Should You Attend the Funeral?

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.

7 thoughts on “Should You Attend the Funeral?”

  1. Kairi Gainsborough

    Thanks for explaining that you can show support to the bereaved friends and family of the deceased by attending the funeral. My stepfather’s father passed away, and my mom is going to help with the funeral. I only met the man once, so I didn’t know if I should get involved. Since it is a way for me to show support to my mom and stepdad, I should probably help out if I can.

  2. Mina Edinburgh

    It is true when you said that the person should visit the funeral simply because the person knows the deceased and would like to pay respect to the family. My friend is asking me to arrange the funeral for her dad, and now she is worried if people will come. She shouldn’t worry about that, and I will continue reminding her that. Thank you for mentioning this. I appreciate it.

  3. I really appreciate your tip to go to a funeral if you want to support both the deceased and those who are attending. My wife and I have been put in charge of planning my grandmother’s funeral since my grandfather passed away a couple of years ago. I will be sure to invite anyone who wants to be supportive of our family.

  4. Lauryn

    I have struggled with going to my fiance’s grandmother’s funeral. I have gone to 5 funerals for my own family in the past 3 years including one friend from high school. I went with my fiance to the hospital while his grandmother was ill numerous times and that was very hard to do. I have chosen not to attend but to be there for support before and after. I’m still grieving for the loss of my grandfather not long ago and attending another funeral is mentally not something I can do… I still extend condolences to his family. They don’t understand but I’m sure in time things will blow over. Not everyone deals with death the same way or grieves in the same way.

  5. Nita

    My brother recently passed away and only one member of our family on either side came to pay respects to his children and wife. We’re having a memorial service soon and so far, everyone I’ve spoken to says they have to work. Not one member of my family, my husbands family or any of my friends have knocked on my door. They use Facebook messenger to tell me they’re sorry. To me, that’s impersonable, and unacceptable. It just lets me know that my brother and I mean nothing to absolutely no one! My own mother said she wasn’t coming! Her husband has to work!

    • Yvette

      I’m so very sorry this happened to you. I read this and wanted to cry for you. I agree with you that it is extremely impersonal to leave messages on fb rather than call or stop by with food to show their support. I find it inconceivable that your friends and family think this is acceptable behavior. My sincerest condolences to you.

  6. lroy

    I keep thinking I would like to attend either the funeral or grave side service for my biological mother when the time comes. She lives in another state in another part of the country. NO ONE (not even her husband) knows I even exist.

    My point would be for once in my life see the person who gave me life instead of having me aborted.

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