Like everything in society, funeral etiquette has evolved over time. While common sense is your best guide, here are a few dos and don'ts of funeral etiquette.
- Express your condolences – It’s not easy to come up with the right words for someone who has just lost a loved one. You don’t need to be a poet. Simply saying, “I am sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family”, is enough. If you can’t be at a funeral service in person, sending a card or leaving a message on a memorial website is a perfect way to express your sympathy.
- Dress appropriately – Gone are the days of dressing up in all black for a funeral, but jeans and a t-shirt aren't acceptable either. You should still dress to impress. Try to avoid any bright or flashy colors. Wear what you would wear to a wedding or a job interview.
- Sign the register book – The family will keep the register book as a memento for years. Be sure to include your full name and relationship to the deceased. Feel free to leave a message.
- Give a gift – You don’t need to go overboard with your gift - it is the thought that counts. Suitable gifts include: flowers; a donation to the charity of the family’s choice, or you can make a commitment of service to the family at a later date. A commitment of service can be something as simple as cooking dinner for them, offering to clean up their house, or any of the “little” things that may be neglected while a family deals with death. Make sure you provide a signed card so the family knows who gave the gift.
- Keep in Touch – You may feel that the family needs their space and time to grieve, but a simple phone call or note after the funeral lets the family know you care. With social networking, leaving a quick note is as simple as a click of a mouse. The months following a death is when grieving friends and family need the most support.
- Turn your cell phone off – Your phone ringing will be highly inappropriate and will cause a disturbance. Turn any ringers or notifications off. Even better, leave your phone at home or in your car. A funeral is not the time to be texting or checking your messages.
- Be afraid to remember the good times – Funerals are obviously a time of grieving and mourning, but remembering the good times helps with the healing process. Sharing a funny and appropriate story is acceptable, and in some cases, it's exactly what the deceased would have wanted.