Saying a Few Words at a Funeral. A Useful Guide

At funerals, emotions run high, and we can feel uneasy and tense, not knowing what to say or how to offer condolences. We don’t want to make things worse or offend someone just by saying the wrong thing. Saying a few words at a funeral can be even more difficult if we’re asked to give a eulogy, and we don’t know the first thing about writing one.


To help you better prepare for the somber occasion, here are some tips for writing a speech and talking with others at a funeral.


Saying a Few Words at a Funeral

Before the Funeral Service


Since funeral services are usually distressing, we can follow certain rules of etiquette to make it easier for us. To start, we should get to the funeral location at least 20 minutes before the service begins. 


Then, we can find somewhere to sit and wait for it to begin. Most often, the first pews are reserved for family members and close friends of the deceased. If we’re not in one of these categories, we should sit somewhere in the middle or at the back.


However, if we’ve arrived late and the service has already started, we should find a seat in the last few pews. Also, we have to do it as quietly as possible and not attract attention to ourselves or disrupt the service.


Lastly, we should dress appropriately, in a conservative manner, to show respect for the deceased. Men should wear darker-colored suits with a classic tie, while women can put on subtle dresses in muted tones. For funerals, it’s best to stay away from any accessories or even colognes and perfumes.


Examples of What to Say


The most important thing to remember when offering condolences is to express care and sympathy. We need to tell the mourners that we are there to offer support and pay our respects.


However, it’s vital that we remain calm, collected, as well as not to upset others even more than they already are. The best way to do so is with a few well-prepared comments or by sharing a happy memory we have with the person who’s passed. 


Saying a Few Words at a Funeral

During the funeral service, we can say:


  • I am so sorry for your loss. Please accept my condolences. 
  • There are no words to express how I’m feeling, but know that you can call me whenever you need to talk.
  • They were a wonderful person, and everyone who knew them is better for it.
  • Know that they meant a great deal to me, and I will forever hold them in my heart.
  • I loved them dearly, and they will be truly missed. If you or your family ever need anything, please don’t hesitate to call me.


If the deceased or the family are religious, we can say that we’ll be holding them in our prayers. Depending on how close we are to the family, we should extend a handshake or hug. Sometimes, just this small gesture can mean more than words.


Examples of What Not to Say


If we’re not careful, saying a few words at a funeral, even with the best intentions, might upset the mourners. For example, one of the absolute worst things we can say is, “I understand how you feel.” Even though it’s a way for us to express sympathy, it can come off as condescending. 


What’s more, it’s best to stay away from questions that have to do with how the person passed or about their final moments. In general, it’s best to avoid any of the following sentences:


  • You’ll be better off without them.
  • You have to stay strong, don’t cry. You’ll feel better soon.
  • They are in a much better place now.
  • It was their time to go.
  • God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.
  • Everything happens for a reason.


Writing a Eulogy


If we were close to the family of the deceased, saying a few words at a funeral or giving a speech can be challenging. Since it’s such an emotional occasion, it might be best to write something down on a piece of paper in the form of a eulogy.


Keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong way to deliver this speech, and what we choose to include is entirely up to us. However, the best eulogies are the ones that come from the heart and have a personal touch.


Writing Tips


When writing the speech, we should first consider who our audience is and what they would like to hear. Even if we’re speaking to the family members, our eulogy doesn’t need to be mournful and somber. Instead, we can write something that’s uplifting and sounds comforting.


Once we’ve settled on the tone, we should start thinking about what we want to say about the person who passed. For example, some of the most common points to cover are:


  • Who and what made them happy?
  • Why were they so special to the people there?
  • The three words that would sum up the person’s character or life


Before giving the speech, we might want to have someone close to the deceased fact-check our eulogy. A friend or family member might provide some suggestions on improving the eulogy or even provide interesting anecdotes. Also, we can end the speech with a few farewell words or a message of hope and love. 


Saying a Few Words at a Funeral — Giving a Eulogy


To deliver the speech, we need to remain calm and collected, without getting too emotional or breaking down. If we feel like it’s too difficult for us to do so, we can always have someone else help us read the eulogy.


But the best way to avoid getting emotional is to rehearse it before getting up to speak. We should also read the eulogy multiple times beforehand so we have parts of it memorized.


If we do get teary-eyed or choke up while speaking, others will surely understand. We can pause, take a few deep breaths, and try and calm down. But if we can’t carry on, our standby can always take over — that’s why they’re there.


Final Thoughts


No matter who we are or what we do, death affects us all differently. Some people get emotional, others angry, or they completely shut down and refuse to talk. However, while we’re at the funeral, we must try to control our emotions as best as we can and show support to the family members of the deceased.


At the end of the day, saying a few words at a funeral is never easy, and being overcome with emotions is normal. But we have to remember that we’re there to pay our respects and give someone we cared for the final send-off.


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Michael Grover

Following the death of my Mother, I decided to make this website. I found it difficult at the time to express the correct words to say at the service. However, I stumbled across an immediate download (available here) that enabled me to find truly memorable words.

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