What to Say When You Can’t Attend a Funeral

Wondering what to say when you can't make a funeral? Here is our advice to still pay your respects without attending...
Nathaniel Felder
3 minutes

Funerals are very sensitive events, so it's never easy to explain why you couldn't make it there, especially when you were invited. If you miss such an event, you may be gripped with guilt because the deceased's family is still dealing with the loss. 

However, you don't have to feel that way because sometimes, missing the funeral is unavoidable, even if you are willing to go. The best thing to do when you know you will not be able to attend a funeral is to let the family know beforehand. You can always excuse yourself politely while still showing that you respect the deceased, family, and the gathering.

If you have been pondering what to say when you can’t attend a funeral, keep reading to see ways you can do that with courtesy here in this article.

Is it Disrespectful to Miss a Funeral?

Whether or not it is disrespectful to miss a funeral depends on some factors, like the reason you miss it and your attitude toward the event. Most people don't miss funerals for the fun of it. They usually have viable reasons for not attending, like;

  • When there are health concerns, like during the COVID-19 pandemic when large gatherings were restricted. The attendee can also have health issues that make them unable to travel down to attend the funeral.
  • Work can sometimes prevent you from attending important functions, like a funeral. You may be tight on deadlines, so you can't take time off work, especially when the venue isn't in the same town as yours.
  • Some people struggle with attending funerals because of their emotional response to the loss. If such a person goes to the funeral, they may cause a ruckus because of the inability to control their emotions. Funerals are meant to honor the deceased, and such displays can ruin the program.
  • Missing a funeral can be unavoidable when the venue is far away. In this case, you may need to spend a lot of money on traveling and other expenses to make it to the funeral. You may not have much money stashed somewhere, which makes it hard to make the trip.
  • Conflicts within the family are also one of the reasons people miss funerals. These events are acknowledgment and farewell programs to honor the deceased. It would be insensitive to bring strife to such a place. It is advisable to stay away, especially when the person who triggers you is attending and a fight or argument is unavoidable.

The above are just a few justifiable reasons people can miss a funeral. There are several others, depending on individuals and their statuses too. In any of these cases, it is easier to send your regards to the family and excuse yourself while maintaining your good standing with them.

Missing a funeral becomes disrespectful when you are nonchalant about the program itself or not attending. For instance, when you just go AWOL, the person who invited you to the funeral may feel offended. 

As stated earlier, the purpose of holding funerals is to honor, mourn, say goodbye to the deceased and support the family. So, even when you cannot physically be at the program, you should let the bereaved family know you won't attend out of respect.

On that note, see what to say when you can’t attend a funeral in the next section.

What to Say When You Can’t Attend a Funeral: 3 Ideas to Offer Condolences & Respect From Afar

There is no better way to say you can't attend a funeral than using your words. Even if you will be sending flowers and cash gifts later, it is advisable to use your words first to express your wishes and show support to the family. 

There are three common ways to offer condolences and respects from afar with your words; 

Send a condolence card

Sending a sympathy card is a great gesture to inform the deceased's family that you will not be at the funeral. It works really well, especially when you accompany the card with flowers.  The bereaved know that things like this are expected following a demise. So, throughout the mourning period, they will pay attention to their mailboxes to read comforting messages. 

When sending a condolence card, it is good to write a few good words about the deceased before saying you won't be able to attend. The bereaved will be able to understand that you care but couldn't attend due to unavoidable reasons. 

Examples of letters you can write in a condolence card are;

  • "It was a pleasure to know Craig. He was full of life, vigor, and spark. He had a solution for every problem and was always quick to lend a hand when anyone needed help. I enjoyed sitting with him and hearing him talk about her long life. It pricks my heart that I won't be able to attend the funeral, but know that I'm always thinking of you and the family in this tough period. I'll definitely drop by later to help with the lawn and other chores."
  • "I remember when I met your brother. It was at your last football game in high school. He stood out with his whistles, chants, and bants so that everyone around him had a good time. I'm going to miss his friendly smile and hugs. Regretfully, I can't attend the funeral, but I'm enclosing some pictures of Chris from my album. Let me know if I can stop by next week with your favorite apple pie from Biggie's."

Send an email or text

The next ideal way to communicate your absence at a funeral is via email. You can always write a condolence email and chip in that you cannot attend the funeral while at it. 

It is important to know that condolence emails can be very sensitive. Therefore, when sending one, you should make it more about comforting the family than announcing your inability to attend the funeral. Do not make the subject line about your not attending the funeral, or your email may never get read regardless of your good intentions.

Some subject samples include:

  • Sending you sympathy.
  • With deep sorrow for your loss.
  • My heartfelt condolences
  • In loving memories of Lizzy* (add deceased's name)
  • Sincerest condolences
  • My condolences
  • So sorry for your loss
  • Please accept our deepest condolences

Keep the subject line simple and avoid the use of foreign languages. Condolence emails are not business letters.

Here's how you can write a condolence email to say you will not be attending;

"My husband and I are deeply saddened to hear about Cecilia passing away. She was such a sweet soul, always reassuring us with her angelic smile and helpful bible verses. We miss her already, her funky style and warm hugs. We're unable to attend the funeral, but we'll continue donating to the church kids in her name to honor her. Please know that we are thinking of you and wish we could be there."

Call Them Up

Calls are not the best way to tell a bereaved you will not be at the funeral because people hardly pick up calls when mourning or grieving. However, when you do it right, phone calls really work well in offering condolences and respect from afar.

Most times, condolence calls are most efficient when you send additional messages or flowers by traditional mail to accompany them. This is because your phone call would most likely go to the bereaved voicemail and may not be gotten until later.

If your call goes to voicemail, simply record a message and send a text, traditional mail, flowers, food, and other courtesy items. Here's what you can say when recording a message for a bereaved to inform them you will not be attending the funeral;

  • "Hi_______, I wanted to call to let you know how sorry I am about your mom. I really wish I could attend the funeral, but I'm unable to. But I will drop by next week to pay my respects and see how you are faring. Until then, stay strong."
  • "I kind of guessed that you'd have a tough time talking on the phone right now. But I really wanted to tell you I'm sorry about Rebecca's passing. I am a little bit under the weather and won't be able to come to the funeral. But, know that I'm thinking of you and really wish I could be there. I'll visit as soon as I get back on my feet again."
  • "Chloe, I am devastated to hear about Uncle Jim. I know this is really a hard time for you, especially because you two were so close. I won't be able to attend the funeral, but I will come down with Cole to see you on Saturday. Please be strong, I'll come to see you soon."

All the above methods are great ways to say you are not attending a funeral. However, you can take it a step further by following your words with some actions. See some things you can do to make it up to the bereaved after missing a funeral in the next section.

If You Really Want to Make it up to Them, Actions Speak Louder Than Words - Here are Some Things You Can Do

After sending messages to say you will not be attending a funeral, the next ideal thing is to think of how to help a grieving family. Although it is not compulsory, you can follow the text, call, or condolence card with an action that shows you are really thinking of the bereaved. 

Here are examples of things you can do to make it up to a grieving family;

Send Flowers

Sympathy flowers are a common custom in different countries and religious practices. It is an appropriate and thoughtful gesture to let the bereaved know you are thinking of them. You can send a bouquet that reflects the deceased's personality to the bereaved address or funeral home to tender your apology and pay your respects.

Contribute to a Funeral Fund

Alongside your condolence email, card, call, or text, you can send some funds to support the funeral program of the deceased. Even if you are attending in person and don't know what to bring to a memorial service, you can never go wrong with cash gifts. It is a way to show your support to the family and honor the deceased.

Help Start a Virtual Memorial Site

With permission from the bereaved, you can create a profile on a tribute website to keep remembering the deceased. If you are wondering how to make an online memorial website, it is as simple as creating a normal profile on social platforms. The only difference is that the profile on a memorial site is created to honor a deceased person. It allows anyone from all over the globe to pay their respects and remember fond memories of the deceased without traveling miles.

You can create one of such profiles on Forevory in straightforward steps. You will be able to add diverse memorial files, like an online family tree, eulogies, online memorial videos, stories, online memorial articles, online memorial guest book, and more, to the site using Forevory.

When ready, head to the Forevory site to create a memorial that will last forever to honor the deceased.

Write a Eulogy 

Eulogies are written to remember fond memories of the deceased and comfort the people gathered to say their goodbyes. While you may not be at the funeral to read the eulogy yourself, you can send one to the bereaved and have someone else read it. It shows that you genuinely want to be at the gathering, but your absence was unavoidable. 

So, how long should a eulogy be? There is no perfect eulogy length, it simply depends on time, the program, service types, and a couple of other factors. 

Final Thoughts on What to Say When You Can’t Attend a Funeral

Relaying to a bereaved family that you can't attend a funeral is a delicate subject. It takes some thought to find the best way to do it without complicating matters. Fortunately, the methods we have provided above are excellent ways to say you can't attend a funeral. Read through them again and pick the best one, depending on your situation.

Don't forget to use Forevory to create online tribute profiles for your deceased. We offer the best memorial website services to keep the memories of your loved ones evergreen in everyone's heart.

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