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Man and Woman at a FuneralFunerals are held for friends and family to gather to honor the life of the dearly departed. You have the opportunity to comfort those who mourn in person with embraces and offerings of condolences. Whether the death was sudden and unexpected or a long time coming, there are usually expressions of grief, and many people search for the words to encourage the bereaved. The right words won’t bring back the deceased, but they may offer some comfort. Similarly, the wrong statement can be unintentionally offensive. Here are some things to know.

Being Sensitive

Death is tragic under any circumstances, and those closest to the departed experience grief in a number of ways. Whether the deceased person passed away in sleep at the age of 100 or was killed in a car accident, recognize that emotions are high and that words matter. Prioritize kindness and seek to honor the memory of the one who has passed and to soothe those who mourn.

Knowing What To Say

At a funeral, it’s generally acceptable to express sympathy to those who were especially close to the person. Even if you don’t know those people very well, sincerity is always recommended. Consider these statements as examples of appropriate things to say:

  • I’m thinking of you or praying for you and your family.
  • I’m sorry for your loss.
  • My sincerest condolences.
  • He/she/they will be deeply missed.
  • I’m here for you when you’re ready.

Again, your words aren’t going to erase the pain felt by those who are grieving, but a sincere expression of sympathy is fitting.

Putting Your Foot in Your Mouth

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for those who mean well to offer statements that end up being inappropriate. These statements sometimes minimize or trivialize a person’s grief or come off as insensitive at best, or deeply offensive at worst:

  • They’re in a better place now.
  • I know exactly how you feel.
  • You’ll feel better with time.
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • He/she/they lived a full life.
  • Let me know if you need anything.

Statement 1 is so overused as to lack sincerity. Not everyone shares the same views on the afterlife, and depending on the circumstances of the passing, the statement might suggest that death is preferable than life with the bereaved. While you may have experienced a similar loss and empathize with those who mourn, statements 2 and 3 may also trivialize their feelings. Everyone experiences and processes grief differently. Statement 4 is also a cliché that can come across as cold and unfeeling. The fifth statement suggests that there’s an appropriate time to die, which not only minimizes someone’s pain but also makes assumptions about the departed person’s relationship with those who are grieving. On its surface, statement 6 reads as supportive, but it places the burden of reaching out on someone who may not be ready to do anything beyond grieve.

Saying Nothing at All

In a scenario where a death occurred as a consequence of one’s own actions, it’s especially important to not say something rude. Avoid commenting on the cause of death or making inquiries about the law or pressing charges. Now is not the time to play commentator or talk carelessly about the situation. Loved ones may be experiencing shock at the sudden loss of life, and callous questions or discussions about the deceased’s actions or attitudes are both out of place and out of order. The old adage proves its worth in this situation: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Sometimes silence is golden.

Words can be as soft as a warm hug or as hard as steel. Emotions run high at funerals, and mourners may be especially sensitive. Choose your words wisely and thoughtfully if you must say something.

Category: Funeral

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