What to say at a funeral
Many of us struggle to know what to say at a funeral. This is often because when we approach someone who is grieving, we do not want to say something that may make them feel more upset than they already do. Even people who are rarely at a loss for words may find themselves tongue-tied at a funeral.
Whether you were extremely close to the bereaved, or do not know the mourners that well, deciding on the appropriate words of comfort can be tricky. We’ve compiled a list of things to say and things to avoid saying when offering your condolences.
What to say at a funeral service
The reality is that there is no one right thing to say and no magic words that will necessarily ease someone’s grief. If you are attending a funeral service, it is appropriate to offer your sympathy to the family, however.
If you do not know the family well, a simple ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ is acceptable, although it may be better if you say something more personal, such as ‘I’m so sorry that you’ve lost your Dad, he was a lovely man and I know we’ll miss him very much’.
Some other examples of what to say at a funeral include:
- He/she will be missed by everyone that knew him
- He/she was a lovely man/woman and will be greatly missed
- You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers
- When you’re ready, I’m here for you
- I can’t imagine how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can
You may also want to share a happy story or memory about the deceased, but try to keep your remarks brief.
Things you should not say at a funeral
We want to try to recognise a bereaved person’s grief, not to minimise or trivialise it. It may well be that the person who has died lived a long, happy and meaningful life, but to those left behind (for example a bereaved husband whose wife of 50 years has died), the length of the person’s life could never have been long enough and the impact of the bereavement on them cannot and should not be minimised.
When you are comforting someone who has lost a loved one, you should also avoid comparing your experience with loss to theirs, so you should avoid saying is ‘I understand/know how you are feeling’. Grief is a unique experience for everyone. Even if you have lost your mother, and your friend has just lost their mother, it is impossible for you to understand exactly how the loss of that relationship is affecting your friend.
Here are some other examples of what not to say:
- He/she is in a better place
- You’ll feel better soon
- Be strong
- At least he/she is out of pain now
You should always be respectful in what you say during a funeral. You should also be careful not to tell the deceased’s partner that they will meet someone else or refer to any negative interactions that you had with the deceased. Even if you had a challenging relationship with the deceased or his or her family, leave all of those negative thoughts at home.
After the funeral
At a funeral, people will often say ‘if you need anything, just let me know’. Whilst this is usually well-meaning, it does place responsibility on the bereaved person to ask for help. If you do want to help after the funeral, you should be specific in your offer. How you will be able to help with of course depend on the individual.
Grief can be extremely tiring, so the bereaved person may appreciate help with daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, shopping or even childcare. Practical assistance like this can be a good way of demonstrating that you are there for them and provides opportunities to talk and provide emotional support while you are together and perhaps engaged in a task. Actions often speak louder than words, and in the weeks and months after funeral, the bereaved may need and appreciate both emotional support and practical help.
Learn more about how to help someone who is grieving.
For more funeral advice, visit our guidance and advice hub. We’ve information on arranging a funeral, planning ahead for a future in the future and grief and loss.