When You Cannot Attend The Funeral Of A Loved One

At a funeral, people often have trouble knowing what to say. Grieving is a painful process, so you can feel awkward and worried about saying the wrong thing.

The same is true if you cannot attend the funeral. You want to help, but what can you do from so far away? Read below for some advice on showing sympathy from afar, helping your family grieve, and making sure your needs are met.

What You Can Do Instead

Although you cannot be present at the funeral or wake, Everplans.com lists several things you can do to show respect and support from a distance:

  • A condolence card might sound cliché, but it definitely shows you care. Because so much communication is done online these days, a paper card in the mail can be special.
  • Between grieving and preparing the funeral, some people won’t have time to cook. Sending some food (baskets, platters, etc.) can really help at this time.
  • Flowers are a time-tested and well-received way to show sympathy after the loss of a loved one.

Making some phone calls is another great way to properly offer condolences. Even if you have to leave a message, it can help others know you care. Focus on the survivor’s needs in the call, and keep your talk short. They probably don’t have the time or emotional energy for a long discussion about the departed.

Helping Your Family Cope With The Loss

Although cards, calls, and flowers will help, your family and friends will still struggle with the loss. Grief is complex and powerful, and it won’t suddenly disappear after the funeral. That’s why you need to make more than just one call.

US News & World Report offers some specific ways you can help your loved ones grieve. These include:

  • Reach out to those mourning the loss. Don’t just say, “I’m here if you need me.” Be proactive and make the call yourself. If you can visit after the funeral to talk in person, that’s even better.
  • Let your family and friends feel their emotions, even the bad ones. Don’t look at sadness or anger as things to dismiss. They need to process these emotions on their own time, so focus more on listening rather than talking.
  • Check in repeatedly over the next few weeks and months. A single call followed by silence appears insincere, so keep up with the communication. Make a point to call on any important dates like birthdays or anniversaries.

Children can have an especially hard time dealing with grief. When helping younger people, answer their questions about death honestly. Keep these conversations simple, but don’t avoid talking about death or avoid mentioning the deceased’s name. And make sure you explain to children that it’s normal to feel sad or angry over the death.

Taking Care Of Your Own Needs

Helping your family and friends is important when you cannot make the funeral. They need support. But you cannot forget about your own needs. You’re suffering a loss too.

As with your loved ones, accept the feelings that come during the grieving process. If you’re having trouble with those emotions, consider speaking to a therapist or counselor. Creating a small memorial to the loved one who passed away can help you accept the death. Lastly, make sure you keep making healthy choices, exercising and eating right.

Your Sympathy Is Needed And WELCOME

Even though you cannot attend the funeral in person, you can still offer sympathy and condolences. In fact, both are needed and welcome by those grieving a loss. Make sure you communicate through cards, calls, or small gifts. Talk to you family and friends to help them grieve, and make sure you take care of yourself as well.

Just remember that grieving is a process, not an event. It may take some time, but everyone will get through this difficult time together.

Written by Janice Miller