We all struggle with what to say at a funeral, or to a friend who has had something bad happen to them. Here are some words to say that truly comfort, and some to avoid:
Words of Comfort
This is hard. (Hug)
I’m always going to remember their (smile, laugh, that time when)
I’ll never understand why this happened.
You aren’t alone
When X happened to me I felt (shocked, angry, frustrated, depressed) I’d like to call you in the next couple weeks for coffee and I’d be happy to listen to your experience.
I would love to help in some way – I could do X or Y, which would help?
Put on your calendar to call the person in the next weeks & months ahead. Don't wait for them to call you!
Feelings aren’t right or wrong, they just are.
We all grieve differently. You are normal.
What NOT to Say
I know how you feel.
This is just like when X happened to me.
Don’t cry. Be Strong. Don’t say that. Don’t feel that way.
Everything happens for a reason.
This must be a part of God’s plan.
God never gives us more than we can handle.
This is for the best.
S/He is in a better place.
Let me know if you need anything.
God needed another angel in heaven.
These might sound spiritual but they do more harm than good -- avoid them at all costs!!!
After preaching this on Sunday, a friend came up to me and responded that he had just been at a funeral for someone who had been a great runner. He was trying to think of something to say to the widow
He first thought of saying: "Jesus must have needed a great runner on the track team"
then he thought better and reworded it to: "If there is a track team in heaven, John is sure on it"
A simple rephrase can make a big difference in theology and comfort.