3 Things to Say – and Not Say – to Someone Who’s Grieving


Felicia Malone-Williams, Shannon & Malone Chapel Of Peace Funeral Home
By Agnes Reardon
Posted 4/4/14

Coping with the death of someone close to us creates an immense sense of loss and despair. Yet for those planning to attend the funeral of an acquaintance, it is often awkward to try to offer comfort …

Coping with the death of someone close to us creates an immense sense of loss and despair. Yet for those planning to attend the funeral of an acquaintance, it is often awkward to try to offer comfort to family members.

 “Always be willing to listen to how the family is grieving,” says Felicia Malone-Williams, founder and director of Shannon & Malone Chapel Of Peace Funeral Home, Westminister, Colo. “Never presume to say, ‘I know how you feel’ or ‘I know what you are going through.’”

 When in doubt, follow basic etiquette. It may be difficult to understand exactly how family members are feeling about their recent loss. But that should not stop you from stepping forward. “With a little effort, you can be a great support and comfort through this trying time,” says Malone-Williams. “You can console those who are suffering the most.” 

1.  “We’re praying for you and we extend our sincere condolences for your loss.”

“It may not be original, but you are talking to someone who has experienced a loss, who is in pain, and these tried and true words can be a comfort,” says Malone-Williams. “Say it from the heart. Mean it. It’s enough.”

Don’t probe. While it is not proper funeral etiquette to inquire about specific details regarding the cause of death, family members wishing to open up should certainly be encouraged to do so. “They should never be pushed to talk if they are not ready,” says Malone-Williams. “But offering a listening ear to those who do wish to talk is very appropriate.”

2. Share a fond memory.

You may know the family well and have many warm, shared memories to exchange. “Those who only knew the deceased should take special care to personally introduce themselves to family,” Malone-Williams says. “Sharing fond memories of their loved one in this instance is not only a good icebreaker, it provides a new memory of their loved one in happier times.”

Don’t overdo it. Listen more than you talk. Allow the bereaved to relive the life of the deceased rather than their recent demise.

3. “I’ll call you in a few days to see how you’re doing.”

At a funeral, grieving has just begun for close family and relatives. “It is important not let them drift from our minds once the burial is completed,” says Malone-Williams. “Your thoughtful follow-up in the days, weeks and months ahead is usually very welcome.” For close friends, it is acceptable etiquette and often expected to visit the bereaved shortly following the death to offer any help, assistance and comfort.

Don’t complicate things. Be careful with the question “How are you?” It may comfort some, but anguish others. If you find yourself speechless, offer a hug or a handshake. Sign the book in the lobby of the funeral home; this helps the bereaved send thank-you notes following the ceremony. It is not required to follow the family to the burial site; close friends and family are encouraged to join.

Malone-Williams is the first minority, Black female mortuary graduate who holds her degree as a funeral director and embalmer. She began her work in the mortuary field in lllinois and Missouri and is the first funeral director and embalmer to own and operate her own funeral home in the state of Colorado.

The firm is proud to serve all races, nationalities and cultures. “We provide personal care, respect and detailed attention to the needs of each client-family we serve,” she says. “Our staff is very diverse and able to meet the needs of all.”

Your questions, comments and inquiries are welcome.

Shannon & Malone Chapel Of Peace Funeral Home

Felicia Malone-Williams, Founder, Funeral Director, Mortician in Charge

9035 Wadsworth Pkwy Suite 2500
Westminister, Colo. 80021
(720) 872-9000