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Nov 4, 2008 01:39 AM

Food "etiquette" after a death

What is the standard, wherever you are, after a death in the family? Does someone bring food to your home, for the family, or is food provided after the service (as in funeral/memorial/burial)? I am on a rant right now because my mother in law passed away and we are having a memorial service at her church on Fri. We have been informed that nothing will be provided, by the church's ladies, because they are having their Turkey Supper that evening. She has been a member of that church since she was born, 86 years ago. I feel like they should at least do something. So far no offers of bringing food over have been given, and now it is up to the family to provide food for the people who attend the gathering, as if we don't have enough to take care of as it is. But maybe I am just being too sensitive. At our church (obviously not the same one) there is a potluck for the family with the ladies bringing comfort foods for the family, and enough for them to take home for the days ahead. But this place put out pimento cheese sandwiches and a couple of bags of chips for my father in law just 3 years back. Have things really changed that much? What are others experiences?

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  1. danhole, people providing food to the bereaved was kind, and neighborly, but those kinds of neighbors no longer exist around here.

    The protocol now is to provide a luncheon for those who attend the service at a local restaurant. The offer to attend the luncheon is sometimes made at the religious edifice, sometimes at the cemetery.

    Condolences on your mother-in-law.

    1. In our area (or at least my current friends and family), the family provides a luncheon after the funeral. Most of the time it's at a small function hall (Elks, etc), or a small restaurant.

      1. Having gone through many, many funerals in my life, here are my thoughts.

        Usually, the day of/day after a death, the family gets inundated with food from family, friends, etc. I think the thought is that the family shouldn't have to cook. Literally everyone showing up at my house always had food of some sort.

        After or during the break in the viewings, usually the family will leave the funeral home and either go home to eat, or go out to eat. Sometimes very close friends of the family join in on this. Everyone pays for themselves.

        After the funeral itself, it is customary to have a wake. This can either be at the family's home (or as we discovered, for much less hassle) at a restaurant/banquet hall. It is the family's responsibility to pay for this.

        If you have a church that is nice enough to donate the food after the service, that is wonderful, but it is not standard nor should it be expected.

        3 Replies
        1. re: carey24

          In this particular church if you belong to one of the ladies service groups, as opposed to a sewing group, etc., then part of the service the group gives to the congregation is to have a committee that provides some kind of food for families after a funeral or memorial service. I know this first hand because I used to attend there and belonged to one of the groups. This is not a small congregation, nor is it a predominantly elderly one either. So, it is not out of a sense of entitlement, and I do realize that limits have to be set, as in how many they are willing to serve, etc., yet to be totally blown off is what is offensive.

          We are fortunate, however, because one of our daughters has a connection with a bar/restaurant which graciously offered to host a lunch for the family for after the service. So we will be taking some sandwiches, chips, punch and dips to the church for the attendees who want to visit after the service and then we will leave for our own special lunch.

          It's so different than when my dad died back in 1988. We had food dropped by the house for days, and a nice reception at my house, where my ladies from church swept in and took care of the food and everything else. And my dad didn't even go to church! My, how things have changed.

          1. re: danhole

            I'm 32 and was raised Catholic. My first relative died when I was 8. Even back then, the church did nothing except the funeral service and I'm pretty certain we paid for that. In fact, the priest even came to the wake afterwards and ate (on our dime). And my mother taught at the school and my sister and I attended the school.

            We had more help from the restaurant my sister and I worked for and people we knew that owned carry-out places, than we ever did from our church. Even when my father died suddenly.

            The first church I've ever seen provide food was a funeral service that I attended recently. It was a more modern church, I'm not even sure of the religion other than "Christian". My family and I were shocked at the amount of food served in the lobby, directly following the service at no cost to the family. It was the first time any of us experienced a church providing food.

            1. re: danhole

              Times have changed, but some churches are just cold. Your M-I-L's church sounds like one of the cold ones. When my F-I-L passed, the service was dry as dust and the church did nothing. FIL's wife served store-bought cake and coffee at home after the service.

              Your experience when your dad passed was similar to when my Dad passed in 1982. Mom and Dad had been members of the church since 1950. We had food for days. My favorite funeral gift was 2 big bags of ice after we ran out.

              My aunts, uncles and grandmother's after-funeral meals were all similar - whether held at the church or at home. The church ladies outdid themselves. BTW, all these funerals were in Houston.

              Last year my brother passed. They weren't churchgoers, but reserved a large church in San Marcos for the 400+ funeral attendees. Then my sister-in-law's service held a blow-out luncheon at a friends house on the river. My brother would have loved the party.

              Condolences to you and your husband.

          2. In my experience with funerals (mostly in Eastern NC) friends and neighbors bring a lot of food immediately following the death. We typically don't wait too long for the visitation and funeral (recently had a very interesting conversation about funerals on Sundays...) so the abundance of food from friends and neighbors is still good and served to family and close friends after the service either at the home of the closest family member to the deceased or in the church fellowship hall. Some of the more thoughtful ladies from church will wait a day before and ask what is needed before bringing food. There is never a shortage of food and we never have to go to a restaurant.

            1. Jewish tradition is to bring food to the home of the bereaved during the week following the death - aka the period of "sitting shiva." A tip to those with Jewish friends - do NOT send flowers, it is inappropriate in Jewish mourning!

              3 Replies
              1. re: BobB

                To elaborate on Jewish funeral food tradition a little more...

                Usually family will come to the house after the funeral and the closest mourners will be served a hard-boiled egg. There is always food - we're Jewish, after all. At our most recent funerals, a grandson, son-in-law, etc. will call and arrange for deli platters to be delivered to the house. The family pays for this.

                In the week following the death, friends will either bring food to the family or arrange to have meals sent from delis, restaurants, or caterers. Again, the idea is that the family should not have to think about cooking or feeding the children during this period. People coming to visit the family will bring cakes and the like and the family will generally have coffee and other beverages available.

                1. re: rockycat

                  I remembered this from an earlier thread last year on True Friendship.....from 3000 miles away....specifically to the Jewish Tradition of "sitting shiva".


                2. re: BobB

                  Thank you for the tip! I appreciate it.