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Who Should Attend a Funeral?

When someone we know dies, it is natural to want to attend the funeral to pay our respects, but sometimes attending a funeral isn’t possible or isn’t desirable. There can also be confusion about proper funeral etiquette surrounding who should attend a funeral. Is attending a coworker's funeral typical? What about an acquaintance? What about your boss? This article will cover who should attend a funeral, why you may not want to attend a funeral, and how to handle it if you decide you don't want to go to a funeral.

Whose funeral should you attend?

The simple answer to this question is that anyone who wants to attend the funeral should do so. There are no hard and fast rules about who should and shouldn't attend a funeral. However, there are some people who might not be welcomed at a funeral. For example, ex-spouses (who split on bad or acrimonious terms) or former partners who left the deceased person when they were most needed may not be welcome. The same goes for people who were estranged from the deceased person at the time of their death.

Can you legally stop someone from attending a funeral?

Generally, no. Unless the person attending the funeral is deemed a threat to public safety, it is not legal to stop them from attending. An exception to this is when the venue is on private property – if the funeral is being held on private property, anyone can be banned from attending. If you are concerned that someone might cause problems at the funeral, you can talk to the funeral director or the security team to make sure they are aware of the situation. However, it is important to remember that everyone has the right to grieve in their own way, even if that means attending a funeral where you would rather they not be present.

If you're concerned about someone attending the funeral and not being welcome, it may be worth it to alert them before the event happens so that they are aware of the situation, rather than let them show up and be turned away.

Another way to ensure certain individuals won't attend the funeral is to simply make the funeral service private. This means that only close family and friends will be invited and the service will not be open to the public. This can help to keep out any unwelcome attendees while still allowing those who are closest to the deceased person to grieve in their own way.

Reasons to attend a funeral

There are a number of reasons why people choose to attend funerals. For some, it is a way to say goodbye to the person who has died. For others, it is a chance to support the grieving family and friends. Here are some other reasons why you would typically attend a funeral:

  • To pay your respects to the deceased person
  • To support the grieving family and friends
  • To celebrate the life of the deceased person
  • To say goodbye to the deceased person

Reasons not to attend a funeral

There are plenty of reasons one might consider not attending a funeral. These reasons can be personal, practical, or a mixture of both. Here are some common reasons a person might not attend a funeral:

  • Attending the funeral would be too emotionally upsetting and you're worried you'd be a distraction.
  • You live far away and attending the funeral would be logistically difficult or impossible.
  • You weren't close to the deceased person.
  • You have a prior engagement that you can't miss.
  • You're unable to get the time off work.
  • You're worried about a large gathering for health or safety reasons.
  • The services are private or not open to all.

If you choose not to attend the funeral, you may ask yourself, "Is it wrong not to attend a funeral?" Generally, the answer is no. While attending funerals is the norm in many cultures, it is not required. If you have a good reason for not attending, don't feel guilty. Extend your condolences in a way that feels right for you.

Should I attend both the wake and the funeral?

It is not necessary to attend both the wake and the funeral, although some people do choose to do so. If you are unable to attend the funeral, attending the wake might be a way to pay your respects and support the grieving family. Keep in mind that wakes can sometimes be more emotionally charged than funerals, as they often involve viewing the deceased's body.

If you do attend both the wake and the funeral, it is proper etiquette to sign the guest book at the wake and any memorial books at the funeral. You may also want to talk to the family or close friends of the deceased person to express your condolences.

Of course, if you are unable to attend the funeral or the wake, you can still express your condolences to the family in other ways. You might post on the memorial website or send flowers or another sympathy gift. This can help you ensure the family knows they're in your thoughts, even if you can't physically attend the events.

Should I attend a funeral that is far away?

The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, including your relationship to the deceased person, your financial situation, and your ability to take time off work. If you were very close to the deceased person, attending their funeral may be worth the effort, even if it is far away. However, if you were not close to the person who died or if attending the funeral would be a financial burden, you can choose not to go.

Additionally, more funerals are live streamed these days, so you may be able to watch the funeral online if you can’t attend.

If you decide not to attend the funeral, there are still ways you can honor the deceased person and support their loved ones.

What to say when you can't attend a funeral

If you are unable to attend a funeral, it is still proper etiquette to express your condolences to the family. You might do this by sending a sympathy card, flowers, or another gift. You can also post on the memorial website or call the family to express your thoughts and prayers. By taking these steps, you can let the family know that you are thinking of them, even if you cannot be there in person. If you're letting them know you can't attend the funeral in writing, here are some ways you can express this news:

  • I am sorry for your loss. I wish I could be there with you, but I am unable to attend the funeral. Please know that I am thinking of you and your family during this difficult time.
  • I wish I could be there to support you, but I hope you know that I am with you in spirit.
  • Please accept my condolences for being unable to be there on this important day. I am thinking of you and your family during this difficult time and would like to schedule a time to see you after the funeral. - - Please let me know what day works best for you.

No matter how you choose to express your condolences, the most important thing is that you are respectful and sensitive to the family's needs.

If you can’t attend a funeral (or are attending and want to express your condolences), consider sending flowers to the family or the service. Sending flowers in your place or as a way to express your sympathy is a beautiful way to show the family your support.

Send flowers

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Last updated August 30, 2022
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