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Funeral Etiquette

The funeral is a valuable ceremony for those who mourn, offering an opportunity for survivors and others to express love, respect, grief, and appreciation for the deceased. It allows for an open and realistic confrontation with the crisis of death. Through the funeral, the bereaved take the first step toward emotional adjustment to their loss.

Before the funeral

It is common for close friends to visit the bereaved family's home to offer sympathy and assistance, often referred to as a condolence visit. With the family busy with arrangements, close friends can be very helpful with food preparation and childcare. These visits can occur any time within the first few weeks after the death and may be followed by additional visits, depending on the circumstances and your relationship with the family.

In addition to expressing sympathy, it is appropriate to share fond memories of the deceased with the family. Sometimes, family members may simply need a good listener for their expressions of grief or memories.

Even though common sense and good discretion are always the best guides to proper funeral etiquette, a few principles still apply. The information below has been prepared as a convenient reference for modern funeral practices and customs.

Visitation (Wake)

Your presence at the visitation demonstrates that although someone has died, friends still remain. Your presence is an eloquent statement that you care.

Visitation provides a time and place for friends to offer their expression of sorrow and sympathy.

When attending a visitation, approach the family and express your sympathy. It is appropriate to share your memories of the deceased. If you only knew the deceased and not the family, introduce yourself.

It is customary to show your respect by passing the casket. You may wish to say a silent prayer or meditate about the decedent at this time. In some cases the family may escort you to the casket.

The length of your stay at the visitation is a matter of discretion. After visiting with the family and viewing the deceased you can visit with others in attendance. There is usually a register book for visitors to sign so the family may use as a reference.

Sympathy Expression Examples

When a person attends a visitation at the funeral home, shaking hands, an embrace, or a simple statement of condolence can express sympathy, such as:

“I’m so sorry.”
“My sympathy to you and your family.”
“It was good to know Frederick (
name of the deceased).”
“Frederick (
name of the deceased) was a fine person and a friend of mine. He will be missed.”

Response Expressions Examples

The family member in return may say:

• “Thank you for coming.”
• “Frederick (
name of the deceased) talked about you often.”
• “I didn’t realize so many people cared.”
• “Come see me when you can.”

Encourage the bereaved to express their feelings and thoughts, but don’t overwhelm them.

Children at visitations and funeral services

At a very early age, children have an awareness of and a response to death. Children should be given the option to attend a visitation and the funeral service. It is important that they are aware of what will take place at the visitation, the proper behavior (showing respect to the family, no running, shouting, etc…) and what they will see. By talking with the child, it will prepare them before they arrive and help to put them at ease.

While we want to protect our children from feeling hurt or sad, it is part of the life cycle of all creatures great and small. A funeral service can be shared as a celebration of life by encouraging them to discuss their loss, what they are feeling and to share their precious memories while saying goodbye.

Children are very resilient; their presence often will be a bright light during this difficult time.

Please keep in mind, for the toddlers, staying for a complete six to seven-hour visitation, will often be too long for them to bear. There is a children’s room with books, toys and videos. Again we ask that all children are supervised.

At Hitzeman Funeral Home, Ltd., we require all children under the age of 14 be accompanied by an adult at all times.


As with other aspects of modern day society funeral dress codes have relaxed somewhat. Black dress is no longer required. Instead, subdued or darker hues should be selected, the more conservative the better.

Wearing colorful clothing is no longer inappropriate for relatives and friends. Persons attending a funeral should be dressed in good taste as to show dignity and respect for the occasion.


Everyone grieves differently, and a range of emotions can surface, especially upon arriving at the visitation to see your loved one, family member, or close friend. No matter how you feel, be respectful of your surroundings, language, and behavior. Our staff is here to support the family of the deceased during this time of mourning.


Sending a floral tribute is an appropriate way to express sympathy to the family of the deceased. Flowers symbolize life and beauty, offering comfort to the family by showing they are not alone. The florist places an identification card on the floral tribute. At the end of the visitation, the funeral home staff will remove the cards and give them to the family for acknowledgment. You can send flowers to the funeral home before the funeral or to the family residence at any time. Please note that Hitzeman Funeral Home, Ltd. will not disclose the family's address. Flowers arriving after the service will not be accepted by the funeral home.

Memorial donations

Gifts in memory of the deceased are often given, especially when the family has requested donations in lieu of flowers. A memorial contribution to a specific cause or charity can be as appreciated as flowers. Many memorial funds are available, but the family may have a preferred charity. Memorial donations provide financial support for various projects and may be tax-deductible if the organization is recognized as a charitable institution.

Even if you do not make a gift, sending a note or card to the deceased’s family expressing your thoughts is a welcome gesture, especially if you were unable to attend the funeral. Hitzeman Funeral Home, Ltd. will not disclose the family's address but will forward your note or card on your behalf.

Sympathy cards

Sending a card of sympathy, even if you are only an acquaintance, is appropriate. It means so much to the family members to know they are in your thoughts. The card should be in good taste and in keeping with your relationship with the family or the deceased.

A personal note of sympathy is very meaningful. Express yourself openly and sincerely. An expression such as “I’m sorry to learn of your loss” is welcomed by the family and can be kept with other messages.


A family member, clergy, close friend, or business associate of the deceased may give a eulogy. The eulogy should be concise, offering praise and commendation while reflecting the positive aspects of the person's life. Understandably, giving a eulogy can be very emotional and challenging. Please avoid explicit language and superlatives. Any written or spoken words should be age-appropriate, in good taste, and suitable for all audience members. The main concern should be respect for the grieving family.

Funeral procession / cortege

When the funeral ceremony and the burial are both held within the local area, friends and relatives might accompany the family to the cemetery. The procession is formed at the funeral home or place of worship. A funeral home staff member will supply the necessary flags and stickers for each vehicle. The funeral director will advise you of the traffic regulations and procedures to follow while driving in a funeral procession.

After the funeral

The family should acknowledge the flowers and messages sent by relatives or friends. When food and personal services are donated, these thoughtful acts also should be acknowledged, as should the services of the pallbearers. The funeral director has available printed acknowledgment cards that can be used by the family. When the sender is well known to the family, a short personal note should be written on the acknowledgment card expressing appreciation for a contribution or personal service received.

The note can be short, such as:

“Thank you for the beautiful roses. The arrangement was lovely.
“The food you sent was so enjoyed by all. Your kindness is deeply appreciated.”

Grief recovery

It is healthy to recognize death and discuss it realistically with friends and relatives. When a person dies, sharing grief is essential. Expressions of sympathy and offers of help following the funeral are welcomed. Sharing grief with one another is important. Hitzeman Funeral Home, Ltd. will assist your family and friends in finding grief recovery programs available in our area.

After the funeral service, survivors often feel very alone in dealing with their emotions. It is important for them to know you are still there, so keep in touch.