What to Say at a Funeral

Many people are uncomfortable about what to say at a funeral. They worry about not saying the right thing or saying something that will upset a grief-stricken family member. When it comes time to express your condolences at a funeral, keep it simple and sincere.

Words of Sympathy
When you attend a viewing, wake or funeral, it is a good idea to express some words of sympathy to the family members of the deceased. The nature of your relationship dictates what to say at a funeral. However, most sentiments expressed at a funeral can begin with something simple, such as "I'm sorry," "I am so sorry for your loss" or "My sympathies to you."

If you are more intimate with the deceased's family members, you can acknowledge your support and sympathy at the funeral services by recognizing their emotions at this time. Say something like, "I know how close you were to your father" or "I know how hard it is to lose a sibling." If you and the family members share a religious background, it might be appropriate to offer some words of comfort along the lines of your religious beliefs at the funeral. It's also a kind gesture to ask if there is anything you can do to assist the family at this difficult time, and make the commitment to follow through.

Remembering the Deceased
If you knew the deceased, whether through work, church or other civil association, you might consider mentioning their contributions. You could say, "James was such a wonderful asset to the company, and he will really be missed." Or, "I so enjoyed working with Sheila at our church functions. She had such a friendly smile." This is especially nice if you knew the deceased, but not the family. It provides a little introduction as to how you knew the deceased.

What Not to Say at Funeral Services

  • Never ask family members for details on how the deceased passed away. Most funeral announcements will mention if the death was caused by sickness or accident. If you don't know the details, find out another way.
  • Don't make jokes or try to cheer family members up with an attempt at humor. Because they are experiencing severe grief, any attempts will be viewed as disrespectful.
  • Never bring up any animosity or bad feelings towards the deceased. Even if there was bad history between you, those feelings have no place at a funeral.
  • Never refer to the person as "the deceased." Always use the person's name when speaking about him or her to the family.
  • Don't minimize the loss by offering such sentiments as "At least she didn't suffer," "You can always marry again/have another child" or "He's moved on to a better place."
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