Wakes and viewings
The body is usually present at wakes and viewings, which often take place at the funeral home in the days before the funeral service or at the funeral service location the day of the funeral. Wakes and viewings are usually open to all guests, though if the family has not invited you or specified that the event is family-only, you should respect their wishes and not attend.
If the body will be present and on view, you may want to prepare yourself emotionally. You should not feel pressured to view the body, and if you are uncomfortable viewing the body then you should consider not doing so. If you'd like the view the body and it is on view, you should feel free to do so.
Visitations usually take place at the family’s home, and offer an opportunity for friends and extended family to spend time with the family before the funeral service. Visitations may last over the course of many days or for a specified period of time on a single day before the funeral service.
The nature of the visitation will depend on the family and their preferences and style, and you should take your cues from the atmosphere at the event. In some cases, the family will be happy to have people spend lots of time at the home, reminiscing and socializing. In other cases, it might be most appropriate to drop in, pay your respects and offer condolences, and leave.
Introducing yourself at wakes, viewings, and visitations
If you knew the person who died but do not know the family, you should still feel free to attend any pre-funeral events. If you don't know the family, you should be prepared to introduce yourself by offering your name and your relationship to the person who died.
How to know if you should attend a wake, viewing, or visitation
As with a funeral service, if you are invited to a wake, viewing, or visitation you should feel free to go. If the event is limited to family only, you should respect the family’s wishes and not attend. If you are invited to a wake, viewing, or visitation and would like to attend but for whatever reason you cannot attend, you can simply attend the funeral service. If you are not invited to the wake, viewing, or visitation but would like to reach out to the family, consider writing a letter expressing your condolences.