What should you say to someone after a funeral?

25 May 2022

Losing a friend or family member is already a challenging time, made more challenging by uncertainty around what to say to those closest to the person who’s passed away.

The key is finding a balance between conveying your sympathies, and making sure you don’t trivialise the grief of those who are feeling the loss the most.

After a funeral, it’s often the kind words from friends and others, that the grieving family remembers the most.

Although keeping it brief and simple can be comforting, saying something personal about the person that died and what they meant to you, is also greatly appreciated.

Good things to say after a funeral

Here are some things to say that can be helpful to the grieving family:

  • “I’m sorry for your loss.”
  • “My condolences.”
  • "They were a lovely person, and will be missed.”
  • “When you’re ready, I’m here for you.”
  • “I don’t know what to say or how to best help, but I really wish I did.”

Common phrases to avoid

There’s a fine line between expressing sympathy and making light of a sad situation. And while humour can often be a good way of managing grief, it’s usually best not to be the instigator, in case your humour is misunderstood. For example, here are some things to avoid saying:

  • “Well, they had a good life.”
  • “At least they died doing what they loved.”
  • “They’re in a better place now.”
  • “I know how you feel.”

You want to recognise a bereaved person’s grief, not minimise or trivialise it. Although the person who passed may have lived a long, happy, and fulfilling life, to those left behind it may not have been long enough.

If they did in fact die doing an activity they enjoyed, it’s not a great idea to highlight that.

And even if you have suffered a similar loss, comparing your experience to some else’s is best avoided, because everyone experiences grief differently.

Tips for attending a live-streamed service

Throughout the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in online streamed funeral services.

Here are some tips for participating in a funeral online:

  • If comments are enabled, take care when posting in them. Body language and tone are lost online, so comments can be misinterpreted by others. If you do choose to post in the comments, keep it simple and brief to avoid misunderstanding. It may be a good idea to avoid things like emojis and GIFs.
  • A direct, private message is always better than a public comment, whether it’s on a group chat thread or a social media post. Direct messages allow you to speak openly, honestly, and without the entire world seeing your comments.

Grief is a difficult thing to manage, but the key to expressing your condolences is to be heartfelt, sincere, and respectful.

If you’re experiencing loss, you’re not alone. The Centre for Care & Wellbeing is a free service for any member of the community who is bereaved or experiencing grief.

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