This is from my friend of 30 years, Dr. Ryan Whitley, who is pastor of Crosspoint Church in Argo, Alabama. I think you’ll see the reason I value his friendship so much as you read this from his blog. He is a man of God who is full of wisdom and grace.
Funerals are delicate situations. Most of us do not know what to say when we visit the funeral home. For some, the funeral home setting is excruciatingly difficult. Additionally, the circumstance is fragile due to the grief. And, to cover up our ignorance, or maybe even to expose it, we make some of the strangest comments.
Here is a list of things you should NOT say at a funeral, followed by a frank critique:
“I know what you are going through” – no, you don’t; so don’t say it.
“You will get over it” – sure they will, but not with you pushing them.
“The Lord must have needed him more than we did” – not true.
“There is now another angel in heaven” – that is perverted theology.
“I remember when my mom died” – what’s your point? This is not your mother.
“There is no need to cry” – don’t kid yourself. Tears drain the pain.
“Please call me if you need me” – sounds good, but is trite and you know it.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” – sure there is, so don’t ask, just do it.
Referring to the deceased, “They certainly look good” – compared to what?
“You just need to keep busy” – bad advice.
“I am grieving just as much as you are” – no you are not.
“What a beautiful casket” – it is not a piece of furniture.
“What you are going to do?” – meaningless question; don’t ask it.
Here is a list of helpful things you SHOULD say at a funeral:
Try silence – many times your presence speaks louder than words.
Try hugging – a gentle touch is sometimes more soothing than a spoken word.
“The only thing I know to say is that I love you.”
“I am so sorry.”
“I will continue to pray for you.”
“I thank the Lord for your husband’s friendship.”
“Your mother was a good friend.”
“Your father was a great…”
“I have a meal I am bringing to your house next Monday night.”
“I cut your grass this afternoon.”
“I cherish your mother’s friendship because she taught me…”
“I will always remember your son’s…”
“I thank the Lord for you.”
“I pray for God to give your more grace” (See James 4:6).
One final word and I am done.
For those who run at the mouth like I do, sometimes just hugging your friend’s neck and waiting for them to speak is the best way to greet them. Such a greeting gives them opportunity to speak, and for you not to plant your awkward foot in your mouth. And how they respond to the hug usually sets the stage for what to say or do next. Finally, keep your remarks short and simple. Remember, there are others standing in line behind you desiring to express their sympathy.
I trust this helps make a delicate situation less awkward the next time you make a visit to the funeral home.
Now for Dr. Whitley’s thoughts about visiting the hospital…
Just like funerals, hospital visits can be delicate situations. People who are in the hospital are there for three basic reasons: 1) They are either sick; 2) They had surgery; or 3) They are dying. When making hospital visits, there are a few simple things to remember.
Here is a list of things you should NOT say or do when visiting someone in the hospital:
- “How are you doing” – for goodness sake, they’re in the hospital!
- “What’s wrong” – if they want you to know what’s wrong they will tell you.
- “Is there anything I can do for you” – sounds good, yet is an empty question.
- “You do not look sick” – don’t kid yourself, they’re sick.
- “You look terrible” – no kidding.
- “I remember when I was sick” – today you’re not and they are, keep it to yourself.
- “Did I tell you about the last time I was in the hospital” – you are not the patient.
- “My dad had that surgery and he…” – they are not your father.
- “How’s the food” – this is not a resort.
- “Do you mind if I sit on your bed” – the bed is for the patient, not you.
- Do NOT enter without knocking on the door.
- Do NOT stay long.
- Do NOT use their bathroom.
- Do NOT enter the room if the doctor is consulting or examining them.
Here is a list of helpful things you SHOULD say or do during a hospital visit:
- “I am praying for you.”
- “I came by to check on you because I love you.”
- “I am bringing you supper the first night you are home from the hospital.”
- “I brought you a book if you ever want to read.”
- DO knock on the door and ask if you can come in for a minute.
- DO offer the other family members to take a break while you sit with the patient.
- DO bring them a card, flowers or balloons, if they are not in a special unit.
- DO cut their grass or wash their car while they are in the hospital.
- DO offer to pray for them.