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Funeral Etiquette: 10 Totally Inappropriate Things to Say at a Funeral

A funeral announcement is a way of letting your family, friends and acquaintances know of the passing of a loved one. You can make it as varied as you wish. You can be very formal, by using a printed or engraved invitation to the funeral service. Alternatively, you can make it simple, by sending an email. Funeral announcements may appear in the newspaper in the obituary section.

Unless you have written the notice ahead of time, it is always difficult to compose your thoughts and write a funeral announcement while you are grieving. This list of what to include in a funeral announcement will help you to write the funeral announcement and not forget anything.

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Funeral Etiquette: 10 Totally Inappropriate Things to Say at a Funeral

Funeral etiquette is really no different than proper etiquette for formal situations. Death is a difficult, emotional, and confusing time for everyone involved in the experience. You may be attending the funeral of a family member, a dear friend, a business associate or that of a relative of a close friend or colleague. Whatever the situation, it is always an awkward moment when you come face to face with someone related to the deceased.

Knowing what to say at these times is a gift that is natural to but a few. They seem to automatically find the right words and handle the situation with both grace and meaning. The rest of us however, fumble and fall over ourselves, eventually blurting out something completely inappropriate and causing embarrassment to us and to others. Knowing what not to say at these times is as vitally important as choosing the right words.

Inevitably you will want to say something, and it doesn't hurt to have a general guideline of what is and what is not fitting. The following are some of the most common insensitive things that people say at funerals. As you read them, focus on the gist of what is being implied, rather than the actual words that are spoken. Understanding the principles of why you shouldn't say these things is of much more importance than memorizing the words that contain them.

  1. "He or she is in a better place now." How do you know? By saying this we are implying that we know what happens after death. Such a statement has been known, not only to cause pain to a grieving person, but can fuel religious arguments, especially when tender emotions are combined with alcohol. Besides, there is no better place, as far as the bereaved is concerned, than for their loved one to be with them.
  2. "He or she is better off now." That may be true, especially if the deceased suffered a long and painful illness. The fact is though, that they are dead, and their family and friends are terribly hurt and saddened by their death. It is better to avoid trying to minimize the magnitude of their dying by sugar coating it with such trite clichés.
  3. "Can I do anything for you?" Can you bring my husband/daughter/son/wife/brother/sister/grandma etc. back? Most bereaved people are confused and overwhelmed at this time, its best not to ask open-ended questions. Of course, there is a lot you can do for them. Rather than ask them though, take the initiative and do something to help without asking. It will show your thoughtfulness and they will be immensely grateful.
  4. "His or her death was a blessing in disguise." If a father left behind a young family that will now struggle to make ends meet, that is definitely not a blessing, regardless of how much he was suffering beforehand. This is true of any circumstance though - death is never a blessing, it's a sad and tragic part of life that would only be a blessing if it didn't exist.
  5. "You're strong enough to handle this." Nothing like piling added pressure on a person who is already weakened from the grieving process. When someone dies the emotional drain is enormous and can affect their loved ones deeply and physically. Their strength needs to come from the support of those around them, not from within, at least not until well after the funeral.
  6. "It was God's will." Really, then you know what I want to say to God then. This is a very powerful statement, and if a person is not as devout a believer as you are could be especially offensive. People often become angry with God after the death of a loved one. This statement delves into the core of a person's beliefs and can invoke a very powerful reaction.
  7. "I know what you're going through." Even if you've experienced the death of someone close to you, each individual's experience is different. Relationships have varying dynamics, and people have different make-ups that produce unique experiences.
  8. "Did he or she have life insurance?" Believe it or not, questions like this are often asked by insensitive people. It is good practice not to mention any kind of financial matters at all. If you have a desire to help a person that you feel they may need it, wait till after the funeral and try to find out discreetly from another family member. You can also simply gift a sum of money to the bereaved regardless of their life insurance policy.
  9. "How did he or she die?" A funeral is a time of quiet grieving, not a time for people to relive the tragedy that brought them there in the first place. This is something that should be found out beforehand by consulting the obituaries or by discreetly asking someone who is not especially close to the deceased.
  1. "Don't worry, you'll meet someone else." When a person loses a life partner, soul-mate, husband or wife to death, it feels like their world has been ripped apart. This statement minimizes their loss by implying that the person is easily replaceable, which of course we know is untrue. To the bereaved, there was no other person like their loved one in the world, and no one could ever replace them. Often, they are right.

To list everything that you shouldn't say at a funeral would be quite impossible. There are as many wrong or inappropriate things to say as there are funerals and individuals attending them. Most people don't even realize when they have said something insensitive, or just blurt it out from nervousness and the want of something to say. You needn't feel pressured to say anything; in fact it is better to say nothing than to utter something unsuitable out of uneasiness. The most powerful expressions of support can be simple and quiet, like a good hug.

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