OFDA Brochure – Funeral Etiquette
When Death Occurs At Home
When a person dies at home, you should notify our funeral home immediately. We will advise you of the proper procedures to follow in having the body removed from the residence.
If the family grants permission for an autopsy, the person responsible or the next of kin must sign a statement authorizing the autopsy.
In some circumstances the coroner or medical examiner may require an autopsy. In all deaths it is advised that the family contact our funeral home.
It is proper to notify the clergy immediately following the death. They can offer words of reassurance and make themselves available for consultation at the convenience of the family.
The family may call our funeral home at any hour of the day or night. We are prepared to offer qualified personnel to assist the family.
Death Away From Home
When a person dies away from home, it is good practice for the survivors to immediately contact our funeral home. One of our funeral directors will properly advise the family in returning the body to the local area.
Obituary notices are appropriate for a notification of death. Our funeral director works closely with the newspaper staff and can assist the family in seeing the death is properly reported. A charge is often made by newspapers when a death notice is placed in the obituary column.
Relatives of the deceased should be notified by a member of the family or a friend as soon as possible.
Relatives residing away from the immediate area should be contacted as soon as possible and informed of funeral arrangements. Relatives need time to adjust their schedules of activities in order to be present for visitation and the funeral service. Our funeral director will be happy to place obituary notices in out-of-town newspapers for your convenience. Such newspapers normally charge for these services.
Sending a floral tribute is one way of expressing sympathy to the family. A floral tribute can either be sent to the funeral home or the residence. When ordering flowers the florist will aid you in the appropriate selection. To reflect the interests of the family, personalized and creative arrangements will add to the uniqueness of the individual’s service.
Our funeral director will assist the family with floral tributes received at the funeral home so they may be properly acknowledged following the services.
Mass cards can be sent either by Catholic or non-Catholic friends. Our funeral home has Mass cards available for your use.
Memorial gifts are socially acceptable. Appropriate cards may be obtained from our funeral home. The family can name a favorite charity or other memorial fund.
Sending a card of sympathy, even if you are only an acquaintance is good practice and is meaningful to the family.
Telephone Calls Or Electronic Messages
A telephone call to the residence is much appreciated by the family. Out of respect to the family it is important to keep your conversation as brief as possible. Electronic messages may be sent directly to the family by visiting our Online Obituary Page.
Food and grocery items (i.e., paper supplies) are always appreciated by the family at this time. Be sure to identify your food container, so it can be properly returned to the sender.
Types of Funerals
The type of service conducted for the deceased is specific by the family. The following services are the most common:
The religious service, held either at the church or the funeral home with the body of the deceased present, varies in ritual according to denomination. It is customary to let the family and clergy decide what procedure will be followed.
The funeral Mass is held in the deceased’s church under the direction of the priest. For the Mass, the casket is closed and draped with the religious pall. A vigil or prayer service is often held prior to the Mass.
The Jewish funeral usually is held in the synagogue or funeral home. It is customary not to send flowers to the funeral home. Friends and relatives are encouraged to visit the residence. A period of mourning (Shiva) follows the burial. Usually the mourning period is preceded by a memorial service at the residence which is attended by the family and friends.
In today’s society there are two families who prefer a non-religious service, termed “Humanist.” In this type of funeral, the same respect is paid to the deceased and condolences are sent to the family.Appropriate music may be selected to meet the needs of the family and to create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.The leader may select readings, a biographical statement of the life just ended, or a short address emphasizing the appreciation of love, family and friends.
This service is by invitation only and usually includes selected relatives and close friends. A public visitation may be held, with or without deceased’s body present, and condolences can be sent. Private services are held at a time convenient for the family.
This service can vary in ceremony and procedures according to the community and religious affiliations (distinguished from a funeral by the fact that the body is not present.) Often time, public visitation is held prior to the memorial service, but burial or cremation may take place prior to or following the visitation. A service of remembrance (memorial service) can be scheduled at any time. It is helpful to friends and the community to have an obituary notice published announcing the death and type of service to be held.
Purpose of Funeral
These expressions may be helpful to families in providing the proper remembrance for a person who has died.
“The funeral is for the living.”
“A funeral faces the reality of death – does not avoid it.”
“The funeral not only is a declaration that a death has occurred, it also is testimony that a life has been lived.”
“The funeral tells us sadly about the present, the agony of separation, the reality of death.”
“The funeral provides the fitting climate for expressing our true feelings. Pain suffered in solitude is harder to bear than anguish which is shared.”
“Joy expressed is joy increased; grief expressed is grief diminished.”
The family should consult with one of our funeral directors and the clergy or other person in charge of the service before setting a time for the funeral. The funeral can be held at the church, temple, funeral home, residence or other appropriate facilities.
In today’s society, the family usually prefers the funeral home facilities for visitation. The funeral home is prepared to accommodate a number of persons.
Visitation provides a time and place for friends to offer their expression of sorrow and sympathy. The obituary notice can designate the hours of visitation when the family will be present or open visitation can be indicted.
People should use their own judgement on how long they should remain at the funeral home or place of visitation.
If the family is present when a person calls at the funeral home, sympathy can be expressed with a handshake, a hug, recalling a memory of the person or a simple statement of condolence such as: “My sympathy to you.” “It was good to know John.” “John was a fine person and friend.” “He will be missed.” “My sympathy to your mother.” The family members in return may say: “Thanks for coming.” “John talked about you often.” “I didn’t realize so many people cared.”
In paying respects it may be customary to view the body and to offer support through your presence and words of encouragement. Offer personal comments about the deceased or how he or she will be remembered such as: “I will remember our college days.” “John enjoyed life.” “He certainly had a lot of friends.” “Ruth always worried about everybody else’s problems.” “John was a credit to our company.” The following remarks tend to add further emotional stress and are inappropriate: “You can have other children.” “He is better off now.” “Only the good die young.” “I know what you are going through.”
Friends and relatives are requested to sign the register book. A person’s full name and address, if requested, should be listed in a manner that would identify them to the family. If the person is a business associate, it is proper to list their affiliation.
Protocol and etiquette stipulate that friends, relatives, church members or business associates may serve as pallbearers. If the family would prefer, the funeral director can sometimes arrange for pallbearers.
When the deceased has been prominent in political, business, church or civic circles, it is appropriate for the family to request a few associates of the deceased to serve as honorary pallbearers. They do not actively assist in carrying the casket, but serve only in an honorary capacity.
In planning the funeral, consult the clergy concerning the type of service preferred. It is appropriate and meaningful to personalize the service with hymns or readings that are family favorites. If the deceased was an active member, the family may want a church service. Let the clergy suggest several possible rituals.
Music at the service is appropriate. Favorite hymns or other selections of the deceased can offer comfort to the family. An organist or professionally recorded music is available for a funeral home service. A vocalist, choir or ensemble can be a part of the ceremony. Any musical request for visitation and/or the service should be discussed with our funeral director at the time arrangements are made.
The eulogy adds a personal aspect to the service. It need not be lengthy, but should offer praise and commendation to the person who has died. It is given by the clergy, a member of the family, a close personal friend or a business associate of the deceased.
All persons attending the funeral should be appropriately dressed, so as to show dignity and respect to the family and the mourners. Wearing colorful clothing is no longer inappropriate.
Friends and relatives are urged to attend the funeral. The family should consult with our funeral director for an appropriate arrival time. Friends should be considerate of the specified service time and plan to arrive ten or fifteen minutes in advance. Attending the funeral is a simple but meaningful way to communicate to the family that friends share their loss.
When the funeral and burial are both held within the local area, it is appropriate for friends and relatives to accompany the family to the cemetery. The procession is formed at the funeral home or church with the car list assignments supervised by our funeral director. Usually our funeral director will advise the drivers of procedures to follow when driving in a funeral procession.
The family and other persons usually accompany the body to the grave or other place of committal. The clergy or person in charge of the committal offers a short prayer or words of strength prior to committing the body to its final resting place.
Children at a Funeral
Often children are shielded from the knowledge of a death in the immediate family. Psychological studies have shown that children should be given full opportunity to express their grief. The following are suggestions on advising children of death and the funeral at different age levels. Up to Age 2
Infants and toddlers cannot understand death, but they do feel the loss of the one who was there to nurture and care for them.
Children at two, three and four years of age have little understanding of the meaning of death. The death should be shared with the child either by viewing the body or attempting to explain what has happened.
A child five, six or seven years of age has a feeling for loss, but it is not easy to grasp. It must be explained. Answer their questions in simple terms. Let them know a death has taken place by being present at the funeral home and the funeral service. Clinical studies show that denying a child the experience of sharing their loss through emotions may result in adjustment problems later.
A child of eight or nine years of age has the capacity to grasp life’s mysteries. They will remember the experience vividly. Don’t avoid letting them attend the service. They have emotions too and those emotions should be expressed.
A youngster ten, eleven or twelve years of age has the emotions of love and a deep feeling of loss. They know what death is and will want to be helpful so as to resolve their own feelings of loss. Include them in the arrangements and service.
The adolescent may want to shelter their guilt feelings. They are not easily understood. They may refrain from emotions or expressions but clinical studies show that teenagers often have more intense grief than any other age group. Encourage their friends to share their grief and attend the service. This gives them the support they need. They want to think of themselves as adults so treat them as such.
Each child is a unique individual and because of a variety of influences such as age, personality and social and religious background, certain guidelines should be followed in the discussion of death: 1. The individual child should be the main factor considered. 2. The child should be consulted and encouraged to participate; but not forced.
Each child is an individual. All children will not react the same. They want to share in the experience.
Additional information on how children are affected is available in the “Should Children Know About Death” brochure also published by the Ohio Funeral Directors Association.
The compiling of complete statistical information concerning the deceased will greatly assist the funeral director in preparing an obituary notice and many other legal forms.
The family may select clothing suitable to the taste of the deceased. This may include a suit, dress, sports clothing, uniforms or loungewear. Under garments should be included. Our funeral director can provide for many clothing needs.
YesIt is always acceptable to use items of jewelry during visitation or the funeral. The family should discuss this with our funeral director.
In some localities it is still appropriate to place a wreath on the front door of the residence or business indicating a death has occurred.
The clergy or other participants involved in the service should be offered an honorarium. The amount and distribution of the honorarium can be discussed with our funeral director.
The family should promptly acknowledge all flowers and contributions. When food and personal services are provided, these thoughtful acts should also be acknowledged as should the services of the pallbearers. Our funeral home has custom printed acknowledgement cards which can be used by the family. When the sender is well known to the family a short personal note can be written on the acknowledgement card. The note can be such as: “Thank you for the beautiful roses. The arrangement was most impressive.” “The food you sent was so enjoyed by our family. Your kindness is deeply appreciated.” “The contribution you sent to the church was a fitting tribute to my husband.”
Burial of Deceased
The purchase of a cemetery lot may entail contracting for one or more graves. Care should be exercised when purchasing graves as some cemetery lots are difficult to resell.
A charge for opening and closing the grave is made by the cemetery and is payable directly to the cemetery at the time of burial.
Cremation is a process for disposition of the human body. The body is placed into a casket or approved combustible container and then placed in a special furnace, commonly called a retort. Under intense heat and flame the body is reduced to bone fragments known as cremated human remains.
The law requires that all cemeteries establish perpetual care funds to provide working capital for maintaining and beautifying cemetery grounds. If families find their cemetery spaces are not being properly maintained, they should discuss this with the proper authorities.
As a living permanent memorial to the deceased person, it is customary to purchase a marker or monument for the place of burial. It should be a memorial that expresses honor to the deceased and meaning to those still living. Please click the heading to see more information on Monuments and Markers.
Many people choose to contact our funeral home in advance to make plans for their own funeral. All specific plans, such as type of funeral, disposition of deceased and payment of funeral expenses can be discussed and arranged with our funeral director. The law requires all funds paid in advance of need to be deposited in a bank, savings and loan, or trust fund, or deposited with a licensed insurance company providing specific coverage for pre-paid funerals. Any monies paid in advance are safeguarded under legislation specific to the state of Ohio.
Death is becoming a proper topic for discussion. It is mentally healthy to recognize death and discuss it realistically with friends and relatives. When a person dies, there is grief that needs to be shared. Expressions of sympathy and offering your services to help others at a time of death is good etiquette. Even more important than good etiquette is the need to share our grief with one another.