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Confessions of a Funeral Director: Things You Should and Shouldn’t Say at a Funeral


Funerals are a difficult time for everyone.  I’m sure we’ve all been to a funeral and witnessed an awkward encounter where someone says something that doesn’t go over well.  Below we’ve put together a list of the things you should say and things to avoid saying when offering condolences or expressing sympathy.

Things You SHOULD Say

  1.     I can’t begin to understand what you must be going through.

Saying something like this lets the person know that you realize they’re in pain and that only they can truly know what they’re feeling.

  1.     My favorite memory of them was….

Sharing a favourite memory of the deceased is a great way to cheer a person up.  It’s a great way to get a conversation started and have people remembering the good times with the deceased.  “I’ll always remember our fishing trips in his old boat, I thought for sure we were going to sink every time we went out in it.”  Something like this can create a laugh and help people feel better.

  1.     I’m sorry for your loss.

It’s very simple and to the point.  While this line may be a cliché, it is an effective way to communicate your empathy and let them know you care.

  1.     You’re in my prayers.   If there’s anything you need…

It can be hard to get the motivation to do things after a loss.  Offering to help out in anyway lets the bereaved know that there are people out there to help them through this time.  Whether it’s a drive to a doctor’s appointment or just coming over for some tea and company; let them know you will be there to help them through this loss.

  1.     Just a hug

Sometimes the best thing you can say is nothing.  Just offering a hug can help make the person feel better and shows you care for them.

Things You SHOULD NOT Say

  1.     They’re in a better place now.

Unless the person was religious, this should be avoided.  If the family was not religious, a “better place” to them would be if the person was still alive.  This can come off as rude, if the person didn’t believe in the afterlife.

  1.     Are you holding up okay?

A question like this puts the person in a difficult position.  Many times people try to put on a brave face and say they’re doing okay.  On the inside they are probably anything but ok.  The casualness of a question like this will just add to the whirlwind of emotions the person is going through.

  1.     I know how you feel.

NO!!! No you don’t.  No one can really know how a person truly feels during that time.  A better approach would be to offer a chance to talk about how they are feeling when they are ready.

  1.     It was her time, at least she went quickly.

Even if they were suffering from a painful illness, going quickly doesn’t make the bereaved feel any better.  For some, they may be upset over the fact they didn’t get as much time with the person as they wanted.  This can make a person feel guilty for wanting more time with the deceased.

  1.     You’ll start to feel better soon.

Everyone experiences grief differently.  You don’t want to make someone feel like they need to move on quickly.  Some might move on faster than others; but never make someone feel like there is a set timeline they should be following.

Hopefully this helps you avoid any major blunders the next time you have to attend a service.  It’s always best to just acknowledge you understand the person is in pain and offer support for them.

Do you have any awkward funeral stories? Let us know in the comment section below!


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