What to say at a funeral

by | May 7, 2009 | Death of a Loved One

I wanted to share a couple things from a conference I attended last week in Indianapolis with the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys.


As you go through the receiving line at a funeral, visitation, or wake, do you know what to say? One of the conference speakers, Amy Florian, gave some great advice.

As you come up to the widow, don’t say something generic like “I’m so sorry” or “my condolences”. If so, she’ll never remember you came by. Instead, here’s what to do:

1. Shake her hand but then take her hand in both of yours.

2. Introduce yourself. (don’t make her remember who you are, even if she has known you for years)

3. Express your shock at what happened. “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

4. Tell her you can’t imagine how she feels. “I can’t imagine what you are going through, to lose him after all these years.”

5. Share a memory. “One thing I remember about Dave was his great smile. He could light up a room!”

Here some more ideas about how to be a friend to a grieving person later, after the funeral.

  • Ask her to tell the story of what happened, how he died. Telling that story is important.
  • Ask “What do you wish people knew about what you’re going through?”
  • Ask “How do you wish people would treat you right now?”
  • Never say “I know how you feel.” If you have experienced something similar, then tell a little about that and how you felt, and then say: “Is it like that for you? Or how is it different?”


I would love to hear your thoughts on some of these things, especially those of you who have lived through the tragedy of losing loved ones close to you. Was the speaker on track with her comments?