Funeral scenes are notoriously difficult to write.
Not only do you have to contend with the emotional weight of the scene, but you also have to ensure that the logistics make sense. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering how to write a funeral scene, then you’re in luck.
Here’s how to write a funeral scene:
Write a funeral scene by understanding funeral traditions and selecting a mood, point of view, and setting that connects back to the theme while revealing character and pushing the story forward. Avoid cliches, use descriptive details, and show a range of emotional responses.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how to write a funeral scene.
15 Tips for Writing a Funeral Scene (Ultimate Guide)
In this section, we’ll be taking a look at some tips and tricks for making your funeral scenes as impactful as possible.
Whether you’re writing a heart-wrenching drama or a dark comedy, we’ve got you covered.
1) Understand Funeral Customs and Traditions
One way to approach the task of writing is to understand the traditional customs and traditions associated with funerals.
For example, many funerals include a period of visitation, during which friends and family can pay their respects to the deceased. Often, this is followed by a funeral service, which may include readings from the Bible or other religious texts.
After the service, the body is typically buried or cremated.
Understanding these customs can help you to create a funeral scene that feels both authentic and respectful.
2) Choose a Mood
Choose a mood for your funeral scene.
A funeral is generally a somber occasion, but depending on the relationship of the characters involved, it could be serious, emotional, or even funny. For example, if the deceased was a close friend or family member, the funeral scene might be very sad and poignant.
However, if the deceased was someone the characters didn’t know well, the scene might be more awkward than anything else.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what kind of mood you want to create in your funeral scene. Whatever you choose, just make sure it fits with the tone of your story as a whole.
3) Select the Perfect Setting
The setting is vital to the success of the funeral scene.
It sets the tone and atmosphere for the scene and can help to create a sense of foreboding or suspense. For example, if the funeral is taking place in a dark and dreary church, it will add to the somber mood of the scene.
On the other hand, if the funeral is taking place in a sunny outdoor setting, it could create a sense of hope and renewal.
The key is to select a setting that will complement the tone of the scene and help to bring the story to life.
4) Focus the Funeral Scene With POV
When writing a funeral scene in a story, it is important to focus on a single point of view.
The point of view should be that of the most impacted character (which is usually the protagonist, or the main character).
By focusing on a single point of view, the reader is able to see the scene through the eyes of the character and feel as if they are experiencing the funeral alongside them.
This allows for a more intimate and personal experience for the reader, which can be helpful in conveying the emotion of the scene.
Additionally, by focusing on a single point of view, the writer is able to provide more detail and insight into the thoughts and feelings of the character, making the scene more believable and relatable.
5) Expose and Explore the Characters
A funeral is a powerful tool for exploring the characters in your story.
The way a character responds to death can reveal a great deal about their personality, values, and relationships. For example, a character who is stoic and reserved at a funeral may be hiding their true feelings of grief.
A character who is angry and resentful may be struggling to come to terms with the loss.
By exposing the characters’ innermost thoughts and feelings, a funeral scene can help to deepen the reader’s understanding of them.
6) Connect It Back To the Theme
By connecting this scene to the overall theme of the story, you can elevate the scene by infusing it with a higher meaning that flows through the entire narrative.
Perhaps the theme of your story is about coming to terms with loss and grief, and the funeral scene is the culmination of this journey.
Through this scene, the protagonist is able to resolve her feelings of guilt and regret, and come to acceptance.
This moment of catharsis is what allows her to move on from her grief and begin rebuilding her life.
7) Advance the Story in the Funeral Scene
Avoid creating a static scene that does not contribute to the overall narrative.
A funeral is often a time of reflection and contemplation, which can provide an opportunity for characters to share their feelings and thoughts about the deceased.
However, it is also important to ensure that the scene advances the story and is necessary to the plot.
A funeral scene should not be included simply for the sake of having a funeral scene.
Instead, it should be used as a tool to further the development of the story and the characters within it.
8) Tap Into Emotional Depth
Writing a funeral scene can be challenging, as it is often a very emotional subject.
It is important to delve into the emotional depths of death, loss, and grief in order to write a better funeral scene. A funeral is often an explosively emotional event, and it is important to capture that emotion in your writing.
One way to do this is to focus on the senses.
What does the deceased look like? What does the funeral smell like? What do the mourners sound like?
By focusing on the senses, you can create a more believable and emotionally impactful funeral scene. In addition, it is also important to focus on the relationship between the bereaved and the deceased.
How did they know each other? What was their relationship like?
By exploring the emotions of both the living and the dead, you can create a more powerful and moving funeral scene.
9) Use Appropriate Dialouge
Dialogue is an important element in any story, but it is particularly important in a funeral scene.
The words spoken during a funeral can be full of emotion and can convey the deep feelings of loss and grief that the characters are experiencing.
When writing a funeral scene, it is important to choose dialogue that is appropriate to the experience.
The words should be honest and should reflect the character’s true feelings. In addition, the conversation should reveal new information about the deceased or about the relationship between the characters.
10) Avoid Funeral Scene Cliches
As any writer knows, funerals are tough to get right.
They’re either melodramatic and maudlin, or they’re stiff and stilted. It’s hard to strike the right balance between pathos and bathos, but it can be done.
Here are some tips to avoid some common funeral cliches:
- Don’t have the protagonist deliver a long, flowery speech about the deceased. This is probably the most overused device in funeral scenes, and it’s almost always eye-rollingly bad. A few well-chosen words will suffice.
- Don’t have rain pouring down during the funeral. Yes, it’s a classic symbol of sadness and despair, but it’s also been done to death. If you absolutely must have precipitation, try snow or sleet instead.
- Avoid having characters reminisce about the deceased for pages on end. This is another way to quickly turn a funeral scene into a yawn fest. A few key memories will do the trick.
- And finally, don’t have somebody show up at the funeral who nobody knows (e.g., an estranged relative). This is just cheap melodrama masquerading as depth and complexity.
11) Remember That Funerals Are Also About the Living
The best funeral scenes in fiction are the ones that make the reader feel something.
That’s because, as much as funerals are about saying goodbye to the deceased, they’re also about the living. They’re a chance for us to reflect on our own mortality, to come together and offer support to one another.
And so, when writing a funeral scene, it’s important to focus not just on the dead body at the center of the room, but on the living characters as well.
How are they feeling? What memories are they sharing? What kind of legacy does the deceased leave behind?
By showing the funeral from the perspective of the living, you can give your readers a truly unforgettable experience.
12) Show Extreme Reactions
Funerals can bring out the worst in some people.
There are those who see death as an opportunity to advance their own agendas, using the grieving process to push their own agenda. Others use funerals as a chance to show off their wealth or status, making a mournful occasion even more distasteful.
Thankfully, there are also those who use funerals as an opportunity to perform acts of kindness and compassion.
These are the people who remind us that, despite our differences, we are all human beings deserving of love and respect.
In the end, it is up to each of us to decide which side of human behavior our characters will display when death comes knocking at our door.
13) Allow for Pause and Reflection
A good funeral scene should be both heart-wrenching and cathartic.
It should be a time for your characters to pause and reflect on their loss, share their grief with one another, and confront the finality of death.
One key to writing a successful funeral scene is to allow enough space for your characters to process their emotions.
This means giving them time to speak, cry, laugh, and simply be present with one another.
It’s also important not to rush the scene; take your time in describing the setting, the emotions of the characters, and the impact of the death on those left behind.
14) Get Inspired by Other Famous Funeral Scenes
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to write a funeral scene, look no further than the movies and novels.
Obviously, don’t copy but do see how other successful writers approached this tricky scene.
Study the funeral scenes in these works:
- The Watchmen
- The Illiad
- Death at a Funeral
- The Stranger
- Exit Ghost
- Old School
- Twin Peaks
- The Loved One
- Steel Magnolias
- Four Weddings and a Funeral
15) Use Funeral Secrets
Few things in life are as inevitable as death.
And yet, for all its certainty, death remains shrouded in mystery. Few of us know what really goes on behind the scenes at a funeral home.
But you’re here to pull back the curtain and reveal some of the funereal world’s best-kept secrets.
In doing so, you make a better funeral scene.
I believe Stephen King once said that people love to read about what other people do at work (or something like that).
We are endlessly fascinated by worlds that we don’t know. Show some secrets about funerals and funeral homes.
You might have to do some research and maybe interview a funeral director or two but it will be worth it.
Here is a good video about the secrets of funerals to add to your scenes:
21 Examples of Funeral Scenes
I put together this repository of funeral scene examples to help you write the best scene possible.
You’ll find examples of moving funeral scenes, religious funeral scenes, funny funeral scenes, and more.
Examples of How To Write a Moving Funeral Scene
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” the woman said, her voice shaking. “If there’s anything I can do to help…” She trailed off, not knowing what else to say.
The man simply nodded, his eyes red-rimmed and glassy.
He had always been a private person, and this was the most public display of emotion he had ever shown. He didn’t know how to deal with it, or how to express what he was feeling.
The woman reached out and took his hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. “She was a great person,” she said quietly. “She will be missed.”
The man nodded again, not trusting himself to speak.
The woman gave his hand one last squeeze before turning and walking away.
Jane stood at the edge of the grave, her feet sinking into the soft earth beneath her.
She clutched a handful of dirt in her fist, watching as the coffin was lowered into the ground. As the first shovelful of dirt hit the wood, Jane turned to her husband.
“I can’t believe she’s really gone,” she said, her voice shaking. “It doesn’t seem real.”
Her husband wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and they turned away from the grave.
As they walked back to the car, Jane could hear the sound of shovels ringing in the silence. It was a sound that would stay with her for a long time.
Examples of How To Write a Sad Funeral Scene
Susan stood over her mother’s casket, tears streaming down her face.
She was flanked by her father and brother, both of whom were stoic in their grief. The minister began to speak, but Susan tuned him out, her mind lost in memories. She thought back to the first time she had ever seen her mother cry.
It was the day of her father’s funeral.
Her mother had been strong for her and her brother, keeping them together during that tough time. Now it was Susan’s turn to be strong. The minister’s voice brought her back to the present, and she tuned into his words.
“We are gathered here today to say goodbye to a woman who was taken from us too soon.”
Susan fought back more tears as she listened to the minister eulogize her mother. When he finished speaking, it was time for the family to say their final goodbyes. Susan leaned down and kissed her mother’s forehead, fighting the urge to break down completely.
She knew she had to be strong for her family, just like her mother had been for them all those years ago.
The funeral was small and intimate, befitting a woman who had lived a relatively quiet life.
Her closest friends and family members were in attendance, along with a few of her favorite nurses from the hospital. Even in death, she continued to give.
The casket was draped in a white linen cloth, and atop it rested a single red rose.
It was her favorite flower.
As the minister began to speak, her son could not help but think about all that his mother had done for him.
She had always been there for him, even when no one else was. And now, she had given him the ultimate gift – the gift of life. He would never forget what she had done for him.
As he looked around the room, he saw the tears in their eyes and knew that they felt the same way.
She was gone, but her memory would live on forever.
Examples of How To Write a Suspenseful Funeral Scene
The room was already full when she arrived.
She hesitated in the doorway, not sure if she should turn back or go in. But then she saw him, standing at the front of the room next to the casket. He turned and their eyes met.
It was too late to turn back now.
Slowly, she made her way down the aisle, her heart pounding in her chest.
As she drew closer, she could see the disbelief in his eyes turning to anger. He turned away from her and went back to staring at the casket. The minister began to speak, but she barely heard the words.
All she could focus on was the sound of her own heartbeat, echoed by the sobs of the woman next to her.
And then it was over.
The room emptied out quickly, leaving her alone with him. He stood there for a long time, silent and still. She wanted to say something, anything, to break the tension.
But before she could speak, he turned and walked away.
The small chapel was already filling up, despite the early hour.
Groups of people huddled in hushed conversations, their breath fogging in the chill air. In the front row, a woman sat alone, her shoulders shaking with silent sobs. A few rows back, two men sat with their heads bowed, their expressions grim. As more people filed in, the chapel began to feel claustrophobic.
The air was thick with the scent of flowers and grief.
At the front of the chapel, a closed casket rested on a simple stand. flanked by two large urns filled with white lilies. The scene was eerily peaceful, despite the heaviness in the air.
As the appointed time grew near, a hush fell over the crowd.
Then, slowly, the doors at the back of the chapel opened and a group of people entered. They were all dressed in black, their faces somber. At the head of the group was a man in his late fifties, his back straight and his eyes cold. He walked to the front of the chapel and paused for a moment, his gaze sweeping over the gathered mourners.
Then he turned and took his place beside the casket.
The funeral began shortly after that. The man who had greeted everyone spoke first, his voice choked with emotion as he talked about his brother-in-law and friend.
Others followed suit, sharing stories and memories of the man who had died.
As each person spoke, the tension in the room ratcheted up another notch until it was almost unbearable. And then, just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, one final person walked to the front of the room.
The widow had remained seated throughout the entire service, her face hidden behind a veil of tears.
But now she rose to her feet and walked slowly to join her husband’s body at rest. Taking a deep breath, she lifted her veil and looked out at the sea of faces staring back at her.
And then she began to speak.
The funeral was packed. Every pew was full, and people were standing three deep in the back of the church. It was a who’s who of the intelligence community, and everyone had come to pay their respects to the fallen spy.
The casket was draped with the American flag, and a single red rose lay on top. The officiant spoke of sacrifice and duty, and the choir sang a stirring rendition of “Amazing Grace.” As the service came to a close, the guests filed past the casket, each pausing to say a final goodbye.
As the last of the mourners made their way out, one woman lingered behind. She approached the casket and reached inside her jacket pocket. Her hand emerged holding a syringe, which she injected into the corpse’s arm. Then she turned and walked away, vanishing into the crowd before anyone could see her face.
It wasn’t until later that anyone realized what had happened.
Examples of How To Write a Romantic Funeral Scene
At the front of the room, a large portrait of the deceased sat atop an ornate casket, surrounded by a sea of flowers. A pianist began to play softly, and the sound of weeping could be heard throughout the chapel.
As the service began, the priest spoke of the deceased’s many kindnesses and her tireless work on behalf of others. He spoke of her love for her family and her dedication to her friends. As he spoke, those in attendance nodded in agreement, tears streaming down their faces.
Finally, it was time for the eulogy. The deceased’s husband slowly made his way to the podium, his shoulders shaking with grief. He looked out at the assembled mourners and took a deep breath before beginning to speak. “My wife was the love of my life,” he said, his voice trembling with emotion. “She was my best friend and my partner in all things. I will miss her more than words can say.”
Lily could barely breathe as she stared at the casket, trying to wrap her mind around the fact that her husband was gone.
She could still see his smile, hear his laugh.
It felt like only yesterday that he had been holding her in his arms, telling her how much he loved her. Now he was gone, and she would never feel his warmth or hear his voice again.
Lily could feel herself starting to unravel as the reality of her situation sunk in.
She was completely alone now, with no one to lean on or turn to for support.
Examples of How To Write a Funny Funeral Scene
Here is an example of a mildly funny funeral scene:
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” the well-dressed woman said, her face lined with genuine sympathy. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Actually, there is,” the bereaved widow replied. “Could you please help me with the casket? I can’t seem to get it closed.”
The two women wrestled with the heavy casket for a few moments before finally managing to get it closed. As they stepped back to survey their handiwork, the lid suddenly popped open again.
“Oh, dear,” the visitor said, biting her lip. “Maybe we should try something else.”
They tried weighing the lid down with a chair, but that only resulted in the chair being knocked over and the casket popping open again. They tried pushing it down with their hands, but it was too heavy.
Finally, they resorted to sitting on top of the casket, each of them taking an end. Slowly, inch by inch, they managed to close the lid.
“There,” the widow said breathlessly. “That should hold it.”
The funeral was in full swing when the actress arrived. She was wearing a bright blue spacesuit and carrying a ray gun prop. She marched up to the coffin and announced, “I’m here for the audition!”
The funeral guests exchanged confused looks.
The priest tried to shoo her away, but she insisted on staying. “I’m not leaving until I get this part!” she said.
She started to give a powerful speech about the deceased, but it quickly became clear that she thought she was auditioning for a movie about space aliens.
The funeral guests were getting uneasy now, and some of them started to leave.
The actress wasn’t deterred though.
She went on to describe the intense battle scene she would be playing in the movie. She acted out firing the ray gun and dodging enemy fire.
The poor priest was beside himself.
He tried vainly to calm the situation, but it was no use. In the end, he had to call security to escort the actress out.
As they dragged her away, she could be heard yelling, “I’ll get the part! You’ll see!”
Examples of How To Write a Horror Funeral Scene
The mourners were gathered around the grave, their black clothing a stark contrast to the green grass.
The priest was reading from the Bible, his voice droning on in the hot, still air. Suddenly, one of the mourners cried out, “What’s that?” Everyone turned to see a large black insect crawling up the priest’s robes.
The priest batted at it frantically, but it was too late.
The insect had laid its eggs in his flesh and he was soon covered in writhing, squirming larvae.
The funeral procession made its way slowly down the road, the sound of the horse’s hooves muffled by the thick blanket of snow.
Without warning, one of the horses whinnied in terror and reared up, nearly throwing its rider.
The other horses began to panic as well, and within moments the whole procession was in chaos. The coffin toppled from its carriage and shattered on the ground, revealing the lifeless body of the deceased.
But that was not all that was inside.
Nestled among the rotten wood and moldy cloth were dozens of huge rats, their beady eyes gleaming with hunger.
The funeral was being held on a windy day, and as the mourners gathered around the grave they could feel a sense of foreboding in the air.
The priest began to speak, but his words were drowned out by a loud screeching noise.
Everyone turned to see a flock of ravens flying towards them, their wings dark against the grey sky.
Examples of How To Write a Scifi Funeral Scene
The funeral was held in the main hangar of the space station. The body of the deceased was laid out on a cold metal table, surrounded by loved ones. All around them, the mourners were weeping and wailing, their voices echoing in the vast space.
The only sound that could be heard was the occasional sob or gasp for air.
Even the machinery of the space station seemed to be silent in respect for the dead. The only light came from a single flickering fluorescent bulb overhead. It cast a cold, harsh light on the scene below, making the flesh of the dead look pale and lifeless.
The large crowd filled the square, their eyes red and swollen from crying.
A hologram of the deceased floated above the casket, showing her smiling face for one last time. The preacher began the service, his voice filled with emotion. “
We are here today to honor the life of Jana Kipper. She was a wife, a mother, and a friend to us all. Jana was taken from us too soon, but she will never be forgotten.”
As the preacher spoke, people in the crowd began to sob uncontrollably.
Jana’s husband stood at the front of the casket, his hands shaking with grief. He looked out at the crowd and saw the pain in their eyes, reflecting his own.
Above the casket, the spectral image of his dead wife flickered.
Examples of How To Write a Traditional Funeral Scene
Rosemary frowned as she looked at her mother’s casket. It was too expensive. And who came up with the idea of putting flowers on a coffin anyway? It just seemed like a waste of money. But she knew that her mother would have wanted a traditional funeral, so here she was.
As the minister began to speak, Rosemary tuned him out. She’d heard all of this before. The passage of time, the memories, the love. It was all so trite. But then he started to talk about Rosemary’s mother specifically and suddenly she was listening. He spoke about her sense of humor, her dedication to her family, and her strength in the face of adversity. Rosemary found herself choking back tears as she remembered all of the things that made her mother special.
By the end of the service, Rosemary had been transformed. She saw now that a traditional funeral could be a meaningful way to celebrate a life. And she knew that, when her time came, she would want her own funeral to be just as special.
John Doe stared at his reflection in the mirror, wondering how it had come to this.
Just yesterday, he had been a happy man with a wife, a job, and a future. Now, he was standing in front of a mirror, getting ready for his own funeral. It seemed unreal. As he adjusted his tie, he couldn’t help but think about all of the funerals he had been to in his life.
He had always thought they were so sad and depressing.
But now, as he prepared to say goodbye to his own life, he realized that there was something beautiful about funerals. They were a chance to celebrate a life well lived and to remember all of the good times. He only hoped that his own funeral would be half as beautiful as the ones he had attended in the past.
Examples of How To Write a Religious Funeral Scene
Mary was grateful that the funeral home had been able to accommodate her on such short notice.
She knew that her mother would have wanted a religious service, and she was glad that Father John had been able to officiate. The funeral home was small, and the chapel was already filled with family and friends when Mary arrived.
She could feel the weight of their grief pressing down on her as she made her way to the front row.
The casket was closed, and Mary was glad about that.
She didn’t want to see her mother’s face, cold and lifeless in death. She wanted to remember her as she had last seen her, full of life and laughter.
As Father John began to speak, Mary felt her own grief welling up inside of her.
But she also felt the comforting presence of her mother’s spirit, assuring her that she was at peace. Through her tears, Mary saw the light of heaven shining down on them all. And she knew that her mother was finally home.
At the front of the chapel, a large cross hung on the wall, flanked by two candles.
In front of the cross was a small podium, where the priest stood waiting. He was dressed in a long black robe, and he held a Bible in his hands.
As the mourners grew quiet, he began to speak, his voice soft and gentle.
“We are gathered here today to remember our brother, who has passed from this life into the next. We grieve for him, but we also celebrate his life and his entry into eternal salvation. Let us now take a moment to reflect on his life and how he touched our hearts.”
The priest then paused for a moment of silence.
Afterward, he continued speaking, telling stories about the deceased and offering words of comfort to those who were grieving.
Final Thoughts: How To Write a Funeral Scene
Writing a great funeral scene means pulling together every writer trick you’ve ever learned.
In case you come at writing with a beginner’s mind, you might really enjoy some of the other articles on this website.