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Funeral Etiquette

A Guide to Attending a Funeral Service

Experts on funeral etiquette are in almost universal agreement that quietly and calmly are the best two adverbs to keep in mind for anyone concerned about how to behave at a funeral.

Just about anything one does at a funeral will be considered acceptable – and probably even helpful – by a grieving family, so long as it done quietly and calmly. A gentle handshake and calm smile is more than sufficient when greeting a person who has lost a loved one. No words are even needed, necessarily, experts say. But if you do choose to say something, keep it calm and quiet, they advise. It is important to also contact a member of the family member or friend, to verify if there is any dress code. If this information is unatainable, one might wear a simple outfit in a darker color.

Also, this is a great time to show support for the family emotionally, but not necessarily through actions. In other words, if you would like to present the family with a memorial keepsake gift, bouquet of flowers, or even a card - it is recommended to do so after a few days after the service. Needless to say the family of the dearly departed would have plenty on their minds during and after the service, so actually giving them something (especially something they would need to carry around with them) may prove to be overwhelming. Additionally, offering the gift a few days after the service might be a great reminder that while the service is over, they are still in your thoughts. As stated before, however - make sure to keep any gester simple and calm.

Here is a funny story that demonstrates how funeral etiquette should not be handled. These events might have turned disastrous, had the grieving family members not had a patient disposition and a grand sense of humor.

An elderly couple arrived at a funeral hoping to show support for the family of an acquittance who has passed away.

The man was hard of hearing, and the woman was in a wheel chair, entirely dependent upon her husband to move around the building. Things began calmly as the couple arrived a few minutes before the service and, after exchanging pleasant greetings with members of the deceased man's family, the husband pushed his wife to a spot in the pews near the middle of the sanctuary. The two quietly settled in for the service, and all seemed to be going well.

But, as the preacher began speaking, the man's week hearing started causing problems. The woman saw that he was struggling to understand the pastor, and, whispered, “Do you think we should move a little closer?”

He, of course, had trouble understanding her, so he responded with “What did you say, dear?” And, it was a little louder than it probably needed to be.

Whether attending a funeral for a friend or family member, good etiquette is a must!But her response was almost a yell – right in the middle of the very quiet, solemn church.

“I think we need to move to the front. You're not going to be able to hear!”

“You think we need to move, you say?” came the very loud response.

“Yes, let's move!” yelled the woman.

So, the man stumbled over at least 3 other people in the pew as he pushed his wife to the center aisle and then to a pew on the very front row.

Fortunately, a good humored witness said, the preacher's hearing was probably as bad as the mans. So, if he noticed the commotion in his audience, he didn't betray a thing. He simply went on his remarks, and the service was not slowed one bit.

Though the couple was now sitting in pews that had been reserved for family and close friends of the deceased, no one acknowledged the breach. In fact, one man on the row behind reached out and gently patted both of them on the shoulder and smiled as if to say, “Thanks for being here! Your presence is a blessing to us all.”

After the funeral, the entire grieving family gave warm, friendly greetings to both the man and his wife, and not a word was uttered about their glaring violation of funeral etiquette.

So, perhaps another word should be added to the experts list of two we mentioned in the opening paragraph. Forgiveness.

Funeral etiquette may very well be violated accidentally at just about any memorial service, and, for best results, the violation is best if quickly forgiven.

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