Sympathy Etiquette for Major Religions

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Sympathy Etiquette for Major Religions

Each of the prominent religions has its own funeral etiquette. When you wish to show your sympathy it is helpful to know what is accepted in that religion. Some of the most common ones are covered here.

Protestant, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian

The funeral service is usually lead by a minister and is most often held at a funeral home. There will be visiting hours at the funeral home before the service where you can pay your condolences. It is appropriate to send flowers, cards or make a donation to charity as a show of sympathy.

Roman Catholic

There is usually a viewing or wake at a funeral home that starts shortly after death. The funeral itself is held in church with a mass 3 days after the death. You can attend the wake and the mass. Appropriate expressions of sympathy are flowers. Food gifts for the family can be sent to their house.


Jewish law dictates burial within 24 hours. The service is officiated by a rabbi and is only attended by the immediate family. After the burial the family will sit in Shiva at home. This lasts seven days. It is appropriate to stop and pay a condolence call within that time frame. Flowers are not accepted. It is customary to bring sweet treats and food. Check to see if the family observes Kosher food laws, if so the food needs to be Kosher.


Services are held in a Mosque and are held shortly after death with a quick burial. When attending, note that men and women are segregated on different sides of the Mosque. Women's heads are covered. You may show your sympathy with a gift of food but do no give funeral flowers.



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