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Oddly Comforting Rules of Funeral Etiquette for the Bereaved


Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Jun 06, 2017

It's more common to focus on the behavior of the mourners who come to pay their respects at the viewing, the burial, or the funeral. Friends, family, and acquaintances are more apt to fumble their condolences or otherwise say the wrong thing. However, there are etiquette rules for the bereaved themselves, as well. As the people closest to the deceased, you have certain responsibilities, particularly if you're the parent or spouse of the departed. What's surprising is that many of these rules are quite comforting during your time of sorrow, if only because you have something else on which to focus and clear guidelines to follow.

Accepting Condolences—Even the Awkward Ones

As mentioned, people fumble their condolences. They say tactless, tasteless, and thoughtless things. More often than not, however, they have no intention of coming across that way. They're genuinely trying to provide comfort and offer sympathy. Your responsibility is to accept every word of condolence with a polite thank you. Don't call out cringe-worthy behavior or express displeasure to anyone. That being said, don't feel you have to hold back your tears, either. As you accept a botched word of sympathy, don't hesitate to cry.

Sending Thank You Cards

Many people don't realize that you're supposed to send thank you cards after a wake, funeral, or burial. It's also polite to do so after a memorial or cremation rites. You should send thank you notes to anyone who sent flower arrangements, food, or other items, too. To thank the mourners who attended the funeral, turn to the guestbook—in this instance, it is also your guidebook. Don't rush to send cards before you're ready. It's perfectly acceptable to send them one or two months after the funeral—or longer, provided you make a note of the lateness of your reply.

Offering an Honorarium to Funeral Participants

Several of the traditional funeral participants typically don't charge the bereaved. For example, it's uncommon for clergy, vocalists, or accompanists to request a fee. It's polite to offer them an honorarium—that is, a tip. Acceptable amounts differ from region to region, religion to religion, and funeral to funeral, so either ask around or take to Google to research the average amount of an honorarium.

For the most part, no one's policing the behavior of the bereaved. The few rules of etiquette that you do have to follow will provide a distraction, and they give you a goal, which is essential in the aftermath of a loss. Do you practice any other rules of funeral etiquette?