Speaking at a funeral is a major responsibility. You don’t want to dismiss the pain yourself or others are going through, but you also want to find a positive way to express your feelings.
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This can become easier if you make gratitude the focus of your funeral speech. You can add a sense of hope and positivity to a difficult occasion by thanking those who’ve helped you and your loved ones both now and in the past.
You can also use this opportunity to thank the deceased for helping you in some special way when they were alive. If you decide to take this approach, keep the following tips in mind when drafting and delivering your speech.
COVID-19 tip: If you're speaking at a virtual funeral using a service like GatheringUs, you can still share your thoughts or eulogy with your online guests. Coordinate with your planning team, make sure you have the right microphones and audio equipment, and send online guests digital funeral programs with the full speaking schedule.
8 Tips for Giving a Funeral Thank You Speech
It’s worth noting that the nature of a funeral thank you speech will vary depending on your exact goals and who you want to thank. That said, these tips will help you feel more confident in your eulogy. Remember them if you ever want to use a funeral speech as an opportunity to express gratitude.
Tip: Writing a thank you speech is one of the many challenges you might be facing after the death of a loved one. Our post-loss checklist can help you through this process.
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1. Be specific
One of your key goals when delivering a funeral thank you speech may be to make sure the people listening feel you’re expressing authentic gratitude for the role the deceased played in your life. Perhaps you want to thank them, even if they aren’t necessarily there any longer.
One way to achieve this goal is to include a specific anecdote about a time the person who has passed on was helpful or supportive in some capacity.
Not every member of the audience will be able to relate to the specific details of your story. That said, including a genuine example of a reason you feel grateful for someone will add a degree of true feeling. This makes your overall message resonate more strongly.
Telling a specific story also reminds listeners of the deceased’s unique character and spirit. You can describe plenty of people as “helpful and supportive.” Telling a story conveys the unique way in which someone was helpful and supportive during their life.
2. Thank others
One common purpose of a funeral thank you speech is to express gratitude for someone who has passed on. However, it’s also good funeral etiquette to thank other family members and friends who have been helpful during what is likely a difficult time for many. While this shouldn’t necessarily be the overall focus of your speech, it’s nice to address the helpful roles others have played in the wake of a loved one’s death.
As with the above tip, the more specific you are in your thanks, the more likely people will feel your words are genuinely heartfelt.
Keep in mind that family members and friends may not be the only people who helped out in the days leading up to the funeral. For instance, religious figures, funeral directors, and others might also have been very supportive. Take this opportunity to thank them as well.
3. Thank those in attendance
Not everyone who attends a funeral will play an active role in making arrangements or supporting others after the deceased’s passing. Still, their very presence is likely something for which you should feel grateful.
That’s why you may consider starting off a funeral thank you speech by thanking everyone for attending. This sets a positive tone and lets all mourners feel appreciated during what is likely a challenging experience for many. It also reminds everyone that family and friends can and should be there for one another when a loved one passes.
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4. Practice with loved ones
This is a general tip worth remembering in any instance when you’ll be speaking at a funeral. It isn’t a funny best man or maid of honor speech, which you might want to surprise all members of your audience with.
Practicing with family members helps you overcome your own emotional hurdles that might otherwise arise if you wait until the day of the funeral to deliver the speech for the first time. It also helps you refine the speech to ensure it conveys exactly what you want to express. Additionally, if you’re going to specifically thank others for the help they’ve offered during a difficult time, your friends and family can let you know if you overlooked someone.
That said, you need to carefully consider which family members and friends you want to practice your speech in front of. For those who were particularly close to the deceased, listening to your speech early might be too emotionally challenging. You’re better off involving those who were close enough to the deceased to offer useful feedback and insights, but not so distraught they won’t be able to comfortably provide advice.
5. Consider those who helped leading up to a loved one’s death
You already know it’s a good idea to use your funeral thank you speech as an opportunity to thank anyone who helped out in the days following a loved one’s passing. Just remember that there might also be people deserving of thanks who played a more significant role when your loved one was alive.
For instance, perhaps you’re mourning an elderly loved one who required regular help from nurses and caregivers during the later years of their life. Or, maybe you’re eulogizing someone who passed from an illness, and you want to acknowledge the medical professionals who made their life easier. Thanking these people during your speech is another way to ensure you fully express your gratitude.
6. Consider including messages from others
Not everyone who wants to express their gratitude at a funeral will have the opportunity to deliver a funeral thank you speech. Other family members and friends might want to thank the deceased for the role they played in their lives. They might also want to thank specific members of the audience for any help they offered in the time leading up to and following your loved one’s death.
Consider reaching out to these people if you think that’s the case. While you may not be able to include messages from every single person in attendance, you could very likely include a few that are particularly moving.
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7. Admit you needed help
Thanking someone in any capacity is a way of saying they helped you at an important point in your life. Thus, your gratitude will seem more genuine if you willingly admit you needed help.
For example, if you’re thanking caregivers who helped make a loved one’s final years more comfortable, you should admit that you couldn’t have handled the situation on your own. If you’re thanking the deceased for offering support when you needed it, explain exactly why you needed it. If you’re thanking those who helped make arrangements after your loved one’s passing, admit that this has been a difficult time, and their contributions were very helpful.
8. Know your strengths
This is another tip worth keeping in mind any time you’re not sure what to say at a funeral. Now isn’t the time to take public speaking risks. Instead, honestly ask yourself what your public speaking strengths are, and play to those.
For instance, you might want to thank the deceased in a more casual way by bringing up a funny anecdote about a time they got you out of a jam. However, if you’re not skilled at balancing humor with heart when speaking on stage, you’re better off sticking to the types of messages you know you can convey effectively. This is another reason it’s helpful to practice ahead of time.
Funeral Thank You Speech Examples
The following excerpts of eulogy examples represent the different types of thank yous you might include in a funeral thank you speech. Keep in mind, these are general examples. Odds are good you’ll need to modify them to suit your needs.
“I want to thank all of you for coming to celebrate the life of my brother. Our family can’t express how much your generosity has meant to us during this difficult time. Although we appreciate all of you, we want to specifically thank Uncle Matt for remaining so positive and helpful during these past few days. We’d also like to recognize Aunt Pam for helping us make arrangements and always being there to listen as we’ve coped with our loss.”
“My grandfather’s condition, unfortunately, deteriorated after the death of my grandmother. Luckily, despite this, our family can confidently say his final years were still comfortable and full of joyful moments. This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of his unfailingly patient caregivers, Dawn, Anne, and Karen. You made his final years happier than they ever could have been if you weren’t there to care for him.”
“Kevin played an important role in all our lives. I can confidently say everyone here probably has a story about a time he offered his support when they needed it most. I’d like to specifically thank him for his patience. When I was going through a difficult time because of my own demons, he was the friend who never judged me, and never let me feel I was a burden. I’ll always be grateful for that.”
Giving Thanks After a Loved One’s Passing
The prospect of delivering a funeral thank you speech may intimidate you. That’s understandable. However, this doesn’t need to be a difficult experience. On the contrary, this is a chance to help both yourself and others heal through the power of gratitude. These tips will help you do so.