Funeral Etiquette

Funeral EtiquetteWe had to attend attend a funeral recently. Funerals are sad, but they are also a celebration of life. Funeral etiquette is something that no one talks about and you don’t really learn about it until someone close to you dies. This past week got me thinking about how no one really talks about funeral etiquette and in particular how to teach funeral etiquette to kids. Kids need to be taught funeral etiquette so that they know what to do or say to a friend whose parent has passed away, how to show respect to a family member, relative or neighbor.

People often say they don’t know what to say or do when they hear someone has died, so they do nothing.  Don’t let that happen. It’s not always going to be easy, but contacting the family is the first thing to do. Keep in mind it’s what you would want them to do for you.

Here is what our family did this week and you can easily follow these funeral etiquette steps.

Call the family immediately:

  1. Tell them how sorry you are to hear about their news.
  2. Tell them you will keep their family in your thoughts and prayers (if you’re so inclined).
  3. Send them a card, in the mail, and let them know #1 and #2 again.  Have your kids sign the card, also.

Go to the funeral.  This is the ultimate way to show your support.

Funerals aren’t invitation events and you don’t get invited to attend one. To find out the particulars, check your local newspaper and/or the internet under the obituary section.  Look for funeral notices or the actual obituary. All of the details about time and place will be listed here.

Bring your kids with you to the funeral, when appropriate. If the person who passed away is someone your kids know and they’re familiar with, they should attend the services with you.

Dress up and wear dark clothing. Kids should be taught to dress for a funeral. At the funeral we attended, our son wore grey dress pants over his athletic shorts and our daughter wore a long, black skirt over her black jeans.

If the funeral services are not at a church or place of worship you usually attend, don’t worry about not knowing what to do. The priest or preacher will give direction and you can follow the lead of those around you.

Bring a meal to the family (don’t bring it to the funeral, but contact the surviving family and arrange for a future time). When someone dies in your family, no one feels like cooking or grocery shopping but meals need to be eaten. This is a wonderful gift and is much better than a floral arrangement.

People genuinely appreciate these things. Because deaths happen infrequently (fortunately), children (and a lot of adults) don’t have much experience with them and what should be done. Having good funeral etiquette is nothing different than good manners.

Be thankful for today and that you’re alive. Hug your spouse. Hug your kids.

Go Gingham related links:

Social Networking and Parents Behaving Badly
Piano Lessons – they’re an indulgence at our house – time and money
Homemade cards – simple and not very elaborate – great for kids!
Time tested family rules – who knew these would work?
Our weekly ritual – Technology Free Sundays
A beach weekend away – beautiful weather – in November?!

7 thoughts on “Funeral Etiquette

  1. My father just recently died (2 weeks ago) and most of this I can really agree with. Every card I received was cherished and I was so pleased to see those who attended the funeral. However, in my case, my siblings and I all decided to wear the brightest clothing we could. My father would have hated to see us all in dark colors, so I guess that point depends on how well you know the deceased and the family.


  2. Thanks, Sara, for this post. I grew up going to funerals, but it is interesting that many adults have never been to one. One thing that I would add is to arrive early, not at the start time. I’ve been to several funerals where every seat was taken. If it is not crowded, you can wait in the car or talk with friends that are at the memorial.


  3. Sara,

    Very nice article. I would add not to forget to sign the guest book. I lost my teenage son a few years ago, and — weeks later, when I was all alone with my thoughts — I got a great deal of comfort from seeing, on paper, how many people loved him in life. Thanks for the post.

    Kellie Alexander


    1. Kellie, I’m so sorry about the loss of you son. Along with arriving early (Michelle’s suggestion below), having a guest book out for people to sign is another great suggestion. I know that our family found comfort in reading all of the cards and letters that were sent when my Dad passed away suddenly.

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Kellie.


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