Etiquette Hell = Where the ill-mannered deserve to go


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Funeral Etiquette

2001 Archive
2002 Archive
Jan - Jun 2003 Archive
Jul-Dec 2003 Archive
Jan - Jun 2004 Archive
Jan-Jun 2005 Archive
Jul-Dec 2005 Archive


In 2002, my grandfather unexpectedly passed away.  It was a very hard time for me.  Before the funeral, I was standing by the casket when my cousin walked in.  She came over to me and she was crying.  I hugged her and told her how much I was hurting, too.

She said, "Oh, I'm sorry, you don't understand.  See, I had to miss church camp to be here."  (We were both in our mid-teens at the time.)

Then she turned and looked at the casket and the first thing she said was, "WOW...I've never seen a DEAD guy before!!!"

I was too astonished to even say anything.  Yes, like I said, we were both only in our mid-teens at the time...but she was old enough (and self-proclaimedly smart enough) to know not to say anything remotely along those lines, especially about her own grandfather.



After battling Alzheimer’s for seven long years, my wonderful great uncle died quietly the Monday following Easter Sunday. His four daughters and my great aunt are deeply spiritual (as was my great uncle and all the rest of us) and saw his death more as a happy release from the nightmare of that disease even though we were all very sad about his death. Because of their outlook on what had happened, the five decided to wear the exact outfits they had worn on Easter Sunday for the funeral to symbolize their feelings. Thus, two daughters were in pink, one in yellow, one in a white with a green leaf print, and my great aunt in an off-white suit with a pink blouse. Those of us who knew why they were dressed as such understood the statement and thought it very wonderful.

Our denomination's tradition is to bury the deceased in the morning, then meet at the church for a memorial service after the burial. One of the women of my great aunt's church is the self-appointed Madam Coordinator of all weddings, funerals, baptisms, and other events of the church. When she saw what these five women were wearing, she proclaimed that despite the purpose of the outfits, they obviously were not in mourning as they were not wearing traditional black. She actually started speculating to people at the burial about whether my great aunt actually loved my great uncle based upon what she was wearing and what kind of family this must be to look almost happy at someone’s death. She said all this to my wife and me not knowing we were relatives. Others of our family also heard what she said.

Scheduling caused there to be a three hour gap between the time of the burial and the memorial service, so my great aunt had everyone over to her house for a get together of sorts. All his grandkids and nieces and nephews sat around the dining table telling stories about my great uncle and laughing at remembrances of things he had done. My great aunt actually was smiling and happy that he was being remembered like this. She commented that it made her feel that my great uncle was in the room with us. This was the final straw for Madam Coordinator, however. She cornered the minister and in a not so quiet voice demanded that he stop all of this and tell people that they should be speaking quietly in the widow’s home rather than laughing and telling funny stories involving the deceased, that the widow should be dressed like she cared about her husband and that the widow should not be smiling anytime during the funeral. The minister, thankfully, has some common sense and told Madam Coordinator that everyone mourns in their own way and that he was not going to dictate how they should go about it despite what traditions or customs might say. Madam Coordinator left in a huff and refused to help with anything more involving the funeral. My great aunt was very relieved.



When I was a teenager, a close friend of mine, "Donny", lost his father very suddenly to a heart attack. This man was a great person....a devoted husband and father and just a really nice man. His death shocked us all and sent his widow and three teenaged children into sudden grief and mourning. It was terribly sad.   At the time, Donny was dating some girl that none of us liked. But that is a whole other story. 

Anyway she and her mother (we will call her Fran for the story) were really obnoxious women and it was pretty clear that they liked attention focused on them. Fran, however, took obnoxious to a whole new level. She showed up for the funeral wearing a very gaudy fur coat and on the coat was a huge rhinestone pin that said, "Oh Sh*t". When we said hello to her she actually pointed at the pin and said with a sigh, "Doesn't this just sum it all up?"   Uhm yeah. A man in his 40s drops dead suddenly from a heart attack. He leaves behind his high school sweetheart whom he has been married to for almost half his life. He also leaves behind three children, one of whom is still in middle school and another who is about to get married. Yep. Nothing sums that all up like a sparkly rhinestone pin that says "Oh Sh*t." Gee, I wonder why you don't see those at more funerals?   What a tacky, ignorant, classless idiot.


My father was a known alcoholic and his alcoholism forced the divorce from my Mother when I was 10.  He moved to live out his years in a state 1,900 miles away.  He passed away when I was 20 due to complications with his liver and he’d been having multiple medical problems all rooting back to his incessant drinking.  At the  funeral, I was pretty lost as I didn’t know the family that well, nor did I know any of his friends since I’d grown up 1,900 miles away from him and our contact was limited.  The service was put on by his legion hall where he volunteered and I knew he spent almost all of his free time getting drunk.  

As I arrive at the service, an older woman whom I’d never met comes running up to me crying (someone had told her I was his only daughter I guess) and said to me, “I’m so sorry, I was a good friend of your father's, I’m the bartender here at the legion and I served him his last beer.”

Classy lady, I’m impressed, thanks for facilitating.



My mother works as a temp secretary at local schools, so she fills in when someone is sick, on holiday, etc. Sometimes she's the only secretary if it's a small elementary school, sometimes she works with others when it's a larger school or a high school.

Anyway, my mother was working at one place for two weeks while one of the secretaries was on holiday. The other lady she worked with had a husband who had severe kidney problems. He was on dialysis and at the top of the transplant list. He had been given maybe months to live.

One day, this secretary gets a call: it's her husband's doctor. He says, "Hello, Mrs. Smith. Your husband just died. What do you want me to do with his body?" Just like that! No, "I'm so sorry, but I have some bad news", just "your husband just died"! He never offered any condolences, and got mad when the poor woman started sobbing so hard that she was almost choking.

Talk about a lack of bedside manner! Some people should never even consider becoming doctors, not if they have no consideration for other people's feelings!



My beloved grandmother, who had suffered with congestive heart failure for almost five years, finally passed away five days before Christmas, 2006. She was 89 years old and didn't want to become a burden on her family, bless her heart. My parents, who only lived about three blocks away, were her primary caregivers during her last months. Naturally, my father, her youngest son, was the executor of her will.

With her passing so close to the holidays and my parents wanting the usual holiday festivities to be at my grandma's home (as was her wishes), my mother and father planned for the wake to be on the 22nd and her funeral to take place the 23rd, the day before Christmas Eve, which was always a big celebration for my family at grandma's house. Understandably, not everyone in the family could make it out since many had already booked flights for the holiday and not the funeral. However, my aunt "Lana", my dad's sister-in-law, who only lives about two hours away, couldn't be bothered to attend the wake or even the funeral. Her excuse? She had fallen and wasn't feeling up to traveling. All right, fine, two hours can be a long time when one is injured. However, she wouldn't even let her daughter, my cousin, come to the wake or funeral because she had to stay home to take care of "Lana". (My cousin lives across the street from my aunt; my uncle had passed away two years prior.)

So no one from that side of my dad's family can make it to the wake or funeral, but they do send a sympathy card. Interestingly enough, everyone from that family can make it to the Christmas Eve party at grandma's house (the day after the funeral) and inquire about the ring grandma had promised "Lana" and the two strings of pearls that were promised to her daughters. Nice to know that family cares.



Last year my dearly loved cousin committed suicide. We were all unprepared. Shortly after the funeral we all gathered at my Aunt and Uncle's home. The children played outside while the adults sat and talked in the living room. When asked where my children were, I answered casually, "Probably outside killing themselves on the old trampoline." Needless to say, if I could have shriveled up and died at that moment, I would have. That casual comment, said so meaninglessly before that day, was no longer casual or acceptable.



I found your site a month ago and have been reading through it like crazy.  I didn't think I had anything to contribute until I got to the Funeral Etiquette section.  I was instantly reminded of my best friend's funeral in 2006.   Dawn and I first became friends in high school.  She was an incredible young woman and we were instant friends.  As the years passed we grew apart and then back together, then apart and back again. (The result of college and various moves.)  Ten years after our friendship began we were close again but her health had declined.  She had been battling MS for a few years and as her schedule became more erratic, it was difficult to get together with her.   I also had another friend from high school, Renee.  We had grown very distant over the years, mainly due to her clingy behavior and paranoia.  She refused to accept that we were no longer really friends even though we hadn't spoken in two years.   

As I mentioned, Dawn's health was poor, but she was such an incredibly charismatic woman that none of her friends were prepared for her death.  We used to joke that even with all her health problems, she'd somehow outlive us all.  You can imagine how devastated I was when I received the call that she had passed away.  I attended the funeral still terribly distraught, but through the course of hearing others tell stories (and managing to tell one of my own) I found a curious peace.   After the funeral there was a reception at Dawn's church.  I went to reminisce with other friends of Dawn (Renee was in attendance).  

Shortly after getting there I went to the bathroom.  Exiting the stall I came face-to-face with Renee who was blocking my exit from the otherwise empty bathroom.  She apparently had decided that this was the absolute best time to confront me about our nonexistent friendship and claim that she was much better friends with Dawn than I was.  I thought it was completely inappropriate and was so shocked that I didn't even know how to respond.  It took over ten minutes just to get out of that room.  Now ten minutes may not sound like a long time, but it felt forever.  I was so upset, I immediately left the reception.   

Here's the part in the story where I may be the one with poor etiquette.  The next day I was still upset about the forced confrontation so I decided to write Renee a letter about how inappropriate her actions were and how she had destroyed the peace I had felt after Dawn's funeral.  I told her in no uncertain terms that we were no longer friends in any sense of the word and I didn't wish to hear from her again.   Prologue to the story: I have seen her once since the day of the funeral.  

Months later, Dawn's mother threw a garage sale type party in memory of Dawn.  I know it sounds kind of tacky, but it was actually a loving time to get friends together and give away Dawn's possessions to those who would cherish the memories surrounding them.  It was a wonderful day full of crying and laughter.  As I expected Renee was in attendance and spoke not a single word to me (nor I to her) the entire four hours I was there.    



My grandfather died recently. I have a dozen cousins on that side (I am the oldest), plus aunts, uncles, etc. and we are all pretty close and we adored our grandfather and we were very broken up. Plus his health had been good up to the day he had his stroke so it was all pretty sudden and devastating.

We come from a fairly small town and there’s only one funeral home so of course that was where the arrangements were made for my grandfather’s viewing. The funeral director is an elderly man who has known our family for some time. He’s always creeped me out but I put that down to him being, you know, a funeral director.

The evening of the viewing, all of us (my cousins, aunts, etc. and I) were there to greet the people who came to pay their respects. My grandfather had been pretty well known in our town so were a lot of people and flowers and condolences. About halfway through the evening, one of my cousins came up to me and murmured, “I think the funeral director has the hots for grandma.”

I shushed him but it did make me crack a smile. Our grandfather was known for his sense of humor and we are a pretty funny bunch. We often react to bad situations by trying to find the humor. I figured my cousin was just trying to lighten things up.

He (my cousin) whispered, “No, I’m not kidding. Watch him.”

I looked over at my grandmother and realized that the funeral director HAD been dancing attendance on her all evening – getting her drinks, holding her arm, talking to her, etc. Since there were so many of us at the viewing, I hadn’t really thought about it. I mean, everyone was talking to her and doing things for her – she had just lost her husband of 60 years, after all. But it occurred to me that the funeral director was being especially attentive. As I watched, he whispered in her ear and put his arm around her waist. She looked shell-shocked and my cousin said, “See? I told you.” Then my cousin headed over to rescue my grandmother from the funeral director.

The next day, my grandmother mentioned that the funeral director had been very nice. “And what do you think?” she said. “He asked me if I’d like to have dinner with him sometime soon!”

Do you go to Etiquette Hell for attempting to make a date with an elderly widow at her husband’s funeral?


Burn, baby, burn!

My grandpa was diagnosed with cancer 2 weeks prior to his death.  He was moved to my aunt’s house, his daughter, in hospice care.  We didn’t know how long he had left so I made the 5 hour each way trip every weekend with my fiancé since I lived in another city and we loved Pap. 

The last weekend (the weekend he died) we arrived at my aunt’s house very late at night because we had left after I got off work that Friday night.  We walked in and were immediately greeted by an unknown woman who seemed to know us very well.  “Oh Evelyn!” she exclaimed.  “We’re so glad you made it safe!  I’ve been telling [Pap] that you were coming!”  She soon left, as she was a hospice nurse.  As soon as she was out the door I asked who this strange woman was.  I was informed by my family (who was ALL there) that she was “Aunt” Phyllis.

The next day Pap died late in the afternoon and the Hospice “boss” came over to sign the paperwork and “left” some “religious” information.  Some strange booklet.  We didn’t feel insulted, we just laughed about it.  It was a very inappropriate time to convert us. 

When the guys came to take away Pap’s body to be cremated, two little scrawny old men showed up at my Aunt’s door.  Now Pap was no little man.  He liked beer, ice cream and hard salami, and liked them often.  Even after almost a month of not eating (abdominal cancer) he was still a large person.  And now he was dead weight (no pun intended).  The two men struggled to get Pap off of the hospice bed and onto a stretcher.  Finally my dad (another larger man) and my aunt pushed them aside and lifted Pap’s body onto the stretcher.

There were a few steps leading down from the doorway of my aunt’s house to the yard and driveway.  They had sent the smaller of the two men down first carrying the bulk of the weight and he almost collapsed which would have resulted in him getting run over by the gurney.  We thought they were going to loose it and we were prepared to watch Pap fall off the gurney and roll down the hill.  Thankfully, they recovered their footing just in time.

The strangest thing about the whole taking-him-away incident was when they brought out a blanket to place over him.  It seriously looked like Cookie Monster.  That’s right, a fuzzy, blue shag blanket.



My grandma died suddenly one Saturday.  The funeral was scheduled for the next Saturday since one of my uncles was in Australia and scheduled to come back within the week anyway. 

My future in-laws send a beautiful bunch of flowers (the only ones besides the bunch my mom bought for the top of the coffin) and they were displayed for the wake.  It was a short viewing because my family is not that big.  It was freezing in the funeral hall so we kind of wrapped it up quickly.  That was the last time we saw my in-laws' flowers.

At the cemetery, we were expecting a certain priest, but another showed up instead.  No biggie.  What irked EVERYONE was the fingerprint thing.  I guess it is a tradition or something for all the children and grandchildren of the deceased to come lay a hand on the coffin as it is being raised (or lowered) to its final resting place so that our fingerprints remain with it forever.  Or something to that effect.  We were not expecting that and we were very surprised at it.  (I am terrified of being the center of attention, my wedding is coming up soon and I am dreading doing that, and having everyone standing around watching was making me even more upset.  The Saturday my grandma (Mom’s mom) died, my grandpa (Dad’s dad) also died in different parts of the state so I was a wreck to begin with.)  Anyways, Grandma was a clean person, as are all her kids.  I don’t think she would have wanted a dirty casket.  It still bugs my mom.

Also during the whole church ceremony and the burial there was a loud jackhammer or something going off on the roof.  Apparently they were doing work to repair hurricane damage to the roof.  We could hardly hear.

We contacted the funeral home to get the flowers that my in-laws had sent they said that since we left them when we went to the cemetery, they though we didn’t want them and threw them out (we were gone no more than two hours).  The flowers on the casket were also thrown out because the cemetery didn’t know what to do with them. 


My father's cousins experienced a terrible tragedy several years ago when their son committed suicide after a breakup with his girlfriend. Needless to say, they have never gotten over their son's death.

His funeral was held at a church they had a joined a few years before, a community that they felt very welcome at. However, they have not been back to that church since the funeral, because several of the people who attended the funeral told my cousins that their son was going to hell for having committed suicide. Can you imagine? Even if that is your belief, you should keep it to yourself and not compound the devastation of grieving parents. I personally think it's people who say those kinds of things who belong in hell.


About two years ago my DH's cousin committed suicide. We were all very devastated  for the family, and although DH is not extremely close to this particular Aunt and Uncle we felt that considering the circumstances we needed to be there when they paid tribute to their son.
We arrived at the funeral home the same time as my MIL and my DH's youngest sister (very recently married). There was a formal viewing prior to the funeral where we could pay our respects before the actual funeral ceremony.  Right as we entered the viewing room DH's idiotic sister gasps and exclaims for the entire world to hear:

"They're having a OPEN casket? I thought he shot himself in the head? Isn't that gross?"

Everybody from our side of the family wanted to disown her right then and there..



Page Last Updated September 18, 2008