Funeral Etiquette

There’s more to it than what you wear. Certainly the accepted customs of dress and behavior in a funeral have changed over time, but courtesy never goes out of style.

What SHOULD you do for a funeral…making the Most of a Difficult Time

Compassionate attention to detail involves knowing what religious, ethnic or personal considerations you need to take into account. Also, being respectful of the emotions of close family members.

Here are a few things expected of you:

  • Family mourning the death of a loved oneOffer your sympathy. Often when encountering the finality of death. Simply saying “I’m sorry for your loss” is usually enough. Be respectful and listen closely when spoken to which shows you care.  Don’t be afraid to offer your own words of condolence.
  • Find out how to dress. If you do not know the wishes of the family, then dress conservatively.
  • Give a gift. It really doesn’t matter at all whether you give flowers, a donation to a charity or a non-financial commitment of service to the family; as always, “it’s the thought that counts.”  Be sure to provide the family with a signed card with your gift, so they know what gift was given by whom.  Include your return address. Gifts of household items (paper plates, cups, soft drinks, postage stamps, bathroom tissue etc.) and also food are always helpful at the family’s home.
  • Sign the register book. If your signature is not legible, please print.  Include the city and state you are from. This register is intended only for those that are attending the service.
  • Stay in touch.  It’s sometimes awkward at first for you, but for most people the grieving doesn’t end with a funeral. Contacts after the funeral are much appreciated.

What SHOULDN’T you do at the time of a funeral?

  • Looking through pictures of those we lovedYou shouldn’t feel like you have to stay long. If you make a visit during calling hours there’s no reason your stay has to be a lengthy one.
  • You shouldn’t be afraid to laugh. Remembering their loved one during the good times can mean sharing a funny story or two. Just keep in mind who your with and where you are regarding the appropriateness of the memory.  If others are sharing, you can too. There’s no reason those we’ve loved and lost can’t be talked about in a happy, positive tone.
  • You shouldn’t feel you have to view the deceased if there is an open casket. Only if you’re comfortable should you view the deceased in an open casket.
  • You shouldn’t let your children create a disturbance.  Never bring children to a service if you are at all concerned they may create a disturbance.   If you feel they might be, don’t be afraid to leave them with a sitter. But, if the deceased is a close family member or friend and has special meaning to the child  then include them in as many of the events surrounding the funeral as you feel appropriate.
  • You shouldn’t leave your cell phone on. Either leave your phone in your car or switch it off before going into the funeral.   If you can’t turn it off completely for some reason at least turn it on silent or vibrate, if the vibrate is not loud.
  • You shouldn’t skip the receiving line. Know what to say can be hard, but nothing is more appropriate than simply saying how sorry you are for their loss.  If they don’t know you, introduce yourself and how you knew the deceased.

When it’s all over, always remember to continue to offer support and love to the bereaved. The next few months are a time when grieving friends and relatives could need you most. Let them know that your support did not end with the funeral.

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