funeral etiquette

A Guide to Funeral Etiquette

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Many of us have questions about proper funeral etiquette.  Here are some of the most common concerns people ask our team:

Do I send flowers?
Yes, it is a lovely tradition.

I do not directly know the person that has died, but I am a close friend of their relative. Is it okay for me to attend the funeral and or visitation?

Yes, any way that you can show support for your friend is encouraged. Attending the visitation and or funeral is a good way to let them know that they are in your thoughts during this rough time.

Do I have to attend both the visitation and the funeral?
This is really your choice. Of the two, the funeral is more important.

How long should I stay at the visitation?
It is best to stay at least long enough to pay your respects, and to be present for any special cultural practices.

Should I bring my children?
Children are welcome, provided they are well behaved and will not cause a disturbance.

What should I wear?
It all depends on the family. If nothing has been said, use your best judgment. Tasteful business attire is always appropriate. Dressing your best conveys a message of respect to the family.

What should I say to the bereaved?
It's not always easy to know what to say at a funeral, so keep it simple.  Express your sorrow, and let the bereaved person know you care. If you have a happy memory feel free to share it. But sometimes the best thing to say is nothing - just allow them to grieve.

What shouldn’t I say?
Although you may mean well, avoid phrases like:

  • It's part of God's plan
  • They're in a better place now
  • Everything happens for a reason
  • It's time to move on
  • Time heals all wounds

These comments will probably make them feel worse.

And remember: this is not the time for surprises. Don’t reveal a dark secret or tell an off-colour tale.

What should I do with my phone?
Bring your phone if you must, but turn it off. Don't text and do not even consider taking a selfie.

How can I help a friend or relative after a funeral?
Most likely, your friend or relative is still grieving and not able to articulate exactly what they may need.  Food is always welcome. Taking care of kids can be a big help. You could do chores, such as cutting the grass or shovelling snow. Helping to sort through belongings can bring much needed support and comfort, but only when the family is ready. If you have a special skill and you think it would help, be sure to offer it.

In general, you can never go wrong by asking yourself: "What would I appreciate right now?"

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