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How to choose clothes for the coffin

How to choose clothes for the coffin | After the Heartbreak
How to choose clothes for the coffin
Me holding men's underwear

Whatever you do, don’t take MY lead in this important decision. I mean, I sent my husband into the afterlife with no underwear on! Yes, you read that right. He attended his own funeral….COMMANDO! 😂

I’m not giving myself a hard time about it though. When the person you love dies suddenly, there is so much you are not prepared for, but I was particularly unprepared when the Funeral Director said “Can you please bring in a set of clothing for Norbert to wear for his funeral.”

It was tough back then….. [mild understatement]

It had only been a few days since the Police knocked on my front door and told me the horrifying news that my husband had died. News that sent me into a spiral downwards and into my own personal nightmare.

“Clothing”? I mumbled blankly. “Yes,” the Funeral Director said with a gentle smile, “We can’t send Norbert on his way with no clothes on.” I remember him explaining that some family members bring in a suit, but unless Norbert was the kind of guy who regularly wore a suit, it was best to bring in clothing items which were more ‘his style’.

I went home and in a daze I looked at his clothes hanging in the wardrobe. The decision ended up being fairly obvious to me because I asked myself the question … what would Norbert feel comfortable in? What was his favourite type of clothing?

The fact that we lived in an area of sub-tropical climate was very evident in his wardrobe, as it was filled with short sleeve, cotton shirts.

He was particularly partial to brightly coloured tropical-style shirts. Unfortunately one of his favourites was the one he was wearing on the day he died, but I chose his second favourite one, and teemed it with some comfy cargo shorts and his leather sandals.

I laid everything out on the bed, and I took this photo so I would always remember what he was wearing. That is possibly a little odd but I make no apologies for all the strange things I did back then.

I cried when I took it all in to the Funeral Home, but the items were tenderly taken from my arms and whisked away.

It wasn’t an open casket at the funeral (although I did eventually choose to view his body in the coffin) however I recall sitting at the funeral with the coffin in front of me, and saying to myself “It’s OK, I know what he looks like inside that box.

The fact that I could picture him in one of his favourite shirts and comfy shorts was…well…comforting in some weird way.

Fast forward three years ……

A few days ago I was sorting through photos on my computer and quite accidentally I came across the photo (the one above) that I’d taken of Norbert’s clothing….and in my now NOT so befuddled state, something immediately occurred to me.

I thought “Where is the underwear! Eeeek!!!! Did I forget them?” 😬

Umm….yes I definitely did, and the kindly people at the Funeral Home didn’t say a word although after reading this article, I am probably not the first person to forget this important clothing item in their grieving state.

Remember the little things: Provide underwear! Many funeral directors will not dress a body without proper underwear.”

Dressing the Deceased

The other thing I didn’t realise was about my choice of shoes.

Mens sandals

I would have preferred to take in his very favourite thongs (flip-flops for my US friends) but again, he was wearing them on that fateful day, so I never got them back. Instead I chose his dressier leather sandals.

It turns out that shoes are unnecessary anyway. Also, he was being cremated and although I didn’t know it at the time, there are regulations regarding this situation.

“Cremation clothes are different from burial clothes, because a number of items cannot be cremated…[These] include …treated leather, such as shoes, boots and biker jackets.”

Funeral Guide – Burial Clothes

It’s a good thing that three years went by before I noticed my little mistake as if the realisation had been closer to that horrific time, it would have reduced me to inconsolable tears. But three years later, I find I can actually laugh! Silly me! 😋

At the time I was living in a complete fog though, and only using a small section of my brain which was barely enough to keep me upright. I wasn’t sleeping and felt like I was on remote control.

The number of decisions that you have to make in the days following a death can feel absolutely overwhelming and…well….the fact that I forgot one teeny little thing I feel is quite understandable.

Importantly, I forgive myself for that little oversight. I’m not the same person as I was back then, and this might hopefully provide some comfort for those who are struggling with it all right now.

Because now I can chuckle to myself as I imagine Norbert’s spirit hovering around me during the funeral, sending me urgent vibes such as…”Marlene, have we forgotten something? I’m feeling a bit breezy!” 😋

What about you?

If you have been faced with the need to provide clothing for your loved one, what choices did you make?

Or from a different perspective….what would YOU like to be wearing for your own funeral? Me? Just something comfy but a personal note to my own family … PLEASE remember my underwear! 🤣🤣🤣

Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.

  • Ron says:

    Not ignoring the concepts of dignity and modesty and until I get an email from the deceased saying he was outraged by the lack of undies, I would be happy to laugh along with both of you. With Norbert’s skill at not planning for things I am sure he got the joke.
    Please keep laughing, it sure beats crying.

    • Marlene says:

      Hi Ron, yes, I’m sure Norbert would definitely be saying “No big deal”. I am laughing now too….although it’s a good lesson that what might seem devastating at a particular point in time often softens once the dust has settled and the world has turned a few more times.

  • carolyn pawlikow says:

    I recently lost my husband who had been unwell for a couple of months and the natural thing to do was include his favourite pjs,dressing gown and slippers.However he adored sunfilled holidays so as an afterthought I had his flip flops and sunhat put on top of his coffin instead of flowers. The hearse attracted some surprised glances but it felt right.
    Looking back It feels better to have sent him off with familiar and comfortable instead of formal and stiff.

    • Marlene says:

      Hi Carolyn, If it felt right for you, then it was most definitely the right thing to do. If he wasn’t in the habit of wearing a formal suit, then it would have been like dressing him in some sort of costume….and not at all the ‘real him’. Well done for making the right decision. Who cares what others think?!

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