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Because the nature of funerals and memorial services varies so widely today, attire isn’t limited to just black or dark gray. The exception may be when you’re a pallbearer or honorary pallbearer, in which case a dark suit is the usual attire unless the family requests something else. Remember, though, that it is a serious occasion and your attire should reflect that, especially if you are participating in the service. At the very least it should be clean, neat, and pressed as for any other important occasion.
When attending a service, be on time and enter the location where the funeral will be held as quietly as possible. If there are no ushers, remember that the seats closer to the front should be taken by very close friends, with acquaintances seating themselves in the middle or towards the rear.
If you arrive late, enter a row from a side aisle, not the center aisle. If a processional has begun, wait outside instead of trying to squeeze past those who are a part of the cortege and are waiting to walk down the aisle.
Cell phones and smartphones should be off or completely silent (not set to vibrate, which can still be audible during quiet moments) during any service. If silent rather than off, they should be kept away during the entire duration of the service, from waiting for the service to begin while assembled to mingling with others afterward. Out of respect, you should 100% present at all times—glancing at a phone even for a moment destroys that impression.
Children should be encouraged to attend the ceremonies surrounding the death of a family member or close friend to whatever degree they feel comfortable. Children learn through these experiences that death is a natural part of life and that rites are observed when someone dies.
Always consider a child’s age before taking them to a funeral, memorial service, or a prolonged visitation. Because young children can become restless or have trouble staying quiet, you may choose to have them stay at home with a sitter, or bring a sitter who can take them home if needed.
Older children should sit with their family, closest to whomever can give them the most comfort. The children should wear clothing that’s age appropriate and similar in style to that worn by adult family members.
For additional information of discussing death and funerals to children, CLICK HERE
When the notations “in lieu of flowers, please…” or “contributions to xyz would be appreciated” appear in an obituary, take your cue from the request. You may still send flowers in addition, but if you wish to send only one expression of sympathy, however, follow the family’s wishes and choose the contribution.
When you make a donation include a note saying whom it memorializes. Also add it on the notation line of the check or online donation form itself: “In memory of Rowan McGuire.” Include your address, as well, so the organization can alert the family as to where to send an acknowledgement. (You may want to confirm with the charity that they will notify the family of your donation.)
One of the reasons why people are so uncomfortable at a wake or funeral is because they’re not sure about what to do or say when offering condolences. While death may be an extremely uncomfortable topic, the worst thing you can do is ignore it when it occurs in the family of a friend or colleague. Doing nothing, or pretending it didn’t happen, is not good etiquette.
Whether you are offering condolences by calling, sending a card or flowers, or visiting, the important thing is to make a gesture that lets the family know you’re thinking of them and share their sorrow. (Although this appears to be changing slowly in today’s culture, such forms of communication as texts, emails, and tweets are still too informal for expressing sympathy or offering condolences.)
If you can’t visit in person, a telephone call expressing sympathy and offering condolences for the family is appropriate.
It is kind to call occasionally after the funeral to check on the family, especially if you were close to the deceased or have offered some type of tangible help. Let them know you care and if you still wish to help, make the offer again. Include them in social plans if possible, keeping in mind their state of mind.
A pre-printed sympathy card is the default choice for most people, and it’s an acceptable way to go. Consider, however, writing a personal note in the card.
Those who are bereaved may have an especially difficult time during holidays such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or the deceased’s birthday or wedding anniversary. You can help by sending cards to acknowledge those special occasions or the anniversary of the death.
Whether you express sympathy via a visit, call, or card, your choice of words is important. It is appropriate and kind to let the family know how much you will miss the deceased, how dear she was, how they made the world a better place, or what an inspiration he was.
It is inappropriate to make statements that imply that the death was for the best or that show disrespect for the deceased. It is also inappropriate to probe for details of the circumstances of the death or the person’s final moments. Be careful about making spiritual or religious references unless you know those sentiments will be well received.
In many cultures, it is customary to bring food to the home of the deceased, since there probably will be many relatives arriving who need to be fed, and the family may have neither time nor energy to cook meals. Often the family’s church will organize the bringing of meals, or you can call ahead to see what is needed and when, so the family isn’t overwhelmed. Be sure to either use a disposable container or label your dish with your name and phone number if you need it back.