Saying the Right Thing at A Funeral

Have you ever been to a funeral service? If so, did you find yourself wondering what to say? Funerals can make even the most eloquent of us feel tongue-tied, as we worry about “getting it right.” But the thing is, we can get it right by just being ourselves. 


It’s important to mention that you aren’t expected to say anything at a funeral. Just know that any effort you make to share your sympathies and condolences will be appreciated by the family. Whether you’re a close relative or distant friend, your being there communicates the fact that their loved one mattered to you. But if you do want some tips on what to say at a funeral, here are a few that will help you communicate your condolences in a thoughtful way. 


What To Wear to a Funeral


Sharing Memories 

When you’re struggling with the right thing to say at a funeral, try sharing a memory or story that was meaningful to you, because it will definitely mean a lot to the grieving family. Saying goodbye to the ones we love is so difficult, and we’ll try our hardest to keep them as present as possible for as long as we can. We want to talk about them, hear about them and surround ourselves with things that help us remember them. Just knowing that they mattered and won’t be forgotten can feel truly uplifting. Your stories and memories offer the family a gift. Be specific, be sincere, and be brief. 


Some examples of what to say at a funeral:


  • My favorite memory was when she…
  • I’ll never forget how he…
  • I loved the funny stories that he used to tell about...
  • The way she handled that made such a difference in my life.
  • Every time I’m in that kind of situation, I try to think about how he would’ve handled it.
  • I will never forget her.


Sympathy Gifts They'll Appreciate


Offering Support 

Most of the time we tiptoe around at funerals, because it might seem awkward to put our feelings out there. So, when you don’t know what else to say, let them know that you know...that they’re not OK and that you're there for them. Offer all the support you can give. When someone you care about is grieving, it’s nice to let them know that they won’t even have to ask you for help—you’ll be there waiting when they need it. 


  • I’ll call you tomorrow. No need to answer if you don’t feel like talking.
  • I’m here for you, day or night. Please don’t think twice, just call if you need something.
  • When you’re feeling up to it, I’ll bring over some coffee.
  • Can I get you a [chair, some water, some air]?
  • Is there anything [on your mind, that you’re worried about] that I can help you with?
  • You don’t have to say anything. I’ll be right here.


While attending a funeral service (or a “farewelling”), these simple gestures can offer someone the right amount of support as they begin healing after their loss. Funerals give us the opportunity to share meaningful memories and offer comfort to those who may not realize they’re in need of the extra support.   


Other Funeral Etiquette and Planning Resources You May Find Helpful


How to Write a Sympathy Card

How to Create a Memorable Eulogy


Grace Y. Lin is a mom, wife and Licensed Behavioral Therapist living and practicing in New York. Visit her website here.