Funeral Etiquette: What to Do and What Not to Do

This week was disrupted by some very sad news. My husband’s grandmother departed this world in her deep sleep. She was slightly short of her 90th birthday.


My impressions of the short time that I knew her: She was an incredible woman.

She was wise beyond her years and ever pleasant. She never complained about a single ache or pain in her body — not sure I can say that about the rest of my family, whom I dearly adore including my own grandmother in Iran!

She was funny and always made me laugh. She did not meddle in other people’s lives. She looked beautiful at our wedding. She loved her grandson and the rest of her family to pieces and she even respected my choice on not having offspring. She was happy and fulfilled.

The world felt right to her and she was also ready to embrace death. She had strong beliefs around heaven and rejoining her early-departed granddaughter. She will always remain in my heart.

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American funerals are very different from Iranian funerals. Oddly enough, I have never been to an Iranian funeral and yes, here I am making claims about them but listen, stories in an Iranian family get repeated no less than three thousand times so I might as well have been at my own grandfather’s funeral in Iran.

The encounter with grief is overwhelming and the grieving period is long, stretching into weeks and months. The Iranian customs vary a great deal from a Christian ones. For instance, there is no viewing of the dead in the Muslim tradition. The body is washed with soap and water and then wrapped in a very long white cloth called ka-fan (thanks for details, Daddy) before burial, sans coffin.

Black is the color to show that you are grieving. The spouse of the diseased generally wears black for a very long time. My grandmother wore black for a year after the death of my grandfather.

The family of the diseased must provide tons of food to the visitors because this act of giving so much will be a bonus where angels are concerned in the spirit of the deceased. Or so I remember.

Oh and I don’t think Iranians handle death well at all. I surely don’t.

During the funeral services, I noticed behaviors in others that simply did not sit well with me. Whatever has happened to basic etiquette in this world? It is one thing to lack manners in a yoga class, but to come to a funeral and leave your manners at home? I must speak up.

Funeral Etiquette: What to do and not to do at any funeral

Funeral Etiqutte on What to Do:

1. Go. Attend the funeral in person. Miss weddings and baby showers if you must but attend the funerals. People never forget that you attended a funeral and you will bring them comfort and care even if you stay a little while.

2. Wear strictly black and please wear a suit and tie if you are male. It is the universal color of grieving and it shows that you have respect and partake in the grief. Please refrain from wearing flowers and colorful “designs” on your clothing, thank you! My friend Tia suggests otherwise but I say grieving before celebration.

3. Express your sincere condolences directly to the immediate family. Do this even if it pains you. Muster up the courage to tell them that you share in their sorrow. It goes a very long way, this simple act of kindness and compassion.

4. Share a story or a memory with the close family. You will be adding to their treasure “box” of memories.

5. Be on your best behavior. Take along your best manners of greeting and conversing.

6. Contribute to the charity or foundation of their wishes or else take flowers. The amount does not matter. It matters that you do not show up empty-handed.

7. Follow the wishes and traditions of the family. I am not religious but for weddings and funerals of those that I care about, I would gladly spend any necessary time in their house of worship.

8. Perform any favors that is asked of you, be it to sing, to read a poem, to fulfill any other action to fulfill their wishes.

Funeral Etiqutte on What Not to Do:

1. Wear flip-flops. Even if you are 7-months pregnant. I do not know what that woman was thinking but it is no excuse whatsoever. Put on real shoes.

2. Stand there like a statue. Have courage to express your condolences, make eye contact with the close family, and show them that you care with so little as a few words and a gentle touch.

3. Laugh unnecessarily loud or God forbid, tell jokes.

4. Gossip. If you must, save it for after the service.

5. Draw attention to yourself. Change the conversation if you must, especially when you don’t want the attention.

6. Say much if you have nothing useful to say. Words, once outside the mouth, cannot be taken back.

7. Discuss your body aches and pains and malfunctions in any gory detail whatsoever. What is this anyway, some sort of sick display of sympathy? I do not want to know about your kidneys, your daughter’s problems with labor, the details of your last operation or how much your back hurts and neither does anyone else. Not here at the funeral. Not now (preferably not later either!). Keep the conversation strictly out of you and your family’s body parts and focus it instead on the dearly departed.

8. Bring up sensitive issues that are none of your business and would rather not be thought about and especially around the immediate family of the diseased. Boy did I hold my tongue for the surprisingly closed-minded and nosy woman who further upset my mother-in-law by asking her why she did not yet have any grandchildren. Her sheer ignorance aside, her manners were unforgivably rude in my view and if I shall have the displeasure of seeing her again, I will express my uncensored thoughts as to how grandchildren do not signify any sort of achievement, shocking as it may sound. So please exercise some discretion and common sense.

Grief is a deeply personal feeling. There is no right or wrong way to express it. You need to go through your own process and make your own peace with the deck of cards that God or universe or the powers beyond our comprehension have dealt you.

One of the most effective ways is to let yourself grieve and do so without rushing the process. Grief takes its time. But please do take care of yourself because it can draining. Please have at least one person that keeps an eye on you and supports you, while you still observe your privacy.

I do believe meditation and positive affirmations help you tremendously with the grieving process. I recommend these guided affirmation tracks to help you through the mental stress and resistance to healing and so much more. Heal with going inward and allowing the process of life to take its time as you learn to accept the painful truth and come to terms with the new way of living after a loss.


However, our manners and our show of respect should not take leave when we most need it and the funeral is one such place. May you never need to attend one but if you do, you won’t regret following these guidelines.

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  • Ainslie Hunter

    Dear Farnoosh,

    Firstly my thoughts are with you and your family in this time of grief.

    In my first year of teaching I took a group of boys (aged 13 – 16) to a funeral. It was the mother of a student in our pastoral care class who had just died of cancer. The boys wanted to go so the priest, myself and 15 boys boarded the bus to the funeral.

    On the way I talked about etiquette and they decided that one student who speak personally to the father but they would all speak to their fellow student. We made sure their ties were correct and that their socks were up.

    When we arrived the boys found a seat and I went to speak the family. To my horror I saw them all get up and move (teenage boys may try to be quiet but they aren’t). But I had nothing to worry about. They saw a group of elderly ladies with no seat and moved for them.

    I know it meant a lot to the family to see the students attend the funeral. But also attend with reverence and respect.

    Teaching etiquitte matters – especially at funerals.

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Ainslie, thank you so much. I absolutely love stories and it’s so kind of you to share this story. So the kids behaved themselves after all, even if it wasn’t exactly as you expected. I think in the end, it all turns out just fine. Etiquette just goes further and raises the bar on these special occasions. I know that in the end, people attending even with lesser manners and etiquette is better to the families than people not attending. Thank you for weighing in.

  • Sandra / Always Well Within


    It’s really brave of you to write on this topic! Of course, it will come up for all of us so it’s an important one. The essential thread that runs through is that a funeral is a moment in time to get out of yourself, be present for those that are grieving, and to generally act accordingly.

    My husband recently attended a memorial for a young neighbor who was killed by a drunk driver; his ashes were placed in the sea earlier the day by his parents. The memorial didn’t look anything like you described. So I don’t think there is one particular way, but the key seems to be to tune in to the tenor of the event with respect.

    Thanks for this guide.

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Sandra, it is brave but I felt strongly and I am happy to entertain all additional thoughts on this. But I did not come as close to it as your eloquence: “that a funeral is a moment in time to get out of yourself, be present for those that are grieving, and to generally act accordingly.” thank you for saying that.
      And the story you share is tragic, oh so tragic. I think that I’d like to be cremated too, spread over the West Maui shores to be with wild life for all eternity.
      Respect – that is all it comes down to. Perhaps I was too strict in some aspects of my guide but it is all an indication of respect in the end. Thanks Sandra, lovely to see you here.

  • The Vizier

    Hi Farnoosh,

    I am sorry to hear about the loss of Andy’s grandmother. She does seem like a wonderful woman and it must have it you both hard. That said, we all have a duty to carry on the legacy of our departed loved ones. By doing so proudly and to the best of our abilities, we will honour their memory and the times we shared.

    I think you have covered the dos and don’ts of funeral etiquette well. Death comes for all and as we get older, we are bound to attend more and more funerals. The important thing is sincerity and respect since the loved ones of the departed will be hit the hardest.

    Thank you for sharing this important article!

    Irving the Vizier

    • Farnoosh

      Dearest Vizier, thank you so much. It is harder even after the fact. I am sad for my mother-in-law. Thank you for reminding me of the legacy we have to carry. Talking about their memory and remembering them. Yes, we will do that and keep them alive in our hearts.
      I am glad you like the etiquette here, especially as you come from a different background and culture. This comment means a lot, thanks so much for stopping by.

  • Aileen | Kaizen Vision

    In a span of 3 years I lost too many wonderful family members including my father – and it was a profound education about (1) what the family needs during that time and (2) the lack of knowing how to respond to others. I wish the etiquette for funerals was more well know.

    You’ve made a wonderful choice to help others understand what’s helpful – what to do/ what not to do.

    Funerals and everything surrounding death can feel awkward and uncomfortable with a sense of unknowing. It is important to show up fully in life and that means show up fully at funerals too. Your post is wonderfully educational and compelling.

    I truly am sorry you and Andy lost such a lovely person.

    • Farnoosh

      My darling Aileen, I am so sorry, so sorry to hear of your losses. I came close to losing my Dad and it would been about 4 years ago but he survived. Sometimes, I really wonder whether I will be strong enough to go through life afterwards. Your wisdom is no doubt leaps and bounds ahead of mine for having gone through it all. Yes to awkward and uncomfortable because none of us know the exact thing to say and do. I am so glad you think this is a good guide and thank you *so much* for your sympathy. You are ever so sweet and kind.

  • Jamie Farrell

    Farnoosh love – Offering my ‘sincere condolences’ again to you and Andy. A bit surprised by this post and here’s why: You are generally open minded…embrace differences, etc. but in this post – we see a different side of you ( ; maybe a more ‘conservative’ or sheltered (unsure if that’s the right word) side.

    You write about how every funeral is different and deeply personal – but then also give a bunch of “Dos” and “donts” – which I Believe most are pretty standard – but some are a bit harsh, no?

    Or perhaps this is a great example of the difference in cultures??? I’m Jewish – been to (unfortunately) a ton of Jewish, Catholic, and Christian funerals. I have pretty religious parents – but if you told my mother she couldn’t wear flip flops to her parent’s funerals – she probably would not have been too happy (or perhaps that’s just living in South FL – where flip flops are the norm). As to wearing black – something else that I haven’t seen done as much down here and in NY…people wear dark colors, and I agree the flowers may be a bit much – but black only? I’ve never seen that.

    Laughing – interesting because the majority of the eulogies I’ve heard have been funny; meant to be funny to cut the tension in the room.

    Anyways – not meaning to pick apart – just citing some examples on how, perhaps, people view grief or engage in grief based on their culture or location…

    • Farnoosh

      My dear Jamie, thank you for the words of sympathy, thank you so much.
      Yes, funerals are different and grief is deeply personal but I think etiquette lives and breathes within certain walls. There is nothing *wrong* with wearing flip-flops but I don’t think it is proper etiquette to wear them to the funeral, be it in Hawaii or the middle of the desert. I think there is a time and place for formality and funerals are one of those very few occasions. Weddings should be too but the wishes of the bride and groom surpass etiquette so that opens the door to more flexibility, I suppose. The whole point was that it seemed to be so universally accepted that so many did *NOT* wear black at the funeral. To me, the color black is an expression of grief and while I truly believe in celebration of one’s life, I think the grieving comes first. Again, wearing other colors is not wrong but wearing black would be the show of utter respect and etiquette. However I have been very surprised with the expression of grief in North America. I am glad to see that death is so much more easily accepted – at least on the surface – than it is in Iranian culture. There is laughing and there is laughing. I think laughing at jokes may be a bit much but laughing at a nice story of the departed loved one in a group would be appropriate. Laughing in one corner of the room when someone else is grieving in the other corner is entirely inappropriate. Not wrong but definitely not a show of utter respect and etiquette. Thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts. Feel free to always pick things apart here. I write for my readers and their thoughts help me understand the world better and while I do not think the etiquette here is harsh, I can see how it would not be observed to T in many funerals and perhaps that is ok too.

  • Vic Hubbard

    Although, I don’t agree with all of your funeral etiquette. I would say that IF you attend a funeral, observe the family left behind and proceed with compassion and empathy. I plan on only a party for those that are left behind, so flip flops, party shirts and the basest of jokes will be welcome. It will lighten the hearts of my family and, as I will have moved on to the next phase in my life, I won’t mind either. I wish you and your husband’s family piece and acceptance in your grandmother’s passing over.

    • Vic Hubbard

      Sorry, just up from a nap. It is a wish of peace. ;o)

      • Farnoosh

        Dear Vic, I am glad you don’t agree and since you did not give me any specifics, I can’t comment further on them but I did reply to Jamie above who also did not like all my etiquette rules. I think what I left out – which was entirely implied – was that if the departed loved one wishes specific ways for people to acknowledge them, then of course the comes above all else. I do like your take on the end of life and perhaps the absence of grief in your ideal view of people’s reaction and may there not be grief, just as you wish. That certainly would be the best way to continue living for those left behind. Thank you for the kind words regarding hubby’s grandmother.

  • Robin Blanc

    Jamie, I think Farnoosh is spot on. I think her main point is respect for the family who are grieving, and that crosses cultures. I had three family members die in a six month period a couple of years ago, in two different countries. Some of the rituals may be different, but respect and kindness to the family were the things that helped most.

    • Farnoosh

      Robin, I am so sorry for your losses. It really is hard to go through this grieving period and I hope that your is not a difficult one. Yes, you are very accurate – the word is “ritual” – they may certainly vary, as do traditions but I do believe that these guidelines to etiquette translate to respect and kindness, as you say, across the board. Thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts, Robin.

  • Jean | Delightful Repast

    Farnoosh, the loss of a dear grandmother (or grandmother-in-law) is very difficult. I am sorry for your and your husband’s loss. I was so pleased to see this important topic addressed, and you did it so well.

    Flip-flops? How sad! Perhaps if the occasion were an ash-scattering by the sea? Certainly not in a place of worship or a funeral home. I once attended a funeral where the brother of the deceased was wearing a Hawaiian shirt!

    Unless attendees have been told in advance by the family to do so, the wearing of casual attire draws attention to oneself. The focus should be on the deceased and the family. To do anything to draw attention to oneself is extremely rude.

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Jean, it is very sad to lose a grandmother. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. So sweet and goes a long way.
      Yes, flip flops. I know. It’s awful. And no one is allowed with flip flops to observe my ashes being scattered over the Hawaiian waters. It’s not intentional disrespect, I am sure of it, but it is just a lack of tact and style, I think. We can afford to step out of our comfort zone and observe formal grief for a few hours, can we not? Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Jean Burman

    I extend my sincerest condolences to you and your husband Farnoosh. It is never easy to lose the people we love.

    I have lost a great many people from my life… my mother… my father… my brother [as a very young man]… both sets of grandparents… much loved aunts… uncles… and good friends. It still hurts.

    But the thing I remember most about each of their funerals was the groundswell of love and collective support that embraced those of us who were grieving. I simply didn’t notice what people were wearing… or what they might have inadvertently blurted out… I only noticed the love and appreciated that beyond anything else the material world could offer up.

    Death is the human experience we all share. Whether or not there can be rules surrounding the expression of that loss… I’m not really sure. But I certainly agree that there should be a proper respect shown to those who are grieving.

    Whether this respect translates into the color we wear or the shoes we choose or the way we communicate our feelings to others I’m not really sure.

    Perhaps you are right. We should wear black. It is afterall traditional… and a fitting mark of respect. Should we celebrate?
    Some people believe in celebrating the life… rather than honoring the death… and I guess I respect their choice to decide this way.

    Perhaps the heavily pregnant woman in flip flops simply couldn’t fit into her shoes. It happens. She may even have even been embarrassed by her inability to wear proper attire. We can’t know what others are suffering [unless they tell us – and I agree they really shouldn’t – not at a funeral anyway] LOL

    But mostly I took comfort in people’s humanness. The warmth of their embrace. The love and concern they showed in their face without uttering a single word. The joyful hope in their laughter afterwards. The comfort of the predictable in their gossip.

    People are only people and so delightfully faulty. We can’t change them. If we could we probably would. But better maybe just to love them… just the way they are. They came. And I loved them for that.

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Jean, I had to send a tweet saying just how much your reply and that of Jamie up there helped me see things from another angle. I was still pretty adamant about how I saw it when Jamie left her thoughts but with yours combined, I can see what truly matters. Much as I dislike flip flops and a poor attire, I must say that it matters that people do come and as I said somewhere above, it does matter more than not coming for sure.
      I am so very sorry and saddened by your heavy losses. How can I say anything to make it easier on you? It is incredible for me to see what a beautiful and healthy perspective you have on life despite it being so harsh on you. :( thank you for sharing and for helping me grow in this process as I read about the way you dealt with your grief. It is remarkable, your strength. Thank you for letting it shine here. I loved who you were already before this and now, just more.

  • Alison Moore Smith

    My condolences on your loss.

    I appreciate etiquette. Having just had my oldest daughter marry in April, we were in the position of deciding whether to follow the stated etiquette or not (It came up enough that I wrote about our wedding etiquette dilemma.) Arbitrary traditions don’t always serve us very well.

    As for funeral etiquette, there are some things I think are crucial and others not. I’d wear black in an area where it was expected. In LDS culture most funerals consist of dark colors, but I’ve not heard anyone worry to much about it. Just go and give your love. I don’t want someone to get a new outfit in order to attend.

    As for humor, that’s the only thing on your thoughtful list that I’d disagree with. Humor is the best medicine. When my mom died, a group of my best high school friends showed up at the viewing the night before the service. They brought a lovely give for me — who knows if that’s “proper,” but it was lovely and I now have it hanging in my home — and we sat in the corner of the mortuary and shared stories, mostly funny stories, about my mom. It was absolutely wonderful. To be able to remember good, fun, happy, funny memories, and to laugh and laugh, instead of curl up in a ball and cry, was uplifting.

    Talking about the day three of us spilled juice on the carpet, broke the iron, AND called 9-1-1 accidentally — and my mom’s barely-holding-her-sanity response — was serious therapy.

    I spoke at Mom’s funeral. I had a bunch of items that reminded me of her. Some were odd, some sentimental, and some just funny. We laughed quite a bit during my remarks.

    So, while I’d say the somber occasion deserves solemnity, maybe knowing the family is the key. For some of us, bring on the humor!

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Alison, thank you for taking the time to share your mother’s service and your thoughts. As far as weddings go, traditions and cultures can clash big time. I’d always want to respect the wishes of the bride and groom and if their wishes are extremely unreasonable, I’d probably skip the wedding ;)!!
      I think difference in culture is probably where we differ. Of course, humor is great. There is a difference between rude laughing and laughing in the memory of the departed above in the other comment replies. Perhaps my thoughts around death are the unhappy and maybe sometimes early departures. I think grief comes before celebration. I am delighted to learn that there is so much effort around a positive goodbye and an uplifting closure. It is definitely the healthier approach and so long as the family desires it so, who am I to argue! :) I am glad you were able to come to terms with the passing of your mom so well. I would surely not be able to respond that way … oh ever! Thanks for your comments, Alison.

  • John Sherry

    Perhaps there should be another list of ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ for society too Farnoosh. A local church turned down a funeral because the family (as their father had requested) wanted everyone to wear bright colours instead of black and sing happy songs instead of hymns. The vicar saw it as disrespectful – but to who? More the poor deceased man who couldn’t be buried in his own church. So begs the question is a funeral a celebration of a life or a sombre occasion of our loss? Maybe in time both ceremonies will be available. And maybe one day we won’t be so scared of death as it leads to life eternal. Still the sadness will always be felt and I hope and pray that yours and the family’s is not too deep. May she rest in great peace. With unlimited love and blessings.

    • Farnoosh

      John, that is an awful story. I am very sad to hear it. I would probably *not* be the one to talk about any sort of etiquette when it comes to church or any house of worship as far as what they should or should not do! Maybe it will inspire a blog post from yourself, perhaps? Common sense is usually a good rule of thumb too, huh? Good heavens! It is very regretful that they shunned a previous member instead of honoring him according to his wishes. Thank you for your kind thoughts. So kind of you to stop by and share your words. Thank you.

  • Rand

    My sincere condolence to you, your husband,family,and friends Farnoosh.

    With John Sherry’s comment above I can not help but reflect upon the last funeral that I attended. Last night for the Fourth of July I went up to the top of Mt Soledad to view multipal sycnchronized fireworks with my two daughters, and their mother and step-father. The last time up on the top of La Jolla was for the funeral of a husband and wife killed in a car accident (the three young boys survived). Since the the deseased father came from an historic Southern California Surfing family the predominant dress was Hawaiian.

    My thought is that man by nature is imperfect…I know this is true of me. When it comes to death, rules may be helpful, but the endless circumstances in this world that contribute to death are an influence on how we may celebrate one’s death, or even celebrate less one’s death.

    I find it interesting how in a very large church high on the top of wealthy, influencial La Jolla there can be acceptance of non-traditional, while in so many other places there can be strict confines by what ever form church,mosque,or temple, etc. of the laying to rest of a human being.

    Regards a small town, I recall the first time that I went back to West Clare, Ireland to meet my former wife’s family. It was only on the second day there (still had jet-lag) that I found myself way out on the remote tip of Loop Head, inside a small and packed church. After the service was over, my wife said to me that I “MUST” give my condolences to the family! I was the only *Yank* there and my behavior was surely taken note of. The other thing I remember inside the church was all the many men who sat in the last pews in the back of the church. They wore not ‘black’ as much as they wore their traditional Tams, Twead coats, and Wellington boots. The door at the very back of the church led directly to the Pub just a few yards away!

    Never knew any of my Grand Parents Farnoosh. I did have ‘Durable Power of Attorney for a man that was known as *Grand Pa Chris* to my daughter when she was very young. I like to think that I did him right on sending him off. I am “imperfect”… did the best that I could.

    Be well,

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Rand, thank you so much for sharing your stories. These stories have really opened me to a new perspective altogether on funerals. I must say I am loving it because my somber sad funeral is quite depressing but perhaps one day, I will learn to embrace and celebrate death too.
      Of course there are local traditions that may very well trump a lot of what I have said such as the funeral you went to so that is naturally what supersedes in those occasions.
      Yes, man and woman both are imperfect. That’s what makes us so great I suppose :)!
      Thanks for stopping by again.

  • jonathanfigaro

    Hey Farnoosh, who tells jokes at a FUNERAL. Gosh, that’s rude. But this post reminds me of a funeral I went to, NOT too long ago. It was my brother’s girlfriends mother who passed away. And in the back room, her family member where talking and being obnoxious. Personally, I thought it was very rude. And I wanted to say something BUT, a confrontation would have only worsened the situation. So I left the scene like a Vulture. But I personally think at any WAKE or FUNERAL, you have to pay respect to the person. I mean, how would you like it if someone, was at your FUNERAL taking about how great the Mc flurry at Mc Donalds is.. smh ( shake my head) anyways, great post..

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Jonathan, sorry about your bad experience at the funeral. I think rudeness is the worst part. What is the proper response? I wonder. Is it to bring more attention to the occasion or to just let it go? I think it probably depends on the gravity of the whole situation. Some will never have any consideration and I’m afraid that those kids were indeed very rude. Sigh. Here’s to better funeral experiences for all of us. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Kim Curry

    I am sorry to hear about your loss. My thoughts are with you in this difficult time.

    I agree with “Do” #1, generally.

    “Do” #2. My mother specifically requested, before her death, that everyone wear brightly colored clothing, as many different colors as possible, to her funeral. I honored her wish.

    “Do” #5.
    I definitely agree for adults. It gets trickier for children. For 2 of the 4 family funerals we attended since my sons birth, my mother-in-law was available to watch him during the service. One church had a cry room, the funeral home had a small family lounge. One aunt’s funeral we missed because we were in the middle of a move.

    For my mother’s funeral, my in-laws were unavailable , my 2-year-0ld could not sit still, and I didn’t see any cry rooms. My husband took him back for a while, I took him back for a while, we did the best we could, but I was not about to leave my own mother’s funeral. I think my mother herself would make allowances for her only grandbaby in that situation.

    • Farnoosh

      Hi dear Kim, thank you so much for taking time to share your wonderful thoughts here. As I mentioned in my replies to the other readers, it has been such a learning experience for me to read about everyone’s viewpoints on funerals and yours is no exception. So I would hope that it was implied that in the case that there were specific requests from the person who has passed on, my etiquette or anyone else’s should be certainly overruled :)! And #5, I did mean for adults although I consider children above 8 years old as adults. Maybe that differs for others but toddlers and other children are certainly still children so it is a more challenging situation. Please tell me: What is a “cry room”? I have never heard of such a term. I think you handled the funeral as considerately and thoughtfully as anyone – I’d say even way above some people that don’t even have to manage so much. And I am sure your mother would have understood. My condolences on your loss. Thank you again for sharing your story, Kim.

      • Kim Curry

        Dear Farnoosh,

        A cry room…
        Years ago, my Religions of the West class took a field trip to the campus Islamic Center for Friday prayer. As a woman, I joined the other women in the back room, where the audio was piped in but the women were divided from the men by a large-windowed wall.

        Most of the Catholic churches that my family attended had a vaguely similar windowed-off room, looking into the sanctuary. The size can vary, anywhere from a “large closet” with just a few seats, to an actual room with ~3-5 rows of pews. Some even come equipped with toys.

        The idea is that parents with small and/or fussy children can sit in there, observe and semi-participate in service, while their children can be noisy without disturbing the rest of the congregation. In my experience, using one is completely voluntary, nobody is required to sit there.

        I’ve also seen cry rooms in a few Protestant churches.

        Most of the Catholics I’ve known seemed to take it on a case-by-case basis. Most Catholics I’ve seen are used to families in Church from the time they are born, and some crying during Mass is not unusual. Most Catholic parents I saw didn’t start in the cry room even with their infant, but would move there if the child was inconsolable or became too much of a disturbance.

        • Farnoosh

          Kim, thank you so much for explaining all this but what does the cry room have to do with the women/men separation of the Islamic culture – with which I am familiar. Is it so that women and their children stay there or just women? Thank you so much for taking time to educate me here.

          • Kim Curry

            Farnoosh, let me back up a bit. I was surprised to be asked the question, “what’s a cry room?”

            In searching through my experiences, remembering your references to Iranian culture, I thought that perhaps my experience of a separate “women’s room” would be something you could relate to.

            The similarity between a women’s room and a cry room, to the best of my very limited knowledge, is primarily architectural.

            The cry rooms I have seen were, like the one “women’s room” I’ve seen, walled off from the main place of worship. All have had large windows, so that people within the room could see the mass/prayer. And most included speakers, so that they might hear the religious service (if the child isn’t crying too loudly).

            As I said above, use of a cry room is voluntary. Parents bring their children into one when they feel they need to.
            — In some cases, this might be where the whole family (father, mother, children) spends the church service, exiting only for communion.
            — In other cases, a parent (father or mother) or grandparent might remove a loud child from the sanctuary to the cry room, in order to minimize the disturbance to the service.
            — Or a mother might go there to nurse her baby, if she wants to, since it is quieter and a little more private.

            In Islamic culture, do boy children stay with the women in the separate room for a time? If so, is it only in infancy, or is there an age when they transition to joining the men?

            • Farnoosh

              Dear Kim, thanks so much for explaining more. To be honest, while I lived in Iran, I was exposed to the Islamic culture when I was very young and only in rare circumstances and I am not by any stretch of imagination Islamic in anyway shape or form. :)! So I honestly have no idea except that men and women are generally separated in all things they do, even in parties. I think you know much more about me on this subject and you have really educated me here. Thank you for the dialogue.

            • Negar

              Hi Kim,

              Thought I would chim in because I’ve been to a few mosques :). Before I answer your question, I must comment that I don’t believe there is a universal Islamic culture, more so Islamic tradition. Since Muslims range from China to Latin America, every Muslim and every mosque (depending on location / environment) will have a different culture than its neighbor. Since I’ve only been to mosques in the mid-west United States, I can comment on what I’ve seen here. I’ve been to mosques where men and women pray separately (women upstairs, men downstairs), men in one room, women in another, or in the same room, women on one side, men on the other. From my observations, it seems that children under the age of 13 (say, around puberty) can pray in whichever section they prefer (say, with their mother or father). The interesting thing is, one has to wonder how deeply rooted this tradition is in Islam as a faith, as opposed to the early cultures Islam was practiced in, because if you look at Mecca (Islam’s holiest site), men and women pray together, shoulder to shoulder. Odd, eh? :)

              • Kim Curry

                Hi Negar,

                Thank you so much for the extra insight!

                I appreciate the correction on there being no single “Islamic culture.” Had I been thinking about the Shi’ite – Sunni divide, I’m sure I would have found a different phrase to use. I’m very slightly more familiar with the multitude of Jewish traditions. Your comment reminds me of a poster in a synagogue Religious Education wing, showing Jewish children from all over the world, China to Latin America. Now I can picture an Islamic equivalent to the poster.

                For men and women praying together at Mecca, is that only at hajj, the annual pilgrimage? Or year-round?

                • Negar


                  You’re very welcome! :) To be honest, I don’t know the answer to your question regarding year-round visits to Mecca. Hajj, as you stated is performed only once a year. The lesser hajj, called umrah can be performed at any point. Since the number of visitors during umrah is significantly less than during hajj, there might be more segregation of the sexes that takes place. I have never visited that area of the world so I can’t comment for sure though. Great question! Am curious myself now…. :)

                  • Farnoosh

                    Learned so much just watching you guys go back and forth on this topic. Negar is of course an expert compared to me and many others so Negar, thank you for answering Kim’s questions so generously and to both of you for sharing your thougths here.

  • Meg

    I lost my grandfather this past month and my father in November so I am a frequent attendee of funerals lately. I am not sure why the “American” funeral has to be so depressing. My grandfather was a captain firefighter so they all came out with their trucks, the bagpipes played for him and it was very sad. My father’s funeral was similar. Sad music, sad stories. Although I don’t agree with how they are I am very respectful and wear my black attire. I have told my family that I do not want anyone to wear black at my funeral and I only want happy stories told and happy music. Let’s see if they follow my wishes. I am glad you posted this. I never understood the importance of funerals until death decided to embark on my life, but they are closure regardless of how they are presented and that is very important when dealing with death. Hopefully people will get that out your post. Thanks!

    • Meg

      and my thoughts and prayers are with you and your husband. Remember that death is the next journey in our lives and should be a celebration of their glorious life. 90 years old is an accomplishment. Sending love your way!

      • Farnoosh

        Dearest Meg, I am so sorry for your losses. It must have been very painful to lose such loved ones so close to each other and my darling, if you think American funerals are depressing, you should never ever attend an Iranian one! And everyone must respect everyone’s wishes, whatever they may be. I have no doubt that years and years and years down the road, when it is your time, those who remain will respect it and yours can be a happy occasion but loss is loss and people generally grieve over loss. At least that is my perspective and that’s the way I see death as a sad departure so grief is natural. Of course celebration of life follows but a funeral is usually pretty close in timing to that departure and sadness should be permitted as it is a natural part of coping. And thank you for your very warm wishes here. All the best. PS: Just read your post on all your weddings this year. Good luck. You are very wise to be at least somewhat selective :)!

  • Brenda

    Dear Farnoosh
    I’m so sorry to hear of your sad loss. Please accept my condolences and know my thoughts are with you and your family.

    • Farnoosh

      Dearest Brenda, thank you so so much. Your most gracious condolences are received with open arms.

  • Rebekah

    The different perspectives here are fascinating to me (related as I am to someone who wore pink to her husband’s funeral) — grief, the need to counteract grief with joy, and respect… It’s good to see the baseline you offer in the post itself, something useful to be aware of no matter what varies from it, or how, or why. I’m with you; the ritual of mourning together and treating the funeral as a way to support the grieving is important. It’s not easy to join others in a time of grief, and we don’t often talk about funerals. Thanks for writing this up.

    • Farnoosh

      Dear Rebekah, so nice of you to add to this post and share your thoughts. We certainly do not talk about funerals much at all. Grief is not an easy topic to tackle on any level and we do what humans do best: we avoid it altogether. :)
      Thanks for adding your perspective and I too found all the different ones here fascinating. Perhaps, one day, we can see the departure from this world as a celebration and celebration alone. Who knows?

  • Chris Harris

    I have a few choice words for people who seem to think flips-flops work anywhere, anytime. I hate those things.

    This is a great post, many of those points with a little modification would be well heeded for just about any social occasion beyond funerals.

    • Farnoosh

      Chris, you and my husband will get along fine then. That’s his mantra and I thought he had some sort of strange allergies about sandals. :)
      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts here. I see you are digging deep into the archives and I am thrilled to see it.

  • Negar

    Farnoosh – This message is far too belated, but I’m sorry for the loss of Andy’s grandmother. I can tell she was a truly amazing woman.

    I couldn’t agree with your more on the “Do’s” and “Do Not” lists! Thanks for sharing this with us all. I am also blown away by some people’s behaviors at funerals. =(

  • Mike

    I do not attend funerals. They are, in my opinion, archaic, artificial and cheapening to the memory of the loved one lost. My last memory of the person who has passed will stay with me forever and I don’t want to happen in a place where I would never have spent time with the departed. I prefer to treasure the last natural memories I have of the person who has passed. I offer all of my comfort to the family members, provided I have a relationship with them, in their homes or in mine. I believe that any societal guidelines for behavior after someone passes do not apply to everyone as we all deal with death in our own way and no person has the right to tell any other person the correct way to grieve or to remember their loved ones.

  • Mike

    After reading some of the other posts, it seems that simply showing up to pay one’
    s respects is not enough for some people. They must be judged and must adhere to a code of conduct. Another reason not to go to these hideous affairs. I must emphasize that they are hideous TO ME. I am not saying that everyone should feel the way I do.

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Mike, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Great to hear that you have your own way of dealing with grief. And others have theirs. I was stating the importance of etiquette and my opinion in this blog post. Glad to hear you can respect my opinion and those of others while you share yours. Have a good day!

  • Cathie

    My mother recently passed away, and as she was young (58 years), we did more of a ‘wake’ than a funeral. It was really positive!. Everyone had a really great time, lots of food, laugher, etc. We made up a play list of her favourite songs, served her favourite food, kept the drinks flowing. My mother was such as positive, beautiful person, that everyone had beautiful, funny stories to tell. She would have love it!. As she passed away from cancer, she was able to plan her own funeral, and this was exactly what she wanted. She also requested that no one was to wear black. I think that it is good to have a standard set of ‘rules’ for behaving at funerals.

    • Farnoosh

      Hi Cathie, I am sorry for your loss. Of course if the explicit wishes of the person are to do things a certain way, that overrules all else. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story.