Receiving friends through a visitation activates your support system.

Receiving friends through a visitation activates your support system and allows others to express their concern and love for you. Having a visitation encourages you to openly and honestly mourn the death. Friends and family will remember you invited them and often stay more available to you in the months that follow the death.

Sometimes called the wake, calling hours and viewing, the visitation is a time for friends and family to support one another in their grief. The body is often present in an open or unopened casket, allowing you and others who loved the person who has died to acknowledge the reality of the death and to have the privilege of saying goodbye.

This is the procession from the funeral service to the final resting place.

Also called the cortege, the funeral procession from the funeral service to the gravesite or columbarium, scattering garden or other final resting place is usually led by the hearse containing the casketed body.

The procession is a symbol of mutual support and public honoring of the death. Mourners accompany one another to the final resting place of the person who died. Often, even strangers take pause and are respectful because they know someone in your family has died.

The graveside service is the final opportunity to say goodbye.

It is a way of honoring the dead and helping them to exit this life with honor, dignity and respect. The act of watching the casket being lowered into the vault can be extremely powerful and offer additional momentum in the healing process to loved ones, relatives and friends. Some families choose to actively participate by placing earth on the vault.

Accompanying a body to its final resting place and saying a few last words brings a necessary feeling of finality to the funeral process. Even if you are having a full funeral service, you may want to consider having a short committal service at the gravesite, mausoleum, columbarium or scattering site. The committal service gives a feeling of finality to the funeral that you’ll never have otherwise.

This special time allows your family and friends to support one another.

Most funerals are followed by a gathering of friends and family. This special and essential time allows your family and friends to tell stories about the person who died, to cry, to laugh and to support one another. It is an informal time of release after the more formal elements of the funeral ceremony. The gathering is also a transition, a rite of passage back to loving again. It demonstrates the continuity of life, even in the face of death.

Some family members or friends may tell you that the gathering isn’t necessary or that they would prefer not to attend. It’s OK if everyone can’t (or chooses not to) be there. It’s still a very important time for many people who will attend the service.

The reception can be held in your family home, in a park or in a church meeting room. Many funeral homes also have reception rooms. A buffet-style meal is usually served at the reception. Sometimes family and friends contribute food potluck-style and sometimes the meal is catered. Again, do what feels right for you and your family.