Friday, February 17, 2017

Ms. Diane's Guide to Funeral Etiquette

If you are a loyal reader of this blog, you may recall my post on public transit etiquette, which you can read here.  My mother-in-law recently passed away, which made me see the need to write another etiquette blog post, this time on funeral etiquette.  Unlike the old days, people are no longer taught the proper way to pay their respects to those who have shuffled off this mortal coil (my apologies to William Shakespeare).  So here's my list of funeral etiquette items:

1.  If you know someone who has lost a loved one, please express your sympathy and condolences, either by attending the visitation, the funeral, or both, if possible.  Your friend or loved one is hurting and sad due to the loss of their loved one.  They deserve your support and sympathy. You will want and need their support when one of your loved ones die.  If you can't attend the visitation and/or funeral because of work or sickness or because you're out of town, send a sympathy card or send flowers. Obituaries will often list favorite charities of the deceased and a donation in the decedent's name is often very much appreciated by the family.  If you can't do any of these things, at least post a sympathy message online on the funeral home obituary listing or on the online newspaper obituary listing.  In these days of social media, you can't complain that you didn't know someone died, because people post their loved one's obituary on Facebook, etc.  If you are afraid you're going to miss a friend's or loved one's obituary, you can go to and set up an account to have them email you obituaries when the criteria you have set is met.  Here is the direct link to set up an account and a search: You can also search for obituaries at as well.

     2.   When you attend the visitation and/or funeral, please dress respectfully.  This does not mean holey jeans, T-shirts, and flip flops.  This means dress pants, a nice shirt and dress shoes. Ladies may wear a dress or a skirt and blouse if they would like.  Also, please take a shower and wash your hair. Perfume/cologne is nice, but don't drown yourself in it.  Some folks are allergic to too much scent.

    3.     When you get to the funeral home, don't forget to sign the guest book.  This will let the family know that you were there.  There may also be a place to write your mailing address.  This is to make sure that thank you notes get to the right addresses.  There will usually be a box located next to the guest book for you to put the sympathy card in you may have brought with you, if you didn't mail it beforehand.  There will also be memorial folders next to the guest book.  This will have information about the deceased, including dates of birth and death, where they were born and died, and other pertinent information.  I always pick up a memorial folder at every visitation I attend. When I run across them while cleaning out my purse or whatever other place I keep them in, it's nice to take a moment to read them and remember that person.

     4.     When you enter the viewing room, a family member will usually take you to the casket to view the deceased.  You do not need to touch the body if you're not comfortable doing so.  If you want, say something like, "She/he looks so peaceful," or "She/he looks very nice."  Be sure you shake hands with family members and friends of the deceased or, if you and they feel comfortable with it, you can give them a hug.  You don't need to stay for the entire visitation, unless there's a lot of people you haven't seen in a while and you want to chat.

      5.     There is a disturbing new trend of people taking selfies with the deceased in the casket.  This is highly disrespectful and very disgusting.  If you would like a photo of the deceased in the casket, please ask a family member if it's okay that you do this.

      6.    If you are asked by the funeral director or a family member to be a pallbearer (a person who helps put the casket in the hearse and takes the casket from the hearse to the grave site) and you are available to attend the funeral and the graveside service to assist, please say yes.  It is getting increasingly difficult to find pallbearers due to people having to work or they are not physically able to be a pallbearer.  This is not to sound sexist, but pallbearers are usually men.  Some funeral homes provide pallbearers for an extra fee, which the family has to pay.

      7.    If you attend the funeral, please stay off of your cell phone and turn off the ringer.  (Please do this during the visitation as well.)  Pay attention to the person conducting the funeral and the funeral director.  If the person conducting the funeral asks if anyone wants to say a few words about the deceased and you feel comfortable doing so, then go ahead, but don't go overboard.  A five minute speech should be sufficient.  If the funeral service has religious ceremonies, please participate even though you are not of that religion.

      8.     If you don't feel comfortable attending the graveside service, you don't have to.  Just tell the family goodbye and then leave before the cars line up for the funeral procession.  If you do decide to join the funeral procession, make sure you turn on your car's headlights and the flashers.  Funeral homes will put signs or flags on the cars in the processions so other drivers know the cars are part of the funeral procession.

      9.     This item is for people who in their travels meet up with a funeral procession.  Please, at the very least, stop until all of the cars in the funeral procession have passed by.  Do not cut in front of a car in the funeral procession.  If you are entering a highway from an entrance ramp and a funeral procession comes by, please do not enter the highway until all of the cars in the funeral procession have passed.  Do not cut in front of cars in a funeral procession on the highway; the cars all need to arrive at the same time at the cemetery.  Some people who are attending the funeral from out of town may not know where the cemetery is and they're depending on those cars in front of them in the funeral procession to show them the way. My mother-in-law's funeral procession drove down a major highway and cars entering the highway cut in front of our car and several other cars in the funeral procession.  It was very disrespectful. If a stop light changes from green to red while the procession is proceeding, the cars in the other direction should not proceed until the procession has cleared the intersection.  When my brother-in-law died, some blonde chick almost hit my sister-in-law's husband's truck by trying to go through an intersection before the funeral procession had passed through.

I hope these funeral etiquette tips are helpful and you remember them should a loved one or a friend passes away. If there is anything you think I missed, please comment below. Thanks as always for reading! See you next time!