems entirely correct to me.
posted by kavasa at 6:26 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't ask. I would just go. I've been to more funerals than anyone I know (son of clergy). No one is taking tickets at the door. No one will question why you are there. Even if you are there only to support your friend it's fine to show up. Dress appropriately and no one will look twice.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:49 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


In general, I'm a big fan of asking people what they want. But in the case of funerals, I think that part of the job of friends is to be helpful and supportive while creating as little pressure or extra work for the mourners. So: I personally would get in touch with someone to ask if I should go to the funeral. Because that's creating one more little thing for them to think about, one more little decision to make. If you ask them "should I come", you are, in some small way, making it their burden to decide, and making it their burden, if they want you there, to say they want you there.

If a loved one dies, you don't want 20 friends all calling you and you having to tell each of them what the the right thing to do is (and all the attendant social pressure that goes along with that). You want to show up at the funeral and be surrounded, without having to think about it, with a lot of people who love you and care about you.

(again- probably varies by culture. But, as a rule: If the funeral details are listed in the newspaer or on a public web site, that is a good indicator that the norm is that the funeral is open to everyone).
posted by ManInSuit at 6:57 AM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, go. Everyone will appreciate that you came. I was once moved to attend the funeral of someone whose obit I read in the paper -- the only time I've ever done that, long story, but the obit said there were no known survivors and I wanted to find someone who knew the person. It was a graveside affair and it turned out there were three mourners: the undertaker, a Catholic deacon doing the service, and me. It felt very right that I was there. You'll feel the same.
posted by beagle at 7:04 AM on September 28, 2013


As long as it is open to the public (most are) and that it doesn't trigger bad things for you, Always Go to the Funeral.
posted by kimberussell at 7:28 AM on September 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


You're supposed to go. (Unless it's, like, a plane ride away in which case you could send flowers, which you should address to the deceased.)

Having said that, a lot of people aren't aware of this and I've had a number of friends express surprise that I would even consider going. Many of my close friends never asked about my father's funeral. So it's basic etiquette, but a majority of people these days are just unaware of basic etiquette.

So you have to put some thought into asking about this sensitively, that doesn't take her by surprise or make her feel imposed upon. Given how close you are to her, I suggest approaching it from the assumption that you will be going.

I would send her an email asking "When and where is the funeral going to be held?" Now in my experience, if people are not expecting me they will just ignore the message
and hand-wave later, "oh, it was just a family thing." And if she is expecting you she'll give you the details.
posted by tel3path at 7:28 AM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I went to a close friends' grandmother's funeral a couple of years ago. I'd never met the grandmother. But yes, I asked my friend "Do you want me to be there, for moral support, or whatever?", and she said yes. I spent a lot of the the time standing in the background feeling a bit lost, but since then, my friend has several times expressed her appreciation of my attendance.
posted by Diag at 7:38 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


At my grandmother's funeral earlier this summer, my best friend let a bunch of my other friends know what was up, and did the same for my brother. It was a wonderful surprise to see a bunch of 20 somethings in the back of the memorial service. Everyone has a grandmother, and many have great memories of them. After the exhaustion of helping my mom sort out the funeral arrangements, it was really nice to have people show up.

It also ment a ton to my brother that his frinds showed up unannounced,as hed been dragging them enroute to other events to stop by and run errands for her for the last few years, and all of them had memories to share of how she would tease my brother and offer them shots. It was really awesome. None of my friends had a direct connection to her, but i've cooked family recipies for them and spoken of her to them.


And I've generally gone to the funerals of the grandparents and parents of friends. Its the right thing to do.
posted by larthegreat at 8:23 AM on September 28, 2013


My good friend unexpectedly attended the funeral of my grandmother whom she had never met after reading the obit in the paper. It meant a lot to me.

I unexpectedly attended the funeral of my good friend's mother whom I had never met. It meant a lot to him.
posted by alligatorman at 8:26 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, of course, absolutely, unless it's "invitation only". Go.
posted by windykites at 9:03 AM on September 28, 2013


When my mother died, I had many friends, who'd never even met her, come to the viewing hours at the funeral home and then to the Mass the next day. It really meant a lot to me that they were there.
posted by Lucinda at 9:07 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think your instinct to go is right, and it reminded me of this short radio essay that you might appreciate. One thing is, sometimes people don't want to ask their friends to do things that they think might be unpleasant, so instead of saying "do you want me to go to the funeral?" you might consider saying "Is it okay if I come to the funeral, or is it private?"
posted by juliapangolin at 9:27 AM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I found it very touching when friends, who I wasn't expecting, attended my grandpa's funeral.
posted by parakeetdog at 10:04 AM on September 28, 2013


Many people who knew my parents, but not my grandmother, attended her funeral. Funerals are generally for the living anyway, so doing so supported them and our family in our grief. If the funeral and/or visitation is posted in a newspaper or online obit, then its okay for anyone to attend. In our case, we had an open funeral and after the in-chapel part the "guests" went in for a reception and the family went to the the actual graveside burial and met back up with the guests at the reception later. It seems quite common to restrict the graveside stuff to just immediate family.

I don't live in the same town as the rest of my family so none of my friends would have been there. If someone had asked me ahead of time if I wanted them to go I'd have handwaved it away "Oh no it's fine." but if someone had shown up out of the blue I would have been tremendously touched.
posted by marylynn at 10:18 AM on September 28, 2013


I went with my best friend to his grandmother's funeral. I had met her but only once or twice. I was really glad I went. She was so loved and all of the remembrances were so warm. It was more joyful than some weddings I've been to. I might just say to your friend that you want to go if that's okay.
posted by kat518 at 10:39 AM on September 28, 2013


About a year ago, I went to the funeral of a co-worker's brother. I never met the deceased, but the co-worker is a dear friend. I went to show support for my friend. Just this morning he randomly mentioned to me how touching he found it that people from work came.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:53 AM on September 28, 2013


If you want to ask someone besides your grieving friend, call the funeral director that is in charge of the proceedings and ask them if it would be appropriate for you to attend. This kind of thing is part of the service they provide to the bereaved.

But in my experience, if the service is published in the paper and has no restrictions announced, it is open for anyone to attend.

I've never been to a funeral type of thing where the people in charge didn't tell the attendees exactly what to do. "At this time, the public visitation is over. Please make your final respects and exit to the lobby. The immediate family is invited to remain for a short prayer service." and "There will be a graveside service for the family only, but the family invites you to a reception directly following at Local Luncheon Restaurant."
posted by gjc at 11:15 AM on September 28, 2013


Go. It is for the living that you go. It is for the dead that you weep. I lost both my parents in the span of a month. It meant a great deal when people besides family came to their viewings or funerals. Life, it is a series of hellos and good-byes, be present for each.
posted by jadepearl at 11:46 AM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I honestly don't understand your apparent dilemma at all. Your going to support your friend can only be a good thing. I can't imagine why it would be perceived as anything but.
posted by GeniPalm at 5:25 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


My dad died this spring. We were planning on a small funeral, just family. It ended up filling half the (albeit small-ish) church. And I'm glad and thankful that each and every person was there. In short, nthing those above, go if you want to. Ask your friend first if that will make you feel more comfortable.
posted by lharmon at 7:15 PM on September 28, 2013


Unless it's explicitly mentioned (a Family service, a private service, etc) Funerals are, unlike most formal events, not one where invitations are issued. Announcements might be made, and people might tell you when and where the service is, but it's rare for someone to flat out say "I hope you will come" when talking about a funeral. So it's not at all weird for you to not precisely know that you have been invited -- that's the normal state of affairs for a funeral, and you shouldn't let it make you feel self-conscious.

Your instincts to go and support your friend are good and kind and loving, and your support would almost certainly be welcome.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:49 PM on September 28, 2013


Yes, dear - please go. Your friend has shared her grandmother with you, which would make her grandmother happy, so it's appropriate for you to share her loss with your friend. You'll understand how she feels and so will be able to help her get through a tough time.
posted by aryma at 1:19 AM on September 29, 2013


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