Right way to pay respects?
November 18, 2007 1:37 PM   Subscribe

A (work) friend's husband was recently killed in an accident. What is the protocol for sending cards, flowers, letters, etc., to the surviving family?

I am a married male and would like to do somewhat more than the minimum.

I would like to know what to send, when to send it, where to send it (home, funeral home, church) and whether to send it by myself, just join in a group sentiment from work, or both. I'd love to see a link to an online site that discusses these matters.
posted by Rad_Boy to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i would say send flowers to the funeral home (with a simple card saying, "my deepest sympathies") and a donation in his name to an appropriate charity with the notification going to her house.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:57 PM on November 18, 2007

Go to your major local paper on line and click "obituaries." Most funeral homes will post the obit, and all the info you need will be there.
posted by nax at 2:04 PM on November 18, 2007

A related question was asked and answered here recently, which might help a bit.

I find that etiquette around these issues can be hard to generalize on. There are regional variations, cultural variations and religious variations to consider, which makes it hard to lay down any rules. The main guideline has to be your sense of your relationship with your co-worker, but sending a card is never wrong and making a charitable donation to a suitable institution in the deceased's honour is never unwelcome.
posted by zadcat at 2:16 PM on November 18, 2007

Flowers are fine unless the family is Jewish. Jewish tradition dictates that funerals should be kept as simple as possible, and thus flowers should not be used or sent to the family.

Many families are inundated with flowers, and at a certain point, donations to the decedent's favorite charity or church are more appreciated. You could also send food, as many families appreciate it in the days and weeks after the death to feed the constant stream of mourners coming through the house.

Finally, if the funeral or wake is open to the public, you should consider attending. Even if you knew the decedent only slightly or not at all, if you knew a family member, you can attend to support that person, and your presence at the service will mean more than any gift or card you could send. My mother died a few years ago, and I will always remember the friends of mine who, despite never having met my mother, came to her funeral because they wanted to support me. It meant so much to me to have them there and to know that they cared about me enough to attend the funeral of a total stranger.
posted by decathecting at 2:20 PM on November 18, 2007 [3 favorites]

If this is someone you consider a friend, going beyond the "sympathy card and donation" would probably be appreciated. Food to her house is where I would start. Frozen meals she can reheat, with re-heating directions, would be very thoughtful.

Flowers to the house - a bouquet, not a wreath - might also be nice. When my MIL died, the house was full of people, but everyone had sent flowers to the church or funeral home. I ended up having to buy flowers for the house, which seemed very odd at the time considering how many flowers had been sent by friends. I don't know how common that is, though.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:26 PM on November 18, 2007

Everyone else has it. As for a reference on these issues, the gold standard is Miss Manner's books. Seriously. She is very systematic and down-to-earth about how etiquette isn't just a game of memorizing rules, but it's about doing things that are in keeping with the needs of different occasions. In this situation, you want to offer sympathy and maybe something useful (food), without putting any pressure on the person to reciprocate. Any of the suggestions above will work great. Get Miss Manner's Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior - it's fun to read, and covers the angles on mourning etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:13 PM on November 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you send a card, adding a few sentences is much, much more personal than just signing your name.

Also, think if there is some specific, concrete help you can offer. Setting up the house during funeral, asking if she needs milk etc. when you going to the grocery store (especially if there is a lot of out of town family), driving people to the airport, covering something for her at work. Don't just say "call me if you need help" - most people hate to ask for help so be specific about the kinds of things you would be willing to do and then add "or anything else"

I would also vote for a fruit basket over flowers because people won't be much into eating regular meals so some healthy, attractive snacks would be good.
posted by metahawk at 5:09 PM on November 18, 2007

The best thing you can do is go see your friend, tell her that you don't really know what to do or say, but that you are thinking of her. When I lost my son that meant more to me than flowers or food.
posted by wv kay in ga at 6:48 PM on November 18, 2007

Maybe this is just me, but I would be extremely grateful if someone helped out with the things he did around the house. Maybe mow the lawn or some such. Example: because as it is, that's Future Mr. DamnJezebel's job. I can't look outside our house anymore without thinking of him, out there. If weeds have popped up, I automatically think of him wanting to be all green-thumby.

And I wouldn't know the first thing to do in that instance. I think it would be a nice gesture if you mowed her yard or arranged to have it mowed (again, fill in blank here) without announcing your arrival and asking if it's ok. Just do it. Same goes for calling her and saying "hey, i'm going to that store that's like 15 minutes away, what would you like me to pick up for you?" Just like in sales - don't ask open ended questions. People are too likely to try to tough it out on their own without relying on support from friends or family.
posted by damnjezebel at 8:22 PM on November 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

When one of my parents died the most useful and appreciated gift was food. Of course nobody was in the mood to cook; having a kitchen full of cooked food for the next week or two was beyond helpful. If you don't want to deliver cooked food, a gift card for home delivery would probably work too.
posted by Sufi at 1:05 AM on November 19, 2007

Food is always good. When my grandfather died some people sent things like pizzeria gift certificates, which was nice. It meant my grandmother could just hold on to them and, if she was having a rough day a few weeks later, order dinner and not worry about cooking.

If you do send cooked food attach a recipe card to the top. Makes it easier for people with food allergies.
posted by Kellydamnit at 4:51 AM on November 19, 2007

Food is always good, but don't forget the drinks. Soft drinks, water, beer if that's their thing. And bring it in a cooler because the fridge might be full of gifted food.
posted by kamikazegopher at 2:49 PM on November 19, 2007

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