Sikh Funeral Planning or Preparation Do's and Don'ts

Grief, Mourning and Honoring Life in Sikhism

Sikhism scripture offers comforting assurance that departed souls blend with the Creator. Sikh teachings advise against ritualistic and meaningless ceremonies.

Antam Sanskaar Dos and Don'ts (below) are based on both Gurbani and Gurmat, and offer practical guidance for bereaved families and friends of departed loved ones regarding five aspects of planning, preparation, and attending a Sikh funeral including:

  • Grief and Mourning
  • Offering Assistance
  • Conduct and Attire
  • Honoring the Deceased
  • Funeral Rites and Services
01
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Grief and Mourning

A Tender Good Bye
A Tender Good Bye. Photo © [Jasleen Kaur]

Grieving is a natural process of coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, especially when tragic, traumatic, and shocking circumstances are involved.

Do:

  • Grieve privately.
  • Comfort each other.
  • Be supportive of grief counseling for the bereaved.

Don't:

  • Suppress spontaneous emotions.
  • Make a show of weeping or wailing.
  • Engage in public displays of inappropriate ritualistic mourning or extended ceremonial grieving.
02
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Offering Assistance

Funeral Site
Funeral Site. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Loss of a loved one can be very bewildering and stressful especially with the occurrence of sudden tragic events.

Do:

  • Offer to help the family of the deceased with funeral planning and preparations.
  • Bring bibek vegetarian langar to the home in the days preceding the funeral, and help with preparations for prashad and langar following gurdwara services.
  • Help out with young children and the elderly.
  • Assist with errands and phone calls.

Don't:

  • Intrude or interfere with the privacy of the bereaved family.
  • Serve any foods containing alcohol, fish poultry, or other kinds of meat products.
  • Use any form of tobacco, or alcohol, when preparing food, during family visits, or funeral functions.
03
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Conduct and Attire

Sikhs Walking With Hearst
Sikhs Walking With Hearst. Photo © [S Khalsa]

When attending a Sikh funeral, sensitivity to cultural conduct and religious principles is respectful to both departed loved ones and their bereaved families.

Do:

  • Be mindful of Sikh culture and traditions.
  • Cover hair and dress in modest clothing.
  • Wear white, blue-black, or any neutral solid colors.
  • Remove shoes if entering gurdwara premises, or Sikh homes.

Don't:

  • Wear flashy, revealing or immodest clothing.
  • Talk while prayers are recited or kirtan is sung.
  • Smoke, use any form of tobacco products, alcohol or non-prescription drugs.
04
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Honoring the Deceased

Honor and Celebrate Life
Honor and Celebrate Life. Photo © [S Khalsa]

Celebrating and honoring the life of departed loved ones brings comfort to family and friends.

Do:

  • Offer condolences to family and friends and make future plans to keep in touch.
  • Offer to help with setting up funeral service program guides, prayer cards, guest book, or memorial website.
  • Celebrate the life of the deceased, recalling joyous memories, and sharing stories, videos, and photographs.
  • Offer flowers for the ceremony and place blossoms around the body of the deceased.
  • Offer contributions of cash or kind in the name of the deceased to charitable institutions.
  • Pass on usable belongings of the deceased to those in need.

Don't:

  • Avoid talking about the deceased.
  • Dwell on speculating why tragedies occur.
  • Make superstitious or ceremonial offerings on behalf of the deceased.
05
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Funeral Rites and Services

Sikhs Carry Casket to Cremation Site.
Sikhs Carry Casket to Cremation Site. Photo © [S Khalsa]

The Sikh funeral celebrates the merging of the departed soul with its maker.

Do:

  • Help with scheduling planning, and organizing, all aspects of the funeral ceremony.
  • Plan for cremation of the deceased remains within three days of death if possible.
  • When services have to be delayed expect remains of the deceased to require preservation methods such as embalming and or refrigeration.
  • Offer to help relatives who elect to prepare the body with washing, grooming, and dressing the deceased.
  • Use coconut oil or ghee when grooming the deceased to assist with the cremation of remains only.
  • Attire a deceased Amritdhari initiate with bana and required Sikh articles of faith.
  • Select appropriate shabads for the Sikh funeral ceremony.
  • When sangat is gathered uplift the atmosphere and take part in group meditation, singing hymns, reciting scripture, and performing prayers.
  • Privately, or publicly, perform Japji, Sohilia, and Ardas, or other prayers, for the deceased and the bereaved family.
  • Offer to participate in 48 hour Akhand paath, or 10-day Sadharan paath, devotional reading of complete Guru Granth Sahib scripture following services.
  • Scatter ashes at an appropriate site with flowing water such as a local river, or ocean.

Don't:

  • Engage in superstitious rituals such as piercing the skull prior to cremation or after picking out bone fragments from ashes.
  • Feel compelled to scatter ashes at religious ceremonial sites.
  • Erect monuments to mark remains of the deceased.