Etiquette after Loss

After losing my first husband, Kyle, I felt the need to help others.  Yes, I love to help the grieving in any way possible, but I also want to help that person’s support circle.  It is so hard to know what to do and what the etiquette is after someone goes through a loss.  As far as I’m concerned, etiquette flew out the window the very second loss occured.

I have an opinion (shocking, I know), which may or may not be popular, but I will tell it how it is.  Now, if you are a “formal dining room” type person (no offense if you are), you may want to stop reading now and just stick with traditional forms of support during grief such as:  drop of a meal immediately, donate to the designated Non-Profit, and send flowers to the funeral home. But, since you are reading this, you obviously want to do ANYTHING to provide comfort to your loved one. There is nothing wrong with any of these acts, it is just tradition.  As far as I’m concerned, there is always room for improvement.



My suggestion for all you eat-in kitchen people, is that you hold off on bringing a meal immediately. Most likely the person you are there to love, doesn’t have much of an appetite.  I understand that there are usually people at their house to consume the food, but there is always SO much.  Take a different approach.  Bring them dinner every month on the date of their loss (or around then).  Those are the days that are lonely.  Set a reminder in your phone if necessary.  My brother set up a for me and the kids.  It was nice, because it physically brought people to our house.  I loved it even more when they stayed to eat.



Monetary donations are SO appreciated.  Granted, most funeral homes encourage the family to chose a not for profit or society that their loved one was passionate about, which is totally FINE. (By the way, in widow language, FINE means Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.)  I personally had donations towards Kaylee and Camden’s college funds.  My suggestion is to write a check directly to the spouse or family.  They have a funeral to pay for!  They have lost work expenses!  If it is a spouse, they just lost their paycheck for the rest of their lives!  Give monetary support directly to the family.  It really is appreciated.  It’s just not usually etiquette to ask for donations be made to the family.



Ok, this a BIG one for me.  Flowers. I love flowers…on happy occasions. They are a great thing for the family to have and see at the funeral.  It physically makes them feel loved by just seeing the arrangements surrounding them. I still send flowers to funerals, but these are the criteria I give to the florist:

  1.  If the flowers are fresh, have them arranged in one of the biodegradable vases to be taken to the cemetery.  That way, the family will enjoy seeing them for support, but they don’t have to smell that funeral flower smell in their house for the next week.  Sometimes, it’s a logistical nightmare just to figure out where to put them all.
  2. Maybe opt for a nice wreath on an easel that can stay at the cemetery.  It could be months before a headstone is placed and that will keep their marker from looking empty. Plants are nice, but consider the recipient.  Not everyone is a plant person. I LOVED having so much love and support shown through the gift of flowers and read every card. I just didn’t want the smell and funeral reminder at my house for the next week.  


For a close friend, flowers, food, and money doesn’t always fulfill that comforting feeling you are looking for.  Not to sound sales pitchy, but that I just ONE of the reasons I started Comforting Keepsakes.  It is a practical gift that is custom, quality, handmade, and will last a lifetime.  Give your friend or family member a place to put their loved one’s wallet, phone, glasses, keys….the list goes on and on.


Sarah Deatherage Steele

I am a Mom of 3, re-married widow, dental hygienist, fresh food snob, grief supporter for widows, and the creator of Comforting Keepsakes Sympathy Gifts.  My husband, AJ and I hand make and finish every detail of our Memory Boxes, in our garage! I love my family and friends, second chances, exploring new places, and of course food!

Follow me!  I don’t know what I’m going to do or say next, but if it’s worth typing, it must be worth something…


2 thoughts on “Etiquette after Loss

  1. Dana says:

    Mark will bring me flowers and as gorgeous and thankful I am he loves to do that it’s a trigger for me. (among many others) 15 years and it’s still a trigger. I felt guilty when I couldn’t keep them all and even more guilty when the plants didn’t make it. The flowers wilted much like my spirit. 15 years later I received my Comforting Keepsake Box and it’s perfect. Things I had strewn all over the house and would randomly find are now placed in my special place. No more toothbrush of David’s in the shower (yes I kept it in there for 15 years) and his wallet and cherry chapstick (he wore ALL the time) and silly misc things that have a deep meaning.

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