If you’re not invited to the funeral

5 min read

When your loved one’s family does not want you at their funeral or memorial

  • If the family indicates that you are not welcome, try to accept their wishes.

  • With everyone in deep grief, it is rarely a productive time to work through old conflicts.

  • It is more important that you spend time grieving your loss.

  • Reach out for as much support as you can, from family, friends, support groups, and perhaps a grief counselor or mental health professional.

  • Consider creating your own ceremony to memorialize your loved one, or visiting their final resting place on your own.

When someone close to us dies, most of us feel a great need to pay our respects and memorialize them in some way. That’s why funerals and similar ceremonies exist—they’re primarily for the living, to give us some sense of closure and a way to say goodbye.

However, we may not always be allowed to partake in the cathartic experience of planning and attending the funeral.

In cases where there is a serious disagreement or bad blood between you and the family, you might find yourself cut out of the process of memorializing your loved one, no matter how close you may have been to them in life.

As if your loss weren’t hard enough, to be robbed of an essential part of the grieving process can make everything even harder. 

You may not be welcome to attend services with the family and other mourners, but that doesn’t mean you can’t process your grief and memorialize your loved one with grace and dignity in your own way. 

Try not to press the issue

There is a difference between being officially uninvited from the ceremonies and simply not being alerted of the passing of a loved one.

Depending on your relationship with the person, it is possible that the family just forgot to tell you. Remember that, like you, they are in deep grief, and may not have been thinking clearly about who they should contact.

However, if it is clear that they deliberately omitted you, or consciously withheld information about the funeral—or if you are explicitly asked not to come—it is best not to press the family for answers about why they have done so.

They have their reasons; it is likely that you know or suspect what those reasons are. But this isn’t going to be a productive time to hash out those reasons. If your attendance will be upsetting to them, try to accept that and respect their wishes, and let it go.

The one exception to this would be if you were the long-term romantic partner of the person who died, but the family for whatever reason has decided they did not accept or respect your relationship.

In this case, you may be able to prevail upon the family, or ask a sympathetic family member to intercede on your behalf. After all, the relationship they objected to is no longer an issue, and this should be a time to come together to remember the person you all loved.

Even in this case, however, if the family continues to insist, it is advisable to try to move on and memorialize your partner in your own way. If you were not married, and the funeral is private, the family has the right to bar you from attending. As tempting as it might be, little will be accomplished by showing up and making a scene.

Don’t go it alone

Because you’re being left out of the ceremony that is designed to let grievers gather and process their feelings together, it is important to let other people in your life know about your loss.

Be honest with them about your feelings: your grief, but also your anger and frustration at being left out. These feelings are valid and shouldn’t be kept inside. Find a trusted friend or several who can provide a listening ear.

If you don’t have a network of friends and family who are able to be there for you during this time, then consider looking for a grief support group, whether in person or online, where you can talk to and relate to the experiences of those going through something similar. A grief counselor or mental health professional will also be able to help you process these feelings. 

Create your own ceremony

Just as there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there’s also no right or wrong way to memorialize someone. While you may not have been welcome at the family’s official ceremony, that doesn’t mean you can’t mourn the loss of your loved one and celebrate their life on your terms.

If your attendance will be upsetting to them, try to accept that and respect their wishes, and let it go.

You may want to simply light a candle, or listen to a band you both loved, or go somewhere that holds a special memory of them to say goodbye. Or you could hold your own memorial service and invite others from your circle to remember and eulogize them. As long as you’re honoring them and their memory in a way that feels right, you are free to create any kind of event or practice you want.

Visit their final resting place

For some, being excluded from the official ceremony is most painful because they were not able to be present when their loved one was physically put to rest. If this is the case, you may find yourself desiring the kind of closure that comes from visiting the cemetery and saying a few words in remembrance of your loved one.

Assuming your loved one was buried, this can be an important way of processing your grief and an opportunity to say goodbye, and if you feel moved to do so, you should visit the cemetery. Most cemeteries are open to the public, and your exclusion from the funeral doesn’t imply any denial of permission to visit your loved one’s grave.

Consider sending the family your condolences

While your presence at the service may not have been welcome, you are still allowed to express your condolences. Whether it’s a sympathy card or a gift, letting your loved one’s family know that they’re in your thoughts is a good way of showing that you care without making a scene or disturbing their peace.

They can decide how they want to privately react to your gift, but you are doing the right thing both for you and for your loved one’s memory. By reaching out, you are extending an olive branch over whatever caused the fray without casting blame or spewing bitterness. It may be a challenge, but we should all strive to take the high road when it comes to the death of someone we love.

We can’t always say goodbye to those we love in the exact manner that we’d like to. Nor can we control how those closest to our loved ones choose to memorialize them. It can feel alienating and lonely not to be included in something so important, but it’s crucial to remember that it doesn’t diminish your friendship, your love, or the memories you have of them.

You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.