Death and Dying: Funeral Etiquette Tips

When you go to a funeral, there are a lot of unstated but very important rules to follow. Ultimately, the consequences for not following them are primarily a slight decline in your social status, but sometimes it can be embarrassing to commit a faux pas during a time when people are so obviously hurting. The following are some ways you can respectfully pay your respects, and be seen as a responsible member of society.

Your Outfit

When you go to a funeral, the best type of attire is something very formal and black. Black is a traditional color for funerals because it was thought that the spirit of the dead couldn’t follow you home if you wore that color. However, you should also observe some respectability — black shorts or a black miniskirt are not generally welcome attire at a funeral.

Whom to Talk To

The people you should talk to at a funeral first are the immediate family members of the deceased. These are the people who are most likely to be the deepest in mourning, so they should be the ones you console the most if they need it. Try to be genial and relaxed, and keep your body language open. While random hugs are rare, they can happen. Give your first conversation option to the bereaved family, and then make the rounds to everyone.

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What to Discuss

Try to keep up a mixture of asking people how they’ve been and their plans for the future balanced with discussing the deceased. People often have fun stories to tell about their friend or loved one, and listening to these stories may give you an impression of why the mourners showed up. Sometimes, after a long funeral of hearing about the person, you may feel sad to have not known them better than you did.

How Long to Stay

How long you stay at the funeral is your own decision, and there are no hard and fast rules for it. However, a good way to think about it is that when you’ve said whatever you wanted to say to the deceased, when any religious happenings you can accept have happened and after you’ve spoken to any people you may wish to address, it’s okay to leave. Just say one polite and caring salutation to each member of the bereaved family and tell them things such as that you’re sorry for their loss, and move quietly out the door.

When you go to a funeral, there aren’t many major rules. Overall, it’s mostly a matter of being polite and respectful to the people who have just lost someone special. Keep that in mind and you’ll be fine.

About the Author: Darius Danzer is a funeral home assistant. He helps loved ones do everything from choosing a funeral casket to writing obituaries and has seen his share of awkward moments at funerals.

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