April 07, 2022 7 min read
The decision to not attend a funeral is not one to be made lightly. If you were close enough with the person to be informed of their funeral arrangements, this typically means that you should attend. But there are certain situations when you might think twice.
If you’re on the fence about attending a funeral, it’s important to make a decision and then stick with it. Sitting with a decision like this for too long will weigh heavily on your mental health. And when you are grieving a loss, this can be a lot to handle.
There are a few reasons that you might consider skipping a funeral, but sometimes you might need to accept that it’s something that you simply have to do. There is no joy or pleasure in a funeral, but it is often an important part of saying goodbye.
So, if you’re thinking about skipping a funeral simply because you don’t want to go, you might have to push these feelings aside and go anyway. However, there are a few situations where you might be able to respectfully bow out of attending.
The funeral is a chance to pay your last respects to a person before they are buried or cremated. But the funeral isn’t really for the deceased, it’s for the living. It would only be wrong to skip a funeral if someone else is relying on you to be there.
Provided you have given it some thought and haven’t overlooked any important factor about skipping a funeral, then most people will be respectful of your wishes to not attend. But you can expect some pushback from friends and family who don’t agree with your decision.
Disagreements and resentment can linger for long after the funeral, so be sure you are willing to deal with the aftermath if you choose not to attend. These relationships might be difficult to repair if someone feels that your decision was not fully justified.
The most common thing that happens when you don’t attend a funeral is that you might feel guilty about this. These feelings might arise before, or you might experience regret in the aftermath. If you think there is a chance you might regret not attending a funeral, then it’s far better to attend. You can’t go back in time and change this, and you don’t want to live with this regret forever.
If you feel guilty about your decision, speaking to those who are attending and explaining your position might help you to feel more at ease. If you are only feeling guilty because of the social constructs that make you feel like you have to attend, try to make peace with this in your own time.
If your guilt persists, it might be time to explore if you are really making the right decision, because otherwise, this guilt could eventually transform into regret. You might want to prepare an outfit for the funeral anyway, just in case you have a last-minute change of heart.
A funeral is not like a party, so you don’t have to RSVP to confirm you will be attending. However, there might be people who will expect you to be there, so it would be courteous to let them know your decision not to attend. This will allow them to prepare for your absence so that they aren’t waiting for you to arrive or trying to reach you.
Some people might want to know your reasons for not attending, so be prepared for some questions. You can also expect people to want to try to change your mind, so if you are determined not to go, make this clear from the outset.
Children can have very complex relationships with their parents, and these aren’t always obvious to outside observers. It might seem disrespectful not to attend a parent’s funeral, but this is ultimately a personal choice. There is no obligation to attend a funeral, and you might find that you would like to say goodbye in your own way.
If you were estranged from the parent, you may have already grieved their death in your own way. Attending the funeral is unlikely to bring you any further closure and might even allow old issues to rise to the surface again.
If you don’t attend a funeral for any reason, there are a few common outcomes you can expect.
Now you know what you can expect from skipping a funeral, it’s time to explore some of the reasons that you might decide not to attend. This list is not exhaustive, and you might have your own reasons for not wanting to attend a funeral.
If you were very close to the person, you might find it overwhelming to think about saying goodbye. This is perhaps the most common reason that individuals skip funerals. If you are consumed by grief, you might not want to make an appearance. Funerals can be incredibly difficult, so if you’re struggling to keep your mental health afloat, it might be advisable to skip the event.
But before you make a decision not to attend because you will find it too emotional, remember that funerals are supposed to be difficult events. Think about how you might feel in a week, a month or even a year. Running away from your feelings won’t make them hurt any less, and it could lead to feelings of guilt and regret further down the line.
Attending the funeral can be an important part of the grieving process and many people find that it helps them to find closure. If you are confident that attending will be detrimental to your mental health and wellbeing, then most people will respect your decision not to attend.
If you are unable to travel, or if it would be expensive and impractical to attend, then you are likely to be excused from attending. If attending would require international travel, then you might be excused from showing up in person. In this instance, you should send flowers in lieu of attending.
If you are away on holiday when the funeral takes place, many people will understand your decision not to attend, particularly if you cannot afford to rebook the holiday for another time. This is often a secondary excuse for not attending, as most people would move heaven and earth to be at a funeral if they really wanted to. It’s worth exploring if there is another reason you don’t want to attend.
Another common reason for skipping a funeral would be because of work commitments. While most employers will offer compassionate leave, there may be reasons that you are unable to take time off work. Doctors, nurses and teachers might struggle to take time off when needed.
If you fall ill before the funeral, or if you are injured in a way that impacts your mobility, this would be another valid reason for missing a funeral. No one will want you to spread illness around the other mourners, and if your mobility is impacted, this could make it more difficult or impossible to attend. Provided you let people know in advance that you won’t be attending, most won’t have a problem with this reasoning.
Funerals can bring together people who might not ordinarily mix. If you’re aware that someone is attending the funeral and you know they would be unhappy or distressed to see you, it might be best to sit it out. This is often the most difficult reason to skip a funeral because you might be protecting someone else’s feelings at the expense of your own.
If you believe that your presence could lead someone else to cause a scene or disrupt the service, it’s often best to be the bigger person and choose to miss it.
If you aren’t planning to attend a funeral, there are a few things you should do to make sure you aren’t being rude or inconsiderate.
First, ask if there is anything you can do to help with the arrangements, even if you won’t be planning to attend. This is particularly important if you are burying someone in your immediate family. Choosing not to attend does not automatically mean that you can sit out of making arrangements. If you leave this to other people in your family, your absence might be felt even more acutely.
Next, make sure you inform close friends and family that you won’t be attending. Have a clear and reasoned argument ready to share with them and avoid asking for their opinion. You don’t want to sound like you are asking permission to not attend. You need to sound like you are informing them of your decision.
You should always send flowers if you won’t be attending for any reason. This should be accompanied by a short note if the funeral is for someone outside of your immediate family.
If you are resolute in your decision not to attend, try to keep yourself busy on the day of the funeral. This will help you to stay distracted and might help you to avoid feeling guilty about your decision.
You might want to make plans to say goodbye in your own way. If you’re missing the funeral to avoid confrontation, or if you are concerned that it will be too sad, saying goodbye in your own way can help you to manage your grief.