If you knew the deceased or a member of the family, the answer is that it’s always better to attend the funeral. After many years of planning and overseeing funerals, our team has almost always found that a family appreciates that people made the effort to be there for them and to honour their loved one.
Sometimes it can be tricky to know if going to a funeral is appropriate if you didn’t know the deceased well or if you knew them well but don’t know their surviving family closely. You may wonder if attending the funeral is the right thing to do but rest assured that in most circumstances, your presence will be appreciated.
If you didn’t know the deceased well, keep your condolences brief, attend the visitation or service and be sure to quietly blend in and follow the lead of the other attendees. If you don’t know the deceased’s family well, it is respectful to briefly explain how you knew their loved one, share your condolences and move along in a receiving line or at a reception. Your presence and support will be valued by most families and you will likely feel much better that you chose to be there.
There are a few circumstances when you should not attend a funeral though. These include:
- Private Services – If a service is listed as private or family only, the details such as time and date will typically not be published but if you do become privy to this information, do not assume that you can attend unless you have been expressly invited by the family. In most cases, it is best not to even ask unless you are close family or have a significant bond with the person who has passed away.
- Covid Restrictions – There will be times that as restrictions change, a family may be required by law to strictly adhere to a set number of attendees. If you have not been directly invited to attend the service, be sure to ask a member of the family or the funeral home if there is room for you to come. You should also refrain from bringing anyone else with you in these cases as they will not be accounted for in the allotted number of guests.
- High Tension – Sometimes the things that happened during the life of the deceased no longer matter and you want to express your grief or condolences even if there was tension or strained relationships, but if you believe that your attendance at a funeral may bring additional grief or tension to the family, it may be best to choose not to. Your condolences can be shared in other ways in these circumstances and you may be able to pay final respects at a time when other family members are not present. This is something you should discuss with a member of the family that you have a less strained relationship with.
Attending a funeral is about showing your support for a grieving family and saying goodbye to someone you knew that has passed away. In most cases, it is beneficial to the family and to you to be there so you should. If you are unsure if attending would be appropriate due to strained relationships, privacy or headcounts to meet restrictions, be respectful and discuss it with the family ahead of time.