What to Say at a Funeral: 8 Helpful Suggestions
Date posted November 2021
Knowing what to say at a funeral can be tough. Whether you are attending because you knew the deceased personally or just supporting someone close, it’s important to express your condolences. Remember, the main thing is to speak with kindness and compassion.
There are no words that will bring back the dead or do away with grief, but letting those grieving know you care is still important. There are also some phrases to avoid at a funeral to prevent causing further upset.
To help you avoid any awkwardness and figure out what to say at a funeral, we’ve put together eight helpful suggestions. We’ve also added some phrases to avoid. While these may seem innocent enough, they can often be taken the wrong way.
What to say at a funeral
1. I’m sorry for your loss
Simple but effective, this is a traditional sentiment that is versatile for any bereavement situation. It is appropriate no matter your relationship to the deceased and their family.
2. I’m thinking about you
Letting loved ones know you are thinking of them will help them feel less alone in their grief. It’s a simple way to express that you know the grieving process is not easy.
3. He/she will be missed
This is a great way to lend a more personal touch to your sentiment. If you knew the deceased well, you can talk about the specific ways you will miss him or her. Perhaps you’ll miss their friendship around the office, or the great stories they used to tell. If you didn’t know them quite so well, you can say they will be sorely missed by your family, or those who did know them.
4. Let me know if you need anything
This is both supportive and practical. Those that are grieving can feel overwhelmed by their daily schedule, so offering to help with errands is a heartfelt gesture. However, your offer is likely to be declined unless you are a bit more specific. For example, you could suggest bringing around a lasagne to pop in the oven, or ask if they need anything taking to the post office or dry cleaners.
5. Offer a personal anecdote or story
Another great more personal approach is to talk about a happy time you had with that person. Try to stick to positive anecdotes that paint the deceased in a positive light. Those grieving will be warmed to hear about the fun times you had together. Read the situation and only employ humour if you think its appropriate.
6. I’m here if you need to talk
If you are unable to offer more practical help, offering to lend your ear will usually go down well. When a loved one passes away, their close family can feel very alone. Sometimes it can help to talk about it with someone who is not directly related. Other times, a phone call with a friend can be a great way to take your mind off things.
7. He/she was excellent at…
Complimenting your late friend, family member or colleague will always go down well with those grieving. You can say, “he/she was a wonderful person,” if you didn’t know them that well. Alternatively, you could talk about what a great friend they were or be a little bit more specific. Always be authentic and stick to the truth. There is no point saying they had a lovely singing voice if that’s not the case.
8. I don’t know what to say
Sometimes words can fail you, and that’s okay. It’s honest and authentic to express this and offer a sympathetic hug instead. A hand shake is a good alternative if you don’t feel close enough to offer a hug.
Phrases to avoid at a funeral
1. He/she is in a better place now
Trying to put a positive spin on the situation is ill-advised. Those grieving will certainly not be able, or even want to take on this outlook. This is particularly true of statements relating to life after death. Remember that everyone has their own beliefs and respect that. An atheist who doesn’t believe in the afterlife is not going to want to be reminded of that on an already difficult day. Try to also avoid talking about the way they died or phrases such as “At least they are no longer in pain”.
2. I know how you feel
Even if you have lost the same relative or someone to the same illness, every situation is unique. Don’t assume you know how that person is feeling just because you have been in a similar boat. It can also come across as if you are centering the conversation on yourself, rather than their grief.
3. You’ll feel better now the funeral is over
While it’s tempting to assume that the funeral will bring comfort and closure, this is not the case for everyone. Everyone grieves in different ways and some may even feel worse once they don’t have planning to occupy their time.
4. Everything happens for a reason
While this may seem an innocuous statement, it can come across as a disregard for the life and death of the deceased. Instead, be sure to acknowledge the pain and grief felt with one of the above suggestions.
5. Don’t cry, it’ll be okay
While public tears can make some feel uncomfortable, it’s important to put that discomfort aside at a funeral. If someone is crying, try to be as supportive as possible. Perhaps offer a hug or a tissue if you can. Similarly, there is no need to be stoic if you feel the urge to cry. A grieving family may well feel touched by your display of emotion.
Additional help and support
If have lost a loved one and need support with planning the funeral, we are here to help. Our dedicated team of funeral directors have many decades’ worth of combined experienced and provide a wide range of services across the Bristol area. Whatever you need, please feel free to get in touch for tailored advice and support today.