Funeral etiquette: Do’s and dont’s for the not so bereaved

Published: January 22, 2011
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Don't go to a funeral and asked the bereaved "what happened".

I lost my mother on January 12, 2011. I was at the airport, waiting to board my plane to London but the flight had been delayed due to heavy fog.

Just as the call for boarding came, my brother called me and broke the news that she was critical. I forgot everything and grabbed the first taxi to the hospital. I had talked to my mother just two hours before, and she had been home, getting ready for her regular checkup. She sounded fine. Upon reaching the hospital, she died suddenly due to heart failure.

To say the event was shocking would be an understatement. Since I am the eldest and the only girl in the family, I had to come home and prepare the house for the janaza. Needless to say, it was a tough and painful day, but I learned from the whole ordeal that some people do not think before they act in a sensitive situation like this one and the appropriate etiquette needs to be highlighted.

  • Do not ask the immediate family members “what happened”. If every single guest comes and asks the person, causing them to relive the whole traumatic scene by narrating it, this becomes difficult. Please be a little considerate and ask someone from the extended family about such details.
  • Do offer prayers and support. I appreciated all my friends and family members who were there to offer genuine support at a time when one feels all may be lost. If you are not in the city or cannot make it, your messages or calls can make a huge difference. Do not underestimate the value of kind words.
  • Do not ask the grieving family about the will. My mother has just died when an aunty sat next to me and after offering her condolences, asked me if my mother had told me about her assets and how to distribute them. I was too stunned to realise it at the time, but a few days later my best friend who had been sitting next to me pointed out how weird the woman’s question was, especially since she wasn’t even closely related. Asking about someone’s will is not only extremely rude, it is downright disrespectful.  A person’s worth is more than their material assets and honestly, it is not anyone’s business.
  • Do help out. One can help with domestic and funeral arrangements, such as preparation of food, distributing copies of the Holy Quran and rosaries for prayers etc.
  • Do not be a drama queen and talk about what a “tragic loss” this is. Every Pakistani has a distant relative, the fat aunty who you have never seen but are somehow related to, who comes and howls and screams and squeezes the life out of you. One may think they are actually genuine, except once the drama is done, they sit down and start a gossip session amongst themselves. The exaggerated grief of this relative will have a lasting impact on those who are actually bereaved. The grieving family knows the importance of the individual they have lost – there is no need to pour salt in our wounds.
  • Do pray for the deceased’s soul. That is why funerals are so important. Read a fatiha and recite the Holy Quran.
  • Do not socialise. Do not hang around the family’s house to catch up with other relatives. Leave the immediate family with their loved ones, so they can recover from the shock.

Amna Khalid

Amna Khalid

An economics major from LUMS, with a MSc in financial economics from Cardiff University. Khalid currently works in London. She blogs at surreallist.blogspot.com/

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