we buried my brother-in-law exactly a year ago. the body was laid out and half the département trapsed through the house (he was a well known figure politically/agriculturally speaking) My two other BILs and i carried the coffin into the house, his body was put into it and the worst was the lid being screwed down as we allxstood round it whilst it was done. the church service went on forever as there were so many tributes including our senator. Over 700 people at the tiny church, most were outside under a huge tent type affaire errected for the occasion. then all 700 filed in to say there last adieu. we walked directly behind the coffin up to the cemetary and stod in the freezing february weather at 750m attiltude in a bitting wind. dress code - black or daek colours but of any style, mainly formal but not many suites.
first time i've talked about it here, all very different to a uk funeral, just a shame that my BIL Patrick was the same age as me, 49.
I agree, the open coffin is fine and strangely enough a way of symbolically saying 'Goodbye' that a closed one does not offer. On dressing, having seen two friends off in totally secular funerals, one at the cemetery and the other the crematorium, over the last year I would say dress as normal except no loud colours and do not bother about the old thing of women covering heads and men removing hats, the latter still happens of course but the former is now unnecessary. It is customary to hover a bit after, chatting. Drop a condolence card in the post box of the bereaved person(s) after the funeral and then expect a thank you card after a short time. In France it is not the same as the UK and whilst I have not been to a church one, it has become far more secular and, perhaps strange to say but I find it that way, casual.
Very sad to read this. I have been to two family funerals in France, they take place within a few days of the persons passing. I would suggest a simple nice card of condolence. If you go to the funeral just dress as you wish, there's no real formality.
Sorry to read of your loss. Last Year I had to attend eight funerals , six here, two in the UK . The "Open coffin" is not traumatic I promise , and your effort will be really appreciated . Your idea of a sympathetic visit is most acceptable and as members have written,definitely a sympathy card afterwards . Dress wear is smart quiet colours , I wear/wore full English funeral wear,white shirt, black tie etc. which is always complimented on, and again appreciated as an homage to the occasion . Hope all goes well for you x
This thread continues to be useful Sarah, this week in our village we were shocked to hear that a lovely mum of 5 children died of a ruptured anurism only aged 35. Tomorrow is the funeral and I wanted to see what to expect as it's in the church. Thank you again to all those that contributed to this thread as it has been a comfort to read through ahead of a difficult day tomorrow. The youngest child is in the class of my middle child, terribly sad. Life is so unfair.
lovely to hear about Tilly & Max, Catharine - so often people think funerals are not for children but if the funeral is a celebration of the life of someone they knew well then I think it is important they are involved. When my grandma died last Christmas I couldn't go to the funeral as I was too heavily pregnant with Maisy and couldn't travel so I took the girls to the river and we threw a white rose out to sea for Grandma and I said it would get to her in heaven. Jasmine understands that Great Grandma is gone and she still happily talks about the fact she is in heaven although sometimes she still asks why she can't see her on Skype!
@ Sarah - well done - I can't imagine how hard it must be to see the husband and children of your friend struggling. Once all the visitors have gone they will grieve and will need support. I'm sure the cake or other kind gestures will be appreciated. x
I'm sitting her somewhat drunk but wanted to thank you for your kind words of advice.
The funeral was amazing, I went in smart black which seemed to be the norm. The church was packed which was no surprise as she was an amazing lady almost everyone was smart and in dark colours. I've now said my goodbyes, and had lots of vin in her honour, will continue to visit and support the family as my worry as in the Uk would be that when the doors close, the house is empty. Again thank you for your support and guidance, I didn't have to worry at all, and actually my French is amazing! Thank you once again.
I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, it is especially hard when there are young children. We started the year with 3 funerals in one month and one of those was a very good friend who had young children. I think it would be good to go round and give hugs, I know the children especially were very happy that I went round. After I went up and touched the coffin in the church during the service, one of the young girls looked at me with such a sad look on her face that without thinking about it I went up and gave her a big hug and that was fine too. The widow asked me if I wanted to see the coffin while it was at the funeral home and I said I didn't want to. I think you just need to go with your gut feeling and it will be fine. I didn't stay long as there were a lot of people in the house and I told the widow why I wasn't staying long but if she needed me I was there for her. I brought cake round the second time I went as one of the little girls who I had made a cake with when I looked after her said "Beckie makes really good cakes!" and I asked her if she wanted one and she said "Yes". After that lots of other people brought food round too. One "faux pas" that I did make however was forgetting to bring any change as they pass a basket round for the church at the end of the service and you are meant to put money in it, luckily I was sitting next to one of my friends who knows I don't know much about going to church and took the basket off the church helper!
Years ago, a work friend from VietNam told me that in the Far East, death is celebrated and one tradition that I particularly appreciated was the giving of a candle as a means of remembering the light someone put into your life rather than the dark hole left by their loss. Now, when friends lose someone dear to them, I give them a candle and a few words to encourage them to rememer the good things about the life that has ended. My neighbour lost his mother this week after 10 years of looking after her and keeping her out of a home. He found the candle comforting and the words also. We went in and saw his mum, too, and it was good to see her looking so calm as she had been very ill. As you say, internment or cremation happens very quickly and after two days he had her ashes to scatter when he decides where to go. Just showing sympathy is probably more than acceptable, but the candle, if you know the person well, is comforting. He has lit it every day.
When we lived in a small hamlet in Brittany, the father of our closest neighbours died. We were invited in and I knew that it was very important to the daughter (who had been a lovely surrogate ‘mum’ to me that we go. So I girded my loins and took Tilly (then aged five and brilliant in any social situation) with me. We were then asked if we wanted to see him and how could I say no?
Tilly was a star. She broke the atmosphere beautifully and we sat beside ‘Papy’ for about 20 minutes whilst she asked the daughter questions as only a child can. 'Why is there a flag on the walls with those medals? Why are the sheets on the ‘bed’ moving? Why is he still here if he is dead?'
It was something that in hindsight, I was very glad that we did as it meant a lot to his daughter and we had a good giggle together about some of Tilly’s questions. I’ve been to a fair few funerals and I think it is vital to involve the children. If they are close to the person, they need to be able to say goodbye and if they are completely disinterested, that is fine too and their very presence reminds people that life goes on.
At my aunt’s funeral, during one particularly quiet part of the service, all you could hear was Max breastfeeding with great gusto and enjoyment. Afterwards I lost count of the number of people who told me how comforting they found the sight / sound of a baby.
Scots and Irish share so much Celeste. Difference with Uncle Ed was that as a Communist and non-believer there was no religious part of course, but all the rest as you say Celeste. More Ed jokes, respectfully, around the bed and after than normal, but ultimately the whole event as if he was there. He was gone after it was all over but gone in a nice way not brutally taken by whatever, just as part of the cycle of life that we all go through. There were as many tears of joy at good memories as of grief. He was gone but still real.
We were unfortunate enough to lose a lovely neighbour last month. She died on a Thursday, but as she had been staying at her daughter's whilst she was unwell, we didn't know until the Sunday when her son-in-law came especially to tell us. The funeral was on the Monday. I asked for advice from another nieghboour on what to wear and was told black or dark colours, but in fact most of the mourners were in what I would describe as everyday clothes. I liked several customs I'd not seen at UK funerals - the family mourners carrying the flowers in, the grandchildren lighting candles and placing them on the closed coffin, and everyone standing up to file past the coffin at the end and having a chance to make the sign of the cross and splash holy water on the coffin. The family were very appreciative that we'd made the effort to attend.
Although we didn't view my neighbour's open casket, I have viewed one previously when my aunt, who also lived in France, died. It wasn't nearly so bad as I'd expected. (I only went because my cousin seemed to expect it). In a way, it was nice to say goodbye.
My (Great) Uncle Ed in Dundee was the heart and soul of the family, everything revolved around that family cousins, second cousins, all generations. Ed knew lots of musicians and dancers in the east of Scotland. So the day before he was cremated the wake started, he was in bed laid out, so it was all done politely with tea and cakes, some harder stuff later. Musicians came to play a while. People came and went. Next day he was collected, put into a plain coffin and off went everybody to the crematorium. Ed was a lifelong Communist, so a local trade union man came and talked about Ed as a worker, colleague and comrade. Pipers, a Jimmy Shand type band and others came to play. After that it became a real 'party'. There was a big pot of some kind of stew and potatoes to help yourself from, beer and spirits plus a bit of sherry for the more circumspect ladies. It went on most of the night. The music was nonstop. Neighbours just joined the wake. Next day it lasted without the drinking, back to tea and cakes but the mourners and others saw Auntie Mary discretely to thank her and express condolences.
I wish that kind of celebration of a life past was the norm everywhere. Saying 'goodbye' with joy complements all that was best in a person in their lifetime.
I am sorry for your loss it must be a difficult time for you, We live in a village full of old people, so are used to this sort of thing. Our advice would be, do exactly as you would in the UK. If a card would be appropriate there, it will here, If a visit would be better in the UK, it would be here to. Hugs are not an issue? Go for it. It will be appreciated more than staying away. French funerals tend to be a little less formal than in the UK, so don't be surprised to see people in Jeans and T shirts. We always wear traditional UK funeral clothes, so I would wear a dark suit, white shirt and black tie. Jane would dress in grey with no colourful attachments. The French have always commented their respect for us doing that. In fact at the funeral for the mother of the people we bought our house from, Claude mde a point of thanking us for the effort we had put in.
Expect the service to be about an hour. At the end of the service, you will be expected to line up and pay your respects to the coffin. Don"t worry, it will be firmly closed by then. Catholics commune as they pass the coffin, but it is not a problem if you are not. As you pass the coffin, I suggest you place your hand on it, close your eyes and say a little something for the person you have lost. Don't feel rushed, I have known people rest their hands on the coffin for 15 minutes! So pay your respects to your friend in your own time, and don't be afraid to help the little ones get through this. You will gain much respect for helping them. They must be devestated. Has your friend a husband? If so, keep a watch out for him too
Hope this helps
Will be thinking of you
Thank you all for your feedback. I thought I would share my experience with you as it's far from anything I would expect in the UK.
I went around at 5 yesterday armed with a home made cake ( though made by someone else) and a card. I'd intended to put them on the doorstep and run, but to my absolute amazement, in the first instance, i couldn't park my car as the road was stacked with them. I went into the house and there were 50 - 80 people stacked in there like sardines. All of them just stood in silence ( bit off putting) I said my bonjours, but wasn't sure if I should do the tour of the room and kiss everyone... so I didn't.
My friends young daughter came up to me and we had a huge hug and a cry ( still everyone was silent) with my friends husband just breaking down with his young son at the end of the table. It was utterly surreal - everyone was just staring at him. I hadn't a clue what to do, as I'm not the most quiet of people at the best of times. So I just told her I wasn't stopping and I'd see her later. I was really astounded that at a time of such sadness there was no privacy for the family ( and close family ) to mourn together... but then... I guess that's an English thing. Have spoken to a Spanish friend who said they're just the same as the French.
Funeral is on Monday morning. Sad times - but thank you for your comments and feedback, it was based on all these that I had the courage to go.
Open caskets are the norm I've grown with followed by a large dinner at home or a restaurant for the people who traveled to the funeral. Only close family wear black. Growing up it was always understood some religions would be unlikely enter a room with a body. I found a kind word and a card was always welcomed. The real time to express care is a couple weeks after the funeral when the mourners leave, then a dinner or drink is really appreciated.