Is It Wrong Not to Attend a Funeral? What to Consider

Published September 1, 2020
Man contemplating going to a funeral

People sometimes wonder, is it wrong to not attend a funeral? Attending a funeral is a completely personal decision. Before making up your mind, it's important to consider your reason for attending or not wanting to attend, as well as the possible reaction others may have to your decision.

Is It Wrong Not to Attend a Funeral?

It is not wrong to not attend a funeral, however, your decision may come with some self-inflicted, as well as familial backlash. Unless you have an appropriate reason to not attend a funeral, it is considered respectful to attend.

How Important Is It to Attend a Funeral?

The importance of attending a funeral will depend on several factors which may include the cultural or religious importance a funeral holds, the relationship you had with the deceased individual, as well as your relationship with the deceased individual's friends and family. If you were close with the deceased individual and/or their family and you know it would mean a lot to them for you to attend, you should consider going. If you have a legitimate reason for not being able to attend, reach out to the family to pass along your condolences if you feel comfortable doing so.

Guilt for Not Attending a Funeral

If you have chosen not to attend a funeral, you may experience some guilt, even if you feel totally confident in your decision. The guilt may come from familial pressure, societal and/or religious pressure, and the cultural expectation of attending. If you feel guilty:

  • Consider why you've chosen not to attend.
  • Process why the guilt is coming up for you- guilt is typically a socially connected emotion, meaning that this feeling may not stem from you, but is instead, in reaction to others' comments and behaviors regarding your choice.

If you feel guilty, know that going with your gut and making the healthiest decision for you is the best way to understand whether attending a funeral is the best choice for you. Not everyone may understand your reasoning, but only you can make healthy choices for yourself that prioritize your well-being; no one else can do this for you.

Too Sad to Go to Funeral

If you feel too sad to attend a funeral, you have every right to sit with your decision to make sure not attending is what's best for you. Funerals can be uncomfortable events that can stir up a lot of emotions for people in attendance. They also can provide some semblance of closure for those attending, as well as communal support. If you feel too sad to attend a funeral:

  • Imagine how you'll feel a week, a month, and a year after not attending the funeral.
  • How will you find your own unique way to seek some sort of closure, as funerals tend to provide closure for some?
  • How will you interact with those after the funeral who wanted you to attend?

Know that the idea of the funeral may be increasing your feelings of sadness, but if you've decided not to attend, how do you think you'll feel once the funeral is over? While funerals can be incredibly heartbreaking to attend, they can also provide some connection to others also grieving this loss. However, if you feel like attending the funeral will put your well-being at risk, then it may be the healthiest choice to not attend. Take your time to think about what feels right to you.

woman looking out of window

Should I Attend a Funeral That Is Far Away?

Funerals that are far away can place a financial burden on those who have to travel to attend. If you cannot comfortably afford to attend the funeral, it is perfectly acceptable to not attend. If you are unable to attend, it's appropriate to send a gift and/or card to the family to let them know you are thinking of them during this time.

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

Not attending a parent's funeral is often a highly complex issue. Individuals who are estranged from their parent may not want to attend their funeral, and that's okay. Individuals with unhealthy parent-child relationships may have grieved the loss of the parent they wished they had while their parent was alive, so experiencing the actual death of their parent may not carry as much weight for them. An individual may also not feel emotionally and/or physically safe with those attending the funeral and may choose not to attend. Keeping yourself physically and/or emotionally safe is of the utmost importance.

Etiquette for Missing a Funeral

If you miss a funeral and have a good relationship with the family, it's an appropriate gesture to pass along your condolences and inform them why you are unable to attend if you're comfortable doing so.

What to Say When You Can't Attend a Funeral

If you can't attend a funeral, you can say:

  • I'm so sorry to let you know that I won't be able to attend (insert deceased individual's name) funeral. While I so wish I could be there for you during this time, I am unable to make it due to the travel costs. I am sending you over a little something, so look out for that. I love you so much and will check in with you later if that's okay with you.
  • I wanted to reach out and let you know that I am unable to attend (insert deceased individual's name) funeral. I would love to send you over some dinner to have sometime this week if that's okay with you. Sending all my love.
  • I'm so sorry to let you know that I can't attend (insert deceased individual's name) funeral. I wish I could be there for you that day, but will be thinking of you. Can I check in with you later this week to see how you're doing?

What Happens if You Don't Attend a Funeral?

If you don't attend a funeral, you may feel a range of emotions. Some may feel guilt, shame, discomfort, and immense sadness, while others may feel comfortable and okay with not attending. This will totally depend on the unique circumstances surrounding your ability or choice to attend or not. Socially, you may experience a reaction from friends and family if you don't attend, but this will also depend on your relationships with them, as well as how you handle letting them know your choice to not attend.

Is It Disrespectful Not to Go to a Funeral?

Only you can decide whether attending a funeral is an appropriate choice for you. It is of the utmost importance to prioritize your mental and physical wellbeing, even if others disagree with your choice.

Is It Wrong Not to Attend a Funeral? What to Consider