Funerals are one of the most sensitive occasions that a person will encounter and it’s easy to be lost for words (or worse, say the wrong thing).
When it comes to comforting the family of other grievers, it’s often good to start with:
· How sorry you are to hear the news
· That he/she will be sorely missed by friends/colleagues/other people in your group
· How much you loved this person or how bereaved you feel
· You know how much the deceased loved the people left behind
· What a wonderful person the deceased was
· How you will remember the deceased
· How the deceased was an inspiration to others
· Talk about your favourite memory with the deceased
It’s kind to recount stories that put the deceased in a good light or show how much the deceased cared for the person you’re speaking to. Don’t be afraid to console others and offer comfort or assistance, but watch their body language to know when attention has been received and is no longer necessary.
If words are not your strong point just keep it short. People may not remember the mass of condolences, but they will remember that you were there to remember their loved one.
What Not to Say
Funerals are a time to talk about the deceased and their relationships in the best light possible – you can recount funny stories, but embarrassing or painful anecdotes should be avoided. If your humour is not necessarily something that’s shared with the other mourners, it’s best to avoid expressing it until you’re with a group that appreciates it (even if the deceased shared it).
Be yourself – if you are not often emotional or physically affectionate, changing suddenly will feel unnatural to everybody involved. Express yourself as you usually do.
The decreased should be the centre of discussions and the family should be a primary consideration during the funeral – this is not the time to take control of a situation or bring up other people’s experiences.
Finally, depending on the beliefs of the deceased and the family, expressions relating to loss and fate may not be well received. Regardless of your personal beliefs, it is best to speak on a level that the family can relate to.
Preparing Something to Say
If you are reading a eulogy, preparation is expected. But even if you are not, you may want to consider a few good stories or a few things to say before attending to avoid embarrassment or a blank mind if you’re put on the spot during a conversation. This is a particularly helpful approach for people who are often anxious or introverted.
After the Funeral
People outside the family often move on faster than those within it, and further support or condolences are often appreciated. You may want to
· Call or visit around a week later
· Remember the deceased birthdays or anniversaries
· Offer support or practical help in the months after the funeral (especially with tasks that the deceased usually managed)