Can I Bring a Girlfriend to a Funeral?

Some people find funerals an uncomfortable experience.
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Death comes to all, and a funeral helps the family and friends of the deceased cope with the mourning process. The guests attending the funeral usually have some connection to the deceased or the family of the deceased. Taking your girlfriend to a funeral doesn’t violate etiquette under most conditions, but attending a funeral when you know neither the family nor the deceased could feel awkward.

1 Private Funerals

Private, by invitation only, funerals restrict attendance to invited guests only, according to “Funeral Etiquette” on the George F. Doherty & Sons Funeral Homes website. Anyone may attend public funerals or pre-funeral activities when the public can come to offer support to the family. Unless you are a member of the grieving family, your girlfriend won’t know any of the family members, so it is probably not an event she will be comfortable at or need to attend. If you feel that you need her support in the grieving process, and you have been invited to a private funeral, respect the wishes of the family and meet her someplace near the funeral location after the funeral is over.

2 Appropriate Conduct

If your girlfriend agrees to attend the funeral with you, both of you need to dress appropriately in clean and neat, dark or muted color clothing. Arrive early and sit toward the middle or back of the room, unless you are a member of the family -- seating near the front of the room is reserved for family and close friends, according to in “A Guide to Good Etiquette for Attending Funeral Services.” Avoid talking to her during the service or interacting with one another. Save your comments for before or after the service. Remember to turn your cell phones off when you arrive.

3 Greeting the Family

The presence of family and friends demonstrates support for the grieving family and respect for the deceased. It’s customary to pay your condolences to the family either prior to the funeral or following the graveside service, should one occur. Introducing your girlfriend could be awkward, unless you are a member of the grieving family. Consider the feelings and needs of the family when bringing someone with you who has no connection to them. Additionally, determine prior to the funeral how you will deal with awkward questions about her presence should they arise.

4 Your Girlfriend's Needs

Ask yourself why your girlfriend would agree to attend the funeral. She might go to support you, but she might feel awkward. She could become bored or uncomfortable hearing people talk about someone she doesn’t know. Talk to her about why you want her to attend, and allow her to decide whether she is comfortable accompanying you. If she is not, everyone is probably better off if you don’t bring her to the funeral.

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.