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Funeral Etiquette

Funerals are difficult, not only for the immediate family of the deceased, but also for those in support roles... the friends, relatives, and acquaintances in attendance. Common sense and discretion are always the best guides. However, a few basic principles still apply.

Upon Hearing of The Loss:

  • Be a good listener. If the family wants to talk about their loved one, let them. If they do not, don't pressure them to do so.
  • Refer to the deceased by name
  • Focus on the needs of the survivors, not on yourself or your grief.

Attending The Funeral:

  • Dress appropriately. The rules calling for traditional formal black attire have become somewhat flexible. Dressing conservatively is still a sign of respect, keeping the attention of the mourners on the deceased and the surviving family, not on your attire.
  • Arrive early. This allows ample time for you to pay your respects to the family, and offer your sympathy. Once you have briefly spoken to the family, quickly and quietly find your seat for the service.
  • Sign the register book.
  • Prior to and during the service, please sit quietly. Don't chat with those around you. Turn off any cell phones or other electronic devices.
  • Children: If your children are in attendance, plan ahead. Have quiet activities to keep them occupied, and don't allow them to be a disturbance. If they become a distraction, please quietly excuse yourself and remove them from the service.
  • Do not bring food or drink to the funeral.

Going to The Cemetery:

 The etiquette for driving in a funeral procession is fairly simple.

  • Follow instructions of the funeral home personnel.
  • Please use your headlights and flashers while in procession.
  • Stay close to the vehicle ahead of you while in line.
  • As the procession approaches stop signs or intersections where the light is red, continue through the intersection with caution and due care.
  • Chairs at graveside are for the immediate family members or disabled/elderly guests; others will be expected to stand.
  • Keep voices low. Don't engage in cell phone conversations during the service.
  • Do not sit, walk or lean on gravestones or markers.
  • Do not take photos, unless you have a legitimate reason for recording the event. Any photographers should have the prior permission of the family.

Offering An Expression Of Sympathy:

Whether you call or visit, the important thing is to make a gesture that lets the family know you're thinking of them and share their sorrow. If you knew the deceased but not the family, be sure to introduce yourself by name and let them know what your relationship was to their loved one. Keep your comments brief, focusing on the deceased and survivors rather than yourself.

Any of the following statements are appropriate:

  • I'm so sorry for your loss.
  • He/She was a wonderful person, and will be missed.
  • Our prayers are with you and your family.
  • Our condolences to you and your family.

Don't be afraid to laugh or share a brief funny story about the deceased, just be mindful of the time and place.

Shiva/House Of Mourning:

If you were close to the deceased or the family, it is customary to visit the family after the service at the house of mourning.

  • This visit may be at the family home or at another designated place chosen by the family.
  • A formal, scheduled visitation period may include a brief prayer service.
  • Please check the Sol Levinson website for specific times to visit the family.
  • It is customary to quietly enter the shiva house without knocking or ringing the doorbell.
  • It is appropriate to bring or send in advance a food tray or covered dish, but you should call first to see whether such help is desired, and it is certainly not required.
  • Offer a helping hand - assistance with food/beverage service or clean up is always appropriate and appreciated.
  • Keep your visit brief, unless you are lending a hand or are encouraged by the family to stay longer.
  • A traditional greeting to use at the shiva house would be: