Funeral Etiquette

How to Behave

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The very first thing that one must do when a death occurs is acknowledge it.

Common sense and discretion are always the best guides to proper funeral etiquette. However there are a few principles which do apply. The death of a loved one leaves us feeling lost and not sure what to do. Your first reaction may be to help, but you may not be sure what to say. This section of our web site has been designed to offer some suggestions, which you may find helpful. We hope it will give you some insight on how you can be of comfort to the bereaved.

While you may feel hesitant and uncomfortable about intruding on the family during their grief, it is important for intimate friends of the bereaving family to visit the family?s home to offer sympathy and help. This helps to assure the family that while their loved one is gone, they are not alone. While they are suffering a great loss, they are still connected to the living. The bereaving family has to take care of funeral arrangements, and a close friend(s) may be very helpful with childcare and food preparation. You may visit any time within the first few weeks of death. Additional visits are usually welcome, depending upon the circumstances and your relationship with the family.

In addition to expressing sympathy it is acceptable, if you wish, to share with the family your memories of the deceased. Family members may simply want you to listen to their expressions of sorrow or memories of their loved one. You may prefer to visit the family at the funeral home. This setting may be more comfortable for you and the family, as they are prepared for visitors.

While there is no substitute for a personal visit if you are able to do so, there are many other ways to express your sympathy.

Flowers can be a great comfort to the family and may be sent to the funeral home or to the residence. If sent to the residence, a plant or a small vase of flowers is recommended showing a person?s continued sympathy for the family. The florist places an identification card on the floral tribute. If the family asks that donations should be made in lieu of flowers, you should honor that request.

A memorial gift is always appropriate, especially when the family has requested such a gift in lieu of flowers. Usually the family will designate a specific organization or charity. Remember to provide the family?s name and address to the charity so they can send proper notification. It is acceptable to mention your gift in a sympathy note without mentioning the amount of the gift.