What are the “right” things to say when someone dies?


Published: 10/13/2016

by Patricia Nugent

Exploring all of the moving topics relating to final arrangements, this column has touched on areas from pre-planning to unique memorials. This month we sat down with fifth-generation funeral director Jeff Monreal to discuss dealing with grief on the actual day of the service.


Q: What’s the most appropriate thing to say to the family? How do I prepare my children for the experience?


A: I often first meet with people within hours of their loved one passing, when they are still in shock and denial. Through the memorialization process, we work together to orchestrate the most positive experience to create a path toward acceptance, focusing on a celebration of life instead of grieving the loss. 


At the memorial or funeral, speaking with the family can be awkward. It’s difficult to know what the best thing is to say to comfort the family. Just know that your being there to support them is its own message, and simply saying you’re sorry for their loss is sufficient. Stay away from commenting on how the body looks, unless it’s positive, something like “at peace.”


Avoid bringing up the circumstances of the death or commenting on how long it will take them to heal. The point of the service is to celebrate the life and be there for the family.


For parents wondering when is the appropriate age to bring a child to a funeral, there is no concrete answer. Just as every child is different, so too is the time they are ready to deal with death firsthand. If you decide to bring your child, it’s best to prepare them for what they will see and explain why you are going, to support the family and honor the loved one.


Jeff Monreal Funeral and Cremation Services is located at 6330 Center Street in Mentor, and 38001 Euclid Avenue in Willoughby. Call Jeff directly at 440-527-6294 if you would like advice on pre-planning, or visit to learn more.