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Like everything in society, funeral etiquette and expectations have evolved over time. However, common sense and good discretion is still the best guide to proper funeral etiquette. We have come up with a list of dos and don'ts to help you avoid uncomfortable situations.
- Express your condolences – It’s not easy to express sympathy to someone who has just lost a loved one. You don’t need to be a poet, though, to say how you feel. Simply stating “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, send a card or leave a message to express your sympathy.
- Dress appropriately – Gone are the days of dressing in all black for a funeral, but jeans and a t-shirt are still frowned upon. You should dress to impress, while avoiding any bright or flashy colors. As a good rule of thumb, consider wearing what you would for a wedding or a job interview.
- Sign the register book – The family will keep the register book as a memento for years to come. Be sure to include your full name and relationship to the deceased.
- Give a gift – It really is the thought that counts, so there is no need to go overboard with your gift. Suitable gifts include; flowers, donation to the family's charity of choice, or commitment of service to the family at a later date. A commitment of service can be something as simple as cooking them dinner, offering to clean their house, or performing any small errand that might be neglected in light of the family's mourning. Always provide a signed card with your 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. The months following the death are especially difficult, and they will need the most support during this time. With social networking, leaving a quick note of support and love is easier than ever, but do try to reach out in traditional ways as well.
- Bring your cell phone – There are few things more inappropriate than a ringing phone during a memorial service. You can disable notifications, but it is even better to leave your phone at home or in your car. A funeral is never the time to text or check notifications.
- Allow your children to become a distraction – Children are aware of death at an early age. If the funeral is for someone that was close to them (grandparent, aunt, uncle), they should be given the option to attend. We recommend using your best judgment as a parent. If you feel it is not appropriate for your child to be there or that it might cause a commotion, opt for the babysitter instead.
- Be afraid to remember the good times – Obviously, funerals are a time for grief and mourning, but remembering the good times can help with the healing process. Sharing a funny and appropriate story is acceptable, and in some cases, this is exactly what the deceased would have wanted.
- Overindulge - If food or drink is served, do not over do it. Try to eat before the service so that you are not parked at the snack table. If alcohol is served, limit yourself to one or two. This prevents the risk of becoming inebriated and doing something inappropriate that you and the family may never forget.
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