If you have ever experienced loss, you know that there are few words anyone can say to make the grief subside. Instead of trying to find words that will make your friend or loved one feel better, instead look to words that may bring comfort to them. A good rule of thumb is to stick to words of love and support for the grieving person. Loss can affect your work, family and health, so hearing that someone loves you and is willing to help make dinner or grocery shop for you can make all the difference in the world.
Whether you are looking for words of comfort for a grieving friend, or you are writing a funeral speech or eulogy, these condolences and encouragements are sure to give you inspiration for what to say at a funeral.
What to Say to Family at a Funeral
Funerals are most difficult for the family. They are grieving and going through an entire spectrum of emotions while having to host a large event. The best way to support the family is by extending a helping hand and offering words of love. Offer to stay after the funeral and help clean up or simply open your arms for a meaningful hug. If you can’t find the words to say, try offering some of these simple condolences:
- “I’m sorry for your loss.” Sometimes there is nothing else that you can say. This simple condolence lets your loved one know that you recognize they are grieving and you are thinking about them.
- “I can’t imagine how you feel, but I am here to help in any way I can.” It is good to validate your loved one’s grief by letting them know their pain is real and you want to help in any way possible.
- “My heart is broken for you and your family.” If you are close to the person or family who is grieving, let them know that you are hurting for them. Showing them empathy can help them feel less isolated.
- “My favorite memory of your loved one is…” When someone passes away, it is easy for a grieving person to dwell only on the loss instead of the years of good memories. Remind your loved one of fond memories with the person who passed to show how much they were loved.
- “We all need help during difficult times, I am here for you.” This simple condolence will let your loved one know that it is okay to rely on the help of others during this difficult time.
- “You and your family are in my thoughts.” Grief can make you feel utterly alone. Simple reminders that others are thinking about you and your family can make a big difference.
- “I will miss them.” The family of the deceased will miss their loved one for the rest of their lives. Let them know that they are not alone in their grief and that you will be missing them as well.
- “She was there for me when I lost my husband.” Uplift the grieving family by sharing how their loved one impacted your life.
- “I love you.” If you know the grieving person well, tell them how much you love them. When you lose someone who loves you it can feel like no one loves you anymore. Simple reminders can help those feelings.
- “They were a wonderful person.” Simple reminders of how much the person who passed was loved can be very comforting for a grieving family.
- “When you’re ready to talk, I would love to hear all about them.” One of the most healing things that a grieving person can do is talk about their loved one and the wonderful memories they have of that person. When they are ready, be there to listen.
- “She was a wonderful pianist.” Complement the talents and skills that the deceased had and reminisce over good memories from the life they lived.
What to Say in a Funeral Speech
Speaking at a funeral is a great honor. You are given the opportunity to talk about the wonderful life that the person lived and comfort the family during this difficult time. If you are unsure about how to structure your speech, start with this traditional eulogy template:
- Opening remarks: Introduce yourself and explain your relationship to the deceased.
- Thank attendees: If you are an immediate family member, this is a good opportunity to thank those who attended and helped plan the funeral.
- Express condolences: If you are not a family member, use this time to express your condolences to the family.
- Highlight the deceased: Detail a few of the things that made this person special. You can include their hobbies, passions or quirks that made them who they were.
- Add personal experience: Mention how they made a personal impact on your life. If they were a great mentor, friend or brother, say so. If the person was religious, this is also a great time to reflect on their commitment to that religion.
- Mention the family: Loss has the greatest impact on the family, so make sure to mention any partners, spouses, parents or children that the deceased have and express your condolences to them directly.
- Close with a farewell: Close with a few words of comfort or a sentimental poem and wish everyone farewell.
What Not to Say at a Funeral
Funerals are difficult events to navigate if you don’t know what to say. Though most words of encouragement and love will be well received, there are a few things that you should avoid saying.
“I understand how you are feeling”
When you see someone in pain, it is natural to desire to let that person know that they are not alone. When you are comforting someone who has lost a loved one, try to avoid comparing your experience with loss to theirs. Grief is a unique experience for every person. Even if your friend lost their mother and you have lost your mother, it is impossible to understand how the loss of that unique relationship is affecting that person.
Instead of saying “I understand how you are feeling,” let that person know that you care by saying, “I can’t imagine how you are feeling right now. Just know that I love you and I am here for you”. This lets your loved one know that they are not alone, and it also validates their unique feelings of loss.
“Let me know if you need anything.”
Losing a loved one is physically and emotionally draining. The last thing a grieving person wants to do is reach out to the people in their life and ask for help.
Instead of extending a vague helping hand, offer your loved one specific ways that you can support and help them. You can say things like, “Can I bring you dinner next Thursday night?” or “Can I come mow your lawn next weekend?” During this challenging time, your loved one undoubtedly needs support. These specific offers of help show them they are not alone and that you sincerely care.
When people experience grief, it affects everything in their life. After a loss, they find they can’t go about their normal activities as they used to, and even simple tasks take strength to complete. Getting out of bed, getting dressed and driving to the funeral took enormous amounts of strength. Saying “be strong” minimizes the strength that they are already exhibiting.
Take the opposite approach and encourage your grieving friend by saying something like “You are such a strong person, I can’t imagine what you are going through. Let me know if I can come help you around the house or bring you some dinner.” This lets the person know that you are seeing that they are struggling and that you care to help during this challenging time.
Though funerals can be uncomfortable and challenging, remember that it is a celebration of someone’s life. Look back fondly on the memories you had and offer love and support to everyone who is missing them. If you would like to offer your condolences from afar, try sending a beautiful peace lily arrangement with your personal message. Any words of love are welcome during these troubling times.