What, No Funeral?

There have been a few instances in my life when I was either unable to attend a funeral or memorial service because it was in another state or the family decided not to have either one. Either way it can be painful for those trying to grapple with their grief. Funeral and memorial services can give us an opportunity to express our grief. They can provide us with a safe place to give and receive support and comfort. More importantly they often provide us with an opportunity to pay tribute to our loved one. Any type of service becomes a personal reflection of the life they lived and their impacts on our own lives. It gives us a chance to remember and grieve openly without fear of judgement.

After my former finance died by suicide, his family decided to forgo a formal funeral or memorial service for him. I understood and respected their decision but then again it was hard to accept it. John had friends. He had people in his life who loved him. Not paying tribute to him didn’t feel right. I felt he deserved to be remembered. Crying with all the other mourners (where it would be “appropriate”) seemed better than crying alone in my car or worse yet, not at all.

To have a chance to share our grief, my children and I decided to have our own. I picked probably one of the most beautiful sunny days here in Southern California at a park overlooking the ocean. I read a eulogy I had written. My children and I listened to his favorite Beach Boys music. We told stories. We sat in the park and cried. It didn’t matter what the other park goers thought. This was about us. We needed this. We needed to share our sadness together. After our “service” was over, my youngest daughter thanked me because she said it had helped her to remember John and share her grief.

So if you can’t attend a funeral or memorial service or if there isn’t one to attend, here are some things you can do to remember your loved one:

  • Have your own personal memorial service
  • Get together with those who knew your loved one and share memories/stories
  • Write a eulogy or obituary and read it out loud
  • Go through old photographs
  • Listen to their favorite music
  • Release a balloon
  • Do something they liked to do
  • Go somewhere they liked to go
  • Eat their favorite food
  • Donate to their favorite charity
  • Plant a memorial garden
  • Go to church and light a candle
  • Write a letter to them or their family and share any special memories

It’s just human nature that we might have a harder time grieving if we don’t get to ritualize the death of a loved one in some way. So go ahead and do what works for you even if there isn’t a service you can attend. Your loved one will be smiling down at you. And in the long run, you will honor your needs. And when it comes to grief, that’s all that really matters.


Sending you love, comfort and peace!