Ask to hear stories about the deceased
It’s easy to stumble over your words when speaking to the grieving family or close friends. Although the conventional staple of funeral etiquette “I’m sorry for your loss” is handy to fall back on, that phrase often feels overused and insincere. Amy Cunningham, a Brooklyn-based funeral director who runs Fitting Tribute Funeral Services, recommends asking the family to tell stories about their deceased loved one. “Grieving people say that telling stories is comforting,” Cunningham says. “They can heal by remembering.” If you’re still at a loss for words, the simple acts of hugging and listening can go a long way. “It doesn’t matter how close you are to the person; just your presence is important,” Cunningham says. Even if you’re nervous about speaking to the grieving family and friends, this is why you should always go to the funeral.
It’s OK to laugh and smile
A funeral doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, more and more people are accepting funerals as celebrations of life rather than somber affairs. Although there are times to be solemn, “humor is a powerful thing,” Cunningham says. “Getting at the beauty of the deceased by telling a story that’s sweet or brings a smile or laugh is a lovely thing to do.” Obviously, you’ll still want to be sensitive and aware of your boundaries, especially if you’re speaking during the service. For good measure, run your story by a family member beforehand, as you would a wedding toast.