Funeral Gift Etiquette

When you are notified that someone has passed away, it's natural to want to give a gift to the deceased's family in their time of grief, but make sure you follow proper funeral gift etiquette. You can present a variety of gifts to the grieving family that will ease their suffering and send the message that your thoughts are with them in their time of hardship.

Flowers: The most common funeral gift is flowers, but, before you send any, find out if there are certain conditions for funeral flowers depending on the religious affiliation of the deceased. For example, Jewish funeral traditions don't incorporate flowers, and other gifts are considered more appropriate. Others, such as Hindus or Muslims, don't consider funeral flowers as traditional, but the gesture may be seen as thoughtful by certain groups. Funeral flowers for a Catholic, LDS or Buddhist funeral are appropriate and welcomed. If you have any doubts on funeral flowers, consult a local florist, who will be well versed in different traditions for funerals.

Food: Perhaps the most welcome gift during a time of mourning is that of food. Whether you have meals delivered or drop by with a casserole, the message is that you are considerate of the family's loss. However, be sensitive about intruding on the family's time when delivering the gift. A brief visit of about 15 minutes is appropriate to deliver the food and express condolences. Funeral gift etiquette for food is to offer meals that require little preparation, such as a gift card for takeout food or an entrée that just needs to be heated up. If you think that many people will bring food, you might want to go with the gift card in case the family winds up with more than they can eat.

Gifts to Charity: Memorial gifts are a popular tradition that allows money that would normally be spent on expensive floral arrangements to be designated for a specific organization, charity or event. Generally, the family will announce a preferred charity in the funeral announcement and request donations in lieu of flowers. Don't breach funeral gift etiquette by sending flowers if the family has specifically asked not to. If you choose to make a charitable donation, be sure to supply the organization with the family name and address so they can send notification of the donation. These notifications usually don't reveal the amount of the donation, just that it was made by you on behalf of the deceased.

After the Funeral: Funeral gift etiquette also allows friends and family members to send gifts in the days and years following a funeral. A sincere card or memento on the anniversary of the funeral sends the message that you care about family members and remember their loss. Even following up with family members a few weeks after the funeral with a meal or a potted plant can have a big impact on the grieving heart.

While funeral gift etiquette recommends that family members send thank you cards for any gifts or services received during a time of mourning, don't be offended if you don't receive one at all or if it arrives several weeks or months after the funeral. When someone is dealing with grief, time can slip by quickly.

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