Funeral Etiquette – By The Lady At Death’s Door
First of all, know that your presence is what’s most important.
That you care enough to show up, says that you are a true friend, and that you wish to pay your respects.
What to Wear
Something your granny would approve of. If a woman’s high heels are such that they make her legs wobble like a new-born calf when she walks, they’re likely not the right attire.
Having said this, if what you’re wearing is tempting you to stay away, don’t. Don’t stay away. Show up, pay your respects, and rest assured that everyone is too busy worrying about how they themselves look, that your outfit will barely be noticed at all.
Clean and covered sums it up nicely.
What to Say
Do not offer any of the following pithy platitudes; They’re in a better place. God only takes the best. At least they’re not suffering.
Do say something meaningful and simple such as; I’m sorry for your loss. My condolences.
Do share stories about the deceased. It helps the healing process for everyone, even yourself.
What to Do
Don’t panic. Death is part of life, something that no one will escape.
Check the website of the funeral home first. This will help to determine directions, visitation, service and reception information. Send flowers or make a donation if you feel compelled. Call the funeral home and staff will answer your questions.
If you belong to a cultural or religious group, you will know the tradition. If not, don’t worry. No one expects you to be anything but yourself. Again, your presence means everything.
This is an invitation by the family for their community of friends, neighbours, extended family and colleagues to come out to offer support. Without a visitation, people often don’t know what to do.
Whether or not you think being there makes a difference, I can tell you from experience that everyone who shows up makes a difference. Grief is a nasty ride, and knowing that people care goes a long way to adjusting to life without a loved one.
Memorial? Mass? Graveside Service? Scattering? Relax…show up and participate in whatever way you feel compelled or able.
Driving in Procession
Often this is a logistics nightmare. Start by backing in to your parking space. This will ensure no one will be slowly backing out and holding up the folks who do not wish to drive in procession, or family members who wish to position their cars behind the funeral coach.
Generally speaking the order of procession is; Funeral Director’s lead car, funeral coach (hearse), limousine (or family cars if they’re driving themselves), followed by everyone else.
Some people have a public committal service, and others wish a private final disposition. All of these details will be available at the funeral home; on the website, memorial cards, etc. Dress for the weather. In other words, during cold winters, bundle up.
This usually happens after all of the visitation and ceremony have been completed. Receptions can be private (family or close friends only), or for anyone who came to the funeral. This is an opportunity to share a meal and visit. Eating together has always been part of human ritual.
Children and Funerals
We often are asked whether people should bring their children. Absolutely. How else will they learn that death is part of life, that people grieve, and that honouring a human life is a sacred part of being human? Think of it as a teaching opportunity; how to interact in more formal social circumstance. Besides that, Funeral Directors appreciate and welcome children whose very presence reminds us all how wonderful and precious life is.
If you are a parent who let’s your children use the coffee lounge as a science lab, and parts of the furniture as weapons, we will escort them to your side and advise you to supervise them. Should this fail, we will tell them zombie stories and give them coffee-spiked cocoa.