In Memoriam

  Bereavement Customs  

When attending the funeral of someone of a different faith, many customs may be different from your own. ClickOnDetroit wants to help you feel comfortable in these situations. Here is what to expect at funeral services for those of different faiths, and some ways that you may best show your respects to the family in mourning.

Catholic Funerals

What To Expect At The Funeral Home

What should I do if I can't make it to the funeral mass?

The best thing to do is to pay respects at the funeral home in the days prior to the church service. Sending a bouquet of fresh flowers or a plant to either the home of the family in mourning or the funeral home is also appropriate.

Will the casket be open?

During the wake, a period of time preceding the funeral in which respects can be paid to the deceased, the casket will most likely be open; however, some families may decide on a closed casket.

What is the rosary service and when does it take place?

In most cases, a rosary prayer service is held in the evening before the funeral mass, usually around 7:00pm, which includes the use of prayer beads. The two prayers that are recited most frequently during the rosary service are the Hail Mary and Our Father.

What To Expect At The Church

How can I express my condolences?

A wake is sometimes held at the church prior to the service. You can pay your respects to the deceased at that time. Candles are available at most Catholic churches that you may light for a small donation. These candles will burn as a memorial to the deceased.

How long can I expect mass to last, and what can I expect it to involve?

Mass will generally last from 40 minutes to an hour. Throughout the service there will be sitting, standing, and kneeling. A kneeler is usually built across each pew for comfort. The priest will lead the service, and some family members may choose to participate and share a few remembrances.

Is there anything I am not able to participate in during mass?

Only Catholics are invited to take communion. If you are not Catholic you may remain seated during this portion of the ceremony.

Information gathered with help from Father Thomas W. Sepulveda, C.S.B., Pastor at Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church.

Protestant Funerals

What To Expect At The Funeral Home

Will the casket be open at the funeral home?

This all depends on what the family decides. Sometimes the casket is open, sometimes it is closed, and sometimes cremation is chosen.

What To Expect At The Church

What will the service be like?

There is a large variance in the services because there is no specific liturgy or customary worship procedure. Generally, the service will begin with opening prayers and scripture readings. Often, there is a reading of the obituary and some may choose to speak in remembrance. Sometimes there are brief prayers.

How long will the service at the church last?

Typically it will be about half an hour. Sometimes more hymns are added and the service runs longer, but it would rarely exceed 45 minutes.

What should I wear to the service?

At one time wearing all black was considered the norm. That is no longer the case. Now it is encouraged that men wear a dress shirt and dress slacks and that women wear either dress slacks, and a blouse or a dress.

What should I do if I am unable to attend the service at the church or the funeral home?

The most appropriate thing to do is to send flowers or thoughtful gifts to the family in memory of the deceased. You may also write your condolences to them privately. Though notes may be sent to the church as well, they will not usually be read during the service.

What To Expect At The Home Of The Family In Mourning

Sometimes after the funeral there will be an informal gathering at the home of a relative of the deceased. It may involve food and beverages, as well as prayer.

Should I bring anything to the family in mourning?

Yes. It is appropriate to bring food and drink, as well as to help with small chores around the house as needed.

Information gathered with help from Dr. Philip Carl Olson, interim pastor at Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit.

Jewish Funerals

What To Expect At The Funeral Home

What are the differences in services for Orthodox Jews and Conservative or Reform Jews at the funeral home?

The service for Orthodox Jews is usually held at the funeral home or Gravesite and only occasionally at the synagogue. The deceased are bathed, dressed in white and positioned in a casket. Cremation is generally not chosen. Conservative and Reform Jews will sometimes choose cremation.

What To Expect At The Synagogue

What will happen during the service at they synagogue?

Prayers will be recited, usually by everyone at the service. Depending on the family's wishes relatives and friends may choose to speak about the deceased.

What is a yarmulke? I see that they are offered at the service. Should I wear one?

A yarmulke (pronounced yahr-muhl-kuh) is a small round skull cap that Jewish men wear in the synagogue and sometimes elsewhere. Even if you are not Jewish you may wear one as a sign of respect and as a way to feel more involved in the service.

Will the service involve an open coffin?

Some Jews do not believe in having an open coffin. If the coffin is to be closed, one can usually go into a connecting room where the body can be viewed before thed service. Before the funeral starts the coffin will be shut and the curtains that kept the coffin area closed off will be opened.

What To Expect At The Home Of The Family In Mourning

If you are entering a home where the family is "sitting shiva" (the custom of mourning a death) what do you do?

There will most likely be water and paper towels on the front porch. You should use this to wash your hands before you enter the house. Do not ring the doorbell or knock on the door. Simply enter the home. Shiva generally lasts for seven days.

What are customs in the home of a family that is mourning?

The family will usually light a special memorial candle that burns for seven days. An evening "maariv" (prayer service lasting around 20 or 25 minutes) can take place daily. The time of the maariv is usually around sunset. More religious mourners will purposely keep themselves uncomfortable as part of this shiva custom by removing couch cushions and sitting on hard surfaces. They will also cover mirrors eliminating the temptation of vanity. The immediate family is considered to be in mourning for 30 days (a period called sheloshim) that starts immediately after the funeral. As part of the ritual key family members wear pieces of torn cloth to symbolize the torn heart they are suffering from during mourning.

What is the best way to pay respects to the family?

The accepted practice is to bring a tray of food to the home, often dairy. Verify if the family keeps kosher so that any food is prepared in accordance with their dietary restrictions. Sending flowers is not encouraged because the funeral is meant to be as simple as possible. At the Gravesite service placing a pebble on the grave is a traditional way to memoralize the deceased person.

Information gathered with help from Linda Neuman, assistant to the rabbi at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield.

Hindu Funerals

What To Expect At The Funeral Home

Will there always be a service at the funeral home?

No, sometimes there will not be a service at a funeral home. If there is, it will be led by a Hindu priest and will involve prayers and chanting.

Will there be an open casket?

Only if the family chooses to do so. Often cremation is chosen.

What To Expect At The Temple

What is they best way to pay my respect to the deceased person and family?

Flowers are appropriate and are usually placed at the feet of the deceased. Gifts of fruit are also appropriate for the family.

What will happen at the funeral service?

Scriptures are usually read from the Vedas (sacred Hindu scriptures) or the Bhagavad Gita (a holy Hindu book). There will also be a chief mourner, sometimes the eldest son of the deceased person, who will circle the body with a candle in remembrance.

What To Expect At The Home Of The Family In Mourning

Will there be any additional service after the funeral?

Sometimes the family will hold a service in their home afterward, which may include a meal. If you are invited to the service, you should wash yourself and change your clothes before entering the home of the family in mourning.

Islamic Funerals

What To Expect At The Service

Where will the service be held?

The service could be held in a funeral home, but will most likely held at place of worship, such as a mosque. It is very unusual for a Muslim funeral service to be held in the home. Generally, there will be a short visitation at a funeral home and prayers offered at a mosque, and there will also be a service at the gravesite.

When will the service be held?

Muslims prefer to bury the dead within 24 hours of death. Usually, the services are held immediately preceeding burial.

How long will the service last?

The service could last anywhere from half an hour to 45 minutes if the family has something to say.

Will there be any prayer involved?

Yes, many prayers will be recited but only men will participate in reciting the prayers to Allah (the Arabic word for God). Scriptures will also be read, and those at the service will be reminded that death is a part of life.

Do Muslims cremate the dead?

No, cremation is forbidden in Islamic culture with the reasoning being that one is to go back into the ground in the same manner that they were born. The body is always buried within 24 hours of death with the head facing Mecca, the holy Islamic city. They are buried in a simple casket, as it is thought that money in the community should be put towards the mosque and other religious activities.

What To Expect At The Home Of The Family In Mourning

What are Muslim customs regarding mourning the dead?

Muslims mourn the dead for extended periods of time. Some mourn for up to a year and may wear black clothing to indicate they are in mourning. To respect the dead during this mourning period, it is sometimes customary not to schedule parties or weddings and to even cancel vacations.

What is they best way to pay my respects to the deceased person and family?

Going to the home of the family of the deceased person and sitting in silence is a good way to pay respect. Offering condolences and having a solemn presence is best. Bringing the family dinner is also generally appreciated.

Is there anything considered inappropriate?

Bringing food to the family is more respectful than bringing flowers or other plants. Music is not played at the service. It is interesting to note that gum chewing is also considered inappropriate.

Information gathered with help from Zana Maki and Eid Alawan of the Islamic Center of America.

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Customs & Traditions

When attending the funeral of someone of a different faith, many customs may be different from your own. ClickOnDetroit wants to help you feel comfortable in these situations. Here is what to expect at funeral services for those of different faiths, and some ways that you may best show your respects to the family in mourning…more

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