The Etiquette for Visiting a San Diego Cemetery

When you visit a cemetery, there are certain etiquette rules and protocols to follow. Many people are unfamiliar with the expectations in this realm, and offend other people without even realizing it or without understanding why. 

Visiting a cemetery is something almost everyone does in their lifetimes, so it makes sense to take the time to inform oneself about how to act and what to do when visiting one.

The twenty-five cemeteries within the city limits of San Diego are beautiful, thanks to southern California’s pleasant climate. Chances are that when you visit a cemetery there, you will be greeted by a warm and sunny day. However, cemeteries are places of much sadness, and visitors are expected to show respect for both the dead and the living friends and relatives that are mourning their losses there.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about conducting yourself properly in a cemetery. Hopefully, you have not suffered a loss in the recent past, but this will help to prepare you for cemetery visits in the future.

Be Respectful

The most crucial thing when visiting a cemetery is that you be respectful at all times. In order to accomplish this, you should practice meticulous self-awareness. Everyone mourns differently, so what is right for you may be far different than what is right for someone else, but the important thing is that you should be vigilant to ensure that nothing you are doing is affecting anyone else present in a negative way.

This can be achieved by being aware of the people around you and by speaking in a low volume tones when others are near. Give way to other mourners and nod politely as they pass. Crying, silence, and even reasonable laughter as a loved one is remembered is welcome; shouting and loud music are not.

Children are welcome in cemeteries, but before your visit, you should inform and remind them that a cemetery is meant to be a place of reflection and peace. Yelling, running, and climbing on gravestones is not allowed, and children should be warned that they will be punished if they cannot demonstrate respect.

Follow the Rules

Every cemetery has rules and in many cases, they are posted on a sign in the cemetery or you can look them up online. These rules include information about the operating hours, the decorations mourners can add, and whether or not pets are allowed. Read them and follow them. Breaking any rules will be viewed as disrespectful.

Furthermore, be aware of the speed limit in the cemetery and follow it. Keep your car on the pavement; move over enough when you park to let other cars pass, but be careful not to drive on the grass or leave other obvious vehicle marks.

Keep Pets on Leashes

Pets mourn, too. Unless the cemetery rules state otherwise, it’s ok to bring a dog or other pet along with you. However, if you do, make sure you keep your pet on a leash at all times, and clean up after him or her, too.

Give Others Space

Be hyperaware of the other people in the cemetery around you that are mourning. Give others plenty of space. It’s unlikely that another family will come to visit the grave right next to the one you are visiting when you are there, but if another family is nearby, keep your voices low and give them the respect that they deserve. 

If there is an active funeral underway during your visit, steer clear. The mourners at that funeral should not even be aware of your presence. If the grave you wish you visit is close to an active funeral, it might be best to wait until it is over to go there.

Do Not Disturb Other Graves

Many people leave mementos and flowers at the graves of their loved ones. You should never touch or move any of these items. In fact, you should avoid touching gravestones of people you didn’t know altogether if you wish to be respectful.

The no-touching rule also applies to practices like gravestone rubbing. Unless you are taking a rubbing of a loved one’s grave, you should avoid this act. Even light touches can denigrate older markers.

Leave It As You Found It

Just like anytime you are out in a natural place, leave no trace of you ever having been there. Pick up your trash and take it with you. Don’t tromp through mud and leave footprints everywhere. Don’t pick flowers or pull branches off of trees. Respect cemetery wildlife.

Photograph Scenery, Not People

Many cemeteries, especially those in San Diego, are set in absolutely beautiful settings, and you may feel inspired to take some photographs. Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, for one example, sits upon Point Loma with breathtaking views in all directions. LaVista Memorial Park is another example of a lovely cemetery in the San Diego area. However, if you do choose to take pictures, capture only the scenery, not other mourners. 

Filmmaking Is Questionable

There have been at least hundreds of movies filmed in cemeteries, and it’s often exciting to visit these movie locations. However, you should think twice before filming anything in a cemetery without permission. You may accidentally capture other mourners in your video, and that is a disrespectful invasion of privacy by most people’s standards.

If you are a filmmaker that wishes to use a cemetery in a project, contact the caretaker or sexton to see if it is okay first, and find out the best times of the day or of the week to do it.

Leave Appropriate Mementos 

If you do choose to leave mementos at a loved one’s grave, consider whether or not they are appropriate for a cemetery. While flowers, stuffed animals, coins, flags, and other small things are likely welcome, things like alcohol and cigarettes are not, no matter how much your friend or family member loved those things while he or she was alive.

Visit a Cemetery Today

Even with all these rules, visiting a cemetery can be a pleasant experience. Visiting the grave of a loved one is a wonderful way to remember him or her and also will give you a chance to reflect on life and death. Even if you visit a cemetery in which no one you know is buried, they are serene, natural places, and you can often get a bit of a history lesson while you’re there, too.

If you’re looking for a beautiful place to be laid to rest, please contact us. We are family-owned and operated and we take pride in creating the best environment for remembrance of those who have passed.