What to Say to Someone Going to a Funeral?

Jun 19, 2023

It can be very hard to know what to say to someone after the death of a loved one. People process grief differently, and depending on how well you know the person, it can be difficult to find the best words or gestures of condolence. Going to a funeral is part of the grieving process, and gives people a chance to say goodbye to their loved one. It is important to acknowledge that your friend or co-worker is attending a funeral, but it can feel hard to find the best words to do so.

Expressing Condolences for their Loss

Acknowledging their loss is vital. Some people find other people’s grief so difficult that they just avoid the subject altogether, but this can be upsetting for the person who is grieving. Just saying, “I’m sorry for your loss,” is enough to show the other person that you understand that they are going through a tricky time. Don’t avoid them, or avoid talking about the topic, as this will just be awkward for all involved. Try not to push your own faith, or feeling about death, upon them. Sayings, such as “he has gone to a better place,” might not be helpful for the other person, even if it would help you. Be very tactful about religion, as all religions have different customs and traditions, that may be unfamiliar to you.

Showing Empathy

Empathy is an incredible skill and one that is invaluable throughout our lives. Listen to your friend, whether they want to talk about their grief and loss, or whether they want to talk about something unrelated. Giving people our time and our attention is a compassionate gesture. Often within a family, when everyone is grieving, then one person can end up feeling like they need to be the strong one. If you can see your friend in this role, make sure you give them the space where they feel that they can grieve, where they don’t need to be strong. Providing empathy and compassion can be as simple as offering someone a cup of tea and the time to cry. It can be sharing an anecdote about their loved one, or simply listening to some of their favourite memories.

How Do You Wish Someone Strength for a Funeral?

Funerals are difficult, and we all have different reactions to stressful situations. Remind your friend, that this time will pass and that you are here for them. If you know that they will be coming home to an empty house after the funeral, offering to be there when they get back can be invaluable. It can be helpful to acknowledge that the funeral will be challenging. Toxic positivity, such as telling people to look on the bright side, can be unhelpful. Better to accept that it will be a sad occasion, and a challenging one, rather than gloss over the difficulties of the day. Some people think that showing emotion at a funeral is a sign of weakness. This isn’t true, emotions are a healthy, natural response to grief. Remind your friend that there is no “right” way to grieve, and no time frames around the emotions surrounding grief.

Practical Support and Assistance during a Funeral

Grief is exhausting. Not only this, but the aftermath of the death of a loved one, can be very busy, and challenging for all involved. Don’t just say “Ask if you need a hand with anything” as this puts the onus on the other person. Offer concrete support that you know you can do. Bring around some food, a home-cooked meal for the freezer, or some snacks for the cupboard. If your friend has young children, offer to take them to the park for an hour so that they can have a nap or an uninterrupted phone call. Specific, practical offers of help are the most valuable. Check the practicalities of the funeral, do they need a lift to the service, or some food dropping off for the wake? Organising a funeral can be stressful, and distressing, help to lighten the load, by offering to organise something, like the catering, or the flowers. Though, remember not to be offended if your offer of help is declined. Some people would rather be busy.

Ending the Conversation

Repeat your expression of condolence, and offer concrete, practical support again. Choosing the right words can be hard, but acknowledging the other person’s grief, and validating their emotions, are the most important.

Celebrating the Life of a Loved One at a Funeral

Funerals allow us to celebrate and to grieve. To give thanks, and to cry. Funerals are an important part of the grieving process and help to bring us closure, and understanding of our loss. Supporting our loved ones during times of grief can be exceptionally challenging, and it is important to remember that grief can manifest in different ways. Your friends will appreciate your support during this time, even if they don’t show it.

Funerals have changed significantly over recent decades and each one is very much individual, but we hope our guide to funeral etiquette will answer your questions and help ensure the day runs as smoothly as possible.


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