What to Say at a Funeral of Someone You Don’t Really Know

For many people, there’s some social anxiety that goes into attending a funeral. It’s a reason why some mourners refrain from attend a viewing. When it comes to funeral home etiquette, What do you say? What do you do?

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This anxiety can be heightened if you didn’t actually know the deceased (maybe it’s a distant relative or a co-worker’s mother). During a time when everyone is crying and in mourning, you may feel awkward being someone who’s less affected.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attend a viewing or funeral. In fact, mourners need to see your face more than ever during this time, as having a support system can help them evade depression.

Here’s what you can say in a receiving line at a funeral of someone you didn’t know:

    1. “I’m so sorry for your loss.” This is a standard line, but it’s appropriate as it conveys empathy.
    2. “It sounds like she/he was a very special person.” This acknowledges you care and listened when your friend shared information about the deceased. You may also want to include your connection to the deceased (“I’m used to work with Jane [daughter of deceased]”).
    3. Offer to provide some sort of small service to the family of deceased. Funerals can be a chaotic time. Instead of saying something like, “Let me know what I can do,” actually offer to do something. Is it a neighbor that’s your connection to the funeral? Offer to check in on their pets or water their plants during this difficult time.
    4. Comment on something you noticed through their photographs. Chances are, family and friends will have photographs of the deceased on hand. Before you enter the receiving line, look through the photographs to get a sense of who the person was and perhaps be able to offer a positive memory (families will need that positivity during this difficult time).


For info on Markwell Funeral Home’s funeral services and answers to questions related to funeral arrangements, check out Markwell’s blog, which offers further information. You can also call Markwell at (888) 932-2630 or email them at info@markwellfuneralhome.com.