Bette's Etiquette Beat - Deadiquette

Bette's Etiquette Beat - Deadiquette

Spring has sprung in the Nations’ Capital!  It is always one of my favourite seasons- buds blossoming, winter coats and boots being stored away, new beginnings. Spring is also a melancholy time for me personally, since it was the first day of spring, 11 years ago, that my father died suddenly from a massive heart attack.   So of course at this time of year, my thoughts turn to him and all that has happened over the last decade.  Perhaps not the cheeriest topic, but one that is worth addressing and despite its grim nature, can contain some humorous lessons.   Given the recent Federal Budget announcement, two things are certain in life: death and taxes.  For this reason, I decided to devote this month’s blog to the former; specifically, Deadiquette. Or in other words, a do’s and don’t’ cheat sheet when saying goodbye to the dearly departed. And for those fans of “The Walking Dead” and all things zombie, take heed as I suggest some of the following manners du mort may be  applicable to un-dead rituals as well!

This brings me to the first point of “Deadiquette”; the motive behind a visitation funeral or life celebration (a term that is replacing the “f-word” more and more these days) is a remembrance and celebration of the person that has died. The physical event of gathering together is for those left behind and to support them through their time of loss.  Respect those mourning by giving them the time and space they need to focus on their grief and bring closure to their loss and don’t crowd them physically or emotionally. A simple “I’m sorry for your loss” and a hug is all that is needed at that moment. This is one of those times that less is more and your mere presence speaks volumes.  In that same vein, the mood, attire and surroundings of occasion  should respect, honour and capture the spirit of the deceased. Which brings me to another Deadiquette consideration; dress appropriately.  The dearly departed won’t see you, but others will and that matters. If the person was a beach fanatic, a memorial by the water with people barefoot may be fine, even welcomed. If someone was former military, wearing a suit and tie would be appropriate and expected. And shirt ironed and tucked in, please.

The visitation, the funeral, the reception (wake) are necessary events that allow those left behind to be comforted by the fact their loved one will not only be missed by them but many others.  With no disrespect to my late dad, he really had no idea how many people lined up to pay their respects and touched by him during his lifetime; but I did and that is what really counted in those early days what I remember and feel comforted by, eleven years later.

I was looking at suggested “etiquette pitfalls” from the February blog and realized they apply to this month’s topic, so I leave those for your adaptation and consideration once again.  Those that are readers of “Bette’s Etiquette Beat” know of my fondness for thank you notes. Well funerals are no exception, a fact which I was reminded about recently in a comical way.  I am a big advocate of sending thank you notes (not emails) to people after a work related meeting or information interview.  So in practicing what I preach, I keep a package of thank you cards at work, so when the need arises I can scribble a quick note at a moment’s notice.   The other day, pen in hand, I opened up one of the cards to be greeted with the line “With sincere appreciation for acting as a bearer”.  Needless to say I made a trip to the store after work to pick up some new (blank) thank you cards.  So in closing, when you are the one organizing the final farewell, remember to send your pallbearers a note of appreciation- and as I learned, cards come pre-printed so all you have to do is sign!

This month’s blog is dedicated to my dear dad, Sol. I miss him every day.

You can send your thoughts (and any questions) on this month’s topic or any other etiquette related queries to me at  I will respond in a future column.

Glad you dropped in-you are always welcome.