So what do I say?

Someone said to the me the other day “When I go to a visitation or funeral I’m always afraid I am going to say the wrong thing. You’ve told me what not to say or do but what can I say and not look like a bumbling fool?”.


Good question! There is no formula or standard answer to how to approach a person who has very recently lost someone they love. There are so many variables that determine what is right for your situation. How well do you know this person? How well did you know the deceased? Are there any cultural or religious variables you need to observe? What were the circumstances surrounding the passing of their person, and a hundred others.


When deciding what you want to say to them remember a few key things:


Right now is not the time to tell them about your experience with death

If this is a person you would normally hug when you see them, absolutely do it now.

You don’t know how they feel

They don’t need your advice on what they should or should not be doing now


If you are unsure of what to say, a few options to consider:


I’m sorry for what you are going through.


I’ve been thinking of you.


I’ve been praying for you. Say this only if you really have been.


Tell them something you liked or admired about their person. “I thought he was such a kind person” “He had a beautiful smile” “He made me laugh” feel free to share a memory or story about their person that you think will have meaning to them but don’t be too long winded.


If all else fails, simply say “I don’t know what to say” That says to us that you are here because you care not because you feel obligated or think you get points with God.


Sometimes a hug and a smile is all you need to do for them to know you care.


Honestly, the day of a visitation or funeral tends to be so overwhelming that we forget a lot of the interactions we have with people, unless they say or do something memorable (that can be a good thing or a bad thing). I had more than one person mention something they said to me at Mikes service yet I had no recollection of the conversation. That doesn’t mean it had no meaning or that it wasn’t welcome at the time but when you have interactions with soooo many people you can’t possibly remember every detail. The day my daughter and I opened the pile of cards and read the sign in book from the funeral we both saw names of people we didn’t remember seeing or talking with. I believe this is normal, so if you mention something you spoke about with them don’t be offended if they don’t remember.


There are people who attend services without feeling the need to be seen by the family, some come for themselves more than for the family and that’s okay. We all do what we need to do. Some don’t talk to the survivors because they are uncomfortable or don’t feel they have anything to say to them that would be helpful. Some want to speak to them or do something for them on a personal level. If that is the case, check in with them in a week or two, that is when they are going to need more support and what you say and do at that point will probably have a lot more meaning to them than what happens the day they say their final goodbyes.


The one thing you need to remember, speak from your heart and you can never go wrong.




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