A funeral is one of those events so laden with social expectations that even chit-chat bears a new, weighty layer of overthought.
The bind is felt even more intensely by the those extra awkward among us. For one such man, it went as terribly as he could have feared.
Funerals, with their utmost standards of sensitivity, can make it hard to know what is okay to say, even which facial expressions are acceptable.
In a funeral there is even a rhythm to those expectations of sensitivity. A social circle composed of merely friends of the grieving may push the envelope, tell jokes and laugh.
But when the grieving parties haul around a corner suddenly, it's all stone faces and philosophies of death.
And under it all there is the creeping curiosity that maybe everyone in the room is dying to break the conventions and laugh, celebrate the dead person with lighter energy.
In a Redditor's story posted to the subReddit "Today I F'd Up" (TIFU) of a recent funeral faux pas, the narrator didn't even get as far as those considerations before he said something he immediately regretted to the last person he wanted to.
The story begins with a self-defined character assessment. Above all, this protagonist has never been smooth and he knows it. The previously mentioned rhythms of funeral etiquette are not lost in him, quite the opposite.
"As far as social interactions go, I'm about as awkward as it gets. At an event grim and serious like a funeral multiply that awkwardness a hundredfold."
But this guy, over the years, has learned to cope. But the strategy, which worked in most contexts, was laying in wait to doom him when a funeral came along.
"As many people do, I have a laundry list of sort of involuntary replies that I'll use when someone says how you doing? Replies like the infamous "living the dream" or "not too shabby." It just so happens that I chose the absolute worst one today."
"Very often I am not doing so well and so in order not to sound too negative I try to to end my answer with something like "... but at least I'm alive." And that is exactly what I said today upon being greeted by a friend before a funeral service."
The story continues with an outline of the fallout.
"Chalk it up to the general atmosphere of a funeral but after I said that the group of people I was in got immediately quiet and the grieving husband walked away."
"Said husband is a friend of mine and I went to this ceremony hoping to console him and instead it's very possible that I lost a friend."
As consolation, many Redditors assured that most of us squirm under the specific circumstances of a funeral. There is something about sensing a collection of taboos that beckons them out an higher rates than ever.
"People saying awkward sh*t at funerals is kind of normal though.. I mean, someone said 'Congratulations' to me at my grandmothers funeral." -- shaden209
"I know I am not supposed to but I get this urge to laugh and it gets really uncontrollable sometimes when I am at a funeral." -- surya2727
"Grief brain does weird sh*t to ya, be compassionate with yourself. Talk to your friend in A couple days in person and apologize profusely." -- __stillalice
Plenty of others offered stories of their own excruciating funereal situations.
"One time at my best friend's moms funeral, I definitely felt too much tension and did not know how to act properly. I went along the line of the family members, shaking their hands and hugging them."
"As I got to my best friend's brother, I shook his hand, looked him in the eyes and said, "I hope you.. do good." Before awkwardly running out." -- rebellyous
"At a funeral I attended several years ago, somebody related to the deceased asked how I was doing. I said, 'I'm doing pretty good—how are things with you?'"
"He looked at me with more than a little confusion and said, 'well, things have obviously been better.' I still cringe when I think about it." -- justamie
"This is up there with going to my friends brothers funeral to support my friend. He died very suddenly and young. I was late and coming straight off a half shift in work."
"They saw me hurrying, and said 'Don't worry it's not started,' and I stupidly replied with a cheery grin 'I know, he's not going anywhere!'" -- suicidebytiger
"Me: I'm so sorry for your loss. I did not know her as well as I would have liked.""
"Him: I'm the funeral director." -- AriadneThread
And sometimes the occasional wrong thing to say can actually break the tension.
"Toby is the youngest of us and while we are hanging out with our friend, Jack, trying to show support Toby accidentally let out the nastiest fart. It was the most vile smelling fart ever and it was concentrated exactly where the 3 of us were standing."
"I looked over at Toby and said 'dude, wtf. That's the grossest thing I've ever smelled. It smells like someone died in here.'"
"We both looked at Jack and we were completely shocked by what I just said, scared to say anything. Jack just burst out laughing his ass off. First time he had smiled since his mom died." -- randomname19870618
"At my grandma's memorial, my grandfather said: 'We should do this sometime again soon!'"
"He was, of course, referring to the family gathering but definitely sounded bad, though it did lighten the mood." -- zooksoup
It's difficult to plan for these circumstances as they're defined by the very non-rational thinking that they bring about in people.
So at your next funeral, especially when speaking with the family, maybe take a breath here and there to bring the smoothest chit-chat possible.