“Should I go to the funeral? I really… just… don’t want to. Is it disrespectful to not go? What should I do?”
Don’t worry. You are not the first person to ask this question! We’d all like for the answer to be simple and straightforward – a definite, certain, no-doubt-about-it here’s what to do.
But the truth is that there are many reasons why you may not want to go to the service.
So the answer to whether or not you should attend a particular funeral, especially if you don’t want to, can be complicated.
Let’s talk about it.
Reasons Not to Attend the Funeral
Let’s first take a look at the reason (or reasons) why you’re inclined to avoid going to the funeral.
Here are some of the more common issues that cause people to skip the funeral, even that of a family member or good friend:
- They aren’t prepared emotionally to say goodbye to the person who’s passed
- The idea of seeing a dead body, or even stepping foot in a funeral home, gives them the creeps
- They don’t want to run into someone they’d rather avoid. Or there’s someone who wouldn’t want them to be there
- They didn’t know the person who’s died very well (or they don’t know their family)
- They’ve never been to a funeral, don’t know what to expect, and are naturally nervous
- The funeral is being held in a different city or state, and they’ll have to travel
- They are unable to travel for the funeral for any reason
- They’ve already made other commitments on the day the funeral is to be held
No matter the reason, perhaps deep down you feel that going to the funeral is still the right thing to do.
Sometimes all you need is a different perspective.
Take a few moments to consider how you will feel down the road if you don’t go. If you already know you’d regret it (more than you’d regret actually going), that should be your answer right there.
Suffering through a few hours at a funeral, even if only to show respect and support for the family, may be much better than years of wishing you would have gone.
But again, that’s all for you to weigh. Every situation is different.
Should I Attend the Funeral or Visitation?
If this is what the family expects, it’s perfectly fine (and probably the right thing to do) to attend both the funeral and visitation.
Sometimes the funeral or visitation is announced publicly, and other times by invitation. When you receive an invitation – whether a general one in the newspaper or social media, or one sent directly to you – you can be assured that it’s appropriate for you to attend.
If you’re not sure if you want to attend the funeral or visitation, consider again the reasons why. If it’s because you simply can’t make the funeral due to a busy schedule, you may consider going to the visitation instead to pay your respects.
Is It Wrong to Not Attend a Funeral?
To find the answer to this question, all you have to do is consider the family.
In some families and/or cultures, it’s a sign of respect to attend a funeral, for both them and the deceased person. They may see you not attending – no matter the reason – as a sign of disrespect, This very well could be something they will never forget.
In this case, yes, it would be wrong to not attend a funeral.
On the other hand, some more conservative families may actually find it disrespectful if you show up at their loved one’s service, if you are not a part of the family unit by blood or marriage. Perhaps it’s a private event, or the word has been passed around that it should be “family and close friends only.” If you don’t have a super-close relationship with the family, then it’s probably best to stay home.
Ultimately, you just need to evaluate 1) your relationship with the decedent and their family, and 2) your knowledge of the family’s culture and expectations.
What If I’m Too Sad to Go to the Funeral?
Sadness is a draining emotion. No one wants to feel it or face it, and that’s exactly what happens at a funeral.
Are you feeling so sad over you’re loved one’s death that you don’t even think you could make it through the service? Or do you think that it would be detrimental to your mental health to even try to go?
Then do this: give it some time. Assuming the funeral isn’t tomorrow, allow yourself a “grace period” to further grieve and to get used to the idea of going. You may feel better about everything after a day or two.
If you’re still feeling too sad, remember that you will not be the only person there in mourning… you will not have to face your emotions alone. Bear in mind that psychologists agree that attending a funeral can help aid the grieving process. So while it may be a draining experience, in this way, your sadness can also be beautiful.
Related: How to Grieve Well (or even poorly)
Should I Attend a Funeral That Is Far Away?
If you can travel and would otherwise attend the funeral if it were close-by, then yes, you should go.
If cost of travel, health or other commitments are not an issue, there is simply no good reason not to make the journey to support the bereaved family. Inconvenience is not a good reason!
Should My Child Attend a Funeral?
The answer to this question all boils down to your family’s culture, your child, and what you know they can or cannot yet handle on an emotional/psychological level.
Parents and parenting experts alike offer differing views on this subject. Some would suggest allowing the kids themselves to choose, after explaining to them what they can expect.
Others say it’s good for children to face the realities of life and death, the sooner the better. Still others would recommend waiting until the child is a certain age before allowing them to attend.
Obviously, if you’re not going, it may be best that your child doesn’t, either.
Etiquette for Missing a Funeral
If you must miss the funeral for any reason, the most important thing you should still do is show support for the grieving family. Etiquette provides us with a number of ways you can do this:
- Send flowers to the funeral home where the service will be held
- Send flowers or a sympathy gift to their home
- Write them a sympathy card
- Give them a phone call, or send a supportive text or email
- Send them a care package like this one
- Offer to pick up groceries for them, run errands, watch the kids, help around the house, etc.
- Check in on the family from time to time
What to Say When You Can’t Attend a Funeral
If you can’t attend a funeral, simply offer the family your regrets for not being able to. Also offer your condolences. You do not have to give away your reason for not going if you don’t want to; that is your business.
For help figuring out exactly what to say, here are 101 condolence messages to express your love and support.
Tips for When You Choose Not to Attend the Funeral
If you’ve considered all the pros and cons of going to the funeral and still come to the conclusion that you just aren’t going to be able to make it, here are some tips for helping you accept your decision:
- Do not feel guilty about your choice. Attending or not attending a funeral is a highly personal decision; it’s not like you’ve come to your decision lightly. You’ve thought about it for a long time.
- If you really don’t want to go to the funeral, you can still support the family. See “Etiquette for Missing a Funeral” (above) for ideas on how to do that.
- Not going to the funeral does not mean that you don’t care about the person who’s died. It could mean that you care about them so much that you want to remember them during happier times. That is love.
- “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” Those who are truly in your support group, whether family or friends, will not hold it against you for choosing not to attend the funeral.
- Write a letter or sympathy card that expresses your sorrow at not being able to attend. Here’s how.
One final tip: Whether or not you choose to attend, learn a bit about what you are expected to say and do while at a funeral. This can help you make your decision, especially if fear of the unknown is a factor. Learn more here.