Also known as social graces, the rules of etiquette ease us through challenging social situations. Most of us know how to behave in common circumstances but unless you've been to a lot of funerals, you may not know the rules of proper behavior in this often uncomfortable social situation.
The Basics of Funeral Etiquette
Emily Post once said, "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others." Much of what we know today about etiquette comes from this woman, who published her first book of etiquette in 1922. When you use those words as your guide, the rules of funeral etiquette become easier to understand.
What to Wear
Tradition has always required a certain level of formality in dressing for a funeral. However, today's end-of-life services are so varied – ranging from the traditional funeral to the often more relaxed celebration-of-life – that it's challenging to know exactly what's expected of you.
The advisors on the Emily Post website tell readers that "attire isn't limited to just black or dark gray. Remember, though, that it is a serious occasion and your attire should reflect that, especially if you are participating in the service. At the very least it should be clean, neat, and pressed as for any other important occasion."
What to Say
No one expects you to say more than a few words and bereaved family members are often unable to give you their full attention anyway. So, keep it short and make it sincere.
"I'm so very sorry for your loss" may work very well. If you have time to add to those seven words, you might want to share a personal story about a time you shared with the deceased. But, watch closely for signs that your audience needs to move on to receive condolences from other funeral guests.
When speaking to other funeral guests, speak quietly. This is not a time to discuss business or share stories about your recent vacation. Instead, focus on sharing and listening to stories of times spent with the deceased.
What to Do
If you're unsure about what actions to take when being led by a pastor or celebrant, simply follow along. If you're not comfortable, don't draw attention to your unwillingness to participate. Be discrete and respectful of others.
Always leave your cell phone in the car or at the very least, turn it to vibrate mode or turn it off.
How to Handle the Visitation
A visitation, or viewing, is a time prior to the funeral where guests are invited to view the casketed body of the deceased. While it is customary to show your respects to the deceased by stepping up to the casket, you may not feel comfortable doing so. That's perfectly alright; no one wants you to be unnerved by the experience, so focus your attention instead on providing comfort to the bereaved family.
After the Funeral
If the deceased is to be buried following the service, the funeral officiant will announce the location of the interment. If the cemetery is not located on the grounds of the funeral home, there will be a processional of cars formed to escort the hearse to the cemetery. Unless they have chosen to have a private burial, those in attendance are welcome to join in the procession however, don't feel obligated to do so. You may simply leave the funeral at that time.
The Funeral Reception
Many families today hold a post-funeral gathering where food and refreshments are served. While this is a time to share memories, laughter, and even tears, your behavior at a funeral reception needs to remain respectful.
Follow-up with Kindness
If you've not already done so, this is a good time to send the family a sympathy note or card. About a week after the funeral, pick up the phone to check in with them to see if there's anything they need.
"Good manners," wrote Emily Post, "reflect something from inside – an innate sense of consideration for others and respect for self." We think that just about sums it up; no matter the situation – wedding, baptism, dinner party or cocktails with friends – her observations about good manners (when followed) will serve us all well.
Often times when it comes to kids, we aren't always sure how to help them grieve. We are fortunate in the Central Ohio area to have a number of wonderful resources. More information can be found by calling Ohio Health at 614-533-6065. Cornerstone of Hope offers programs not only for kids but adults as well. They can be reached at 614-824-4285 or www.cornerstoneofhope.org. They have programs starting at various times and on various subjects.
Although death is one of the things that are certain in life, most if not all people still find it difficult to deal with it when placed in this situation. Grieving for the death of a loved one is a long process that takes time and acceptance. However, with the help and concern of other people, this process is made a little easier for the people who are in grief. People who attend funerals must be aware of the proper etiquette to be observed during this time and observe the do’s and don’ts.
The most common and sincere way of extending your sympathy is to say “I am sorry” to the bereaved for their loss. These three words are enough to convey to the grieving person that you understand the importance of the deceased person in their life and that you share their sadness. These words are enough to show that you sincerely care for the bereaved.
More than talking, listening is very important during funerals. Studies show that people who have suffered losses accept their situation quickly with the help of other people who are willing to listen and help them deal with their grief. During this period, the bereaved needs to express his sadness and anger together with the memories of the deceased person. The need to talk is an outlet of letting out all of their feelings about the situation. A person does a lot of help simply by listening. It is best not to push the bereaved to talk about his lost loved one rather this should be a spontaneous thing. You should refer to the deceased person by name, using no other terms. Memories are bound to come up during your conversation with the aggrieved, and no matter how repetitive it might become, just try to be patient in listening.
Nonverbal actions are equally important during funerals. A gentle, sincere hug or a shoulder to cry on is what a bereaved person needs to feel to know that he is not alone in his grief. Death brings out the vulnerability of every person hence the simplest touch could be a source of strength for the grieving people.
Grieving is normal as it forms part of our complex emotions as human beings. Grief is not something we can simply set aside. During funerals, it is suggested that you ask the bereaved if you can do anything to help them. Even if they do not have anything in mind, it helps a lot on the part of a grieving person to know that he is surrounded by friends that care for his welfare. Support in whatever form will be greatly appreciated by the bereaved and will weigh favorably on their acceptance of their situation. Death is hard to accept but can be made easier by the love extended by people who truly care.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I have learned never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced among those who knew they were experiencing their last days. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn't work so hard.
This came from every male patient I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. By creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks, and it was not always possible to track them down. It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It all comes down to love and relationships in the end.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
Life is a choice. It is your life. Choose consciously, choose wisely and choose honestly. Choose happiness.
Thanks to Bronnie Ware, from: AARP, February 1, 2012 for this great reminder. To read the entire article go to http://tinyurl.com/7rmm8sg
Have you checked your will lately? Have you had more children, marital status changed, changed jobs, or bought property? These are just a few of the reasons why you may want to update your will. If your estate plan does not account for such events, after your death, your estate may not be distributed as you would have wanted.