If you've ever lost a loved one, perhaps you've had people approach you, the bereaved, with comments that were said with good intentions but really were not quite right for the occasion or seemed out of place. Here are a few of those comments that people should avoid at funerals.
1. "I know how you feel."
With all due respect, NO, YOU DON'T! Only the bereaved knows exactly how s/he feels. The bereaved could be grieving, but then s/he could be silently rejoicing that wife/hubby/grandmaw is finally out of their hair.
2. "S/he is in a better place."
The natural assumption is that the deceased will go to heaven, but, frankly, you don't really know that, now do you? So for all you know, the deceased has a one-way ticket to HELL.
3. "S/he is now one of the angels."
Whence comes that bit of romantic fiction? There is NOTHING in the Bible that states human beings become "angels" when they die.
4. "S/he has gone through the pearly gates and now walks on streets of gold. S/he hears the beautiful angels singing sweet melodies that make one's heart soar with such blessed, eternal happiness. Oh, the wonderful joy that s/he now experiences as the glorious light of heaven shines all around!!"
Oh please! A funeral is no place to audition for a role in a play, so spare the bereaved such dramatic performances!
5. "S/he has gone home to heaven."
Such a statement assumes that we are judged as soon as we die and go to heaven (or to hell). For peace of mind, the natural assumption at a funeral is that the deceased has already gone to heaven. Yet the Bible states that we will all be raised at the last day for the Final Judgment; THEN and only THEN will we go either to heaven or to hell. But if we go to heaven or hell as soon as we die, then there is no need for a Final Judgment. Therefore, the deceased does not "go to heaven" but "rests" in his/her grave until the Final Judgment. This analysis also applies to statements 2, 3, and 4 above.
6. "Just be thankful for the years that you had with him/her."
This statement assumes the deceased has forgotten the good years that s/he spent with the deceased. Don't presume to lecture the bereaved for what s/he should be thankful.
7. "Don't take it so hard."
This idiotic statement would silence or dampen expressions of grief from the bereaved. If you can't handle seeing a person in deep grief, then kindly GO AWAY AND KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!
So, what should one say to the bereaved at a funeral? Keep your comments simple and honest. Ditch the flowery nonsense. Here are a few suggestions:
"My deepest sympathies."
"My deepest condolences."
"I am so sorry for your loss."
"If you need anything, please let me know."
"I will miss him/her very much."
These are the things we are tempted to say but should not: a good hug is about all you can do but we don't know how they feel. Even the loss of a loved one may not produce the same effects as in other people.
Never, never say "it's God's will."
After the condolences and funeral the worst thing you can do is forget the person: they need help in lots of ways.