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If I can’t attend a funeral in person, how can I show my respects to the family?


There are many reasons why someone can’t attend a funeral in person to pay their respects to the family. A funeral often occurs within a short time after a death, and perhaps it is not feasible to get time off from work to attend. Perhaps weather or road conditions are a factor. Perhaps childcare is an issue. Distance/travelling expenses might also be a factor.

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Physical health issues, including mobility issues, are a cause for you to put your comfort and safety first. Other mental health reasons may be based on factors such as family conflict or tense/estranged relationships. If anxiety is the reason, please see my upcoming blog “Fear of Attending Funerals” for information.


Some funeral homes are live-streaming and/or recording their services, so please check with the funeral home/place of worship to see if this is an option. Perhaps attending/viewing a funeral online isn’t possible, but visiting the gravesite at a later date will give you time and the opportunity for closure. Choosing whether to attend is at the discretion of each person alone. Whatever you choose, know that it isn’t disrespectful to not go to a funeral for personal reasons, and these reasons do not need to be made public.

 

But don’t fret, as there are other socially acceptable ways of paying respects without going to the funeral. The most common way is to send flowers, via online or through a telephone call to the local florist. These floral arrangements (fresh, dried, potted), of any size, can be sent directly to the funeral home or the mourner’s home directly by any reputable florist, and include a small card on a pick with a personalized message. Please check first with the family in case they have specified “in lieu of flowers….”, which is common as part of the deceased’s final wishes. Please see my previous blog “In lieu of flowers“ for more guidance in this situation.


Secondly, the funeral home may have set up an online memorial page for the deceased, with the option of signing an online memorial book. Often there is also information about which charities the deceased has chosen for any monetary donations to be made in their name.


Thirdly, sympathy cards/handwritten notes, are always appreciated by the mourning family. Please see my previous blog “Condolence Cards” if you are seeking guidance in appropriate wording.


Fourthly, condolence gifts are becoming more popular. Joincake’s blog (see source 1) explains the concept more fully. A personalized condolence gift is one that the family can treasure for years. These types of gifts usually have the name of their loved one who died, and the date of birth and death etched in. Some of the more popular types of sympathy gifts include:

  • Personalized sympathy card

  • Windchime

  • Memorial garden stone 

  • Memorial jewelry

  • Spiritual books on loss

Fifthly, a further suggestion they had was to install a memorial bench as an excellent way of paying your last respects from afar. It would ideally be placed near the graveside for the family to enjoy when they go pay their respects. Please see my previous blog “The role of epitaphs as a summary of our lives” for more information on this topic.


Sixthly, if you are able, phone calls and personal visits to the mourning family members are appreciated. Please refer to my previous blogs “Conversations with Mourners- what to say to mourners/what not to say” if you are seeking guidance in this area.


Lastly, if you are able, give a gift from the heart. Perhaps you have a favourite memory of the deceased. Write it down in a letter and send it to the mourning family. Enclose a favourite photo of them if you can. Mourners often appreciate it when homemade/ready to heat food is brought to them during a personal visit, so meals are one less thing to worry about it. Other suggestions are giving gift cards to a local retail store, gas station, or supermarket or offers to pay for a one-week grocery delivery. Other mourners might find offers of childcare, or housework, or pet sitting/dog walking services to be their most pressing need during their immediate mourning period.


In conclusion, please remember that It’s not a question of whether it is disrespectful to not go to a funeral – it all depends on a variety of factors and is a personal decision that considers your best interests and situation.

 

 

 

Sources

1.    https://www.joincake.com/blog How to Attend a Funeral If You’re Feeling Fearful: A Guide, Updated 5/11/2022, by Dr. Alejandra Vasquez, JD, CT, Certified Grief Counselor


2.    https://blog.hefuneralhome.com/What are the Reasons for Anxiety About Funerals? August 17, 2020


3.    https://perfectmemorials.com/ Is it Disrespectful to Not Go to a Funeral?

 

 

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