Funeral Etiquette

Expressing Your Condolences

July 14th, 2016

Funerals are hard.  Finding the right thing to say to the grieving family is an intimidating task.  Religious and cultural differences can add to this difficulty.  Here are a few ways to appropriately express your condolences at a funeral.  

“I’m sorry for your loss.” –  This is the classic thing to say when you don’t have the words to express your sympathy.  It allows the person to know you are thinking of them and grieving with them.

Share a memory- Sharing your most fond memory of the deceased person can be a great way to express your condolences.  It also allows the grieving person to have a positive moment during a tough time.

“I’m thinking of you and your family.”- This lets them know that they are at the forefront of your thoughts.  

Some people will feel differently about how you express your condolences than others, so remember to always be respectful of the deceased and the family.  Sometimes a hug or handshake is the best way to express how you feel, because there aren’t always words.  Depending on your relation to the deceased, you may feel the loss as strongly as the immediate family.  
For someone you did not know very well or never met, express your condolences by letting the family know how much you knew that person meant to them.  You can tell them that you know their lost loved one had a large role in shaping them into the person they are. Let them know that you are there to support them in anyway they may need.  “My heart goes out to you and your family at this time,” is a great phrase to use in this type of situation.

Losing a loved one is never an easy thing.  Just your presence at the deceased’s service will mean more to the family than you could imagine.  Being supportive of the family and offering a few kind words will go a long way.         

Who Receives The Flag At Funeral?

May 19th, 2015

Ask The Funeral Expert:

Jill – If parents are divorced and the father dies, who should the flag be presented to at the cemetery?

Funeral Expert Reply:

I believe protocol dictates that the flag go to the current spouse. If there is not a spouse it goes to the oldest child.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if I can assist with anything else.

In Lieu Of Flowers Or Celebrate With Flowers?

February 3rd, 2014

brilliant-sympathy-wreath-funeral-flowers2.198Occasionally an obituary will include the term “In Lieu of Flowers,” or “Please Omit Flowers.” For many, this request causes confusion, embarrassment and even resentment (since it is often interpreted as a how to for expressing sympathy). For the family, it is often used as a way to direct family and friends to a cause the deceased held in special favor or that the family feels is an important way to memorialize their loved one.

Flowers or Charity

So, which is right?  Should it be, “In Lieu of Flowers,” or “Celebrate With Flowers?” The simple, yet ineffective, answer is both. Life isn’t simple, however, and without proper thought and execution, someone may be left feeling more than just the sorrow of losing a loved one.

The Best Of Both Worlds

Each side can still have it his or her way if one simple change in the obituary is made. Simply remove the words “In Lieu of Flowers,” and replace with, “For lasting memorials, the family asks that consideration be given to …,” or, “Should friends desire, contributions may be sent to…” This wording change lets the family express their desire without a disparaging remark toward any other form of condolence. This will allow the person to choose their preferred expression of sympathy without feeling wrong for doing so.

Why Funerals Should Be Celebrated With Flowers

When it comes to flowers and funerals, a long-standing tradition has been well established. Flowers were once used to mask the natural smell of the decomposing body. For a variety of reasons, the practice evolved into more of an emotional comfort and an acceptable way to express sympathy and support for the givers.

To really understand how and why funerals should be celebrated with flowers, we must understand what flowers can mean to those left to grieve. The Texas Florists Association created a great video demonstrating the significance of flowers at a funeral. Hopefully once you watch the video, you will be able to decide for yourself whether you prefer celebrating with flowers or another form of expressing sympathy. After all, the the best form of condolence is one that comes from your heart.

Permission to use the Celebrate Life With Flowers video granted by the Texas Floral Association.

Sympathy Gifts: Another Way to Offer Condolences

July 3rd, 2013

One of the hardest things to do in life is console a friend or loved one who has lost someone important to them. It’s hard to know what to say, how to say it or even if you should say anything at all. In a time of intense grief, heartfelt words can fall on deaf ears or be misconstrued. And sometimes words just aren’t enough to convey your genuine love and support.

God's Hand AngelSympathy Gifts

When a quick hug and a softly whispered, “I’m sorry,” feel too small, you might consider a sympathy gift to accompany them. The giving of gifts in a time of grief is a long-held tradition that spans all cultures and creeds. Always appropriate, the sympathy gift provides your loved one with a carefully selected item that will last beyond the neighborly bucket of fried chicken or tuna casserole. It is a keepsake that the bereaved can cherish for the rest of their lives.

Where Can I Find a Sympathy Gift?

The elegant grace of a sympathy gift can be just the salve your loved one needs to help get them through an especially tough day. If you are in need of a sympathy gift and are unsure of where to find one, you should visit Celebrating Home, an online store that offers a wide variety of inspirational and sympathy items to help your loved one through a difficult time.

The men and women at Celebrating Home have worked hard to provide a large selection of home decor items. They have high quality products and a user-friendly website, as well as a delightful and friendly staff if you need to speak to someone about your purchase. And they don’t just offer sympathy items. Celebrating Home has many home decor options that could be used in your own home or as gifts for any occasion!

What Kind of Sympathy Gift Should I Give?

The key is to be thoughtful when choosing what you will proffer. You know your loved one well, try and think of something that has given them comfort in the past. The gift can be religious in nature, such as an angel figurine or a plaque containing scripture, or it can be something to commemorate the one they lost, a picture frame displaying a portrait of the deceased or perhaps depicting a scene or place to remind them of good times with the one who has passed. You can even give some item of decoration that will remind them of the love and joy of the one they lost. There are no right or wrong answers, as with any gift it is the thought behind it that gives it meaning.

When is it Appropriate?

The Lord is My Shepherd

Sympathy gifts can be given before, during or after the funeral, and they can even be given on the anniversary of the death or any time your friend is in need of comfort. The specific “when” is not as important as the “how.” If at all possible, a sympathy gift should be given in person and accompanied by a card, preferably including a hand-written note. The purpose of the gift is not to replace your personal offers of support but to enhance them. If hand delivery is not possible, a phone call after the gift has been received would be ideal.

The purchasing of a sympathy gift does not have to be difficult. Visit Celebrating Home and find the perfect item for your loved one in their time of need. When you are not sure what else to say, a sympathy gift always has the right words.



How Can I Pay Tribute?

June 14th, 2013

Each year hundreds of men and women who serve and protect our communities are lost in the line of duty. Police officers and firefighters put the safety and well-being of their neighborhoods first when they go to work everyday and some pay the ultimate price. Tragedy strikes the entire community when public servants fall. Families and friends must come to terms with the difficult meaning behind a loved one’s service to the world. And a good community has a debt to pay to these everyday heroes.

It is in these situations that you ask “How Can I Pay Tribute?” There are many different ways to show sympathy and respect to fallen service members.

Remembering FirefightersSending Flowers

At the time of the funeral, sending flowers is a wonderful expression of heartfelt respect. They provide a focal point and natural beauty in a trying circumstance. Flowers are an easy way to reach out and are viewed in many different customs and cultures as a sign of sympathy.

Moment of Silence

After a community has experienced loss, normal activities often have to resume quickly. If you are in a leadership position in an organization, big or small, it can be timely and comforting to suggest a moment of silence to remember the fallen. At the next ball game, church service, or even at your book club, publicly acknowledging these events and offering a moment of collective reverence can mean a great deal to everyone.

Candlelight VigilCandlelight Vigil

Organizing a simple meeting in a public space where people light a candle as a symbol of hope can bring peace and solidarity in an uncertain time. This is not the time for involved conversations or providing elaborate refreshments. Maintain an air of decorum and select a place that was meaningful to the lost or holds significance to mourners.


Offering support to families is a way to honor the deceased in a very real and tangible way. A collection for funeral costs or, on a larger scale, for a public memorial can be a way for an entire community to help pay tribute. Often involving a local bank to accept the donations in the name of the lost can simplify the process for the donors and the recipients.

Bring About Awareness

You may not be able to change a bad situation but you can encourage others with a positive awareness of good deeds. Whether it is wearing an awareness ribbon dedicated to the cause or  creating an opportunity for others to acknowledge lost members of the community, small deeds can be appreciated by those suffering.

An uplifting example includes two young girls in Houston, Texas, who gave the profits of their lemonade stand to benefit local firefighters who perished in a 5-alarm fire. This collection may have been financially small but was huge in bringing about community awareness.

When tragedy reaches into our lives, often it is helpful to the grieving process to reach out to those around you.

There is great strength in numbers and
it is always an appropriate gesture for a community to honor those that serve it.

Navigating Social Media and Funeral Etiquette

October 8th, 2012

When someone passes there is more left behind than just their physical property. The importance of social media profiles have given many individuals a strong online presence which remains after death. For those trying to settle the estate of a lost loved one, you should be aware of the power of social media and the options available for managing these accounts. FSN Funeral Homes would like to share some of these options and the proper etiquette of using social media in the event that someone you love passes.

Deactivating the Deceased’s Social Media Accounts


With Facebook, you have two options:  permanently delete the profile or memorialize the profile. For more details, check out this FSN Funeral Homes post.

Google Accounts

There are Many Ways to Settle the Deceased’s Online Affairs

To gain access to a Google account, whether to delete it or perform upkeep, you need to submit the proper forms (this includes the death certificate, a copy of your driver’s license, a copy of an email from the Gmail account you wish to access.)  This applies to Gmail, Google+, YouTube and other Google applications.  For more information on how to deactivate the deceased’s Google account, read here.


Twitter accounts of the deceased may be deactivated by an authorized family member. Twitter requires a death certificate, your driver’s license, an obituary, and a notarized statement of intent. Visit the Twitter support page for more information.


If a Flickr account becomes inactive, only the last 200 photos will be visible to the public. Flickr does reserve the right to remove these inactive accounts, but typically don’t. If you wish to deactivate a deceased relative’s account, contact the Yahoo! Legal Compliance team at (408)349-3687 for instructions and options. A death certificate will be required.


To notify LinkedIn of a deceased contact profile, you must submit a Read Instructions and Access the Verification of Death Form which will then be processed by the site.

Proper Etiquette for Memorializing with Social Media

Be Informative

If you choose to memorialize or maintain your deceased loved one’s profile, make sure you remain informative. Too many status updates or posts will fill friends’ pages with reminders of their lost loved one. Though some may appreciate this, others may find the constant reminder painful. Use the profile to inform the deceased’s friends about funeral arrangements and allow them to leave encouraging posts and stories.

Report Inappropriate Content

The greatest risk which comes from leaving a profile open to the public is the posting of inappropriate statements. The deceased should be honored through these sites, not criticized or disrespected. If you see any inappropriate, rude, or offensive post on a profile, immediately report it to the social media site. They should be more than willing to handle the issue.

In the case that a video is posted on YouTube of your deceased loved one while in critical condition or after death, fill out an online form to remove it.

Be Clear

When a profile is not properly memorialized, some people may not be aware that the individual has passed. Make sure all who visit the page are informed that the profile is in memorial.  If you do not, some may unknowingly send messages or post on their page expecting a response. This can be embarrassing and painful for all parties involved.

Pre – Planning and Social Media

Today, there are several social media pre-planning options which allow individuals to ensure their online presence is properly handled after death. These services provide everything from allowing access to online banking or email to a specified individual, deleting or memorializing accounts, and sending tweets upon death. The United States’ government advises that every individual create a social media will in its blog.

Though handling your deceased loved one’s online affairs may seem difficult, please do not underestimate the importance of settling these online accounts. Social media serves to connect people and can be a valuable resource for informing the public of an individual’s passing. These online friends will appreciate that you took the time to inform them and you will have the opportunity to connect with other individuals who care for your lost loved one.

What Should I Send to a Funeral?

July 6th, 2012

Funeral flowers are a beautiful way to show sympathy.

When it comes to expressing your sympathy to someone who has recently lost a loved one, you want to be sincere and, most importantly, let the individual know you care. The expression of condolences becomes tricky in a country famous for its cultural and religious diversity. Don’t let yourself become flustered when all it takes is a little familiarity with funeral etiquette to overcome such unneeded stress.  To help you out, FSN Funeral Homes has composed this  guide to maneuvering funeral gift etiquette, giving you one less thing to worry about.

Your Relationship with the Deceased

Your relationship with the deceased is a crucial aspect to consider when determining what to send to a funeral.  If you were not close to the deceased, it is appropriate to send the gift directly to the friend or family member you are closest to.  If you were close to the deceased but not to the family, include a card with whatever you send explaining your relationship to the deceased and explaining how important they were to you.  Whether or not they recognize you, they will appreciate knowing that someone else cared for their loved one.

When do You Send Your Condolences?

Depending on the placement and type of funeral service, it may be difficult to determine when to send a gift.  Typically, flower arrangements should be sent prior to the visitation for a traditional funeral service, but funeral directors should accept them for some time later than that.  Contact the funeral director to find out when would be the best time to send funeral flowers. If you find out about the services late, it is appropriate to send flowers to the grave or family’s home. If you wish to send something upon receiving the news, flowers are a good option, but a note or phone call may be more appropriate until closer to the funeral services. After some time passes, many will have moved on in their mourning, but those closest to the deceased may still be grieving.  Sending a sunny bouquet of flowers after the funeral will let them know they are not forgotten in their grief.

The Recipient

Everyone is unique so the gift for a deceased’s mother will not be the same for a child affected by the death.  Keep this in mind when deciding what to send.  A young child will not understand the thought behind traditional flowers, but if you add a stuffed animal to cheer them up or a keepsake which they can appreciate later, the gift will be more appropriate.  You can also tailor any flower arrangements you send to fit the personality of the recipient.  Work with your local florist to make sure he or she incorporates the recipient’s favorite flowers or colors and that the size of the arrangement is appropriate for its destination.  Also, depending on the recipient’s intimacy with the deceased, a more personal gift may be more appropriate.  For instance, a locket with the deceased’s picture or a simple memorial frame may be the perfect keepsake to console the individual.

The Deceased

The deceased should also be considered when deciding what to send to a funeral.  If the deceased would have preferred donations made to his or her favorite charity, then by all means follow their wishes.  At the same time, remember the deceased would also appreciate that their loved ones be comforted at this time, so flowers or a memorial gift would be a great way to extend this sentiment in the deceased’s honor.

Read more about what to send to a funeral

Should Children Attend A Funeral?

December 19th, 2011

When a family member or friend passes away, should your child attend the funeral? What age is appropriate? — The truth is, there is no right answer. It depends on the maturity level of the child and their capacity for understanding and dealing with death.

Ask: Will Your Child Understand?

It’s likely your child has never attended a funeral before, and therefore cannot fully understand what’s going on. Talk to your child about funerals and funeral traditions; if they are unwilling or unable to understand, it may be best to find other arrangements or alternatives for them.  Here are a few tips for talking to your child about funerals:

  • Explain to your child prior to attending exactly what to expect and how they should act.
  • Be sure they understand they have to be quiet and respectful during the event.
  • If they are going through the questioning phase, make sure they know they can ask them after the funeral.

Continue reading “Should Children Attend A Funeral?” »

Military Funeral Honors and Customs

August 18th, 2011

United States Veterans are given honorable, military funerals to commemorate the time they spent while serving our country. Family and friends are comforted in the traditions and respectful services created in honor of their loved one. Serving our country in the military is incredibly honorable. So, with respect to the fallen soldiers who have made this sacrifice, we salute them with tradition, respect and honor in the way of Military Honors.

Military funerals can take place at private cemeteries and national cemeteries dedicated to fallen soldiers across the country. There are 128 national cemeteries and 33 soldier’s lots through out our nation alone. Religious traditions are often tied into the service to honor both the deceased’s religion and military duty.

Draping the Casket with the National Flag

The tradition of draping the American Flag over the casket of a fallen soldier began during the Napoleonic War between 1796 and 1815. The deceased were carried off the battlefield covered in flags to honor their sacrifice. This practice continues to this day, but instead of several small flags, a large American Flag is draped over the top of the casket.

A United States flag is provided, at no cost, to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased Veteran who served honorably in the U. S. Armed Forces.

Continue reading “Military Funeral Honors and Customs” »

Flower Customs for Asian Funerals

July 30th, 2011

White OrchidsSending flowers to a funeral or to a family in grief is always appropriate and appreciated. Different religions and cultures have their own traditions passed down from generation to generation; it is important to respect and honor these traditions when sending flowers for a funeral. You want to make sure that the flowers you send convey the right message.

Significance of Flowers for Asian Funerals

In Asian culture, the color and type of flower is very significant. Each flower and color symbolizes something special.

White, light yellow, light pink and other pale colors are the most commonly used colors for an Asian funeral. These flowers give hope to those who grieve.

In Asian cultures, white is the color that represents death and is very appropriate for funerals.

REMEMBER: Red is strictly forbidden for funerals. It is the color of happiness and celebration, making a mockery of those who are grieving.

The most commonly used flowers for an Asian funeral are: Continue reading “Flower Customs for Asian Funerals” »