Funeral homes are not easy places to be. The owners try to make the place look "homey" and the directors work very hard to make everyone as comfortable as they possibly can. But there is a dead person laying right there in the room in which you are standing and chatting with other guests. There is nothing natural about such a setting and most of us simply don't know what to do or say - so we end up talking trivialities to others, self-consciously avoiding talking about the dead person , making the strangeness of the event even stranger.
Here are a few tips to make your funeral home visit a bit less awkward...
1. As soon as you enter the funeral home "viewing room," look for and make your way to one of the family members. (It is NOT required that you approch the casket if that makes you uncomfortable.) They will, no doubt, be talking with someone else, but when they and the person they are talking with see you are waiting, they will fairly quickly finish their time together and non-verbally invite you to take the other guest's place.
2. Express your sympathy. Say something like, "I'm so sorry for your loss," or "Our sympathy to you and your family," or, if you are a religious person, "I've been praying for you...and will continue to keep you all in my prayers." Then share a memory of the deceased - something fun or funny or something he or she once said. Your friend won't mind hearing the same story from you that he or she has heard several times before. The fact that you remember something specific means a great deal.
3. After a brief conversation, say "I'll let you go to visit with your other guests now. You are in my thoughts."
4. You are not required to stay around chatting after you have expressed your condolences. Greet others you may know, but don't feel obligated to get into long conversations with them. Once the talk gets beyond things about the deceased and his or her family, it's quite acceptable to make your exit. There is no minimum time you need to stay at the funeral home. You are there to let the family know you care. Once that is complete, you can go.