For many one of the key ingredients in healing through the grieving process is visiting the grave site of the departed loved one. The chance to visit the cemetery or mausoleum provides a concrete way to demonstrate that the deceased has not been forgotten.

The Roman Catholic Church does not have official customs about how often friends and family should visit the cemetery. The grave site may be visited by friends and family to show honor and respect for the deceased.

Location of the Cemetery

In some communities, it was common for each church to have a small cemetery adjacent to the church building. The area allowed church members and their families to have a cemetery that would be close by and convenient for visiting. While this is less common in larger cities, there are many rural congregations today that still carry on this tradition.

In larger communities, the Catholic Church has appointed commissions to maintain and upkeep cemeteries for use by Catholics in the city. The commissions often work directly with the local parishes and funeral homes to provide convenient and comprehensive coverage for the Catholics during the time of grief. The commissions often sponsor websites that can assist the bereaved by making information about the cemeteries available. Local parishes can often provide similar information.

Remembering and Respecting

The cemetery is a place for families and friends to reflect on the lives of the deceased and the personal impact the deceased made upon their own life. Visiting the grave site is done with respect and honor, demonstrating a respectful, peaceful spirit. It is appropriate to bring flowers or wreaths to adorn the grave site. Minor housekeeping tasks like discarding trash or cleaning and weeding around the gravestone are ways to show respect for the deceased and family. The one who visits the cemetery is preserving the memory of the deceased for all who will visit at later times.

Though there are not prescribed times for visitation at cemeteries within the Catholic tradition, many find comfort and strength on visiting the grave site of a loved one on special occasions or holidays. It is appropriate for family and friends to visit on the birthday of the deceased, the wedding anniversary of the deceased, the anniversary of the death, or other special holidays. Some families pick a special day of the year to have loved ones gather and visit several grave sites on the same day.