19 answers

Death of a Neighbor

I live way out in the country on the farm that my husband grew up on. We just found out that our closest neighbor has passed away. We will be attending the funeral on Monday. My question is what else should I do? Honestly, I was never taught proper funeral/death etiquette and have actually only been to 3 funerals in my whole life. The neighbors have a huge family and being a small community, they also have a ton of support from friends as well. So do I take food over? If so, what? Do I send a card now, or do I deliver it personally to his wife sometime after the funeral? Is there anything else that I should know or do? And what exactly is expected as far as what to wear to a funeral? How dressy/casual should our attire be?

My husband spent a lot of time at their house when he was growing up, but as life sometimes goes, hasn't really stayed close to them since he's been an adult. Until this man died, my husband hadn't ever really told me just how much of role these people had played in his childhood. Had I known, I would have tried to be a "better neighbor". And now he says I shouldn't do too much because they'll feel like it took the man's death for us to be "involved" and neighborly with them. UGH! I love my husband, but because of our childhoods, both of us having really "iffy" upbringings, we're both somewhat ignorant when it comes to knowing how to handle some "adult" situations. The fact is, no one ever taught us. Thank you to all you Mamas out there willing to give me a lesson on being a grown-up...

What can I do next?

More Answers

Dress nicely for the funeral and send a card. The widow will likely have a lot of help for the first few weeks or so. I would think long term. Maybe after the hustle and bustle of the funeral has died down, you could invite her over for lunch or tea or an afternoon visit. Or go to her house. Be willing to listen to her share stories about her late husband. I think the loneliest time after a death is 3-9 months. The initial impact is gone and everyone remembers the anniversary, but the months in-between get lost.

After my step mom died (I was with dad for the first week or so afterwards), I made sure I called twice a week for the next several years. There were days, weeks even, that it wasn't much more than, "Hi, Dad! How's it going? Love you! Bye!" but he swears that, at times, that's all that kept him connected. Perhaps you could be that person for your neighbor.

But, ultimately, follow your heart. Random acts of kindness really work.

Good luck.

4 moms found this helpful

Just wondered if you could help by mowing the law or watering the garden or something like that. If they have a grown son or daughter you might ask them, usually there will be a family "spokes person" someone more vocal and organized that you can tell that you would like to make a gesture and sort of go through them to see if its' a good idea.

I would mail a card. but that's me.

2 moms found this helpful

Send a card with a brief handwritten note with a story your husband remembers from his childhood. The family will love to hear how this man impacted others positively.

I'd advise you to take over paper plates, plastic silverware, a package of toilet paper, napkins, kleenex, ground coffee. Whatever you can afford. Sooo many people will bring food. They will really need these items to host their family, and may not have the time/energy to run to the store. Maybe a book or two of postage stamps. If you do want to take food, be sure to take a disposable dish - never expect a grieving family to have to wash and return your casserole dish. It is very kind to think of ways to make things easier for them in the everyday things like this.

In a week or two, when most of the family has left and things quiet down, that would be a great time to take over some food/bars/rolls. Check in on your neighbor and see how she's doing.

2 moms found this helpful

No worries. Your heart says to do something so do it. You can make a casserole type dish, as they may have family coming by and no one feels like cooking when hey are emotional. You can take a case of drinks. As for the card, you can take it with you and leave it on the counter. Ask your husband to join you or go alone, but do what your heart tells you.

As for what to wear, blacks, blacks mixed with grey or white top, blues, no reds and no white dress of any sort. Dress or slacks, usually no jeans. Feel free to send a question over about your outfit and I will help as best possible.

My husband has no funeral experience either and I found it is because his mother never and still doesn't feel it is important for him to be there. He is a grown 42 year old man!

2 moms found this helpful

You could stop over with a cake or pan of brownies, be sure to put your name on any dishes or pans you would like returned. Offer your condolences, feel out the situation. Because all of you live in the country and have no nearby neighbors they were probably very close, about a week after the funeral invite the widow for supper or take something to her. Talk to her she will be very lonely and in need of someone to talk to. You could also offer to help take care of his things. She may not be ready but his clothing and other personal things will need to be packed up and given away. When she is ready help her empty out his closet and drawers and fold and pack his things. She may want to donate them to Goodwill or other such thrift store or a homeless shelter or the church. These items may be very dear to her as they are her only link to him. So don't rush her. She may also need help addressing and sending out thank-you notes. Periodically check on her, once a week or more invite her for dinner or coffee of just stop on to see her. Since you both live in the country and a place where winter can be brutal she will become lonely when people stop coming by to check on her. Make sure she has someone to spend the holidays with. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's eve can be especially lonely after the passing of a loved one. Depending upon how able she is to get around she may need help clearing out her driveway and sidewalks after a snowfall. She may also need help with farm chores and other daily chores. Just be available, mostly during the first year after his passing. She will learn how to live day by day alone but the first year may be extremely difficult. She may want to visit his grave but not go alone. She may have the most difficult time around his birthday, their wedding anniversary, the date of his death etc. As you get to know her you will know when she really needs some companionship. Just be a friend, listen and be supportive of her feelings.

2 moms found this helpful

A condolence card is always fine at the funeral or at their home. Flowers might be a nice gesture (at the funeral home), but they can be expensive.
A frozen casserole in a disposable container that does not need to be returned is always an appreciated gesture and it never goes to waste.
With all the confusion and upheaval that comes with major life and death events, just not having to worry about making a supper can be a big help.
Funeral wear doesn't have to be too dressy, but it should be neat and somber colors are fine.

2 moms found this helpful

I'm not too keen on this either but if I were in your situation I would at least bring a casserole over there (in a disposable aluminumn pan).
Casseroles are always appropriate whether it be for births deaths sickness new house moving whatever. People like food. And if you make it one of those aluminum pans you won't have to worry about them returning or going back to their house to get it so the "involved" stuff won't matter.

2 moms found this helpful

I would mail the card after the funeral. If this man had an impact on your husband then I would mention it. Or mention that his childhood was brighter because of their family and you are sorry you don't know them better. Say you are very sorry for their loss and if they ever need anything to please feel they can call you.......if that's the way you feel of course.

Agree......dress casual nice in muted colors.

Take food. Anything is fine. Someone suggested drinks. Great! You could also make a little casserole or some meat.........or maybe you want to wait a week to do that and go over there just you and your husband to drop it off. Whatever you say or do will be appreciated. The idea of food is so that the grieving family doesn't have to worry about cooking or preparation. So if you make something I would suggest making it in a disposable tin so that the family does not have to worry about washing it or returning it.

By the way, most people aren't really sure what to do because each family is different. We can't know what they or feeling or what their expectations are in their personal grief. So best not to say a lot, just be there letting them know you are sorry for their loss.

2 moms found this helpful

I am not a god cook so I always take over paper plates plastic silverware and cups and garbage bags. No one wants to do dishes right now

2 moms found this helpful

When my husband's grandma passed away in Hettinger, ND, we went to the family farm and I was amazed at the warm generous people that came from everywhere! There were people that brought over food such as ham and potato casserole, fresh buns and deli meat, bars, cookies, veggie trays. It was so appreciated by the family because there were so many people in and out of the house. It made it so much easier for my mother in law not to have to feel as though she needed to cook and provide for all the company. It was during this time that I learned what to do. I hope this helps.

2 moms found this helpful

Here in rural North Dakota in a small town, we usually take a pan of bars, or buns, or maybe a hot dish etc. Usually give a card and most of the time put money into it. The money is to help defray funeral expenses, such as postage stamps, thank you cards, stuff like that! We usually give anywhere from $5 to $20 depending on how well you knew the deceased person or if you were related to them. As for dressing for the funeral, whatever you normally wear to church is perfectly acceptable to wear to a funeral. Hope this helps.

2 moms found this helpful

I have been to funerals of several of my family and friends. It is customary for the church family of the deceased or friends of the family to provide a meal for the family after the funeral.

If you consider yourself outside of that then maybe a card a small flower arrangement would be proper.

To be honest though, my neighbors wife recently died and I have sent nothing at all. I have kept and eye in that direction to make sure that I still see activity going on at their house because the man is elderly. And I wave at him when I see him. I cannot communicate with him though because his voice box was removed because of cancer 30 years ago. He talks in clicks and groans and I can't understand him. He step daughter lives next door to him so I sure that she checks often too.

1 mom found this helpful

Send a card. Include a brief handwritten note with a story about this man that your remembers from his childhood.

When my stepfather passed away, my mother loved to read about the role her husband had played in other people's lives.

1 mom found this helpful

I would take over a item that could be frozen, a card or even stamps. One of the most thoughtful things I recieved with the death of my son was 5 books of forever stamps for the thank you cards. I can't tell you how grateful I am over that and used all 100 stamps plus bought more books to send out the thankyou notes. Flowers or plants for the funeral is always thoughtful also and usually they have a memorial mentioned in the obit. Any of these are acceptable and nice to do. Even though you weren't close, please go to them and give them a hug. Your husband would do good by going and visiting them also. It may have taken the death to bring you around but that doesn't mean it isn't a new beginning. One thing people could always do that would help my husband and I is tell of fond memories of that person. Your husband could share many that he had as a child and it will make them feel as he is still alive in each of your hearts. Some of the people who stopped by to see us I was surprised but so delighted to see them. It showed that there is a lot of people who do care and that is never ever bad.

1 mom found this helpful

The ones I went to, everyone was dressed in something nice (like church clothes) and generally black or at least muted colors. But it doesn't have to be a dress and high heels, just something nice. People arranged with relatives (not the wife directly) in regards to food. It is appropriate to send a card and/ or flowers to the home. Some funeral homes accept them for the family as well. You'd have to call them and find out. At my grandpa's funeral, that is where everything went. And they had a table for people to set cards on. Mostly you are just there to show you care. You don't have to say or do anything else. Again, at my grandpas funeral, I got tired of people saying "I'm so sorry" to me. I was just glad they were there. But that depends on the person. I think my grandmother liked the attention.

1 mom found this helpful

Wakes and funerals are not as formal as they once were. You can wear slacks and a nice top or a dress, darker colors are a good idea. Your husband can wear a suit if he has one, if not slacks and shirt and tie are fine. You can send a flower arrangement to the funeral home if your budget allows. A sympathy card is a great idea. I would mail it and include a personal message from your husband on it. If he has a fond memory he could share that would be nice. When people pass away friends and family from times past always resurface and this is a way of celebrating their lives even if they are no longer close it respects the times that they were.

1 mom found this helpful

The highest honor you can pay a grieving family, is to attend the funeral if you are able.
A card with a note about how your husbands life was shaped by them, also would be great. In the card you could include your phone number and say that if she needs anything to please call.

If you want to take something, send or take a plant. Flowers die, but a nice plant will be with her. If you take food, since they have a huge family you may want to send good ground coffee 1 lb. regular and 1 lb decaf..

1 mom found this helpful

If they have a huge family, try to think of the things that will be needed with a bunch of people coming in. Paper plates, napkins, garbage bags.... maybe a small food item too, like cookies. You sound like a caring and considerate person, and I'm glad you're willing to find out what to do. Several people have mentioned using disposable containers for the food you take. I can understand this approach. In addition, another way to do it is to take the food in a container that will have to be returned to you, but leave a note on it saying you will stop by to pick it up in a week or two--which gives her a chance to look forward to your visit.

1 mom found this helpful

I haven't read your responses yet so don't know what info has been given as of yet. BUT, this is me- and my husband doesn't necessarily agree either. I go to funerals, mostly of people i know, but also go to visitations when I see that classmates parents have died. (even though we haven't seen each other in years) Having been on the receiving end of things myself, it really touches a heart to see old face "come out of the woodwork" so to speak. So I would suggest at least going to visitation, you can drop the card there. It will truly make their day to see your husband I am sure.
As far as food- most people get tons from the get go- so I would suggest either taking her a small meal- like meatloaf or lasagne- that is frozen- or waiting a bit to take her food- or better yet, invite her over for supper with your family in a few weeks, she might say no, but keep extending the offer, monthly or so, and she will eventually come around and want to get out of the house. The Bible guides us to keep company with those who mourn- something to that effect, I just always feel it in my heart to be there for them

1 mom found this helpful

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