Funerals serve many different purposes. For one thing, they offer a way to honor the person who passed. For another, they bring a community together to provide support for that person’s closest loved ones. But funerals are often beneficial not only to the direct family and friends but to everyone who attends. Funerals offer a chance to say goodbye, which can help many people begin their grieving process. And in their grief, they may find supportive people who understand what they’re going through at the funeral.
Missing a funeral can cause someone to miss out on this experience, which may ultimately affect their grieving process. So, what can you do to help yourself move through grief if you can’t attend the funeral?
Beginning the Grieving Process When You Can’t Attend the Funeral
1. Check to see if the family is streaming the funeral.
In today’s technology-fueled world, many more of our experiences can occur online. Funerals are no exception. Although people who live very far away or can’t come to the funeral for another reason once were simply forced to miss the service, more people today acknowledge that distance can be a problem and are offering another way to “attend” the ceremony: virtually. While a virtual funeral may not have the same emotional impact or provide the same level of support one might receive at a funeral, watching the funeral may still allow you some comfort.
The family of the person who passed may share details about the service being streamed in the obituary, but you may need to inquire about how to watch yourself. However, the family will likely be overwhelmed with planning the funeral. If you’re going to ask if the funeral will be streamed, you should text rather than call. You should also offer your condolences and apologize for not being able to attend the funeral, especially if the person you’re contacting was not yet made aware of the fact that you’d be missing it.
Streaming can happen in a variety of ways, so make certain that you have all the information before the funeral begins. You will likely need a link to where the funeral is being streamed, which may be on several different platforms, including Facebook Live or YouTube Live. Depending on the platform and the family's security choices, you may also need a password to view the ceremony.
2. Say goodbye in your own way.
Whether the funeral is being streamed or not, you should give yourself a chance to say goodbye to the person who passed. One aspect of a funeral that makes it so crucial to the grieving process is that it gives you the opportunity to say farewell to someone who impacted your life. Although you may never find the full closure that you seek about a loved one’s passing, a funeral still affords you the ability to see for yourself the person has passed, which, for many people, allows them to start the grieving process. If you can’t attend the funeral, you may not experience that same feeling that those who attend experience.
But you can seek ways to say goodbye on your own, even if those farewells are more symbolic. One way is to light a candle when the funeral would be taking place. The candle symbolizes your loved one. You may sit in quiet contemplation while the candle is lit, or you may find more comfort in talking as if your loved one were there. During wakes, when people are afforded the opportunity to spend some personal time with their loved one, they often speak to them, telling them all the things they want to say. Even if you can’t go to a wake or funeral, you can still talk as if your loved one were listening, as someone at a wake might.
You could also consider writing a letter to your loved one. No one will ever have to see the letter. It is only for you. In this letter, you can share everything you want to tell your loved one. Because this letter is for you, you should feel free to be as honest as you want to be. Whether you’re experiencing anger or sadness or something else that you’re not sure you understand yet, your letter may help you unpack your emotions.
3. Attend a grief group. Funerals offer an experience of collective grief. Grief can be very isolating. Grieving alone only heightens this feeling. But when you attend a funeral, you find voices of support from people who also miss your loved one. Those people will offer condolences and comfort. But when you miss a funeral, you miss out on being a part of that supportive collective.
Although you may want to consider talking to a trained mental health professional one-on-one as well, you may find that a grief group allows you to experience some of the support you would have received at the funeral. The people that you’re meeting in a grief group will be grieving different people from you, but you do still share with them the experience of losing a loved one. Hearing how others cope with grief may help you to maneuver through your emotions. You may learn from these people by hearing their stories and how they get through the day with their grief weighing them down. You may also find a support system in your fellow group attendees.
4. Stay connected to your loved ones.
As we’ve said, grief can be isolating. While attending a grief group is one way to help negate this loneliness, you should also try to stay connected to your loved ones during this time. Developing a support system is a crucial way to help you overcome the weight of grief. If you live far from family and friends, you may want to consider traveling to visit them for a time so that you may grieve together. But if traveling isn’t possible, schedule virtual meetings or phone calls with them and keep to that schedule. Even a weekly call with family members may help you to feel a little less alone.
Funerals often signal the start of the grieving process for many people. But when you’re not able to go to the funeral, you may find yourself having difficulty grieving. You’re missing an experience in which you may find support from others who understand what you’re going through. It’s essential, then, that you find support in other ways, including by joining a grief group and by finding ways to stay connected to the people you love. Grief is troubling to overcome, and the only way to do so is by recognizing and addressing your feelings. Let yourself grieve, and remember not to grieve alone.
You are welcome to call us any time of the day, any day of the week, for immediate assistance. Or, visit our funeral home in person at your convenience.