Even though common sense and good discretion are always the best guides to proper funeral etiquette, a few principles still apply.
Sympathy & Condolences Advice
Knowing what to say when someone dies is not easy. It isn't simple to write a sympathy card message either. For example, when writing your sympathy messages, you shouldn't write things like, "It was his time to go" which is almost offensive. Take some time and thought to choose a better message of sympathy such as, "I know that Edward was well loved and respected. He had great character and a big heart." Get your message of sympathy across using the best words you can.
Statements that get you into trouble are often your interpretation of the loss. Here are some areas you might want to avoid:
- Comments that minimize the loss, such as: "You must be relieved that this is over" or "It’s for the best that she didn’t linger."
- Inappropriate statements, such as: "This is a blessing in disguise."
- Any suggestion there is something good in the experience, such as: "Look on the bright side" or "Every cloud has a silver lining."
- Comparisons of your pain and your experience to the person who is grieving, such as: "You must feel as dreadful as I did when I got my divorce."
- Any reference that you know how they feel; it’s impossible to know how another person is feeling, even if you have experienced a similar loss.
Sending a card of sympathy, even if you are only an acquaintance, is appropriate. It means so much to the family members to know they are in good thoughts. The card should be in good taste and in keeping with your relationship to the family of the deceased.
A personal note of sympathy is very meaningful. Express yourself openly and sincerely. An expression such as "I'm sorry to learn of your personal loss" is welcomed by the family and can be kept with other messages.
Speaking to a family member gives you an opportunity to offer your services and make them feel you really care. If they wish to discuss their recent loss, don't hesitate to talk to the person about the deceased. Be a good listener.
Send a gift to the family
Appropriate gifts include flowers, a donation to a charity (oftentimes the family will have a preferred charity), food or a service. You can send your gift to the family's home or the funeral home. Please ensure you include a signed card with your gift so the family knows who sent it.
Sympathy flowers have long been considered the traditional way to express your condolences in times of mourning. Both comforting and beautiful, flowers serve as a beacon of hope, reminding us of the spirit of life. The bouquet you choose to send should convey your message of sympathy, taking into consideration how well you knew the deceased or how acquainted you are with the family, while still respecting the personal or religious beliefs of the family.
Attending the Service
It is suggested that one arrive at the funeral home at least ten minutes before the service begins. Funeral services usually start on time and it is considered rude to be late. Enter quietly and be seated. Do not conduct an animated discussion in the chapel; the mood should be somber. Do not try to talk with bereaved family members if you arrive early. The first few rows are reserved for family members. Please remember to turn off your cellphone.
Though it is no longer necessary to dress in black, do show respect when picking out your funeral attire. Conservative suits or dress-clothes, in dark, respectful colours are most appropriate according to funeral etiquette. It is advisable to avoid floral or busy patterns. Males should remove their hats at the door unless they are in uniform.