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What NOT to Say at a Funeral

December 30 2011 at 12:30 PM
B  (no login)
from IP address

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."

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Ken Sublett
(Login Ken.Sublett)

Good precautions.

December 30 2011, 5:13 PM 

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.

Thanks, Ken

This message has been edited by Ken.Sublett from IP address on Dec 30, 2011 5:14 PM

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(no login)

Re: Good precautions.

December 30 2011, 6:47 PM 

Thanks, Ken, for mentioning that inappropriate statement: "It's God's will." Some people are angry and blame God for "letting" their loved ones die. The last thing they want to hear is something that suggests God was responsible for "robbing" them of wife/hubby/grandmaw.

Some lay people also don clerical robes, so to speak, and preach Scripture to the bereaved, or they quote well-worn adages, thinking that lofty words can somehow ease the grief. Favorites include "God works in mysterious ways" and the "Let not your heart be troubled" passage from John 14. Don't try to play "preacher" with the bereaved. People of faith already have the comfort they need; for people without faith, no words can comfort them adequately.

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Ken Sublett
(Login Ken.Sublett)

No sermons!

December 30 2011, 9:04 PM 

I spoke at my father's funeral and since I could remember him from a young man durinng depression era trying to feed his flock, and had walked in his steps on the farm, I had a lot of good and some funny things to say. I hate to see preachers sermonize and do not give the children the time to try to show that he counted.

My niece delivered a great recap at my mom's funeral and since she didn't preach that was ok :=)

We never realize how great some people are until they are dead.

Funerals are really one of the most ancient and perhaps pagan rites; the task was to make sure that you--at last--really loved the person and really hoped that their spirit would not get even. They built little houses, planted gardens and continued to feed and entertain them.

Lamenting for Tammuz or Adonis was common among the Jews: Ezekiel 8 speaks lots about what really went on inside and around the Jerusalem Temple.

I want to be ground up and put under a rose bush if there is anything left because I plan to be long gone.


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(no login)

Re: No sermons!

December 30 2011, 10:40 PM 

One of my aunts, who was not a Christian, died in 1984. The church of Christ preacher who officiated at her funeral "sermonized" and preached about the dangers of not having been a Christian in life. He didn't come right out and say so, but the clear implication was that my aunt was not destined for paradise. Little was said about my aunt's life. It was as if the preacher thought, "Well, she wasn't a Christian, so we need not focus on her but about how we can avoid hell." One of his concluding remarks was to tell everyone to, "Get right with God!" Needless to say, that was a "dark" funeral.

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ken sublett
(Login Ken.Sublett)


December 30 2011, 11:17 PM 

God forced me to give up my pronouncement certificate. That is why I justpost all of the irritating passages and word definitions.

Now, preaching was defined by Christ in the wilderness and affirmed by Jesus and commanded by Paul and not violated for several centuries.

They were commanded to PREACH the Word by READING the Word: that's what Paul commanded Timothy who was to "work" so he could sponsor the agape or feeding the day workers before they went out trying to find a day job.

Now, I would get nasty I would have to tell him that there is NO FUNDING for his role

Now, If I do a job for which there is no mandate and no funding but do it anyway, I would worry a lot being an honest man.

If you just teach that which is written for our learning then I think that Jesus will sort it out: Baptism is to become a disciple, a disciple is a student, and that saves us from the rest of churching.

Yes, I have heard those also: sometimes they try to "preach him into heaven" if he is a contributor.

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