Final arrangements can take many forms

There are many ways to plan final arrangements

When former professional football player and sportscaster Frank Gifford died recently, his widow, television personality Kathie Lee Gifford, did something unusual: She bypassed a funeral altogether.

“Frank hated funerals,” Kathie Lee explained on the “Today” show. “He hated boxes. He hated to be put in boxes. He hated to get in an elevator, so we played Frank Sinatra all day long and we partied. The only criteria was, if you were there you had to be somebody that he adored, so it kept it nice and small.”

Some of us would find the idea of not having a funeral shocking and the idea of having a party even more so. As a society, we have a long-held funeral tradition that involves mourning, sadness and above all, seriousness, not music, gaiety and celebration.

There are many people who, for one reason or another, don’t want a funeral when they pass. Sometimes that can be difficult for mourners who want the outlet for their grief that a funeral provides. Some believe, as John Green writes in “The Fault in Our Stars,” that “Funerals are for the living.” And a funeral as defined by the bloggers at is “(often, not always) a place to start the process of mourning with friends and family as our grief is first unfolding.” So, being deprived of a funeral service may deeply upset some family members.

However, funerals are also for the dead: They are held to honor and remember a loved one. If a loved one asks that there not be a funeral when he or she dies, what better way to honor them then by following their wishes for their final commitment?

While Kathie Lee doesn’t say whether her husband explicitly requested that there be no funeral in the event of his death, she clearly made her decision on what she thought he would have wanted. But in the aftermath of Frank Gifford’s death, the outpouring of sympathy made her realize that having some sort of event so that fans can pay their respects for her late husband might be a good idea – perhaps a celebration of his life. It won’t be a “service” she told the press, because “he’ll boomerang [that].”

The bottom line is that there’s no one-size-fits-all way to say goodbye to a loved one. An event can be large, small, public, private, somber, joyous, traditional or not. If a loved one doesn’t want a funeral service, but you do, consider a celebration of life instead.

The “right” way to lay your loved one rest will often involve balancing several considerations. The important thing is to honor his or her wishes the best you can, while giving friends and family an opportunity to start the grieving process. These days there are many alternatives available; your local funeral director can help you find the one that best meets your needs and honors your loved one in life and death.

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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. Contact us and we can assist you in planning final arrangements, whatever they might be. 


Yield to funeral processions

Funeral procession

After seeing some confused motorists who aren’t clear on what to do when a line of cars headed to the cemetery passes by, it seemed time to revisit the rules of the road when it comes to funeral processions.

These rules aren’t just recommended etiquette – they’re state law. Operators of vehicles in a funeral procession have the right-of-way.

Under NH RSA 265:157, motorists:

  • Can’t drive between the vehicles in a funeral procession while in motion if the motorist isn’t in the procession. Emergency vehicles are the exception.
  • Can’t join the funeral procession in order to avoid being stopped in traffic.
  • Can’t pass a funeral procession on a 2-lane highway or roadway.
  • Can’t enter an intersection when the light is green if the procession is still passing through – even if they have a red light.

If you’re in a hurry, you might be frustrated at being slowed down by a funeral procession, but be sure yield and don’t try to cut in or honk your horn. This is a solemn event for friends and family, so it’s important  to show respect.

For their part, under NH RSA 265:156 funeral escort vehicles must

  • Comply with stop signs and traffic signals. However, when the lead vehicle goes through an intersection with a green light or after stopping at a stop sign, all the cars in in the funeral procession can continue through, even when the light turns red.
  • Be equipped with a purple flashing or emergency light.

Motorists in the funeral procession must:

  • Follow the vehicle ahead of them in the funeral procession as closely as possible as long as it’s “practical and safe.”
  • Have funeral flags or windshield signage, and headlights, taillights, and hazards on.

Despite the fact the procession has the right of way, it’s important that vehicles in the procession exercise caution because not everyone is aware of the law. Be on the lookout for cars trying to dart through an opening or who hit the gas when the light turns green.

If you go to a funeral and are in the funeral procession, the funeral attendants from the funeral home will direct you to your place in line. Once underway, expect to travel fairly slowly – 30 mph on roads in town and 55 mph or slower on the highway. When the service is over, return to your vehicle and be ready to follow in the procession.

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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.

Coffin or Casket – What’s the Difference?

A coffin with a flower arrangement

Did you know? While coffin and casket are often used interchangeably, they are some differences between the two. A coffin usually has six sides (or eight), while a casket has four. The six-sided coffin resembles the human shape – wider at the shoulders and narrower at the feet.

The word coffin comes from Old French cofin, from Latin cophinus, or “basket.” According to Oxford English Dictionary, the origin of “casket is unclear; one theory is that it came from  the French cassette, a  ‘small casket, chest, cabinet’. In early America, a casket was a box for jewels. Another theory is that it became a euphemism or a burial box by early undertakers. The word “casket” is used primarily in North America.

Coffins go all the way back to ancient Egypt when bodies were mummified, placed in sarcophagi and buried in pyramids.

The “economy coffin” was introduced by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II in 1785. In an effort to conserve wood, Joseph II decreed that coffins with trap doors be used for burials. The coffins were made of wood and the bottom had a flap that could be opened to allow the body to be dropped into the grave. The idea proved unpopular and was quickly repealed.

In the early 1800s, the funeral director was known as the “undertaker” and wasEarly undertaker ad often a furniture maker and a casket builder. During the Civil War, so many caskets were required that the casket industry came into existence.

Today, there are many places to buy caskets. Batesville Casket Company is the world’s largest manufacturer of caskets. Funeral homes provide caskets, but retailers and wholesalers like Wal-Mart and Costco also now sell them.

Were you aware that you do not have to buy a casket from the funeral home? Federal law requires the funeral provider to accept one you provide from another source. So shop around; it may be that the funeral home has the best price. But if you’re looking for something they don’t carry, you can look  elsewhere.

Whatever the case, if you decide to provide your own coffin (or casket), there are many types to choose from – at all price points. According to the Federal Trade Commission, an average casket costs slightly more than $2,000; some sell for as much as $10,000. Much depends on what the casket is made of. Here are some of the options available:

Metal: Caskets can be made from stainless steel, bronze or copper. The price depends on the type of metal used.

Wood: Choices include maple, ash, poplar, elm, mahogany, walnut, cherry and cottonwood. These aren’t plain, pine boxes; they’re usually polished and feature handcrafted designs.

Fiberglass: Fiberglass is light and strong. They can be manufactured to size, so are often used for infant funerals. Many finishes are available.

Cloth covered: A less-expensive alternative, the caskets are made corrugated fiberboard or pressed wood.  The exterior part is then covered with a layer of cloth.

Eco-friendly: Made of natural materials such as willow, seagrass, cardboard and bamboo – these caskets are biodegradable and non-toxic. These are usually less expensive.

Handmade: You can make your own casket or have one made by a skilled craftsman.

Part of pre-planning involves discussing what type of casket you want for your funeral with your funeral provider based on your desires and budget. If you’d like to request free pre-planning information, click here.

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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.




Funeral providers hold themselves to high standards.

In Remembrance

Mistaken identities, lost bodies, mass cremations, predatory practices – you might see the occasional story in the news about errors, illegal actions and misfeasance by funeral home staff.

But do you ever read or hear about cremations and funerals that go exactly as planned? Of course not. Because, when things go right, that’s not news.

The fact of the matter is unscrupulous funeral home owners, mistreatment of remains and the other horror stories you might hear about are the exceptions, not the norm. For every funeral or cremation that goes wrong, more than 2,000 are completed without incident: In all of those cases the deceased and the deceased’s family were treated with respect, dignity and professionalism from start to finish.

The International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association looked at Federal Trade Commission statistics and found that just .04% of all the complaints to the agency were funeral home-related in 2014. That means that out of some 2.4 million burials and cremations performed last year, just 1 in 2,400 led to a consumer complaint. New Hampshire closely mirrors that trend with just 5 complaints last year for almost 10,000 burials, according to the state Board of Registration of Funeral Directors and Embalmers.

Funeral home directors become funeral home directors because they want to be of service. They want to help people through difficult times. They want to make sure the dead are treated with dignity and respect. As with every profession, there are bad actors out there, but fortunately they are few and far between. The majority of the people in the funeral business are professionals who strive to do the best by their clients as they possibly can.

Help protect yourself from fraud by researching funeral homes before you make a final decision. Check out reviews, what the provider offers and what they charge for services. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Congress passed Funeral Rule Legislation that was created to protect consumers by allowing them to get the information they need about the goods and services offered by a funeral provider. For instance, did you know you do not have to buy a casket from the funeral home? Federal law requires the funeral provider to allow you to provide your own.

Also, find out what processes the funeral home has in place to protect your loved one as they are prepared for burial or are cremated. An example is our Peace-of-Mind cremation process, which is a rigorous set of operating policies and procedures put in place to minimize the potential for human error.

Find out who owns the funeral home. In the 1990s, the funeral home industry saw big conglomerates buy up many smaller funeral homes. Don’t be fooled: While a funeral home may have been in your community for years under the same name, that funeral home could have sold out to a large conglomerate with a focus on little more than profit. Family-run funeral homes may be a better choice: they are dedicated to service and committed to the community.

And finally, make a personal visit to determine whether the “personality” of the staff makes you confident your wishes will be carried out. If the staff makes you uncomfortable, won’t answer your questions, or seems to be hiding something, walk away. There are other funeral providers that will be transparent, welcoming and who want nothing more than to make a very difficult time in your life a little less difficult.

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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has been serving the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.

Therapy dogs: A new funeral home trend

Sad teenager hugging a therapy dog

Funeral homes are going to the dogs – and that may be a good thing.

Trending in the industry is the use of therapy dogs to help comfort and calm the grieving at funeral homes. “Comfort companions” such as Lulu, a goldendoodle who “works” at Ballard-Durand funeral home in White Plains, N.Y., is a one of an increasing number of dogs brought in by funeral homes to comfort mourners.

“She has an uncanny knack for visiting the people she feels might need her. It does put people at ease and makes people smile when they don’t feel like smiling,” Ballard-Durand CEO Matthew Fiorillo explained to People magazine.

Mark Krause, owner and president of Krause Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Milwaukee, had a Portuguese water dog named Oliver, a family dog trained as a therapy dog, who helped comfort guests at his funeral home for most of the dog’s life.

Krause recounted a story to the Associated Press about a boy, about 7 years old, who had lost his 3-year-old sister. The boy had simply stopped talking.

“The minute the dog came in, the boy started talking to him about his sister,” Krause told the AP. “This little boy tells the dog, ‘I don’t know why everyone’s so upset, my sister said she’s fine where she is.’”

Oliver died in 2011 and was honored with his own obituary and funeral that drew 150 mourners – many of them with their pets. Krause told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time of Oliver’s death: “If any dog deserves a funeral, it’s Oliver. He was a good boy.” During his years as a therapy dog at the funeral home, Oliver worked 1,000 funerals or more, Krause said.

Therapy dogs differ from service dogs in that service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for disabled individuals, while therapy dogs are brought into settings to comfort people, according to the American Kennel Club. Therapy dogs don’t have special access to public places that service dogs have.

A therapy dog is an asset in a funeral home, according to Therapy Dogs International, because “they bring unconditional love and help to lighten a mournful atmosphere while bringing peace to individuals during an upsetting time.”

According to TDI, the effects of simply stroking a dog can be incredibly comforting for the bereaved, and their unwavering companionship helps people through a difficult time. Gayle Armes, owner of the Armes-Hunt funeral homes in Fairmount and Marion, Indiana, told the AP that his funeral dog, a golden retriever named Judd, gives mourners “something else to focus on.”

“The ones who need it, they tend to go over to him, maybe kneel and love on him and he loves on them,” Armes said.

Some people believe dogs are good at comforting humans because they are able to empathize.

In one study, researchers at University of London Goldsmiths College exposed 18 pet dogs to conditions in which either the dog’s owner or an unfamiliar person hummed, pretended to cry or carried out a casual conversation.

They found that more dogs looked at, approached and touched the humans as they were crying and most of them responded in a manner “consistent with empathic concern and comfort-offering.” The researchers concluded that behavior suggests that “domestic dogs express empathic behaviour when confronted with humans in distress.”

Other studies have suggested that petting dogs lowers stress and decreases blood pressure.

While there are no official statistics on how many funeral homes in the US have therapy dogs in service, a spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association, told the AP recently that “We hear from members that more and more of them are bringing animals into funeral homes, be it a dog or a cat, whether it’s a certified therapy dog or just an extremely well-behaved family pet.”

What do you think? Should funeral homes offer therapy pets with their other services?

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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.

It’s a dangerous time of the year for teen drivers

Texting and driving

Summer’s here, school’s out and young drivers are on the road. This time of year is known as the “100 Deadliest Days” for teens – the days following Memorial Day and lasting until Labor Day when teens are on the roads in the highest numbers of the year. During this period in 2012, nearly 1,000 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers. In fact, on average, 260 teens are killed in car crashes over each summer month – an increase of 26% over the other months of the year.

According to the National Safety Council, possible reasons for the spike in summer crashes include:

  • Summer driving tends to be more recreational and not as purposeful, such as driving to see friends rather than driving to school or work;
  • Teens could be carrying friends more frequently and passengers increase the risk of a fatal crash involving a teen driver by at least 44 percent;
  • Teens may stay out later at night, when crash risk is higher;
  • With warmer weather and clearer conditions, teens may be tempted to speed;
  • More drivers are on the roads.

We ask that parents take the time this summer to remind teen drivers that:

  • Having too many passengers in the car is a dangerous distraction;
  • Cell phones should be put away while they are driving and they should NEVER text while driving;
  • Anything that distracts them from driving is a danger;
  • Impaired driving is not only illegal, it can be deadly.

On July 1, the state of New Hampshire’s hands-free law goes into effect. Under the law, the use of hand-held devices – such as phones, GPS and mp3 players – will be against the law. Hands-free devices – such as those using Bluetooth technology – are permissible. However, drivers under the age of 18 will not be allowed to use any electronic devices while driving, whether they are hands-free or not (unless it is an emergency).

Violation of the law will result in fines, suspension or revocation for teens. But more importantly, using electronic devices while driving can result in death. When texting, a driver is distracted for 5 seconds. To put that in perspective, at 50 mph, you can drive the length of a football field in 5 seconds.

We care about your kids and we love to see them out and about in the community. One place we DON’T want to see them is here at the funeral home, the victim of a fatal crash.

Funeral traditions in Colonial New England

Colonial tombstone

As with so many other things in our daily lives, funeral traditions have changed and evolved over the years. Recently, we talked about Victorian-era funerals and mourning customs; in this blog we’ll look at funeral traditions of Colonial New England, which differed from those of the middle states and the South at the time.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, death was ever present. Half of the Pilgrims died their first winter in the New World; one in 10 children died during their first year of life; 40 percent never reached adulthood. There was disease, lack of food, exposure to the elements and attacks by the natives – all which took their toll on early settlers. According to Digital History, “The tolling of church bells on the day of funerals was so common that it was legislated against as a public nuisance.”

In the 1600s, death was an austere affair; the Puritan’s religious beliefs prevented the expensive and showy funerals that came later in the 18th century and during the Victorian era.

Some customs in Colonial New England:

  • In an effort to turn away from what the Puritans considered idolatrous Catholic rites of their European homelands, no eulogies and sermons were offered at funerals. The funeral service was a mostly silent affair.
  • Written verses or laudatory messages were affixed to the bier, later to be gathered and published.
  • There were two, and sometimes three, sets of the pallbearers. Because the body was carried from the funeral service to the cemetery, which could be a distance away, the younger men – known as under bearers – would carry the bier, while the older men carried the pall, a cloth spread over the coffin. If the cemetery was very far away, a second set of under bearers would be appointed to divide up the physical burden.
  • Caskets were simple oblong boxes and gravestones were humble slabs of stones with an inscription.
  • While other regions buried their dead in graveyards located at churches, most towns in New England set aside land and created common community burial grounds.

Later in the century, funerals became more elaborate, embalming became common and headstones more ornamented. Liquor – in liberal amounts – became a large part of the funeral ritual. In an 1893 book, “Customs and Fashions of Old New England,” Alice Morse Earl wrote of Londonderry, N.H., and surrounding towns settled by Scotch and Irish immigrants:

“… The announcement of a death was a signal for cessation of daily work throughout the neighborhood. Kindly assistance was at once given at the house of mourning. Women flocked to do the household work and to prepare the funeral feast. Men brought gifts of food, or household necessities, and rendered all the advice and help that was needed. A gathering was held the night before the funeral, which in feasting and drinking partook somewhat of the nature of an Irish wake. Much New England rum was consumed at this gathering, and also before the procession to the grave, and after the interment the whole party returned to the house for an “arval,” and drank again. The funeral rum-bill was often an embarrassing and hampering expense to a bereaved family for years.

“This liberal serving of intoxicating liquor at a funeral was not peculiar to these New Hampshire towns, nor to the Scotch-Irish, but prevailed in every settlement in the colonies until the temperance-awakening days of this century. Throughout New England bills for funeral baked meats were large in items of rum, cider, whiskey, lemons, sugar, spices.

“To show how universally liquor was served to all who had to do with a funeral, let me give the bill for the mortuary expenses of David Porter, of Hartford, who was drowned in 1678.

‘By a pint of liquor for those who dived for him………………..        1s.
By a quart of liquor for those who bro’t him home…………….        2s.
By two quarts of wine & 1 gallon of cyder to jury
of inquest ………………………………………………………………        5s.
By 8 gallons & 3 qts. wine for funeral……………………………  £1 15s.
By Barrel cyder for funeral ………………………………………..       16s.
1 coffin………………………………………………………………….       12s.
Windeing sheet …………………………………………………………….18s.’”

  • One custom in Colonial New England was to send as an invitation to the funeral, a pair of gloves to each friend and relative who would attend the funeral. They could be white, black or purple and could often add great expense. For people of prominence, thousands of pairs could be sent out. The minister always got a pair, and it is said that one Boston minister, who kept a record of all of the gloves he was given, was the recipient of 2,940 pairs during his lifetime.
  • It was common for families of the deceased – especially the wealthy ones – to create mourning rings and give them out to family, close friends – and of course the minister. According to Earl, the rings were “gold, usually enamelled in black, or black and white. They were frequently decorated with a death’s-head, or with a coffin with a full-length skeleton lying in it, or with a winged skull. Sometimes they held a framed lock of hair of the deceased friend. Sometimes the ring was shaped like a serpent with his tail in his mouth.” Many were inscribed with a message, such as “Prepared be To follow me,” and were handed down through generations.

As the years passed, the practices became increasingly ostentatious and colony leaders sought to limit the expense and ostentation by levying a 50-pound fine for anyone found distributing wine or rum and funeral rings; restricting gloves to the pallbearers and clergymen; and – in an effort to limit what undertakers could charge for bell-ringing – limiting the number of times a bell could be rung.

You can learn more about the rituals and customs of Colonial New England in “Customs and Fashions in Old New England.”

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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.

Photo credit: Gryffindor


What to do when there’s a death in the family

Mortician advising clients

The death of a family member is a traumatic event and one most people don’t ever want to think about. But what if a family member dies suddenly: Would you know what to do? Having some idea of what to expect will aid you in making arrangements during a very stressful time. Here are a few things you should know:


When death occurs

If the death is unanticipated, call 911. The police will take appropriate steps depending upon the situation. In the case of a non-suspicious death of an apparently healthy individual, the police call the State Medical Examiner’s office and await instructions. If the death was suspicious in nature, then the Medical Examiner will most likely order an autopsy.

A family member should call the funeral home as soon a possible. Staff at the funeral home understand the stress you’re going through and will make sure to make the process as simple and smooth as possible. We will ask some specific questions, such as the name and location of the family member who passed away, the name of the attending physician and the name of the next of kin.

We will ask about the type of service you would like to honor your loved one and celebrate his or her life. However, if you don’t know what type of service you want, you don’t have to make that decision right away. We will set up a later appointment for you to sit down with a staff member and decide upon final arrangements. Think about your loved one and what they would want as well as how you can best honor them.



Transport of the deceased to the funeral home should be arranged after a physician has signed a pronouncement of death, which is required under New Hampshire law. If the State Medical Examiner is to perform an autopsy, transport will be arranged to take place at the completion of the exam, once the medical examiner legally releases the body.

From the nursing home

When a death occurs in a hospital or nursing home, you only have to call us. The medical staff at the health care facility will make sure that all legal requirements are met. While some health care facilities call the funeral home on behalf of the family, most don’t, so it’s best for you to call us directly.

From home

If the deceased had a terminal illness and died at home while under hospice care, the hospice nurse or physician will release the deceased to the funeral home. In this case it’s helpful to think about final arrangements in advance. We can meet with the family prior to the death to begin the process of making arrangements. This cuts down on the number of decisions you will have to make at the time of death and help prevent events from becoming too overwhelming. You can call us or you can start the process by filling out our on-line form.

From out of state

If the death takes place outside of New Hampshire, call us toll free at 1-800-PHANEUF (1-800-742-6383), and we can make all the necessary arrangements without adding the expense of an outside funeral home. We also offer Worldwide Travel Protection that will guarantee the price of your final arrangements no matter where the death occurs.



There are three kinds of written memorials. You may decide on one, two or all three. The first is the death notice, which is a short piece with basic details about the deceased: Who, when and where. This is information for others, about where and when the funeral or memorial service will be held, if there is one. It’s a general notice of death that may be placed in a local paper to serve as a kind of historical record.

The second is the obituary. The obituary has the information from the death notice, but it goes a step further by summarizing the person’s life. When writing an obituary, it’s important to think about what made your loved one special. Think about organizations he or she belonged to, hobbies, work history and awards. Be sure to have accurate information about early life, family and the names and hometowns of family members.

Finally, there is the tribute, which is something you might find online in a remembrance or tribute section. This is the place to recount a funny anecdote or fond memory about the deceased. It’s something that will be read by other people, so write something appropriate and something that will be treasured by the whole family. Our online obituaries offer a place to offer these tributes and memories.



The deceased’s employer, bank, insurance company and attorney should be notified. Important documents should be gathered (for more information on this, see “Important documents to prepare before you die). Digital assets – such as social media accounts – should be deactivated (see “What happens to your digital assets when you die?). Any insurance claims should be filed and the will executed.


After the funeral

Send out thank-you notes to those who offered condolences or helped out in your time of need. Most importantly, remember that the funeral or memorial service isn’t really the end. Continue to celebrate your loved one and remember what made him or her special for many, many years to come.

Should children go to funerals?

Child cemetery funeral

When a friend or loved one dies, you may wonder if it’s appropriate or healthy to take a child to the funeral service. Many experts agree that they should be allowed to attend the service if they are old enough to benefit from the ritual and if they’ve been adequately prepared for what to expect. Grief and loss expert Therese Rando says that people often underestimate their children’s needs when it comes to bereavement – children grieve just as adults do. According to the grief center Mary’s Place:

“As a general guideline, the most helpful thing we as adults can do for our children is to let them participate as fully and completely in the grieving process as possible. To “protect” a child by keeping them from attending the wake, funeral and burial (or equivalent) only closes them off from the process of grieving and healing.”

What children can understand and handle depends on their age, so use age-appropriate terms when discussing deaths and funerals. If a child really does not want to attend the funeral, find out why. The child may have fears or anxieties that need to be addressed. Never force a child to go to a funeral if he or she doesn’t want to go.

The funeral

If you do decide to take your child to a funeral, prepare the child ahead of time. Answer any questions and describe what will happen. What does the room look like? Who will speak? Will the body be viewed? Be detailed so the child is fully prepared and knows what to expect. It’s also helpful to explain why the ritual is important, how it helps us deal with our sadness with the support of others and how it helps us honor the deceased.

According to the American Cancer Society, children may be bewildered at the range of emotions they see from other people: They may see someone crying at the funeral, then later telling stories about the deceased and laughing at the reception. Explain that this range of emotions is a normal reaction to grief.

As to the funeral service itself, explain that it is a somber time and that running around and being loud will not be appropriate. The child should be old enough to sit relatively quiet for the length of the service. If you’re concerned that a child may become disruptive, sit at the back so you can exit quickly and less conspicuously.


Behavior is more important than attire when it comes to funerals and children, but here are some general guidelines:

  • You don’t have to dress the child in black.
  • Girls should refrain from sparkly gowns and holiday attire
  • Avoid worn shoes and tattered sneakers. Closed-toe dress shoes are more appropriate.
  • In general, think sensible, understated and muted when dressing a child for a funeral.

Finally, if you have questions or concerns about taking your child to a funeral service, ask the funeral home staff. They are well-versed in best practices for attending funerals!

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Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has been serving the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.

Tips for writing a meaningful condolence letter

Condolence letter from Abraham Lincoln

There’s no question that in this age of technology, writing letters is a lost art. That’s a shame when it comes to death and dying, because a personal letter is a great comfort to the bereaved. Take for example, this famous condolence letter from President Abraham Lincoln to Lydia Bixby, who had lost five sons in the Civil War:


Executive Mansion,

Washington, 21st November, 1864.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.

But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln.


With the advent of email and other technological advances, letters are far less common than they used to be. But when someone dies, the best way to convey condolences is through a personal letter.  While there are times a condolence email is appropriate — when the bereaved is a casual acquaintance, or if you’re traveling on business — in most cases, to truly convey your feelings to a friend or family member who has suffered a loss, a letter – or note tucked into a card – is much preferred.  In fact, Emily Post suggests that an email can precede a phone call or written condolence, but should be followed up with a hand-written note.

A hand-written condolence letter is a personal way of acknowledging someone’s grief and offering comfort in a heart-felt way. Old-fashioned? Maybe. But taking a few extra minutes to compose a personal sympathy note will pay tribute to the deceased and provide long-remembered treasured words of comfort to the bereaved.

Here are some guidelines for writing a condolence letter, but the most important thing to remember is to write from the heart: Say what you truly feel.

  1. Send the letter promptly. Write and mail the letter within about two weeks following the loss.
  2. Use your own voice. There’s no need for fancy prose to express simple, genuine sympathy.
  3. Don’t dwell on the deceased’s illness or circumstances of death. Don’t suggest that the death is a blessing or that it was “for the best.”
  4. If you have to send an email, you can find some example of email condolences here.
  5. The components of a condolence letter:
    • Address – if you are unsure to whom you should send the letter, Emily Post has some suggestions.
    • Acknowledge the loss of the person by name.
    • Share a favorite memory or special qualities of the deceased.
    • Offer specific help, if needed, such as babysitting, cooking, or a ride to church.
    • Finish with a thoughtful message, such as “You are in my thoughts.”

It can be hard for some people to express themselves in writing. Fortunately, you don’t have to write like Abraham Lincoln. And if you’re stuck for words, technology can come in handy: You can find some examples of condolence messages on the Internet – such as these from Hallmark. Use them for inspiration and the right words will come to you!