DOs and DON'Ts in a funeral

While at the funeral, make every effort to be respectful.
  • United StatesHaving recently returned from the funeral of a beloved family member, the subject of funeral etiquette is on my mind. This is a subject we tend to avoid unless faced with it, yet it is so important to know how one should conduct oneself during this inevitable and unavoidable occasion.
    Prior to the funeral, close friends of the family may visit the family’s home to express sympathy and offer assistance; this social call is referred to as a condolence visit. When you do this, it is thoughtful to bring food as a gift. The grieving family will welcome this gesture since it will be one less thing to attend to. If you are bringing a main or side dish, keep it vegetarian. Fruit is also a good choice.
    When offering your sympathy, avoid dwelling on negative aspects, such as hardships or adversity the deceased may have experienced, or on the sadness of the situation. Instead, share fond memories of the person and focus on the happiness of the person’s soul returning to God. Keep your visit short, unless a family member is alone and clearly needs a listening ear. 
    If you don’t feel close enough to the deceased’s family to visit them at their home, your personal condolences may be offered later at the post-funeral reception. If you live far away from the family, then a brief condolence phone call is acceptable.
    Always go to the funeral if you are able; the bereaved family will never forget that you attended, knowing that attending a funeral is inconvenient. Dress in modest attire in subdued colors to show respect for the family and the occasion. While white or black clothing is no longer expected, bright colors are best left for other events.   
    If you have children who are too young to understand what is going on, it is better not to bring them to the funeral. Very young children might be noisy or disruptive, and could also be upset by the displays of grief that may surround them. Children old enough to understand the purpose of the funeral may accompany you, but tell them beforehand what to expect and how to behave. 
    Plan to arrive early to allow time for parking and signing the guestbook. When signing, be sure to record your first and last name and, if appropriate, also state your relationship to the deceased, such as “colleague”, “friend”, or “college roommate”. If you include a message, keep it short and write something that will provide comfort to the family. 
    As you enter the room for the funeral, refrain from asking the grieving family how they are doing or engaging them in conversation. A sympathetic nod, hug, or touch is appropriate and all that is needed at the time. Find your seat quickly, making sure to leave the front rows for family members. Close friends usually sit in the rows just behind the family, and acquaintances or co-workers generally sit further back.       
    While at the funeral, make every effort to be respectful. Turn off all electronic devices, don’t eat or drink anything, and refrain from chatting with those around you. If a religious service is part of the funeral, be respectful whether or not you agree with the observances; you are showing respect for the deceased and the family, not agreement with the religion. And unless you have a real emergency, don’t leave the service early.
    After the ceremony there may be a procession to the burial site, followed by a post-funeral reception which may be catered in a rented space, held in a private dining area of a restaurant, or prepared in someone’s home. This gathering is the appropriate time to greet the members of the deceased’s family and express gentle words of comfort. If some family members are not acquainted with you, introduce yourself and mention how you knew their loved one. Keep your conversation brief to allow others a chance to express their condolences. It is alright to spend some time talking quietly with other mourners, but try not to stay overlong.   
    If you are unable to attend the funeral, sending a sympathy card is a kind gesture. When adding a personal note, be sensitive about what you write, avoid clichés, and offer heartfelt expressions of support. Condolence emails may be alright if you are a business colleague or an acquaintance rather than a close friend or family member, but a traditional sympathy card is always the best choice.
    You might also want to send flowers or make a donation to a charity specified by the family in memory of the deceased. Flowers may be sent to either the funeral location or to the family’s home, accompanied by a card with a personal note. Many charities have made provisions for charitable donations to be made online in memory of someone, and usually will send a note to the family informing them of your gift.     
    In the weeks following the funeral, staying in touch with the family to see if there is anything they need is a thoughtful gesture. A card, a phone call, or an invitation to go out for lunch or to have dinner at your home would most likely be very appreciated by people trying to cope with loss. Let them know they are still in your thoughts, and they will always remember your kindness.
    By Shashi Dosaj
    (Courtesy: India West)


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