Coping With A Funeral When You Can’t Attend

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Contributed by Janice Miller from safetytoday.org

When she isn’t writing for Safety Today, Janice Miller fosters dogs and helps place them with forever homes. In this article, she shares about grief, coping with death and acceptance.


When a loved one passes away, it’s expected that people who cared will attend the funeral. However, that may not be possible for you. Between work, finances, and the distance you must travel, you may be unable to pay your respects.

This can be painful to realize because you want to show you care — and because you want to help your family and friends in their time of need. There are ways, however, that you can help out even though you can’t be there for the funeral.

You Can Still Show Your Respects

There are a few ways you can pay your respects from afar:

  • Flowers and condolence cards are traditional ways to express sympathy and concern. You can send them to the family, or you can send them directly to the funeral home. But first, make sure you are honoring the cultures and traditions of the family.
  • Modern funerals often have online guestbooks. If so, post a message of sympathy and support online.
  • If there is no online memorial, offer to create one using a free MemorializeMe account. It can be shared and will allow others who may or may not be able to attend the funeral to participate by sharing memories and expressing condolences.
  • Look at your calendar and find a time to visit later on. Check with your family and friends before making any plans, but showing up after the funeral is still a great way to support and help your loved ones.

Knowing what to say in this situation is always problematic. Death makes people anxious, and you don’t want to say the wrong thing. Sorry Messages has several excellent prompts (the beginning of a message) that can help get you started on a message to the family. Pick one that you like, then continue writing some details and feelings of your own.

Taking Care Of Your Loved Ones

After the funeral, your family and friends will continue to grieve the death of their loved one. You can help them get through the grieving process by offering the right kind of support.

Focus on the Family recommends you start by acknowledging the death. Don’t avoid it or pretend it never happened for fear of causing pain in others. Everyone needs to accept the loss before they can process it and move on. Other ways you can help include:

  • Listening more than talking.
  • Be the one to reach out and communicate.
  • Offer specific help like running errands, cleaning house, and so on.
  • Remind them to wait before making any major decisions.

Don’t Neglect Self-Care

You can’t spend all your time taking care of your family and friends. You have to look after yourself as well during the grieving process. If you neglect your own care, then you’re unable to help others. MySahana.org lists some great ideas for self-care:

  • Reach out to those same family and friends. This way, you can all support each other to make grieving easier to handle.
  • Take care of your physical and mental health. Get some exercise and eat well.
  • Learn what triggers grief in you so you can be prepared when emotions become overwhelming.

Lastly, you need to get enough rest. Don’t push yourself too hard with condolence calls, helping others, and stretching yourself too thin. You can and should help, but you need to take some time to unwind each day and make sure you get enough sleep. Stress takes a toll on your body, so give it time to heal.

Everyone Will Get Through This

The grief that comes with losing a loved one is one of the most painful things you can endure. But know that you and your loved ones will get through this. Even if you can’t attend the funeral, you can help your family and friends with cards, communication, and advice. Just don’t ignore your own needs in the process.

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