Like everything in society, funeral etiquette, and what is expected of you has evolved over time. As always common sense and good discretion is the best guide to proper funeral etiquette. Here are a few do’s and don’ts 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 good alternative.
- Dress appropriately – Gone are the days when you were expected to dress in all black for a funeral. Though your attendance to a visitation or funeral is more important than what you are wearing, respectful clothing is a good way of honoring the family of the deceased.
- Sign the register book – The family will keep the register book as a memento for years. Be sure to include your full name, and address, and relationship to the deceased if you think the family may not know you very well.
- Give a gift – Your presence with the family at this difficult time is the biggest gift. If you feel moved to do more, flowers, making a meal, or contributing to charity in the deceased's name are all appropriate.
- 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 may need the most support.
- Be afraid to remember the good times – Funerals are obviously a time of grieving and mourning, but remembering the good times helps with the healing process. Sharing a funny and/or appropriate story is not only acceptable, but welcomed.
- Be afraid to bring children - One of the ways we learn is by experiencing. Oftentimes children are denied the opportunity to attend visitations or funerals because we think it will be too "hard" on them. Of course, each parent knows their child best, but sometimes the parents may be the ones who may be having the "hard" time with the idea of death and funerals. Children can be very resilient and may ask some "matter of fact," meaningful questions. This is an opportunity to help the child grow in their understanding of life, rather than shielding them from it. You may not know the answers to all of their questions, and that is ok, but they will know you cared enough to be there with them.