What to Do When There is No Funeral

Not everyone is grieved in a big, formal way. Although most families hold some sort of memorial service when a loved one dies, there are times when there is no commemoration planned. This might be due to scheduling conflicts, a lack of finances, a recent spate of deaths in the family, or even because it was what the deceased wished.

This can be difficult for extended relatives and friends of the deceased, as you might be looking forward to a chance to connect, memorialize, and grieve. When there is no funeral or memorial service, you miss this opportunity for closure. However, because it is the family’s choice whether or not to hold a service, you can only come up with your own way to move forward.

Sending Condolences

Just because there is no funeral does not mean the family isn’t grieving. In fact, if they are acting according to the deceased’s wishes (against their own inclination) or because they lack the finances for a funeral, they may be feeling doubly upset.

You can help counteract this by acting exactly as you would if there was a large funeral planned. Send a condolence card. Order funeral flowers and have them delivered to the family home (assuming they do not put out an “in lieu of” request). Offer your help in cooking, cleaning, and childcare. Share favorite photos and memories. Ask them to coffee and talk about the deceased by name.

You might also want to ask what kinds of steps the family is taking to memorialize the deceased. Even without a funeral, they could have an ash-scattering ceremony planned, or they might be planning a quiet dinner at home one night. Although you should avoid the urge to invite yourself over (they will let you know if they want company), asking about the tribute is a good way to show your support.

What to Do When There is No Funeral

Making Your Own Memorial

If you need the closure of a funeral, a memorial service, or a burial site to visit, then it is perfectly acceptable to make your own. Although you want to be careful not to overstep your bounds with regards to the family, there are several ways you can do this:

  • Hold a small party or gathering
  • Visit a place that was special to you and the deceased
  • Light a candle or say a prayer
  • Create a physical memorial you can visit
  • Make a donation or contribution to a charity in the deceased’s name
  • Scrapbook or create a photo collage
  • Journal your feelings

You might even want to invite the family to participate in these events, as they could find the support to be healing.

What Not to Do and Say

The one thing you need to be sure not to do is critique the family’s decision in any way. Although you may find it upsetting not to hold a funeral or memorial, it is not always your decision to make. Be supportive of their choices, offer to help in any way you can, and make your own plans as drama-free as possible.

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