Funeral Etiquette

WHEN ATTENDING A FUNERAL SERVICE OR GOING TO A SHIVA HOUSE.The accepted customs of dress and behavior in a funeral have changed over time, but courtesy never goes out of style. Here’s what we’d like you to know about funeral etiquette.

Making the Most of a Difficult Time

It’s important to be respectful of the emotions of close family members.  Attending the service or going to a Shiva house will give you, the visitor, the inner satisfaction of fulfilling the mitzvah of doing kindness to others, and the knowledge that you have helped your friend in his or her time of need.

Here are a few things expected of you:

- Offer an expression of sympathy..........Sometimes we are at a loss for words when encountering something as final as death. Tradition states that a handshake and a silent nod can sometimes say it all. However, it is human nature to want to say something. Simply saying "I'm sorry for your loss" is usually enough to begin the conversation however, remembering their loved one fondly can mean sharing a funny story or two. Just be mindful of the time and place; if others are sharing, then you may do so too. There is simply no good reason you shouldn't talk about the deceased in a happy, positive tone  Be respectful and listen attentively when spoken to, and offer your own words of condolence.  

- Find out the dress code............These days almost anything goes, but only when you know it's the right thing. In fact, sometimes the deceased has specified the dress code; 'no black' is a common request. Sometimes the family and friends will accent their attire with some piece of clothing that is a favorite color of their loved one. If you can't learn the wishes of the family, then dress conservatively, and avoid bright colors.

- Make a donation or offer your assistance......A donation to a charity or a commitment of service to the family is a thoughtful gesture; as always, "it's the thought that counts." Always make sure to provide the family with a signed card, so they know what gift was given, and by whom.

-Bringing Children........It is perfectly acceptable to bring children to a funeral service or on a Shiva visit especially if   the deceased meant something to them.   It's a good idea to invite them to share in the experience and you should always have a discussion with them about any questions they may have.  You can always call our chapel and ask for Otto Dube, our director, to assist you with any of these questions.

-Before leaving... it is a Ashkenazi custom is to express to the mourner that G-d should comfort him or her together with the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. A Sephardic Custom is to say that the mourner...should receive comfort from the heavens.  There is a measure of solace to the mourner knowing that there are others in mourning; shared grief is easier to endure.  That comfort can come from a variety of places.  It's sometimes awkward for you to reach out to a friend at a time of grief, but for most people the grieving doesn't end with a funeral. It is never too late to reach out to a mourner with support. Remember.....Silence can be deafening!

Life After Death

A parable by Rabbi Y.M. Tukachinsky 

A set of twin brothers snuggled peacefully in the security and warmth of their mother’s womb.  One of them believed in life beyond the womb.  The other, a skeptic, could accept only what he perceived and experienced at the moment.

The believing brother spoke of life in a vast new world where man could see far and wide while standing erect.  A world of oceans, rivers, mountains, and valleys, all stretched beneath a starry sky.  And all that majesty was encompassed in a dense globe set spinning in a seemingly limitless universe.

A likely story, thought the other brother.  To him all of life began and ended in the womb.  He felt that when he left his little world, life would be over and he would sink into oblivion.

Amidst the heat of the debate, the faithful brother suddenly felt a fierce rumbling followed by a long series of severe quakes.  He was slowly slipping away.  After a final, violent jerk, the faithful brother disappeared.  The skeptical brother heard the cry of his twin, which to him spelled the last gasp of life, and bemoaned his brother’s tragic departure.  But outside the womb, at that very moment, joy and celebration filled the home of the newborn.

All  the world is a bridge, along which man moves from his mother’s womb to the womb of the earth.  Just as the embryo spends nine months in the womb before birth, our present existence is but an antechamber leading to an eternal world.

We are Here to Help

Perhaps you've got special concerns about an upcoming funeral or memorial service? We're here to provide the answers you're looking for. Call us at (248) 543-1622.