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What Should You Say at a Funeral?

Dec 03, 2020

Support The Bereaved By Saying These Things at a Funeral

Funerals are meant to give people a chance to grieve collectively and honor someone who has passed away. Understandably, they can be sad, uncomfortable, and tense.

No matter how close you were to the subject of the funeral, you want to show love and support towards the other attendees – especially those struggling with grief. But how can you say the right thing without offending the bereaved or striking the wrong nerve? It can be hard to find words at such a hard time. Try these suggestions as starting points.

7 Ways to Speak Respectfully at a Funeral

Name the Deceased

Avoid referring to the deceased using vague terms for the sake of sensitivity. When someone dies, their humanity is not stripped away. Using their name, rather than a term like “the deceased,” will help sustain their memory. 

Compliment the Deceased

Was the deceased passionate about a particular hobby or passion? Sharing your admiration of one of the deceased’s abilities is a great way to honor them while maintaining a positive, uplifting tone.

Keep Religion and Spirituality in Mind

If you know what the deceased’s vision for the afterlife was, you can comment in accordance with it. For example, if the deceased viewed death as a comforting rest, you can say that you believe they are resting peacefully.

Ask About The Deceased

One of the healthiest ways for a grieving person to cope is to have the opportunity to share the memories they are likely bottling up. If you were not close with the deceased, you could volunteer that you are curious about a particular quality or trait they had. Take caution, as some people are not ready to talk yet.

Frame Your Comments Around Your Relationship With The Deceased

Talk about your own connection to comfort those grieving. If the deceased was a leader or inspiration to you, you could explain that you value the lessons you learned from them, for example.

Share a Favorite Memory

Help preserve the memory of the deceased by describing a time that you cherished with them. Doing this can help people who are grieving, as they will have the opportunity to see how their loved one left a positive impact on others.

Offer Help

If you believe that someone is struggling with grief or will not be able to complete important tasks due to what they are feeling, offer assistance. It’s particularly smart to do this if the grieving person depended on the deceased when they were alive. It probably won’t suffice just to say, “I’m here if you need to talk.” Someone in grief might feel like too much of a burden to take up this offer. Instead, ask with an active approach: say, “I want to help you with groceries,” or “I want to run errands for you.”

Even if your intentions are completely pure at a funeral, you might accidentally say something that triggers an emotional reaction out of someone else. This is understandable given the circumstances. Do your best to respect others and try to honor the deceased as best you can.

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