Culture / Newsy

How to Skip a Funeral Without Looking Like a Jerk: 5 Ways to Show You Care When You Can’t Be There

BY Tripp Carter // 11.30.17

While you’d ideally like to be able to attend a funeral in person, this is not always possible due to cost or schedule conflicts. However, there are plenty of other ways to pay your respects to the deceased, even if you are not able to be there for the funeral service itself.

If you’re looking to honor the memory of a person who has died in an alternative way, consider these tips:

It’s Never Too Late To Send Flowers

Sending flowers is a traditional and beautiful way to express your sympathies to the family of the deceased. You can send flowers or a lasting plant or dish garden to the funeral home, to the house of worship where the service will take place, or to the family’s home. Including a thoughtful note on the card is a warm gesture that the family will appreciate.

Sign the Online Guestbook

As people, we have become very used to email and other electronic means for sending messages. Online condolences are often saved and read multiple times by loved ones and friends of the deceased. When someone is feeling blue, it’s comforting to reread sympathy messages.

Even short sentiments reminding the bereaved that their loved ones are remembered and that they’re not alone in their grief can be helpful. Many times, the funeral home will put these condolences into a small book that will be given to the family at an appropriate time after the service.

Pay a Visit to the Family’s Home

If you’re close to the family of the deceased but cannot attend the funeral, consider paying a visit to them at their home. It is often helpful to bring them food, as they will likely be drained and not up for cooking. You can also offer to watch any young children who live in the home so that the older relatives can run errands and attend to funeral-related tasks.

If you’re visiting the family’s home just to pay your respects, make it a point to keep your stay short. In some cases, the family of the deceased may feel pressure to entertain you while you’re visiting them, which can become a burden during this period of time. Stay just long enough to offer your sympathies, and then leave the family to spend some time together.

Offer Up Kind Words in a Card

If you don’t feel close enough to the family of the person who has passed away to visit them at their home, there are plenty of other ways to express your sympathies. Consider writing a card that offers your condolences and that gives insight about what made the person who died an important part of your life.

Families delight in hearing stories about how their loved one helped or inspired others, so these words will be much appreciated during this challenging and grief-filled time.

Make a Charitable Contribution

If the person who has died was passionate about a particular charity, consider making a donation to this organization in the person’s name. This is an effective way to keep the person’s memory alive, while improving the lives of those in need.

If you are unable to attend the funeral, try to be present at the wake if possible. A wake takes place prior to the actual service, and is typically held in the evening. Even if you cannot attend the actual funeral, supporting the family at the wake is an important gesture of respect. If you are not extremely close with the family, be sure to introduce yourself at the wake, preventing them from having to rack their brain trying to figure out who you are.

Regardless of whether you can attend the funeral service or not, there are plenty of ways to honor the memory of a person who has died, while also providing their family with the support they need during the grieving process.

Michael “Tripp” Carter is the co-founder of Houston’s most prominent funeral home, and an advocate for funeral services that provide warmth, support, and compassion for families during their time of bereavement. His Bradshaw-Carter funeral home exemplifies elegance and style, mirroring the sophistication of the services offered within. Carter champions beauty as an antidote to sorrow, and works to ensure that the funeral home provides support to all who need it — not just the city’s elite.

Additionally, Carter is the author of “Ask Tripp,” a popular column that appears every Sunday in the Houston Chronicle. More information is available at

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