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Funeral Etiquette

A Quick Look At Funeral Etiquette

Funerals are particularly difficult times and because it’s normal to be at a loss as to what to say, following a few funeral etiquette essentials can help you not to say or do the wrong thing. When someone dies, one of the first things to do is to pay a visit to the grieving family. It can be for only a short while, but the visit indicates that you are there for them and care about the person who died and what the family is going through. If you are extremely close, you can offer to help them out in any way that might be necessary.

Sometimes the visit takes place at the family’s home and sometimes at a funeral home. Proper funeral etiquette during the visit is just to offer your condolences to the family members and say something good about the person who died. If someone wants to talk, be considerate and attentive. The loss of a friend or loved one is an emotional time, so if you are emotional and cry, don’t worry about it. It is perfectly natural for the grieving to cry and nothing to be ashamed of when it happens in public.

Many times the visit is at a funeral home and may involve a brief ceremony, depending on the religion of the deceased.  When you arrive, proper funeral etiquette is to view the body or the casket and pay your respects. Depending on your religion, you might kneel and pray or simply stand and offer up a prayer. Next, it is appropriate to greet the family members. Hugs and handshakes are customary, depending on how well you know the family. If you know the person who died from school or work but don’t know the family, it is good if you introduce yourself.

There is no particular amount of time that is appropriate to stay at a visitation. Do not leave during the middle of a prayer service or ceremony. There are many customary ways to offer condolences, such as by sending flowers, donating to a charity in lieu of flowers, particularly if requested by the family, or by religious custom, such as giving a Mass card, which indicates a Mass will be said for the deceased at a later date. It is also usual for food, such as casseroles or desserts to be taken to the family’s house. Sending a food basket is another alternative.

Funeral etiquette at the funeral ceremony will depend on the person’s or family’s beliefs and religion. Family members are always seated in the first few rows. Pallbearers, who are usually close friends of the deceased, will carry the casket to the altar and out again, should the ceremony be held inside a church. Many times today funerals are held at funeral homes, in which case the casket will already be up front.

Sometimes funerals included memories, prayers, and readings by friends and family and sometimes they don’t. If it is not in the middle of winter, funeral etiquette is to drive in a procession with your headlights on to the cemetery. There will be another much shorter service or prayer time and everyone will exit. It is customary for there to be a reception either at the family’s home, or perhaps a dinner in some kind of public place. If the reception is at the home of the family, it is polite to ask if you can help clean up afterwards.




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