It can be difficult to find the right thing to say to the bereaved when attending a funeral. You may not have known the deceased, or you may not have experienced such a loss. It may seem uncomfortable when speaking with the bereaved throughout the funeral and cemetery services. Remember that your presence adds support and it is very important to those grieving. In order to assist with the right words to say, you may offer these words to ease their pain a little.
I am sorry for your loss
Even if you never knew the deceased, it is still meaningful to tell them you are sorry for the loss of their loved one. By being direct and honest, you acknowledge their pain and show them you care.
If you need anything, I am here for you
People grieve in many different ways. Whether they lean on their Catholic faith, their loved ones, or themselves, you cannot always predict how a person will need your support. By simply offering to be available – as someone to talk to or someone to sit in silence with – you are giving more support than you may realize. An unprompted gesture such as sending flowers, dropping off a prepared meal, a phone call to check in, can be a great show of support as well.
How are you? Then listen – really listen – for the true answer
Many people tend to leave those in mourning alone – they may think they need time to heal, or that their presence may be an annoyance. However, many people who are mourning need someone to talk honestly and openly with about their own feelings, or maybe they want to remember their deceased loved one by recounting memories. You may be able to help them grieve and heal with that one simple question.
I feel your pain
This is not the same as “I know how you feel” which is a statement to avoid uttering because even if you’ve shared a similar experience, everyone’s journey with grief is uniquely their own.
How about a hug?
Hugs are one of the most beautiful things that can happen to a person, especially in the wake of tremendous loss. When you are hugged you feel good and safe. A hug doesn’t necessarily take away the hurt but it can get you through some difficult moments.
I am here for you
Truth be told, grief can make people uncomfortable. It’s hard to see someone you care about torn up emotionally. It’s natural to want to fix them, but that’s just not possible. Therefore, the most helpful thing you can do for someone who is hurting is to offer to just be there for them whatever capacity they need.
Would you like to talk about your loved one?
It’s natural to worry that if you bring up the subject of the person who died, you’ll make the bereaved sad. Actually, the opposite is true. When a person loses someone that is close to them, after the death they will continue to think about their loved one constantly. It’s heartbreakingly sad that after several months the person who is grieving is astounded by how rarely people mention the person who died. It is important to share a story or memory about the person who passed away. It lets the griever know that others remember their loved one, and that’s really comforting news.
We are not suggesting that you avoid the grieving person or that when you talk to them you should pretend that you don’t know their loved one has died. That behaviour would be hugely hurtful. Don’t be afraid to close your mouth and open your heart. Hold their hand. Offer them a tissue. Make a pot of coffee. Ask if they’d like to go for a walk. Let them lead the conversation. Often, the biggest gift you can give a grieving person is permission to speak freely.