The dos and don’ts of funerals

27 Dec

My father passed away recently on December 14, 2010.  It was fast, but not completely unexpected.  He had a few chronic health issues and was diagnosed at the start of November with squamous cell carcinoma on his neck.  After Thanksgiving, his respiratory system failed which led to his passing.

I digress.  The point of this post isn’t to talk about my father (though he was an amazing person, and I’m sure I’ll write about that soon), but rather to share my experiences surrounding his illness and death.

I’ve discovered that such events can bring out the best and, unfortunately, the worst in people.  It seems that some people also simply don’t know how they should act or what they should do under such circumstances.  Without further ado, here’s my simple “dos and don’ts” list for chronic illness/death/funerals.


  • Send a sympathy card.
  • Send flowers to the funeral and/or family of the deceased.
  • Visit the patient in the hospital (even if they are unconscious and unaware of what’s going on).  The family will appreciate it even if the patient doesn’t know you are there.
  • Offer to bring meals to the family.
  • Don’t offer to bring meals.  Just bring meals regardless.
  • Say nice things about the ill/deceased when appropriate. 
  • Tell funny/nice/cool stories about the ill/deceased.
  • Show up when a family member says, “It’s not looking good.  You need to come this weekend.”
  • Keep the person and their family in your thoughts and/or prayers.  Even better, say a prayer with the family or the ill person.
  • Show your support by showing up at the wake (viewing) and/or the funeral.  Sign the guestbook.  Even if you don’t know the deceased but know one of the family members, show up anyway.  Even if you haven’t seen the person in years, but they were special to you, show up.




  • Fail to show up to visit the ill person in the hospital but then arrive for the funeral (if you can help it–of course, due to distance and other circumstances this is sometimes unavoidable).  If you could’ve come to see the person in the hospital and didn’t, then why come to the funeral?  You didn’t care enough to see them when they were alive.
  • Speak ill of the ill/deceased.  This should seem like a no-brainer, but I had one person tell me after my father passed, “I always kind of liked that he was a social deviant”.
  • Go up to the spouse after their loved one has passed and say, “Well, you’re a widow(er) now”.
  • Criticize or critique the homes/possessions of family members of the deceased if you happen to be at their home after the funeral.  It’s impolite to say, “Your house is much bigger than your sister’s.”
  • Send a Christmas card to the family of the deceased if you haven’t sent your condolences in some way. 

2 Responses to “The dos and don’ts of funerals”

  1. escher dax December 31, 2010 at 7:42 AM #

    Sorry to hear about your father; it’s not easy losing a parent.
    People can be pretty dumb. When my brother-in-law was dying, someone told us that he was going to Hell because he hadn’t been saved. Not a good time to proselytize.


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