Parish Nurse Notes

Diane Huck, RN, MSN


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Sharing the Grief:

Do you feel uncomfortable at funerals and visitations because you don’t know what to say to the loved ones of the person who has died?  If so, you are not alone.

Here are some suggestions on what to say – and not say – to someone who has recently lost a person dear to them.

It is much more important to listen than to talk.  A friend once told me that, at her father’s funeral she didn’t remember anything anyone said, but she clearly remembered every person who came.


   -Say “she’s in a better place” or “at least he’s not suffering anymore”.  If the family makes that statement, acknowledge it.  Often during the early days of grief, the bereaved still wants the person to be with them, no matter what the circumstances.

   -Talk about others who have had cancer, or a heart attack, or whatever other illness the deceased had.  Mourners know only that their loved one has died and, at the time of the funeral, do not need or want to hear about others’ illness and loss.

   -Talk about yourself unless asked.  Your presence at the service is to bring support and concern to another, to stay focused on them.


   -Start with something simple, i.e., “I’m sorry for your loss”, “I was sorry to hear of her passing”.  Let their response guide you to further conversation.

   -If you knew the deceased, offer a story or good memory.

   -Acknowledge the effect the death will have, “I’m sure you are really going to miss him”, “This is a big loss for you”. 

   -Remind the person how important they were to their loved one, “You took such good care of her”, “You were a really good son to him”.


Those who are grieving are most in need of understanding, concern, and support.  And these are easily given in presence and prayer, more than words.