• Octavio Cesar Martinez

How to Dress for the Dead



As a chaplain or pastor, you attend or officiate more funerals than you want. There are deaths as the result of violence, poor decisions, age and personal choice. Death is rarely noble, often ugly and (this is odd) generally a surprise to us.


Thousands of years of people dying and it’s still a surprise for us — an embarrassment.

Want to make people uncomfortable?

Talk about dying.

Talk about your death.

Talk about their death.

Or just talk about death.


When a person you know loses someone, do the practicable things of life for those who are dealing with that death:

  • clean their home,

  • make some casseroles,

  • take out their trash,

  • mow their lawn,

  • run their errands,

  • buy their groceries,

  • make sure the kids (if there are any) have something to play with.

Life doesn’t stop for those who lost someone.

Another observation about death: funerals are not the time for you to dump your sorrow on the friends and family who are left behind. Remain composed. Really think about what you’re going to say. Better yet, say nothing except, “I’m sorry for your loss.” That’s the best and safest thing.

When you attend the funeral dress accordingly, as if you’re attending a religious service. Most likely, the funeral will be a religious service.


So gentlemen, wear a dark suit: black, navy, or grey with a white shirt and a solid tie.

Groom your hair and face.

Polish those shoes.


Ladies, wear a modest dark dress with sleeves and some jewelry.

It’s ok to wear a not-too-bright colored dress under a black coat.

Accessorizing is acceptable, but keep it simple.


Finally, watch and listen and ask yourself, “How do I want to be remembered?” Once you answer that question, adjust the pattern of your thoughts, decisions, actions to match up.

Just like your shoes and belts.

Or purse.

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