The deceased is a close friend or family member.
If you are close to the deceased then, by all means, attend the funeral. If there are extenuating circumstances and you are having difficulty deciding, talk it over with a friend or family member. There may be an appropriate way to express your condolences that doesn't include attending.
The bereaved is a close friend or family member.
Attending the funeral of a close friend or family member is almost always the right move. Unless there is some particular reason that you cannot attend, go to the funeral.
You would like to pay your respects to the family or you would like to show support for the person’s loved ones.
Attending the funeral in order to pay your respects to the family is almost always appreciated. The loved ones of the deceased will take comfort in the fact that you cared enough to take the time to express your support.
Your presence would not be disruptive, distracting, or cause a family member to be upset.
If for some reason your presence at the funeral will distract from the purpose of the service or make the family and loved ones of the deceased uncomfortable, then you would do well to skip the service. There are other appropriate ways express your condolences.
You want to attend but the services are private.
If the family has indicated that the funeral or memorial is a private affair, then you should choose another method of expressing your sympathy.
Funerals are a unique type of life celebration. Formal invitations are rarely (almost never) issued. Instead, information on the date, time, and place for services are passed through public sources. Typical methods for passing along logistical details are a newspaper obituary, word of mouth, or social media. More often than not, funeral and memorial services are open to the public. Unless the family wants the funeral or memorial service to be private, you are welcome to attend.
If you are close to the bereaved or the deceased, live close by and have no extenuating circumstances, then, by all means, go to the funeral. In fact, if you don’t go, your presence may be missed.
Keep in mind that funerals are for the living. By going, you are showing your support for the people the deceased has left behind. You may not know the person who has died, but you may have a relationship with someone who cared deeply about him or her. To attend shows respect to the person who has died and this will be greatly appreciated by the loved ones.
Should You Attend The Funeral?
The rule of thumb is this: It’s not about you.
Funerals give the surviving family and friends the chance to say goodbye. The primary focus should ALWAYS be the family of the deceased. Your job is to support and comfort them. A funeral or memorial service is a time when you should put your own needs aside and be there for those closest to the deceased.
5 reasons to go to the funeral:
- The deceased is a close friend or family member.
- The bereaved is a close friend or family member.
- You knew the person (perhaps not well) and would like to pay your respects to the family.
- You want to show support for the person’s loved ones.
- The deceased is a public figure in whom you have an interest and the services are open to the public.
5 reasons not to go to the funeral:
- Your attendance at the service would be disruptive or distracting to any member of the immediate family.
- Your attendance at the service would be upsetting to any member of the immediate family.
- The services are private and not open to the public.
- The services are out of town and you cannot get there, or you cannot arrange for the time off work.
- You are ill or physically incapable of travel.
There are cases when going to the funeral or memorial service just isn’t possible even if you want to attend. You may live out of town, have financial constraints, or be physically unable to travel. In these circumstances, there are other ways you can express your condolences. A heartfelt sympathy card, flowers, or a donation to a charity in the name of the deceased are all good ways to honor someone who has died. A telephone call to let the family know you are thinking of them at this difficult time is also appropriate.
If your presence will be distracting or disruptive, then you would be well advised to skip the services and show your sympathy some other way. An example of this would be a difficult or complicated family situation where there is ill will. If you are separated from the family in some way but are still on good terms, then it may be appropriate for you to attend. Divorce is a common example of this type of situation. In these cases, you will have to use your best judgment.
Even in the case of the death of a close family member or friend, attending the funeral is optional. The decision is always up to you. But it would be unusual for someone to skip the funeral of someone with whom they had this kind of bond. If you are struggling with the decision, it may help to discuss the situation with other members of your family or circle of friends. You may also want to consider how you might feel in the future if you skip the service.
Even if you didn’t know the person who has died well, you are honoring his or her memory by taking the time to pay your respects. Those who are mourning will take comfort in knowing that others care enough about them and their loved ones to go out of their way to personally express their support.
In general, the same considerations apply to wakes and visitations. Attendance is optional but attending shows honor to the deceased and respect to his or her family and friends.