Q: One of the neighbors from my parent’s house recently passed away. A service is planned for later this week but I can’t attend the funeral because I have an important presentation at work. My parents have said it’s okay, but I feel disappointed and guilty for not going. Do you have any advice for someone who can’t attend a funeral? What should I do?
— Courtney from Cincinnati
So, you’re unable to attend a funeral? That’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. If you have to miss a funeral, make sure to let the deceased’s family know, offer some condolences and express how sorry you are for not being able to attend.
Missing a funeral can be a difficult time for both you and the family of the deceased. As much as you would like to attend the funeral, sometimes there are extenuating circumstances that make it impossible. In most cases, it usually comes down to travel costs, employment, illness, or other logistical issues. Whatever the reason is, there are still other ways to offer your condolences and express your sympathy and support to the family over the loss of their loved one.
Sympathy Ideas If You Have to Miss a Funeral
If you’re unable to go to a funeral service, make sure that you do something to support the family during this difficult time. Here are a few ideas if you can’t attend a funeral:
- Send flowers
- Plant a memorial tree
- Make a donation
- Contribute to a funeral crowdfunding effort
- Send food
- Follow up after the funeral
- Sign a digital guestbook
- Visit the family
- Help with chores or housework
- Create a care package
Sending flowers is one of the most common ways to express sympathy and show you care. Flowers are universally accepted as a meaningful way to pay tribute to someone’s life. Funerals are often a somber occasion, sending flowers to be displayed during the service can brighten the room and bring a sense of life to the event. Be mindful of the type of service though, some religious customs do not include flowers at their services. In this case, consider sending flowers to a reception afterward or the family’s home.
Plant a Memorial Tree
Planting a memorial tree represents new life and helps honors the deceased’s legacy. Tree planting programs allow friends and families to create a healthier environment and a lasting memorial for the life that has been lost. The great thing about memorial trees is there is no limit on the amount that you can plant. Together friends and family can plant a forest to pay tribute to their loved one.
Make a Donation
Some families prefer if you make a donation in the name of their loved one rather than sending flowers or other sympathy gifts. Choosing to make a donation in the name of the deceased not only pays tribute to them but also creates a positive impact on the lives of others. If the person was known to be a caring and charitable person, making a donation can be the perfect way to honor them if you have to miss the funeral.
Contribute to the Funeral Fund
Every family wants to give their loved one a graceful and dignified service. Unfortunately, this can come at a great cost that leaves some families in a financial bind. Money should never play an issue in how you say goodbye to a loved one. Crowdfunding is the solution to this. By contributing to a funeral fund to help cover expenses, you are helping support the family and allowing them to commemorate the life of their loved one and give them the proper goodbye they deserve.
Send Food to the Reception
If you live near where the funeral is taking place, consider sending food for the reception afterward. People that are grieving are usually quite tired and stressed the day of a funeral. This means they may not have the energy or the time to cook anything. Sending food to the reception shows you care and that you’ve put in an effort to be a part of the day. If you don’t want to send food to the reception, you can also deliver some to the family’s home in the days after the service.
Be There in the Days After the Funeral
While many people will attend the funeral and offer their support beforehand, it’s afterward that people begin to move on. Even though the family has said goodbye to their loved one, they are still grieving and adjusting to a new life. Being there when others have moved on shows that you truly care and want to support the family. Call to talk and check in once in a while, offer to help with some of the cooking and cleaning, even babysit the children for a few hours a week. The day-to-day support you can offer will mean much more than any flowers or cards will.
Sign a Digital Guestbook
If you have to miss a funeral, make sure to sign the digital guestbook for the deceased. Many funeral homes now create memorial tribute websites for the deceased. If an online obituary exists, make sure to visit it and leave a message of condolence for the family in the virtual guestbook.
Visit the Family
If you know beforehand that you won’t be able to go to the funeral, try to visit with the family at some point. Not only does this give you a chance to offer condolences in person, but you can also be there to offer support and see how they’re dealing with the loss. If the surviving family does not have many relatives, something as simple as a brief visit could mean the world to them and make their grief subside for a little while.
Help With Chores or Housework
As we’ve said, the days and weeks after a funeral are when people start to move on. The deceased’s family, however, could be left to manage their grief for weeks or months. To help make this time easier for them, be there to offer help around the house. Assisting them with day-to-day chores and other small tasks can help make life easier for them as they adjust.
Create a Care Package
Creating a care package for someone who is grieving is a wonderful way to not only show your support but also help them during this difficult time. Something as simple as gathering a few groceries and essential items like toiletries can go a long way in making life a little bit easier for the bereaved. A grief care package can include pretty much anything you think the bereaved will need and is a great gift if you have to miss a funeral.