Who is Considered Immediately Family at a Funeral

Let me clarify the confusing term about who is considered immediate family at a funeral.

The term ‘immediate family’ refers to the smallest individual family unit that are related by.

  • Blood such as siblings, children, and grandchildren.
  • Lineage e.g. spouses, adopted children, and step-children.
  • It also includes grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and uncles.

The correct term can be difficult because it depends on the responsibilities people have towards the other family members in their lives.

An aunt by marriage who has helped with the caring of a family member is more likely to be considered an immediate family member.

Another who is related by blood but lives abroad and sends the occasional email would be considered a distant family member.

The close involvement between family members related by blood and lineage determines the classification as to whom is considered as the immediate family at a funeral.


Family Members Who Are Related by Blood.

In this category, the members are related by blood. This includes siblings, children, and grandchildren who are the immediate family or next of kin.

They are the closest living relatives to the deceased person; the parents and the resulting children become the start of a new branch of the family. This definition can also include the grandparents who play a pivotal role in many family lives.

It is the immediate family who are informed first about the passing of a relative. The family members will then inform extended family and friends about the death.

  • If the person was suffering from an illness or disease, the death of that person may not come as unexpected. The person who passed away may have helped plan their funeral and made their special wishes to be known.
  • The second type of funeral is the unexpected or tragic passing of a loved one. This may come from a vehicle accident, work accident, or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • A young person’s death, a young parent’s accident, a wife or husband who met with a tragic accident … regardless of the person, it is the sudden shock of knowing that they will no longer be there and that you have not had the chance to say goodbye.  That is what causes the deepest grief.
  • Regardless of the cause of death, it is the finality of the event that causes the grieving.
  • Having support from your immediate and extended family and friends will help soften the blow.
  • It is natural to grieve, and it does take time to adjust to life without that person being involved. Time, as the saying goes, is the great healer leading to acceptance and moving forward in life.


Related by Lineage Family Members

Relatives by lineage share a common bond through marriage, and this includes spouses, in-laws, step-children, and adopted children.

  • These are the people who enter the family unit due to the marriage of one of the immediate family members to another from a different family unit.
  • Each marriage from a member of the immediate family forms a newly established branch for the family.
  • A civil partnership or cohabitation also becomes relatives by lineage and become woven into the family development.
  • Each person within the family unit plays a certain role. Parents’ guide and encourage, while children strive to learn and grow. Many changes happen within the family, but when the children grow up and take partners, they extend the family growth again, and the changes are profound.

A close family unit presents a strong support group in times of sorrow. The immediate family share the grief and loss, and they can lean on each other for comfort.


The Extended Family Members

The extended family are the people over and above your direct family, and this included uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, and nieces. 

These family members share a common bond even if they are several times removed from the direct lineage.  

Quora defines the difference between the immediate family and extended family as:

  • The nuclear family: The people you live and grow up with.
  • The extended family: Extra people that are related, but you don’t live with (aunts, uncles, cousins and so on.)

The term immediate family may seem a simple concept, but it comes down to the following criteria.

  • Distance. In days gone by, if a family member moved away, you rarely saw or heard from them again. However, with the arrival of global communication and travel, contact and involvement are as easy as having them live next door.
  • Relationship. You may not be close to or even like some members of your extended family, but the law states that they are still part of your family tree.
  • The Length of Time.  If a family member lives with you for a year or more, they can be considered as an immediate family due to these ties.


Funeral Etiquette With Immediately Family.

Funerals are not normally a subject that we all talk about. Therefore, when one is suddenly confronted with the inevitable, questions about funeral etiquette arise.

Knowing a bit about the etiquette of a funeral will take the fear out of the unknown.

1. Notifying family and friends.  The grieving family should notify the immediate family first, either in person or via the telephone. Then the closest relatives and friends should be told next. Making sure all people know the name and address of the funeral home that will be planning the funeral or memorial service is a common courtesy.

2. Visiting the family and deceased. Upon being informed of a death, it is customary for very close and dear friends of the family to visit the funeral home to support the family and pay their respects to the deceased. The casket may be open during this visit, but it is up to the individual whether to say goodbye to the deceased or just linger with the family.

3. Seating for immediate family members at the service. Modern funeral services last approximately 30 -45 minutes. The front few rows of the church are usually kept for the immediate family members.

4. Graveside internment. After the service, it is common to meet outside of the church, and people pay their respects to the family. Then the mourners travel to the cemetery, where a brief service is given. After this is completed, the casket is lowered to ground level, and the family typically depart for the reception.

5. Family and friends can put a single flower on the gravesite in respect for the deceased before they leave. Sometimes they bring a single rose themselves, or some funeral directors provide a basket of single flowers that mourners can choose from.

6. After the mourners have left, the casket is placed in its resting place in the ground or a vault, and the flower arrangements are placed on the grave.

7. The Reception Afterwards. Friends and family are invited to a reception after the funeral where food and tea/coffee are provided. Everyone has a chance to talk and relax a little after the funeral.

This is where you can share experiences about the deceased, just remember to keep it respectful. Usually, the reception goes for an hour or perhaps two before the family retires.

8. Allow a few days after the funeral before visiting the family. Some mourners like privacy to mourn, others enjoy the diversion of a visit. But do wait a couple of days to allow the family to mourn together, and when you visit, keep the visit short and light-hearted.

9. Follow up with support. At a funeral, the grieving family gets a lot of support. But often in the days afterward, they seem to get forgotten. A quick phone call asking if you can help them in any way, or a card reminding them that you are thinking of them is a lovely surprise.

10. Attire for a funeral. Black has always been the color for a funeral, but a conservative suit or dark respectful colors in the dress code is just as appropriate to show your respect. Usually, bright floral or busy patterns are avoided.


Helpful Tips to Close With.

While immediate family at a funeral will often welcome any help you can offer, do not be offended if your offer is not taken up.

The family may not be thinking clearly at this time. There are a million things to do, and they may be struggling just to get through the day.

A quick supportive email may help them to focus on what needs to be done. Or check with the funeral director if you can help rather than bother the family.

 But the biggest thing to remember is that afterward, once the funeral is over, is the time that the immediate family needs ongoing support.

If you can help in any way, it will be much appreciated.

Just stopping by to drop off a hot, hearty casserole will help them along. Putting out their rubbish bins, collecting their mail, or even just getting them some groceries, will all help.

The funeral is just for a day, mourning and loss are a lot longer to come to terms with.


Writer: Jean Brewer

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