How To Know if You Should Attend a Funeral

Historically, formal invitations are not sent out for funerals or memorial services, which can make it hard to know if you should attend or not. As a rule, if you want to attend the funeral or memorial service and the event is open to guests then you should attend.

Reasons to attend a funeral or memorial service

Attending a funeral or memorial service shows support for the surviving family members, and offers you a chance to remember the person who died. As a general rule, if you feel like you want to attend the service and you've been invited, then you should attend. If you didn’t know the person who died but you have a relationship with the bereaved—even if only a casual relationship—your attendance can help to make the bereaved feel cared for and supported. If you’re uncomfortable going alone, it is appropriate to bring a friend; on the whole, the more people that show up to a funeral or memorial service, the more supported the family will feel.

Reasons not to attend a funeral or memorial service

If the funeral or memorial service is for family only or if you think your presence would make the bereaved uncomfortable, then you should not attend. There also may be logistical complications in getting to the event that could prevent you from going, or could make the effort involved inappropriate given your relationship to the person who died or the family.

If you're feeling conflicted about whether or not you should attend a funeral or memorial service, try thinking about how you'll feel a year from now. Will you regret not attending the service? Or do you anticipate feeling like not attending the service was the best thing for you to do?

For advice on how to manage complex relationships at a funeral, see our article Managing Complex Relationships at a Funeral.

If the funeral or memorial service is out of town

If the funeral or memorial service is being held out of town or far from where you live, you’ll have to judge whether or not to attend based on your relationship to the person who died and the surviving family members, and the degree of difficulty in getting to the service. If you are close to the family or the person who died but for a range of reasons—financial, logistical, etc.—you can’t get to the service, be in touch with the family to let them know that you cannot attend and send them a letter expressing your condolences. If getting to the funeral or memorial service would be fairly easy for you but you don’t feel close enough to the family or the person who died to attend, you can either attend the service or write the family a letter expressing your condolences.

For advice on funeral etiquette, see our article Funeral Etiquette.

For advice on memorial service etiquette, see our article Memorial Service Etiquette.


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