Not knowing what to say at a funeral can even be the deciding point of whether people attend at all – as it can cause anxiety, awkwardness and general unease for guests. However, knowing which things to say at a funeral are appropriate, and which funeral words to steer clear of, can help ease awkwardness on the day and worry beforehand.
What to say to someone before a funeral?
It’s natural for people to be uncomfortable when approaching someone who is mourning a loved one. People can sometimes feel awkward about ‘bringing it up’ before the funeral. But communication is often well received by the bereaved as it shows that you are allowing them to be open about their feelings with you – and giving them the chance to discuss it with you further if that’s what they need in order to relieve some of their grief.
Funeral words of comfort
Knowing the right things to say at a funeral isn’t always easy. You will most likely have conversations with the bereaving family after the service has finished. This would either be at the place of the service or later on at the wake. Here are some examples of funeral words to say to those in mourning:
I’m so sorry for your loss.
Your [Dad] was loved by many.
You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.
[He] will be greatly missed by everyone that knew him.
When you’re ready, I’m here for you.
If you’re unsure of how to act around the bereaved, and still feel anxious you may say the wrong thing, keep the encounter brief – simply express that your thoughts are with them and share your condolences properly in person after the funeral.
Talking points to avoid at funerals
Just as important as knowing the right things to say at funerals is understanding which topics could potentially cause distress or upset. Recognising the person’s grief as opposed to minimising it is important when deciding what to say to someone at a funeral. There are certain areas to avoid, such as:
Past Tense: referring to the deceased as ‘she had a good life’ or ‘she was a great woman’ reminds the family and loved ones that they are no longer with them, which can be upsetting.
Trivialising – phrases such as “she’s in a better place now” minimise their grief – suggesting that the bereaved should not feel the way they do.
Comparative empathy – although you may have experienced a similar event, it’s important to not say, “I know how you feel”. Everyone’s grief is different – and by saying this, you shift the focus of attention to your feelings and opposed to theirs.
Gossip – funerals are not the time to gossip about the deceased, or the bereaving family, or about anything at all. It’s deemed as disrespectful and should be avoided at all costs.
Jokes – although it may be tempting to lighten the mood, steer clear of making jokes as people may not appreciate the light mood of humour when they are mourning.