What to say at a funeral

What exactly are you supposed to say and do when someone dies?

Funerals can be hard. They can be awkward. What do you say at a funeral? What is the grieving family expected? Should I cry? Am I supposed to be strong? What if I laugh? Is it ok to ask if there’s going to be a luncheon? Let’s take a look at three funeral do’s don’ts.

Don’t

  1. Don’t try to explain. We’ve all been guilty of this because we are always looking for answers. We say things like, “God had a plan” or “God just wanted her home early” or “God must have been trying to teach us all a lesson”. While those things might be true – you can’t say for certain. None of us knows the mind of God and why He allows certain things to happen. I’ve found that explanations often don’t help us grieve either. If someone were to tell me shortly after I’ve lost someone I loved that “God is just trying to teach us something we can’t see yet” I’d think to myself, “There must be an easier way to get His point across”. Or, if someone suggested that, “God had a plan” I might think, “Why couldn’t His plan involve someone else kid/grandma/mom?” Do you see how explanations don’t really explain all that much? Avoid trying to read the mind of God
  2. Don’t minimize the grieving person’s pain. I don’t think we ever mean to do this, but I hear it all the time. “Today is really a day to celebrate because now she’s in Heaven!” Statements like that often rob the grieving person of the time they need. Again, death is bad and it’s ok to be sad. Grieving is an important process we all need to go through after death. And we shouldn’t rob people of the opportunity to pass through the process.
  3. Don’t lie. Definitely don’t tell someone you’ll pray for someone if you won’t. Don’t say, “He was always so honest” about a serial liar. Don’t feel the need to manufacture a touching story about the deceased. If you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything at all.

Do

  1. Do affirm the grieving family/friends sadness. Let’s get something straight: Death is bad. It wasn’t meant to be. Adam and Eve weren’t created to die. Death only came about as a result of sin. Romans 6:23 reminds us that “The wages of sin is death”. Not good, not good at all. So, acknowledge it. Go ahead and cry. Tell the grieving family that you can’t imagine their pain. Don’t try to gloss over it. Definitely don’t try to suggest that this death is good. “Well, at leas you’ll have an extra bedroom now” or ‘Now you can do all the traveling you couldn’t do when _____ was around” are probably not the best things to say. Affirm their grief.
  2. Be present. Sometimes when we are sad all we want is for someone to be with us. We don’t need words, for someone to fix all our problems, or explanations. We just need someone to sit beside us and maybe give us a hug or put a hand on our shoulder. Don’t think that it is up to you to give a dspeech that will turn their tears to joy. Just be with them.
  3. Go ahead and use cliches. We use cliches for a reason – because sometimes they capture the moment and our feelings in the best possible way. Cliches allow us to say something for which there are no words. We don’t always have to be original – a solid cliche like “I’m so sorry for your loss.” or “I’m really going to miss her too” is all that needs to be said.

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