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Funeral Etiquette

Over the years, some of our funeral traditions have changed. New ideas like scattering ceremonies and celebrations of life have given families more options than ever for remembering their loved ones.

 

But other things haven’t changed, like how to pay your respects in the most respectful way you can. The basics of funeral etiquette can help guide you during this time, no matter how you have chosen to celebrate your loved one. Below, we offer guidance so that you won’t have to worry about what to do when the time comes.

 


 

What To Say

It can be difficult to know what to say to someone who is experiencing loss and grief. But it’s important to remember that no one expects you to fix their grief, and especially not through words. Sometimes, the best thing you can offer someone in this position is reassurance and love.

 

 

One of the most meaningful things you can say in this situation is a simple, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

If you are in a position to help, you can add, “Please let me know how I can help you get through this.”

 

 

If you personally knew the deceased, you can let their family know how much they meant to you by saying something like, “I was so sorry to hear of Sarah’s passing. She was a wonderful friend to me.”

 

What Not To Say

Everyone grieves differently, and you never know how a certain person is handling loss. Avoid minimizing their loss, or suggesting their loss was for the best in any way through statements like, “They’re not suffering anymore,” or, “Everything happens for a reason.” These sort of statements might not be comforting for a family who misses their loved one terribly.

 

You should avoid talking about the cause of death, which might be a sensitive subject for the family. Also avoid centering yourself by bringing up your own grief. You don’t want the family to feel that, on top of everything else, they have to comfort you, too.

 

What To Wear

It is becoming more and more common to wear bright colors to funerals. However, if you are at all unsure about what to wear, it is safest to wear black or other subdued colors, like gray, tan, brown, or dark blue or green.

 

You can also reach out to whoever invited you, and ask them what they will be wearing. Try not to wait until the day of the funeral to ask, so that you have plenty of time to plan your outfit.

 

What To Give

Flowers can be a beautiful reminder of life and joy at a funeral. However, it is important to remember that any gift you give should not create any additional work for the family. If you choose to give flowers, include a vase so that the family doesn’t have to scramble to find one.

 

You can also offer to cook for the family so that they have one less thing to worry about. If possible, plan meals that will stay good in the refrigerator for several days, like a casserole, and give food in disposable containers so the family won’t have to do any extra dishes or find time to give dishes back to you.

 

The family’s children should not be forgotten during this time. Death can be very confusing for kids, and small gifts like stuffed animals or books can be comforting for children who are experiencing loss.

 

What To Do (And Not Do) At A Funeral Service

The best rule of thumb for funeral service etiquette is to never draw attention to yourself. Try your best not to be late, and if you are, enter the service as quietly as possible. Typically, the first several rows of seats are reserved for the deceased’s closest family and friends. If you are not part of this group, find a seat toward the middle or back of the venue.

 

Remember to silence your phone before you enter the service. Any amount of noise from a phone can be distracting and disrespectful, even vibrations. Because of this, it’s best to turn your phone off completely.

 

If there is a visitation or viewing, remember that you are not the only one who wants to pay your respects. Keep your time with the family and the casket brief so that the line keeps moving. You will have the chance for longer conversations with the family after the service.

 

 

We are here to support Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard families through this difficult time. If you have any questions about funeral etiquette, please contact us. We are always available.

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