Just as any individual would have their preferences when it comes to a funeral, every ethnicity or even religion has their own customs too. Although the traditional American funeral is the most commonly performed, it is important to honor the deceased by respecting their traditions and beliefs.
African American Customs
African American funeral services that have remained traditional, particularly among southern families, are:
- Flower girls, the female counterpart of a pallbearer
- “Nurses” are sometimes available to help a mourner who becomes overwhelmed with emotion
- Musical performances are presented by a choir and/or loved ones
- A large assortment of flowers to decorate the coffin is common
- Placing personal items on the grave is a custom that has been traced back to different countries in Africa
In the Chinese culture, cremation is normally uncommon. For this reason, burial of the dead is significant to the Chinese people. If the burial is performed incorrectly, it is believed that disaster and bad luck will plague the family of the deceased. Factors that Influence Funeral and Burial Rites:
Generally, the Hmong funeral is often a time to mourn, grieve, remember the deceased, and to talk, visit, and even laugh together. Some unique qualities of a Hmong funeral are:
- Typically, last 3 or 4 days
- Mourners help make fake gold money boats for the deceased
- Colors of the deceased’s clothes are also spiritually significant
- Specific shoes made of cloth are provided for the deceased
- Chicken is often placed by the head
- Instead of flowers, most guests at the funeral offer donations called “sunshine money” to help the family cover the costs of the funeral
In rural communities, the wake is usually held at the family’s home. Guests can expect:
- Strong emotional responses
- Children who have accepted death from an early age
- A final ceremony to be held at the burial site
- Relatives to throw a handful of dirt on the coffin before the grave is filled
- Family members to light candles at the altar and shrine for nine days following the death
Native American Customs
Because Native American nations do not share a single faith or common practice, here are some suggestions for proper behavior during sacred ceremonies that can be derived from worldviews based on spiritual values:
- Sacred services are both personal and communal experiences meant to shape the individual
- Diverse religious explanations can exist harmoniously within one group, yet can all be uniquely sacred
- Specific areas or sites are important to sacred ceremonies, yet they are more often a homeland rather than a shrine or temple
- Death is a journey to another world
National or International Mortuary Shipping
In some cases, a loved one’s body is first transferred from the place of death to a local funeral home and then transported to another city or country for funeral ceremonies and/or burial. If this is your situation, you’ll need two funeral homes – one locally to handle the first call, and a second one in the destination city.
Obviously, the first call funeral home is needed immediately. However, you may prefer to select a funeral home in the destination city and ask them to make the arrangements with a local funeral home to remove the deceased from the place of death.
You will not be able to arrange air transportation of human remains directly with an airline. This is due to certain transportation standards for human remains, such as embalming or packing the body in ice. Also, shipments of human remains are subject to the “known shipper” regulations of the Transportation Security Administration. International Mortuary Shipping costs could be the many thousands of dollars.
Attending a Funeral
Funerals, viewings, and visitations are not only hard on the person planning the funeral and the immediate family of the deceased, but they can also be difficult for friends, relatives and acquaintances. A call, card or flowers, or visit, are all important gestures that let the family know you’re thinking of them and share their sorrow. While times are changing and proper funeral etiquette is evolving, texts, emails, and tweets are still too informal for expressing sympathy. It is still much more respectful to reach out using traditional communication methods such as a telephone call or hand written note.
How To Write An Obituary
Obituaries help inform family and friends that a loved one has passed. They commemorate the life and let others know when and where services will be held. Whether an obituary is for you or a loved one, make it unique. Let the obituary express the personality and events that made your loved one’s life interesting.
- Spouse, children and grandchildren
- Special people in the life of the deceased
- Significant events and dates
- Important activities
- Favorite hobbies, beliefs, or things that were important to the deceased.
- You may also want to include a photo
How To Write An Eulogy
- Talk It Over: Ask questions so that you get a full picture of the person’s life. Take down key highlights that might give you inspiration as you begin to write.
- Make a List: How did they like to spend time? Did they have hobbies? Did they have special interests? Was there music, food, or activities that were special?
- Develop a Theme: Start thinking about how everything might fit together.
- Create an Outline: Creating an outline can be helpful in organizing what you will say.
- Start Writing: With your outline, you are ready to start writing. Try to keep it conversational by writing the way you would say it.
- Edit: Now that you have a completed draft read it out loud. Add, delete, rearrange the wording as you go along.
- Get Feedback: Share an edited draft with others to get feedback and suggestions. Edit the eulogy to reflect the comments made by others.
- Practice: Practice will give you the chance to make sure the eulogy is the right tone and length. Most are 10-15 minutes long. If you aren’t sure how long it should be, check with the person making the funeral arrangements.
- Remembering: Oftentimes, a great accomplishment or a funny life-moment helps celebrate the memory and cement the legacy.
- Honoring: Nobody is perfect, and this is a great moment to accentuate the best attributes.