19 Things To Completely Avoid Doing At A Funeral

Losing a loved one is incredibly hard, and it’s often just as challenging to comfort friends who are mourning. We all face death and loss, yet finding the right words to say to someone grieving can be tough.

Even with the best intentions, we might say hurtful or inappropriate things.

Here are seven things you should avoid saying to someone grieving or at a funeral.

Inappropriate Laughter

Image Credit: michaelheim, Shutterstock

Sometimes, during serious events like memorials or funerals, something might unexpectedly amuse you. It’s not uncommon to share a laugh at certain funerals during speeches or eulogies, yet it might not always be suitable to do so.

If you need to laugh, consider stepping outside to collect yourself. It’s preferable to momentarily draw attention to yourself to exit or use the restroom than to laugh while seated or interrupt someone speaking.

Conversing During Services

Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

Speaking during a funeral service is generally inappropriate and can disrupt the proceedings. Times reserved for eulogies, prayers, and silent reflection should be observed quietly and respectfully.

Late Arrivals

Image Credit: Kzenon, Shutterstock

Arriving late to a funeral is viewed as disrespectful and can disturb the solemn nature of the event. Plan to arrive early to avoid disrupting ongoing ceremonies and to maintain the dignity of the service.

Appropriate Dress

Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

Choosing appropriate attire for a funeral is essential. While black is the traditional mourning color, it isn’t mandatory. Opt for attire that is conservative and shows respect for the occasion. Avoid overly casual or flashy clothes like shorts, tank tops, or flip-flops.

Phone Etiquette

Image Credit: sakkmesterke, Shutterstock

It is crucial to silence your phone and store it away during funeral services to avoid disruptions. Instances of phones ringing during emotional speeches are notably disrespectful. Turning off your phone or leaving it behind allows you to fully engage with the ceremony and the people around you.

Gift Considerations

Image Credit: Kzenon, Shutterstock

When considering gifts for funerals, flowers are commonly accepted, though they may not be suitable for all cultural traditions, such as Jewish funerals. Preparing a meal for the bereaved family or making a donation in memory of the deceased are thoughtful alternatives. Always check with the family if you are unsure of what to give.

Sensitive Expressions

Image Credit: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock

While many people experience loss, each experience is unique. Offering to talk when the person feels ready is more supportive than saying, “I know how you feel.” Respect the person’s need for space and follow up at a more suitable time.

Funeral Protocol Respect

Image Credit: Rawpixel.com, Shutterstock

Each funeral might follow a different schedule or tradition. Respect the procedures in place, such as using the restroom during breaks rather than during speeches. Avoid behaviors that could be seen as disruptive, like being overly active or restless.

Reception Etiquette

Image Credit: WK Lai, Shutterstock

During the reception, be mindful of the duration of your stay, especially if the event is hosted at a private residence. Leaving at a respectful time allows the family private moments to grieve and process their loss.

Guest Courtesy

Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Respect the grieving family’s wishes by not bringing guests who were not explicitly invited. This helps maintain the intimacy and focus of the funeral service.

Photography Protocol

Image Credit: NKM999, Shutterstock

Taking photos during a funeral is generally seen as intrusive. If you wish to take photos, seek permission from the family first and be discreet in your approach.

Respectful Attendance

Image Credit: Kzenon, Shutterstock

Funerals are occasions to honor the deceased and support their family. It’s important to observe the event respectfully and avoid drawing attention to oneself. If you’re overwhelmed, step outside until you can regain composure.

Social Media Sensitivity

Image Credit: Kzenon, Shutterstock

Before sharing details about the funeral on social media, ensure you have the family’s permission. Following the family’s lead on this matter is crucial.

Speaking with Reverence

Image Credit: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A, Shutterstock

A funeral is a time to reflect on the positive aspects of the deceased’s life. If speaking during the service, keep your comments brief and focused on positive memories. Avoid airing grievances or negative aspects of your relationship with the deceased during this solemn occasion.

Ignoring Seating Arrangements

Image Credit: Krysja, Shutterstock

Funeral services typically have designated seating arrangements that place close family and friends near the front to honor them and keep them together. Ignoring these arrangements can lead to discomfort or upset. It’s important to follow seating protocols, as directed by signs, the funeral director, or family members. Following these guidelines ensures that those who are most affected receive the support and recognition they need during the service.

Clapping at Inappropriate Times

Image Credit: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A, Shutterstock

Even if a eulogy or speech at a funeral is exceptionally moving or impressive, it might not be appropriate to clap. Instead, look to the deceased’s family or close friends for cues. If they start to applaud, then it is acceptable to join in. Alternatively, consider approaching the speaker after the service or at another appropriate time to express your appreciation privately, which they will likely value greatly.

Yawning Excessively

Image Credit: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A, Shutterstock

Funeral and memorial services can be lengthy, and feeling tired is understandable. However, try to avoid yawning excessively. Always remember to cover your mouth if you must yawn, and keep any noise to a minimum. As an alternative, take quiet deep breaths, use a breath mint, sip some water if available, or consume a caffeinated beverage before the service to help stay alert.

Bringing Food or Drinks

Image Credit: Deposit Photos

It is generally advised not to bring food or drinks to a funeral unless specifically requested for the funeral or subsequent reception. Consuming food or drinks during the ceremony can appear disrespectful and distract other attendees. If necessary, for health reasons, bring a water bottle but ensure it is discreet and the packaging does not make noise.

Failing to Offer Condolences

Image Credit: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A, Shutterstock

Expressing condolences is a vital aspect of showing support and respect to the grieving family. It acknowledges their loss and offers sympathy and support during a challenging period. While it might be uncomfortable to express condolences, it is essential to do so as it helps significantly in the grieving process. A sincere message or gesture can provide immense comfort and solace to the bereaved family.

Scroll to Top