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, all you can do is come up with your own way to move forward.
Just because there is no funeral does not mean the family is not grieving. In fact, if they are adhering 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. Invite them out 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 do not want 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.
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
- Keep a grief journal about 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 want to avoid is to critique the family’s decision in any way. Although you may find it upsetting not to hold a funeral or memorialize the deceased, it is not your decision to make. Be supportive of the family’s choices, offer to help in any way you can, and make your own plans as drama-free as possible.