Common Reasons Not to Go to a Funeral

Published July 8, 2020
Woman Looking Through Window At Home

Whether you choose to, or are able to, attend a funeral is completely up to you. Some individuals may not attend a funeral for various relational, financial, or personal reasons.

Valid Reasons to Not Go to a Funeral

While some may wonder if it is rude not to attend a funeral, there are some valid reasons why an individual or family may be unable to make it. Some reasons to not go to a funeral include:

  • You want to go, but the service is private.
  • The service is out of town and travel would be difficult.
  • You are sick or have a chronic condition that would make it difficult, impossible, or highly uncomfortable to attend.
  • You had a complex, unhealthy, and/or abusive relationship with the deceased individual or someone who will be attending the service and feel emotionally and/or physically unsafe attending.
  • A friend or family member has expressed discomfort in you attending the service due to a past incident.
  • If you attended, it would create an issue for one or more individuals attending the service and may cause a disruption and shift the focus from the deceased individual to you.
  • You have a diagnosed mental health condition such as agoraphobia, panic disorder, feretrophobia, or necrophobia, and are not ready to attend a triggering event quite yet.
  • You have a pet, child, or other dependent individual who you are unable to bring to the funeral with you and cannot find, afford, or don't feel comfortable having someone watch them for you.
    Mother holding a newborn baby son at home

Reasons to Go to a Funeral When You Are Unsure

You may opt to attend a funeral if:

  • You were close with the deceased individual and want to honor their life.
  • You want to be supportive to their loved ones in mourning.
  • The funeral is an open event and the deceased individual was an important part of your life directly or indirectly.
  • You didn't know the deceased individual well or at all, but want to be there as a support for your close friends or family members.

Is It Wrong to Not Attend a Family Member's Funeral?

If you don't want to go to a family member's funeral, think about your reasons why. Some individuals may feel too sad to go to the funeral, may not feel emotionally able to attend, or may have a complex situation that would make attending the funeral unpleasant or unsafe. It is not wrong to not attend a funeral if you feel physically or emotionally unsafe doing so. However, if you don't want to attend because you think it may be too difficult to face, spend some time thinking about how you will feel knowing you didn't attend.

Is It Disrespectful to Not Go to a Funeral?

It is at your discretion to decide whether attending a certain funeral is disrespectful or not. Keep in mind, that family and friends may have an opinion on your decision to not attend, so it's best to be prepared with a response that explains why you've opted out. This is solely your decision to make, however it's important to think about the effects your decision to not attend may have on your relationships with others, as well as how this choice will impact you.

Husband trying to comfort his wife due to her loss

Is It Wrong Not to Attend a Parent's Funeral?

Individuals may not attend a parent's funeral for various valid reasons. If you had a complex and unhealthy relationship with your parent, it is perfectly normal to not want to attend the funeral. In fact, doing so may make you feel like a fraud, especially if friends and family members don't know what your relationship with your parent looked like. It's not wrong to not attend your parent's funeral if doing so will severely damage your mental well-being and/or puts your physical safety in jeopardy.

Should I Go to the Funeral of a Friend's Parent?

Depending on your level of relational intimacy, you may consider attending the funeral of your friend's parent. Doing so shows your friend that you are there for them and support them. Always ask if they are comfortable with you attending, in case it's a closed service, or if they don't want their friends present. Whatever their decision is, make sure they know that you respect their choice and are there for them.

Should I Attend a Funeral That Is Far Away?

It is perfectly acceptable to miss a funeral due to distance. Typically, individuals understand that traveling may be difficult or unaffordable. If you do decide to attend a funeral that is far away, be sure to budget appropriately for the travel costs so you are fully prepared.

What to Say When You Can't Attend a Funeral

If you can't attend a funeral and want to let the immediate family and/or close friends know, you can consider saying:

  • I wanted to let you know that I unfortunately won't be able to attend the funeral due to a personal circumstance. I feel awful that I won't be there to honor (insert deceased individual's name), but would love to send you dinner for the week if that's okay with you.
  • With the baby at home, I am unable to travel at this time and won't be able to make it to the funeral. I so wish I could be there to support you, but know that I am around day or night if you want to talk.
  • I want to let you know that I am unable to make it to the funeral. The cost of travel is unfortunately not affordable for me at this time. I would love to have some groceries delivered to you this week if you're comfortable with that. Again, I am so sorry I won't be there, but I love you and am here for you.
  • I have decided that it would be best for me to not attend the funeral. I've thought hard about this and feel it's in everyone's best interest if I'm not there. Even though I won't be there, know that I am thinking of you.
    Sad woman feeling conflicted about making a phone call

How to Respectfully Decline a Funeral

When you decline to attend a funeral, it's best to keep your reasoning short, and refocus on how you can be there to support the immediate loved ones in mourning. Once you've offered your reason, and expressed your condolences, you can consider showing your support in other ways by:

  • Send your condolences with a handwritten card.
  • Call the immediate family and express your sympathies.
  • Attend the wake and offer support to those in mourning.
  • Participate in memorial pages posted on social media.
  • Send flowers or a thoughtful gift to the immediate family in mourning.
  • Offer to drop off food, run errands, and help out around the house for the immediate family and/or friends in mourning.

If you have an estranged or complex relationship with anyone in the process of mourning, consider if reaching out to let them know you won't be attending the funeral will endanger your physical or mental wellbeing before doing so. If it will endanger you, know that you don't need to reach out at all. The death of someone can blur boundaries that you may have put in place for a reason, so think carefully about how reaching out will impact you and those you are attempting to connect with.

Funeral Flowers

How Important Is It to Attend a Funeral?

Attending a funeral is a personal decision that only you can make. Whether you decide to attend or not will depend on various factors that you will have to determine.

Common Reasons Not to Go to a Funeral