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Some cultures have an intimate relationship with grief, while others push loss and mourning to the margins. Depending on how you grew up and how much experience you have with grief, you might find it very difficult to talk to people who have recently experienced loss. When you have to attend a funeral or other grief-filled ceremony, you may not know what to say. Learn what you need to know to feel prepared when you are going to talk to people at a funeral. 

Recognize Your Feelings and Needs

Before you head into an awkward and overwhelming social setting such as a funeral, reflect for some time on your feelings and your needs. How you talk to people at a funeral will change depending on a few factors, such as:

  • How close you were to the person who passed away
  • Your relationship with the deceased person's family and friends
  • Your emotional capacity and physical wellness (or unwellness)
  • Your other obligations, including work, children, or financial burdens

You can decide how open you want to be and how much energy you have to give to the people around you long before you interact with them. Being honest with yourself about your capacity is an important part of engaging with others.

Be Present and Attentive

Once you enter a space where people are grieving, you should be present and attentive. Whether you attend a funeral that is at a church, a temple, a park, or a home, you should try your best to minimize distractions. Put away your mobile phone or leave it in the car for the entirety of the funeral. Arrange for a babysitter or family friend to pick up your children from school and take them out for a fun activity. Lean into your community to find someone to take care of your dogs or other pets for the afternoon. 

The truth is that no one says the right thing at a funeral because there is nothing that can be said to fill the wound of grief. Being present, attentive, and alert is more important than rehearsing phrases to say to someone who is grieving.

Follow the Lead of People Grieving

If you are attending a funeral to support someone who is grieving, your conversation and verbal exchanges should always follow the grieving person's lead. Grief is a very complex emotion, and it can manifest in various ways. Listen for clues on what to talk about, or ask a gentle leading question such as, "Do you feel like talking about it?"

You may have to change course suddenly during the middle of a conversation. In one moment, you'll find that it's easy to talk about the person who passed away, but a few minutes later, that could change drastically. It's important to listen and drop the subject when necessary.

Embrace Laughter When Appropriate

It might feel insensitive to laugh at a funeral, but you can embrace laughter when it's appropriate. Many people strive to memorialize those they've lost by remembering stories of joy and humorous anecdotes. If the people who are grieving are also laughing at a funny memory, then it's okay to laugh with them.

Be Honest and Vulnerable

The most important thing to remember is that you should be honest and vulnerable when you're talking to people at a funeral. Let people know if you don't feel like making conversation or if small talk is too much. Be honest about the fact that you don't know what to say. Your presence is all the support that people need.

If you have social anxiety about attending funerals, you can use these tips to prepare for those situations. Grief is always lighter when it's shared.

Category: Funeral

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