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Funeral Etiquette: Knowing What To Say

In addition to the emotions and sympathy one feels when attending a funeral, you might also find yourself struggling with what to say and how to say it. It may be especially hard to find the right words when you do not know the person who has passed and are attending the funeral service to support a friend, colleague or neighbor with the loss of their loved one.

We all know that no matter how well thought out our words are, there simply is nothing we can say that will completely turn their grief around. But there are still some considerations that you may want to take note of in finding the right words to say.

Please always keep in mind that even if the family members are holding themselves together, they are still feeling deep sorrow. It’s important, in most cases, to remain serious and compassionate to avoid making someone feel uncomfortable. In some cultures, a casual approach may be misinterpreted as disrespectful, therefore unless you are very familiar with the family, try to keep a serious tone and conservative approach.

Sympathy and compassion are the two emotions that should be conveyed through your words. Although somewhat of a cliché, speak from your heart. In most cases, it isn’t what you say, it is the fact that you are there that means more to the family than anything. Simply stating that you are sorry for their loss, is an acceptable phrase, but sometimes hearing something more means a lot to those coping with their loss.

When helping a friend or loved one through this difficult time, avoid distracting them or making them feel guilty for their sorrows. Never tell them to stay strong for the sake of the children or for any others. And truly be there for them. Chances are, they just need a friend to listen to them.

Sometimes it’s not only about what you say, but it’s also what you do. Write a short letter or give them a card expressing your sympathy. Sometimes simply hugging the family and letting them know that you are here to help them out goes a long way. If your religious and the family is as well, letting them know that you are praying for them, will also be well received. Offering to help with preparations, children, meals or other tasks is also a great way to show you care.

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