A celebration of life event is one way to honor a loved one after they die. This can be a service or ceremony, party, or even a video call if you are unable to gather with family and friends. A celebration of life event is typically more joyful than a traditional funeral. While it still encourages grieving, the focus is more centered around celebration than sorrow.
Gift Ideas for a Celebration of Life
- Photo Album ($20.77)
- A Memory Journal ($10.99)
- Old-Fashioned Cream Cheese Mints ($40.00)
- Bereavement Candle ($12.00)
- Memorial Wreath ($12.99)
- Cedar Roses ($7.50)
- Memorial Garden Stone ($29.99)
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What to Say to Loved Ones or Family of the Deceased at a Celebration of Life Event
- What to Say in a Speech or Eulogy During a Celebration of Life Event
If you're attending a celebration of life event, you might be wondering what kinds of things are appropriate to say to the grieving family. We’ve come up with ten simple phrases that strike a balance between acknowledging grief and celebrating the life of their loved one.
If you are hosting a celebration of life event and are tasked with writing a eulogy, we’ve created a list of ten suggestions to help get you started. For more tips related to post-death duties, check out our post-loss checklist.
COVID-19 tip: If you're hosting a Zoom funeral using a service like GatheringUs, make sure to test your audio before the service, so both online and in-person guests can hear you clearly.
What to Say to Loved Ones or Family of the Deceased at a Celebration of Life Event
A celebration of life event can be both joyful and also sad. When considering what to say to the family of the deceased, try to be sensitive, thoughtful, and positive. Here are ten examples you can use for inspiration.
1. “Your loved one would have absolutely loved this celebration.”
A celebration of life event was likely in the deceased’s end-of-life plan. It can be of comfort to the family to hear that you think they did a great job fulfilling their loved one’s final wishes.
2. “I am so grateful to be a part of this day celebrating the incredible life of your loved one.”
This is the perfect phrase to use at a celebration of life event when you are not close to the family. It is simple, to the point, and expresses your gratitude for being included in such an important event. It is warm, but not too personal.
3. “Your loved one talked about you constantly. They loved you so much.”
Let them know exactly what their loved one told you. Did they boast about their achievements? Did they talk about them every day? Did they share exactly what they loved about their family member? Reenact funny stories? Give as many details as possible.
4. “My favorite thing about your loved one was…”
Share joyful memories and favorite personality traits or quirks you loved about the deceased. A celebration of life is the perfect place to express this.
You can be sensitive and express condolences, while still reminiscing on the great memories you shared. Hearing happy or funny stories can be of great comfort to a grieving family.
5. “Your loved one brought so much joy to everyone who knew them. We’re all going to miss them so much.”
This one’s a good choice if you were a friend, coworker, or classmate of the deceased. Share stories the family may not have heard before. Let them know that your friends, coworkers, or classmates and you will miss their loved one so much. If it hasn’t already been said, let them know exactly why you’ll miss them.
6. “Your incredible partnership inspired so many people.”
Let the grieving widow know that you saw how beautiful their partnership was. You can even validate their grief by expressing that a lifetime is never enough when it comes to your soulmate.
Pro-tip: If you were close with the deceased and their partner, add something specific about what inspired you about their partnership. This makes your condolences much more memorable and genuine. When you express something meaningful, there’s always the chance that it is the exact thing that someone needs to hear and will carry with them always.
7. “My heart is with you.”
If you don’t know what to say, and the mood is somber, this is a simple and compassionate response. Even though the event is joyous in a lot of ways, a grieving family member is likely going to have many sad moments. Offer comfort, and if you’re close to the person, offer a hug.
8. “My life won’t be the same without them.”
Be specific. Let the family know how their loved one touched your life. It’s always comforting to hear the impact a lost loved one had on the lives of others. Share your memories—they are a piece of the legacy their loved one left behind that they may not even know about.
9. “All of your friends, family, and loved ones are here for whatever you need.”
Let the person in mourning know that they have a community of people to wrap around and support them. You are together to celebrate their loved one and support them with anything else they may need.
10. “I am here for anything you need.”
This is a powerful way to let the person who is grieving know that they are not alone. It's a good idea to offer specific support to them. People are much more likely to take you up on an offer of support if it’s concrete. Here are some things you can offer:
- Stay to clean up after the celebration.
- Deliver some meals later in the week.
- Organize a meal train.
- Run errands.
- Babysit their kids.
- Walk their dog.
- Take them out for a meal or drink.
What to Say in a Speech or Eulogy During a Celebration of Life Event
Writing a eulogy is never fun. You just lost someone you loved dearly. Even though it’s tough, it can also be healing. Make sure you get in the right headspace by taking some deep breaths, finding a peaceful location to write without interruption, and enjoying a cup of your favorite beverage.
Before you start writing, check out our guide on how to write an unforgettable eulogy. Our most important recommendation is to speak from the heart. Here are ten suggestions that we hope will inspire you.
11. Share origin stories
Not everyone who attends the celebration of life event will know your loved one’s full history. It is nice to include details of their life so that everyone can join you in celebrating the good times.
- If you are writing a speech or eulogy for your partner, talk about how you met.
- If your eulogy is about a parent, share some stories from their childhood.
12. Detail your loved one’s most beloved qualities
Consider all of the things that you loved about the person who passed. What made them special? Some things might be private, but there’s likely a lot that people don’t know. Talk about your most favorite qualities, and maybe some of the funny or silly ones too.
13. Share favorite stories and memories
Share stories that illustrate the qualities you most loved about the deceased. If your loved one was the most generous person you know, share a story about a time they really went above and beyond for you. If they were determined, talk about a time they achieved the seemingly impossible.
14. Talk about their legacy
Think about what your loved one was most proud of. Consider the lives they touched, and the footprint they leave on the world.
This is also a good opportunity to talk about any educational attainment, career success, awards, or other achievements your loved one celebrated in their lifetime.
15. Describe your loved one’s family
The family we are born with and the family we choose are often the most important people in our lives. Unless it is too complicated or not a happy part of your loved one’s life, describe what family life looked like for them.
Were they an amazing parent or sibling? Did they always put their family first? Who did they love most in the world and why? How did they demonstrate that love?
16. Tell everyone what your loved one would have wanted them to know
If your loved one was full of sage wisdom, this is a good opportunity to share the wealth. Think about what advice they would give you and everyone listening.
If they spoke about any of the guests in their final days, and it’s appropriate to share, this is a perfect time.
17. Add quotes or poems
Find quotes or poems from authors or celebrities that your loved one really liked. You can also use celebration of life quotes or proverbs that you think really speak to the deceased’s life and legacy.
18. Sprinkle in some humor
Laughter really is medicine. When you are grieving and also celebrating a loved one’s life—laughter can feel like a much-needed sigh of relief. Include an anecdote or ‘ism’ that is so quintessentially your loved one. Tell a funny story or joke that they told one too many times.
19. Thank everyone for coming
Thank everyone for being there to celebrate your loved one’s life. Share how much it would have meant to them to see all of the people they loved together in one room.
Let people know how grateful your loved one was to have so many wonderful people in their life. This is not just a celebration of the deceased, but a celebration of the relationships, memories, and experiences you all shared.
20. Pass the mic
Invite others to volunteer to share stories or memories of the deceased. Hearing from others can be of great comfort, and you will likely learn a lot of things you never even knew about your loved one.
Pro-Tip: If it seems like people aren’t eager to volunteer to speak, try a word-bath. Say a word, or three, that comes to mind when you think of the deceased. Have everyone shout out words. This is a wonderful exercise to capture on video. Here are some examples of words you might use in a word-bath:
When You Don’t Know What to Say
Nobody wakes up the morning of a funeral or celebration of life event and thinks, “I can’t wait to speak at this memorial today!” It can be tricky and uncomfortable to try to come up with the right thing to say. Sometimes, the best and most genuine thing you can do is to say that you are sorry and at a loss for words. Sometimes acknowledging that there are no perfect words can validate immense grief and loss.
One way to avoid being speechless is to come prepared with at least one positive story or memory of the deceased that you can share. When all else fails, take a deep breath, and speak from the heart.