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Funeral Etiquette: How to Behave at a Funeral

A funeral announcement is a way of letting your family, friends and acquaintances know of the passing of a loved one. You can make it as varied as you wish. You can be very formal, by using a printed or engraved invitation to the funeral service. Alternatively, you can make it simple, by sending an email. Funeral announcements may appear in the newspaper in the obituary section.

Unless you have written the notice ahead of time, it is always difficult to compose your thoughts and write a funeral announcement while you are grieving. This list of what to include in a funeral announcement will help you to write the funeral announcement and not forget anything.

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Funeral etiquette is different for different cultures and groups of people. Knowing some basics of proper funeral etiquette will help you through any awkward moments.

General Funeral Etiquette Guidelines

Different cultures have different formalities concerning the attending of funerals or related services and the grieving process. Whatever the culture or religion of the person who's funeral you're attending it would be wise to look into whether any special requirements or concerns need to be known. The following guidelines are provided as a general overview of what is acceptable and what is not at most funerals, regardless of culture or faith.

There needn't be any awkwardness when addressing a family member of the deceased. It's never a comfortable situation when dealing with death and the dead, but the family will appreciate a sincere expression of your condolences. Many times at funerals I've seen people who are just too broken up to speak, however their heartfelt hug makes they way they feel very clear.

If you're a work colleague or member of the same social organization of the deceased, you might not know the family. In that case a brief introduction stating how you knew their loved one and a sympathy statement would be considered good funeral etiquette. If you and the deceased were close at work or at your social club, it wouldn't be considered to familiar if you offered your help with anything, especially to the elderly.

Funeral Etiquette: How to Dress

Unless specifically requested by the deceased before their death, flashy colours and low-cut blouses would be considered quite distasteful at a funeral. The occasion is usually sombre, and the appropriate conservativeness in dress and demeanour should be shown. It is becoming more acceptable these days to wear bright colours as a way of celebrating the life and personality of the deceased. However, the feelings and beliefs of the surviving and attending family members need be considered also.

Funeral Etiquette at Visitations and Viewings

If the family decide to have a viewing before the funeral, feel to spend only a short while there. If the deceased was a close friend you will naturally want to stay longer, especially if you were close to the family as well. Even if you didn't know the family, introduce yourself to them and let them know how close you felt to their loved one. They'll understand if you decide to stay a little longer to tend to your own grief.

Funeral Etiquette for Children

Bringing children to a funeral is not always a good idea, but it depends on the child and the relationship the child had with the deceased. It's best to prepare the child fully for what they may see at the funeral. If you have children with you, you will need to consider approaching the casket carefully, if at all. Let them know that the deceased will be there in the casket and then give them the option to approach the casket. Depending upon the age and the personality of the child, they could be frightened and confused, or they could be okay with it. You should be able to judge beforehand which case scenario you're dealing with.

If the funeral you're attending is open casket, proper funeral etiquette dictates that it is customary, though not required to approach the coffin.

Choosing to say a short prayer, or just spend a minute or two in silence at the casket is always appreciated. If you are tentative about approaching the casket alone, it's okay to ask a family member to escort you. Use your discretion if doing so though. It wouldn't be wise, or in good taste to ask someone who is in obvious emotional distress to join you. Look for someone who is composed, and usually they are happy to help you.

A Final Word on Funeral Etiquette

Keep in mind that wakes and funerals are occasions not only for commemorating the lives of the deceased. They are also structured to allow the bereaved to say goodbye to their loved ones and to assist them in the grieving process. Though your friend or co-worker may have been flamboyant or risqué, his family may not be. Don't automatically assume that certain behaviours will be accepted or appreciated. Share a few funny memories of the deceased if you have them, but say your goodbyes with dignity and respect.

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