When the line forms at a funeral visitation, it gives the chance for every attendee to offer his or her condolences to the grieving family. Most people in attendance understand the importance of brevity—they'll approach you, share some words of encouragement and let you know that you're in their thoughts, and then move along. There are sometimes other attendees, however, who either don't know or don't care about the protocol in this situation, and their actions indicate that they're more than comfortable with taking up your time. As you plan the events of the day, you should also have a plan for dealing with this situation. Here's some advice.
Try to Wrap Up the Conversation
One strategy for dealing with such individuals in a gentle manner is to use phrases that indicate you're wrapping up the conversation. After you've spoken with the person for a few moments, saying something such as "Well, we really appreciate you being here" or "Thanks again for coming" can send a message that you're bringing the exchange to a close. Another approach is to indicate that you can continue the conversation afterward. For example, you might say, "I'm definitely interested in hearing more about your memories, so I'll look for you after the service is over."
Explain the Situation
The above strategy can be your first line of defense against individuals who monopolize your time and slow down the visitation line, but not everyone will pick up on the subtleties of what you say. For others, you'll need to be a little more direct—but take care to avoid being rude. Plan in advance how you'll react to such situations. One idea is to say something such as "I'm really enjoying chatting with you, but I'm also noticing that there are dozens and dozens of people waiting in line, and I don't want to hold them up. Would you be OK with continuing this conversation at a later date?"
Get Some Help
If you're planning the visitation and funeral service and are expecting that several attendees will be prolific talkers who may disrupt the proceedings, you may also feel anxious about dealing with them yourself. There's absolutely nothing wrong with explaining the situation to the funeral home director so that he or she can assign a staff member to watch the visitation line for such infractions. When something of this nature occurs, the staff member can approach, explain the time considerations, and gently encourage the person to move along.