Losing someone you love is indescribable and, unfortunately, distance, time, health problems, and even cost might be a valid reason why you can’t attend a funeral. However, you can still show your support to the grieving family in different ways, and this article will help you learn more about what the etiquette for missing a funeral says it is appropriate to do in such cases.
Not being able to attend a funeral is unfortunate, yet it doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to express your sympathy and offer your condolences. Whether it’s your job, health, or distance the one that makes it impossible for you to physically be there for the funeral, here are a few ideas to help you show your support and sympathy.
Send flowers and sympathy cards
This is one of the most common options according to the etiquette for people who can’t attend a funeral. It is also one of the easiest and most accessible ways to show that you care and express your sympathy.
Since a funeral is a somber event, displaying flowers during the service may help brighten the room. However, you might want to consider the type of service before sending flowers as there are religions and thus customs that don’t allow for flowers to be displayed. You can still send them to the family’s home or even to a reception that takes place after the service.
Think of what the person you’ve lost liked and choose the flowers accordingly. Sympathy cards are also a common choice since you can thus express in your own words what you feel and let the family know that you care.
It might seem and even be difficult to find the right words in such situations, but your message doesn’t have to be long. On the contrary, a couple of sentences might do and prove to provide the grieving family with comfort.
Make sure you address the family and express your regrets over not attending the funeral. However, keep the excuse part short and focus on expressing your sympathy. If you are able to call or visit the family sometime in the near future, you can end the message with such a promise. Still, it is best to mention such plans only if you are able to actually carry them out.
Depending on the relationship you had with the deceased and the family, you can even express your sympathy by mentioning a lesson you’ve learned from them or an experience you shared. A few kind words about the person who passed away can mean a lot to the grieving family.
To avoid not getting it right on the card from the first try, it is best to write down your thoughts on a separate paper, and after you’ve gone through it several times to make sure it sounds right, jot it down on the sympathy card.
Dealing with such a loss can hardly be described in words. The grieving family may not have the time or energy to cook, and sending food to the reception or their homes after the funeral is also a common and useful way of expressing your condolences and sympathy.
Depending on where you live, you can cook the food yourself or shop from one of the family’s favorite bakeries or restaurants. This will let them know about your care, even if you are not able to attend the funeral.
To make sure that the food you send matches their needs and preferences, you can always ask the family about their preferences and if they have any diet restrictions. Additionally, in order to keep it simple, you can opt for disposable dishes or pans or offer the plates or bowls you’ve used to store the food as a gift. This way, there is no return involved.
However, if you’re close to the family and there wouldn’t be a problem returning such items, go for the option that suits you and the family best.
Donate or contribute to the funeral fund
Sometimes, donations are preferred to sympathy gifts and flowers. Usually, when such is the case, the grieving family will let you know and ask for a donation to a certain cause. In case the deceased had a certain disease and there is a research foundation for that disease, a donation to it will help you honor the person and hopefully improve the lives of others.
Also, sometimes, if the person who passed away was committed to a certain charity, any donation to it is another way of paying tribute to them. Even if you donate only a small amount, it is still better than nothing and a good way to show your sympathy. Many charities send a card to the grieving family about your donation.
Unfortunately, in some cases, covering the funeral expenses might prove to be a challenge. If that’s the case, contributing to the funeral fund is a good way to express your condolences and help the family give a dignified service and saying goodbye to their loved one as they deserve it.
The emotional tumult is already difficult to deal with. Money should not be another stressing factor, and, therefore, crowdfunding is sometimes the best way to show your support. If you’re in a close relationship with the family, you can ask about certain costs you might be able to cover.
Visit the grieving family
You might not be able to attend the funeral, but, if possible, you might want to visit the family after. You can seize the opportunity to bring food or flowers, especially if you didn’t get to do so before the funeral or shortly after. By visiting them, you will have the chance to express your sympathy and be a listener should the family need to talk about the deceased.
It is recommended to avoid staying long unless the family members show signs of wanting you to prolong your visit or even ask you to stay. Remember that this is a difficult time for the family of the deceased, and even if you’re close, they might just not be in the mood for long conversations, and that is understandable; therefore, don’t take it personally if that’s the case.
Also, try to keep your speech and thoughts on the deceased on the positive side and avoid things or recalling memories that could be hurtful or add to the grief of the family. Visiting the family or widow/widower can bring comfort and a certain relief, although temporarily, and it proves to be helpful when the grieving family doesn’t have too many relatives or friends.
More often than not, the first weeks after the funeral are also the busiest ones as far as visits and calls from friends and relatives are regarded. As time goes by, all this attention may diminish, and the grieving family may feel alone.
Following up later is another way of honoring the deceased. Calling the family and asking them about the things they need or if they want to go out for dinner and talk can also prove to be of help.
Offer help with housework
The days before the funeral and the first few weeks after it are difficult from so many points of view. Adjusting to a new life without the loved one who passed away can interfere with the family’s abilities to carry out even the simplest chores. Here is where you can help.
Ask the family about the things you could do for them. Babysitting, cleaning the house, running errands, doing the groceries, and other such chores might be too much for the grieving ones. If your physical condition allows you to carry out such activities, offer your help, and it will likely be appreciated.
Day-to-day help and support will make the family’s life a bit easier, and caring is probably the best way to show tribute to the deceased and express your sympathy.
Memorial trees and other sympathy ideas
If you don’t want to limit your sympathy to one of the options mentioned above, you can always take a step further and plant a memorial tree. A personalized engraved plaque with the name of the deceased and a message saying the tree is in their honor is also worth considering. Such a plaque would be placed by the tree or plant of choice.
Some funeral homes have virtual guestbooks where family members and friends can sign and leave a sympathy message for the grieving family. Given that it is a virtual guestbook, the messages can be read whenever needed. Keep in mind that this is a public guestbook, and everybody can see the message; therefore, keep them respectful and heartfelt.
Another way of expressing your sympathy and showing that you care is to create a care package for the family of the deceased, widow, or widower. Such a package can include groceries or other essential items.