Like everything in society, funeral etiquette and what is expected of you has evolved over time. As always common sense, good judgement and discretion are the best guide to proper funeral etiquette. Here are a few do’s and don’t's of funeral etiquette.
- Express your condolences – It’s not easy to come up with the words to offer sympathy to someone who has just lost a loved one. You don’t need to be a poet, simply saying something like “I am sorry for your loss, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family” is enough. If you can’t be at a funeral service in person, sending a card or leaving a message on a memorial website is a perfect way to express your sympathy.
- Dress appropriately – Gone are the days of dressing up in all black for a funeral. However, jeans and a t-shirt is not exactly adequate either. You should still dress to impress and avoid any bright or flashy colors. Wearing what you would wear for any formal setting, like a wedding or a job interview, would be the most appropriate.
- Sign the register book – The family will keep the register book as a memento for years. Be sure to include your full name and relationship to the deceased if applicable.
- Give a gift – You don’t need to go overboard with your gift, after all it is the thought that counts. Suitable gifts include; flowers, a donation to the charity of the family’s choice, or you can make a commitment of service to the family at a later date. A commitment of service can be something as simple as cooking them dinner, or offering to clean up their house, any of the “little” things that may be neglected while a family deals with a loss. Make sure you provide a signed card so the family knows who gave the gift.
- Keep in Touch – You may feel that the family needs their space and time to grieve, but a simple phone call or note after the funeral lets the family know you care. With social networking, leaving a quick note is as simple as a click of a mouse. The months following a death is when grieving friends and family need the most support.
- Bring your cell phone – Your phone ringing will be highly inappropriate and will cause a disturbance. If you must have your phone on you, be sure to turn any ringers or notifications off. Again, a little good judgement goes a long way, a funeral is not the time or place to be texting or checking your messages.
- Allow your children to be a distraction – From a very young age children are aware of death, if the funeral is for someone that was close to them (grandparent, aunt, uncle) they should be given the option to attend. However, if it is not appropriate for your child to be there and if you feel they will cause a commotion, it may be best to leave them with a babysitter. Or, check and see if your funeral home has made accommodations for young children at their establishment.
- Be afraid to remember the good times – Funerals are obviously a time of grieving and mourning. However, remembering the good times is imperative to the healing process. Sharing a funny and appropriate story is acceptable, and in some cases exactly what the deceased would have wanted.
- Overindulge - If food or drink is served, do not over do it. If alcohol is served, limit yourself to one or two, do not become inebriated and risk doing or saying something inappropriate.
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