Funerals can be awkward situations to navigate. You want to express your condolences to the grieving family, but you also don’t want to accidentally upset them. Figuring out the right words to say can seem near impossible.
Although there isn’t always a clear solution, we’ve answered some common questions about what to say at the funeral, as well as some best practices for following up with the family after.
What Do You Say to the Family at the Funeral?
You don’t have to prepare some sort of lengthy speech. Just simply say a few kind words to express your condolences and show your support.
Below are a few condolence phrase examples:
“I’m sorry for your loss. (Insert name) was a great person and will be missed by many.”
“My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. (Insert name) was loved by a lot of people.”
“(Insert name) was a great person and an amazing (insert profession/hobby). I’m here for you if you want to talk or have someone to listen.”
You also can share a special memory you have with the deceased. This can be helpful if you knew the deceased but not their family very well. Sharing a short memory of you and the deceased can help them understand the relationship you had with them and what they meant to you.
How Long Should You Talk to Them?
This may depend on how well you know the grieving person. However, that doesn’t mean you need to have a long conversation if you know them better. Often times, your presence says more than words can. But it’s still thoughtful to say a few words of sympathy and support. Talk as long as you’re comfortable with, but remember that they have other people to visit with as well.
If you don’t know them that well, it’s okay to keep it simple. You could say something like, “I’m sorry for your loss. They will be missed,” and give other people a chance to talk to them. Then you can spend some time viewing any memorabilia displays or tribute videos. Also, don’t forget to sign the funeral register book.
What Should You Avoid Bringing Up?
When talking to the family, it’s best to avoid talking about the details of their loved one’s death. This also isn’t the time to make light-hearted jokes to help the family feel better, because this may just come off as disrespectful. If you have any hesitations about whether you should say something, you should probably avoid the subject to be safe.
Also, remember that everyone grieves differently. Avoid the phrases “I know how you feel” and “you’ll feel better with time.” No two people grieve exactly alike, and grief isn’t something that you get over. It’s an ongoing healing journey that can last months, years, or even forever.
When Should You Follow up with Them After the Funeral?
Depending on your closeness to the grieving person, you could first follow up a few weeks after the funeral service. You can keep checking in on them every few weeks to show that you’re thinking about them. Holidays, their loved one’s birthday, anniversaries, and other significant dates that may be difficult for them provide more opportunities to reach out.
How Should You Follow up with Them?
Even the smallest gestures can mean the most to those who are grieving a loss. These are just a few ways that you can reach out to them:
- Call them to say hello and see how they’re doing.
- Invite them over to your house or to a social gathering. Keep in mind that they may not feel ready to participate in social settings so don’t take a declined invitation personally.
- Bring them a home-cooked meal to share. Just make sure that you ask permission to come over ahead of time.
- Send them a note. Even better, send them a handwritten note in the mail.
- Offer to help them create a memorial in honor of their loved one, such as a DIY photo wreath.
How else can you follow up with families after the funeral? Share your ideas with us in the comments!