The older I get I find myself spending more time at funeral homes. It is inevitable, I suppose, to spend at least some of that time thinking about death and loss. Is there a better time to reflect on such subjects? It is never a comfortable situation albeit necessary. The real angst comes when interacting with other loved ones and especially with those closest to the deceased. There seem to be a few simple ground rules to funeral etiquette and how one should conduct themselves.
Always remember that the bereaved are not thinking about being a good host. Even though families do grieve differently it might be best to try to stay out of the way. A small sincere gesture now will be one among many. During the funeral visitation and service the family will be overwhelmed with support. Probably more than they can handle. If you truly want to support them then allow them to grieve in their own way without being in the way. This is the time when they will have the most amount of support from family and friends. Obviously, if there is a need then be sure to fill it the best you can but if you are not sure of what to say or do then probably it is best to do less.
The time to step up will be later when a majority of family and friends have returned to their usual routines and have faded away. This is not an effort to besmirch people but they have lives and families to return too. It is true that everyone has their own methods to deal with grief but most feel the worst later when the reality of the loss sets in. Little things such as coming home to a dark house or waking up alone could trigger fond memories and the feeling of loneliness. This would be the time to make that small gesture that could be the difference. Weeks later when others have drifted off could be the time to make a phone call and just offer to talk. Say hello and check in. This would be the time to ask if they need anything. This would be the time you could really help and support your family member.
There are many ways to show your support for your loved ones but some things are universal. Sincere and kind words and acts have to be universal. A small gesture at the time of the funeral service or memorial when they are overwhelmed and a small gesture later when they may need to be propped up could mean the world to the bereaved.