The Reasons when you should not go to a Funeral:
1. Past altercations with family
2. You may be disruptive
3. Told not to attend
4. Funeral is private
5. Being uncomfortable with an open casket
6. Your health is at risk
7. No longer close with the deceased
Working in the funeral industry for over five years, I have witnessed when funerals go right and when they go very very wrong. Believe it or not, mishaps and equipment issues rarely happen these days.
When a funeral goes wrong, it isn’t because of the casket tipping, burial issues, or technology. It is because of the wrong people show up to the funeral and havoc reigns.
Police called, punches being thrown, and cursing over a casket have all happened on my watch. As a funeral professional, I couldn’t tell the family who to invite or not.
It is always up to the family, but as you know, most funerals are public affairs, and the choice to attend the funeral or not is yours and yours alone.
When in doubt, please review the list below of the reasons when you should not attend a funeral.
1. You Have Gotten Into an Altercation With a Family Member of the Deceased in the Past.
Funerals are a place of respect for the deceased. If you had any kind of bad blood with the family or the person who passed away, skip the funeral.
Emotions are running high at these events; the family is often angry, sad, and upset. If your presence brings back bad memories or animosity, you may not be welcome, especially if it was recent.
In Topeka, KS police had to be called during a funeral service due to a fight breaking out in the middle of a funeral service. The fight was between two different sides of the family,
Even if you have the best intentions and know that you will be on your best behavior, it doesn’t mean the other party will be. Past altercations have a way of resurfacing during times of high emotional stress. This is your opportunity to try to do the right thing for everyone involved and not go to the funeral.
Wanting to mend fences or say your final goodbyes to someone you didn’t get along with due to guilt or unresolved feelings is normal.
When someone dies, our instinct is to try to make things right with the deceased or with the family. Unfortunately, the funeral is not the right time or the place for this.
You can schedule a visit to the gravesite or other location that was meaningful to both of you at another time, but do not go to the funeral.
2. Your Presence May Be Disruptive or Annoying to the Family.
According to FuneralWise, the funeral is not about you, and it should always be about the close family of the deceased.
Always keep the family in mind after a death has occurred. Divorce or estrangement are examples of why you being there might be disruptive.
From my experience working with families making funeral arrangements over the years, I have witnessed many uncomfortable or even violent situations arise between family members.
Often, it is an ex-spouse or current lover that causes the situation.
As an example, if your ex-father in law passes away, the right thing to do is to call your ex-wife and ask permission to go to the funeral. If you show up after years of no communication and there is a new spouse or boyfriend, things can escalate quickly.
If you feel like the focus on the event will be on your attendance and be a distraction from the actual funeral; this is a good indication to stay home.
Gossip is a great way to ruin a funeral service, the last thing you or the family want at the event is everyone talking about you instead of their loved one.
3. You Were Told Not to Attend
Being told you shouldn’t attend the funeral is emotionally difficult for anyone to handle. If someone in the family or a close friend has asked you not to attend, there is probably a reason you shouldn’t.
In most cases, you are probably aware of why someone would ask you not to attend.
Shulamit Widawsky shared a personal story on her question and answer forum “How do you decide whether you should attend a funeral or not? How close do you have to be to the deceased before it would be strange if you didn’t go?”
In Shilamit’s personal experience, her father had passed away. When her mother found out, she called Shilamit right away and asked her if she should cut her vacation short and come home to go to the funeral.
Shilamit specifically told her not to cut her vacation short, and that she should not come to the funeral, as they had been divorced for many years and both had been re-married.
Shilamit’s mother cut her vacation short anyway, showed up to the funeral, and sat in the front row with her new husband by her side.
Shilamit’s parents had been divorced for over 35 years, and her mother was told specifically not to come. Shilamit’s experience grieving her father was forever tainted by her mother showing up.
In this example, it doesn’t mean that Shilamit doesn’t love her mother. All it means, in this situation, her mothers presence would be more of a distraction than helpful. For years to come, Shilamit will always uncomfortably remember when her mother didn’t listen to her on one of the worst days of her life.
Careful reflection is required to make sure you do not put your children or others in a similar situation.
I suggest a meaningful conversation with the person that asked you not to come.
Is there a specific reason you were asked not to go?
Is not attending a suggestion for your emotional well being or health?
Is there another reason that you may be unaware of?
Get to the bottom of the issue, and there may be a chance to resolve it. When someone close to you passes away, even during this tragic time, it is a perfect opportunity to mend fences and repair any broken relationships.
If you take the initiative to have the conversation, you will be happy you did. If all is resolved, you will be able to attend the funeral service.
Although, remember that the family’s feelings should always be taken into account after a death has occurred.
4. The Funeral Is a Private Service, Not Public
Families have an option to select a private viewing or service. What does this mean? According to City View Mortuary, this is a very important decision for a family to make.
During a private service or viewing, only the immediate family has the opportunity to visit with the deceased. This gives the family a chance to say their final farewells without others being present.
Grieving is a difficult process, and the family has every right to choose to say their goodbyes in private. If you show up to a private service, the funeral staff will not admit you into the viewing or service and you will be turned away.
Just because there is a private viewing doesn’t mean there isn’t another type of service later. The family may hold a public funeral service the following day or even a memorial service at an informal location later.
If you feel comfortable, call the family and ask them if the service is public or private. If you do not want to bother the family during this time, you can call the funeral home directly. They will let you know if the service is public or private and all of the information about when the service and burial will take place.
Most funeral homes have websites that allow you to view the obituary, service times, locations and even leave a note of remembrance to the family. The website will also tell you if the viewing and funeral are private.
5. You Are Uncomfortable With Death or an Open Casket
Not everyone reacts to death in the same way. There is no right or wrong way to feel when someone passes away. I have seen all of the different ranges of emotions from intense grief, tearful sadness, shock, and even relief after a long illness.
The emotion that most people don’t talk about is fear.
The thought of being presented with the dead body of a loved one you were close to can be overwhelming, but it can also be scary.
Everplans, gives advice to those considering attending an open casket funeral. It is important to remember that the body of the deceased will be dressed and have make up on, but still may not look like your friend or family member did in life.
How you will react when coming face to face with a loved one in an open casket is not only important to you, but it is a consideration for everyone else attending the funeral. If you are overcome with dread, have feelings of nausea, or feel faint when thinking about it, you will want to make other arrangements than to attend the open casket funeral.
If you are close with the family, be sure to ask them if there will be an open casket for visitation only or if the casket will be open during the funeral. You may also call the funeral home directly and ask them. Don’t worry, they get these types of calls all of the time, no need to be embarrassed.
Even if you will not be able to attend the funeral, the burial is another option for you to still be there for the family and also say your farewells.
The casket is always closed and sealed at the funeral home or church prior to transportation to the cemetery. The casket will not be open at the burial service and you will not have to worry about seeing the body at this time.
Knowing about yourself and how you react to things is the key to making the right choice to attend the funeral or not.
6. Your Health Will Put Yourself or Others at Risk
Funerals are usually attended by many generations of family members. That means children and the elderly will be present. If you are sick, running a fever, or contagious, do not attend the funeral!
Verywellhealth shares, that droplet transmission is a major way that colds and even serious viruses are spread. The flu, measles, and other such illnesses are spread this way when we cough or sneeze within 6 feet of another person.
The website suggests that you stay away from people whenever possible due to the threat of exposing them. Even if you are sick for a day or two, it doesn’t mean that other people (especially children and the elderly) won’t be more seriously affected.
Also, if you are suffering from a condition that weakens your ability to ward off illness, you will want to limit your exposure to large groups of people. Not everyone in a large group, especially children, are the best at handwashing to reduce the spread of germs.
If you feel like your immune system is compromised, or you are too unwell to travel, you should not go to the funeral. The family will understand completely.
7. You Are No Longer Close With the Deceased or Family
CountyLiving, suggests that you should always consider your relationship with the deceased or the family before deciding not to attend the funeral.
Consider how you found out that someone passed away. If a family member of the deceased contacted you, then most likely you have or had a strong enough relationship to warrant you going to the funeral.
If you read about the death in the newspaper or received an email third or fourth hand, it is then up to you to decide. Ask yourself these questions:
Has it been years since you spoke to, or saw the deceased?
Did the deceased move away or did you?
Will most of the people at the funeral be strangers to you?
Will you be uncomfortable sitting by yourself? If so, another thoughtful gesture may be more appropriate than actually going to the funeral.
How to pay last respects if you are unable to go to the funeral
There are other ways to pay your respects if you are unable to attend.
- Send Flowers or a plant to the service with a heartfelt note
- Make a personal phone call to the next of kin
- Send a card with at least 4 sentences of condolence
- Make a homemade dish and deliver it personally to the famils home
- Leave a note of remembrance on the funeral homes website
- Make a donation to a charity in the name of the deceased
- Visit the family later when things have calmed down, or you are feeling better
- Visit the graveside privately to say your last goodbyes
- Volunteer at a charity or organization that the deceased supported
The decision to attend a funeral or not is a difficult one to make. While it may seem like a very personal decision, you must keep others in mind when deciding.
Take some time for personal reflection and make sure you are going or not going to the funeral for the right reasons.
Ask yourself, Am I physically and mentally capable of going to the funeral? Most importantly, is there any reason I should not be going?
Even if travel or a work schedule prohibits you from going, don’t worry. Remember that there are other ways to pay your last respects and, in most cases, the family will understand.
I am a writer and educator who has also helped hundreds of families through the pre-planning process, and seen them through until after a death has occurred and the burial has taken place.