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Sympathy Etiquette

by : Remember Always - 11-Apr-2018

Sympathy Etiquette

 

Sympathy Etiquette is something that many of us struggle with in the diverse world we live in.  Here’s a simple summary which we hope will help make it easier to ensure you are able to support and not offend your friends & colleagues.

 

The important thing to remember is that, regardless of the culture, all humans are affected by loss so do not hesitate to reach out to the person and express your sympathy. Simply let them know that you are there if they need you and that you are very sorry for their loss.  If you’d like to do more, you can use the guidelines below.

When offering sympathy to a friend who has lost someone close to them it is common to send a condolence card, send a floral arrangement, send food to the family or a donation in honor of the person or to help with funeral expenses.  These are often acceptable practices in most cases but vary slightly by faith or situation.  The family of the deceased often has people visiting to comfort them so sending a meal relieves them from having to think about how to feed their visitors. A food gift card is another option which you can include in your condolence card as once the visiting crowds leave they will still need to eat and may not feel up to cooking.

While all of these ideas may sound good in general there are some cultures or faiths where these items are not appropriate.

The options mentioned above would be acceptable for Catholic, and most Christian denominations.  In addition to the options if the person grieving is Catholic you can also express sympathy through a Mass card that could be obtained at the church that they attend or a Catholic church close to your home if you are not in the same town.

For Pentecostals, food sent to the home is appreciated but flowers should be sent to the funeral home.  Seventh Day Adventists consider donations to charities inappropriate so that should be avoided.  A flower spay in the shape of a cross is considered offensive to Mormons so avoid that design when paying your respects to a Mormon.

In the Jewish faith donations to a charity are appropriate but flowers should not be sent.  It would be appropriate to send a gift of food or visit the grieving family during Shivah or the week of mourning. If you opt to send food it is best to ensure that the food is Kosher.

In Islam, food gifts such as a fruit basket, baked goods or an easy meal which can be heated are welcome. You should also ensure that the food is Halaal.  Flowers typically should not be sent. However, this varies a bit by culture so it some cases it is acceptable.

Food gifts should not be given to a Buddhist but monetary donations or flowers would be considered appropriate.

Sending white flowers is acceptable in Taoism but sending red flowers is never appropriate. 

In the Hindu faith a gift of fruit for the family is an appropriate gift.  In the Sikh faith, food is appropriate also but not if it contains alcohol, eggs, fish or meat.  Flowers will also be well received.

Here’s a quick summary by faith regarding sympathy gestures which are acceptable.

Send an email to support@RememberAlways.com if you have additional contributions to add to this article (i.e. Etiquette information for a faith or culture not mentioned here).

 

 

Food

Flowers

Donation

Card

Catholic

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Christian (non-Catholic)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Jewish

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Muslim

Yes

No

 

Yes

Buddhist

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Taoist

 

Yes (white only)

Yes

Yes

Hindu

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Sikh

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

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